Spinach and Feta Pesto Muffins

This recipe was originally posted on the 9th August 2016, but was updated with new photos and reposted on the 10th of May 2017. For the original photos, scroll to the bottom of this blog post. 

Killer combos: balsamic vinegar + honey, pasta + pesto, spinach + feta

Today, I decided to get you back onto the healthy wagon having tempted you with these killer chocolate chunk cookies, heavenly rich thick milkshakes and perfectly cooked French fries. We’re going to try and be healthy, okay? I’d also like to debunk this myth that healthy and tasty are mutually exclusive. These spinach and feta pesto muffins are everything you could ever want: an extremely light crumb, bursting with flavour in every bite and extremely filling. Loaded with the super food spinach, these could not be any healthier. It just happened to be a coincidence that these muffins are also sugar-free.


Let me dress down this superior vegetable just so you can see how amazing it is.

1. It turns Popeye into a superhuman.

Are you hoping to increase your gains in the gym? They say that abs are built in the kitchen and not the gym, so look no further than this lean green muscle building machine! Spinach: taking Popeye from 0-100 in 0.4 seconds since 1929.

Meal planning tip: make these muffins on a Sunday and freeze them. Defrost as needed for a grab and go breakfast.

2. It’s loaded with all sorts of great things such as iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B2 and folic acid. What that means for you: increased energy, stronger bones and lower blood pressure.

3. It can be used to make these bomb-ass muffins


The only thing I can fault spinach for is how much it shrinks. Uncooked spinach is roughly 25% water. That explains why this happens whilst making these muffins. I used my Simple Spinach and Parmesan pesto  to give these muffins that lovely dark green colour. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare the pesto, but if you’re seriously short on time then you don’t have to make it.


Spinach and Feta Pesto Muffins                                                               makes 10-12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 and ½ cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp spinach pesto, homemade or store bought (optional)
  • ¾ cup feta cheese, cut into cubes

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease 12 muffin cups, you can also line them with parchment paper to give it a more fancy look. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and paprika.
  2. Add the milk, oil and eggs to a separate smaller bowl and whisk until combined. If you’re using fresh spinach, add it to a colander and pour boiling water over the spinach until reduced in size by about 50%. Now squeeze the spinach to get all the water out. By the time you’re done squeezing, the ball of spinach you’ll be left with will be no bigger than a child’s fist. Carefully add the reduced spinach to the egg mixture and stir until the spinach is incorporated. Add the parmesan cheese.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the egg mixture into the middle. Use a rubber spatula to mix the two together to obtain a thick batter. Drop the tablespoons of pesto into the batter and gently stir it in to yield a dark green colour. Don’t be tempted to mix the pesto completely in, it’s okay if there are streaks of it in the batter.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool at room temperature for about 10 minutes before consuming warm. These can also be eaten at room temperature. Store in a cool dry place for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, microwave on high for 40 seconds or place in a warm oven at 200°C for 5 minutes.


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Chocolate Banana Nut Swirl Muffins

There are more bananas in my house at this moment than I know what to do with. As a result I’ve been baking banana breads and making nana ice cream like it’s my full time job.


Fun fact: I cannot stomach bananas. Eating the fruit raw makes me feel sick to my stomach. But give me nana ice-cream, banana pancakes or banana bread and you’ll make me a happy gal. I guess my stomach can only take it when the taste is masked by a ton of sugar and chocolate?


That is the subject of today’s recipe: these soft, yummy muffins. These are best made in a batch on a Sunday afternoon and eaten all through the week as a power snack. Score!

Chocolate Banana Nut Swirl Muffins                                             makes 12 muffins
Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (may sub buttermilk)
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans and/or chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease 9 spaces in your muffin tin and line with wrappers.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Crack in the eggs and mix well to combine. Add the mashed bananas, vanilla essence and Greek yogurt and whisk until incorporated.
  3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix. Add the chocolate chips and pecans and gently stir to distribute. Remove half of the batter to a small bowl.
  4. Add the cocoa powder to half of the muffin batter and stir until incorporated. Add a tablespoon of the yellow batter followed by a tablespoon of the chocolate batter to the lined tins, filling them ¾ of the way to the top. Gently use a toothpick or the tip of a knife to gently swirl the yellow batter into the chocolate batter. Top with chocolate chips or pecans if desired.
  5. Bake in the preheat oven for 17-20 minutes to until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before devouring. Will keep in a sealed container for 5 days, or frozen for up to a month. Eat as an easy breakfast on the go!

Raw Vegan Passionfruit White Chocolate Cheesecake

Today is a monumental day. Why? Car aujourd’hui I bring you the first vegan dessert to be published on this blog.

To be frank, it was about time anyways. Through the many cheesecakes we’ve shared, the soups we’ve slurped and the burgers we’ve devoured, I decided that it was time to switch it up a bit.


As I’m sure you all know, I have decided to permanently cut meat out of my diet. With the full knowledge of the atrocities that are committed everyday in the animal farming industry coupled with the significant impact on the environment that meat consumption is responsible for; I decided that enough was enough and it was time for me to act. I couldn’t stand by and support/ignore what was happening, whilst being fully aware of what was happening. So I stopped eating meat. As the goal is to eventually cut animal products out of my diet and my closet, I decided to pay tribute to veganism today with this cheesecake.

If you’ve never made a vegan dessert before, then fear not! The process is ridiculously simple. Start by preparing your vegan chocolate and your passionfruits.

You’ll need 2 cups of soaked cashews for this recipe, they should be left for at least 8 hours, but if you don’t have time then you can soak them in boiling water for an hour.

The almonds, pecans and oats are then blended to create a coarse meal. Maple syrup is drizzled in and that forms your base! The base is then frozen for 15 minutes to firm it up.

All the cheesecake ingredients are then pulsed in the blender, poured on top of the base and this is frozen for 4 hours. You take the cheesecake out of the freezer, spread it with the passionfruit pulp/sauce, let it sit for 15 minutes at room temperature and you’re good to go! Happy cheesecaking friends!


Raw Vegan Passionfruit White Chocolate Cheesecake          

makes one 9 inch cake or 15 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (uncooked)
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

For the cheesecake:

  • 1 and ½ cups cashews, soaked overnight in cold water or for 1 hour in boiling water
  • 1×14 ounce tin of coconut cream or 1×14 ounce tin of coconut milk refrigerated overnight
  • 250g of vegan white chocolate, melted (may replace with an extra cup of soaked cashews if you’re not into white chocolate)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp ginger

For the passionfruit topping:

  • 1 cup passionfruit pulp (from about 12 passionfruits)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cornflour + 2 tsp water

Method

  1. Start with the base. In a food processor, pulse the oats, almonds and pecans until you have a coarse meal. With the motor running, pour in the maple syrup and pulse until the meal starts to bind together. Switch off the machine and dump the base into a 9 inch springform pan or add a tablespoon of base to 15 cupcake holders (no need to grease it first). Pat the base down into an even layer and freeze for 15 minutes.
  2. Move on to the cheesecake filling. Add all the cheesecake ingredients to a food processor and pulse until creamy and no large chunks of cashews remain in the mixture. Scoop on top of the frozen base and use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to smooth into an even layer. Return to the freezer and freeze for 3 hours.
  3. Finally make the passionfruit topping. Add the pulp and the lemon juice to a medium saucepan on low heat and bring to a boil. Pour the dissolved cornflour into the mixture and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. When ready to assemble, release the cheesecake from the springform pan to a cake stand. Use a spoon to smooth the passionfruit topping on top of the cheesecake. Let the cheesecake sit for 15 minutes to defrost aaaaaand you’re ready to cut and serve! Store leftovers in the freezer, but make sure to leave it at room temperature for 15 minutes before you slice and serve each time.

No Bake Mini Lemon Mini Cheesecakes 

Who doesn’t love a good cheesecake? Dessert does not get better than this. And with the holiday season upon us, there’s no need to be counting calories and jumping on the scale. Now is the time to celebrate, to eat, drink and be merry!

I know a lot of people get intimidated by the idea of cheesecakes (me especially) because it always seems like a hassle. Firstly, I don’t own a springform pan: so any kind of traditional cheesecake is officially out of the question. Secondly, baking a cheesecake could lead to a multitude of problems, from cracks as deep as the Grand Canyon forming, to having the water leak into the crust from the water bath to yielding a cheesecake drier than the Sahara Desert. Thirdly, dressing up a cheesecake can be tricky. Honestly speaking, I think that dressing up your food is the best part of cooking, but when there’s a considerable disparity between the image in your head and what’s sitting in front of you, one tends to get discouraged easily. 

So my friends, I abstained from the art of cheesecake making until I realised that it didn’t have to be difficult at all. This recipe scores a 10 on the easy scale. It requires minimal effort, all you have to do is combine the ingredients in a bowl, whip them together, leave it to set in the fridge overnight, and you’re on your way to cheesecake goodness! If you’re too lazy to bake the crusts in the oven, no problem! Leave the crust out completely and scoop the cheesecake mixture into glasses instead. Top with lemon curd and crushed biscuits and you’ve got a killer dessert on your hands. Happy indulging! 

No Bake Mini Lemon Cheesecakes                                                             makes 9 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the crust:

About 15 Marie biscuits/Graham crackers/whatever takes your fancy (or 1 cup crushed biscuits) 

¼ cup melted butter 

¼ cup castor sugar

For the mini cheesecakes: 

2 packages full fat plain cream cheese (12 ounces) – at room temperature

1 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence 

2/3 cup fresh cream 

¼ cup lemon juice 

1 tsp lemon rind + extra for decorating

About 1 cup lemon curd, homemade or storebought 

Method

Make the crust: 

Preheat your oven to 180°. Line 9 cupcake tin spaces with paper wrappers, or if you have a mini-cheesecake pan, grease 9 of the available spaces. Add the Marie biscuits to a Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them until they’re fine crumbs. Alternatively, you could add the biscuits to a food processor and pulse until they form crumbs but that isn’t as fun.

Transfer the cookie crumbs to a small bowl, add the melted butter and sugar and stir until combined. Add about a tablespoon of the crust mixture to each of the prepared cupcake liners, and use a shot glass or the back of the tablespoon to smooth it into an even layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to the fridge immediately to cool and switch off your oven. 

Make the mini lemon cheesecakes: 

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Don’t feel bad about overmixing, try and make sure that you get all the lumps out. 

Add the vanilla essence, fresh cream, lemon juice and lemon rind and beat again until incorporated.

Once the baked crusts have cooled, pour the cheesecake mixture into each of the moulds. Don’t be afraid to fill the mould right up to the brim, there is no risk of the cheesecake overflowing. Refrigerate for 4 hours (I just went overnight to be safe) or until set. Top with lemon curd and extra lemon rind when ready to serve. 


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