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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You are loved. A story, a dinner, a belief.

Hello lovelies! Sending wishes from Zimbabwe to wherever you are in the world, hoping you had a blissful, loving Valentine’s Day.


How did you spend yours? With your significant other, your dog or your Netflix? What did you eat? Did you gorge yourself on copious amounts of Belgian chocolate? Did dietary constraints force you to settle for salad instead? Leave a comment, send me an email, I’d love to hear about your adventures!


As for me, I spent mine in the kitchen preparing a 3 course dinner that I later shared with my mother and my brother. Now before you start feeling sorry for me, you should know that I was perfectly content to have spent my day this way. On the outside it looks unfabulous: peeling butternuts, mincing garlic and squeezing lemons. For any other person, this might have been a punishment for crimes committed against former lovers. Personally, there is nowhere I feel more at peace. Watching a dish come together is one of the most beautiful things I can witness. Inspiration washes over me, my brain kicks itself into gear and my hands get to work crafting my masterpiece.


If you follow me on Pinterest then you might have noticed that I’ve been frantically pinning to my board labelled ‘Outdoor party’. This is where I put all my picnic, dinner and party inspiration if they’re going to be held outside. I felt the need to go over the top (as I often do), be extravagant, do something special. So I dug out the fairy lights from the tomb of our Christmas decorations, cut some flowers, lit a couple of candles and voila!

I don’t believe in needing a special occasion to celebrate love. Love should be something that we celebrate everyday but in that moment, I truly felt the Valentine’s day spirit. This was the first year that I didn’t receive any roses/presents but I didn’t feel that that was a reason to be depressed and cry about how I’ll never find love. No matter what your relationship status may be, know that you are lovedYou can find love wherever you look: in the way your mother fondly rushes to address your pressing needs, in the way your dog looks at you knowing that you are its entire world, or even in the way the till keeper slips you an extra chocolate and doesn’t charge you for it. When despair creeps up on you, when  it seems the world is closing in on you, when you have hit the wall and it seems like there is nowhere left to turn, remember this; YOU ARE LOVED. Stick a note on your mirror, call your mum and she’ll remind you, stroke your pet and observe how it responds to your touch. Believe this: you are loved.


I believe in spreading love. In being a beacon to the world, carrying that love wherever I go and passing it on to everyone I meet. A candle does not extinguish itself in lighting another; you do not lose anything by giving to others. It’s easy enough to spread love to the people in your immediate environment, but have you ever thought to spread love to strangers? This week, I encourage you to do that as you go out into the world. Smile at the waitress serving your table, tell her you like her hair but do not ask for her phone number. One can be kind to others without expecting it to come back. When you go to the grocery store, give the person packing your things a sincere thank you, tell them that you appreciate their service. Okay yes, that is their job and they are paid to do it, but what do you lose by brightening up another person’s day? Wave to the guard at Sam Levy’s Village, express gratitude to those who serve you, show admiration towards those you serve. Give a flower to the cleaning lady, she knows you better than most of your friends. Create love. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be small and sincere. My point here is to give yourself to others, for there is more joy in giving than there is receiving.

Shall we move on to the dinner proceedings? It was basically a gallery of things I have already posted on the blog, and one that is soon to be posted here. We began with Spicy Butternut and Coconut Soup, one of the first recipes I ever posted on the blog. This was served with some crusty bread that I am guilty of purchasing. I realised way too late that we had no flour in the house so I sent my dad to grab a baguette from the local bakery.

Moving on to the main, we dined on a vegan bunny chow that is still in the testing kitchen, but with any luck it will be on the blog next week! If you’re confused as to how a bunny chow can be vegan, allow me to explain. Bunny chow doesn’t actually contain rabbits. It’s a traditional South African lamb curry that is served in a hollowed out loaf of bread. As I am vegetarian, I decided to substitute the lamb with potatoes. You already know my bread situation so I had to serve it with rice. For extra flair, I served this with homemade pickled red cabbage and red onion and some crispy steamed green beans. Lush.Dessert was kept simple and sweet, after such a heavy main I opted for a light palette cleanser in the form of this Coconut Mango Sorbet. Although I didn’t have a specific theme in mind when planning this menu, I somehow managed to include coconut in all 3 courses. Wicked.


Another common factor in all 3 dishes is that they were all vegan. I have a big heart, I fall in love easily and with everything around me. I see the beauty in the delicate blossoming of a rose, in the slow determined step of a tortoise and in the rolling mountainous landscapes of my home country. I am in love with the world around me. Out of that love comes a deep respect for all creatures great and small. There seems to be a widespread belief that animals are below humans and that they were put on this Earth to serve us and our needs. As for me, I disagree with this belief in its entirety. It is for this reason that I gave up meat. I am striving towards veganism, but with things like this it is important to take them one step at a time. As for now, I am in content in leading a cruelty free lifestyle, and at peace in the knowledge that no animals were harmed in the making of my dinner. If you would like to talk about vegetarianism, share your thoughts, or ask questions and find out more, feel free to get in touch with me!


That’s all from me today, go out into the world my friends and don’t forget to spread the love!

With love,

Andy x

 

 

‘Lean Green Fat Burning Machine’ Smoothie Bowl

I have so many words of praise for this smoothie. It’s as if everything good in the world was blended to combine this lush green paradise.


For those of you who read my last post, you may be a bit confused. My reply: get you a girl who can do both. If she can sip green smoothies with the grace of a goddess but still tear up sticky ribs like a carnivore then she is a keeper.

Styling this was like going back to a Grade 1 art lesson. Minus all the shouting, paint throwing and screaming of course. But throw in all the creativity, fun and general excitement of exploring new territory. Having styled several plates before, this didn’t feel completely out of my breadth, but there was just something completely different about building a smoothie bowl. A swirl of coconut milk here, a sprinkle of chia seeds there and the touch of a flower in just the right spot. I just felt like I had more control here, and I was able to put every single little thing in place.



This was such a breath of fresh air. Give your intestines a break today from all the binge eating. Do yourself a favour and make this now! This is best served with some homemade granola, and extra fresh fruit.


‘Lean Green Fat Burning Machine’ Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients

2 cups of chopped spinach, fresh or frozen

1 small mango, diced into ½ inch cubes

1 small avocado, deseeded and all the flesh scooped out

1 cup coconut milk

2 cm of fresh ginger, or 1 tsp ground ginger

Method

Throw the spinach, mango, avocado, coconut milk and ginger into a blender and pulse for 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Top with extra diced mango, chia seeds, shredded coconut,  homemade granola, edible flowers or whatever takes your fancy.

30 Minute Vegetarian Chilli Bowls

Regarding today’s recipe, nothing could be easier. Even calling for takeout. Because that involves scanning the menu, deciding what you want, calling the takeout place, waiting 30 minutes for the delivery- and even then, it might not be as good as you anticipate. In that same space of time, you could have prepared these easy peasy chilli bowls. They are packed with protein, loaded with nutrients and crammed with flavour. They are all kinds of good for you- gluten free, meat free, cruelty free. In case you missed my big announcement, check out this post.


These bowls are absolutely perfect on a cold winter’s eve, as leftover lunch at work the next day or a post-workout meal. You can prepare this in bulk and freeze individual portions to eat over the course of the week. These are incredibly versatile in the sense that they can be served as comfort food whilst still being formal enough to be served at a dinner party. And with the festive season approaching, these would be perfect for any vegetarian guests who might find themselves at your dinner table this Christmas.

30 Minute Vegetarian Chilli Bowls                                                                                     serves 2-4

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil + extra

1 yellow onion, diced

½ red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup butternut squash/pumpkin, chopped into ½ inch cubes

1 medium baby marrow, chopped into ½ inch cubes

1 medium carrot, diced

1 red pepper, sliced thinly

1 green pepper, sliced thinly

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp paprika (or less if not comfortable with spice)

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp rosemary

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp oregano

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp brown sugar

1 14 ounce tin of red kidney beans- any other kind of bean will work e.g butter beans, sugar beans, even a mix of beans is fine

1 14 ounce tin of chopped tomatoes

about ½ cup cheddar for garnish

about ¼ cup mozzarella for garnish

a handful of fresh rosemary for garnish

Method

  1. In a large cast iron pot on high heat, fry the red and yellow onion in the olive oil, until the yellow onion is translucent, about 2 minutes
  2. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the butternut squash, baby marrow, carrot, green and red pepper to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, or until the squash has softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the black pepper, salt, paprika, coriander, cumin, rosemary, thyme and oregano to the pot. Stir to coat the veggies with spices and cook for about a minute before adding the tomato paste and brown sugar to the pot and cooking for another minute.
  4. Add the red kidney beans and tinned tomatoes to the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. At this point you can choose to serve immediately, continue to simmer for another hour if you’re not ready to serve, or you can freeze individual portions to serve later. To serve: spoon the desired amount of chilli into a bowl, top with cheddar, mozzarella and rosemary. Can be served with crusty bread and rice.


 

 

Apricot Almond Chia Granola Bars with Yogurt Drizzle

Confession Time: I have loathed peanut butter since I was 7 years old.

Before I was 7, I loved peanut butter and put it on virtually everything I ate. From crackers to sandwiches to rice (it’s a Zimbabwean delicacy along with kale and peanut butter) I could not get enough of the stuff. Until one unfortunate occasion when my peanut butter addiction punished me with an upset stomach. From that day onward, peanut butter was my mortal enemy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups stopped being enjoyable, my PB & J sandwiches were PB deficient and Heaven knows what I would do when presented with a stir fry drizzled with peanut sauce.


I was perfectly happy to condemn myself to a nut butter-less life until I came across the most wonderful granola bars ever. And the worst part is: they were peanut butter flavoured. You can only imagine how confused my taste buds were. All the work I had put into disliking peanut butter in the previous 10 years had gone to waste. Feeling guilty, I decided to give it another chance.


And that opportunity led itself to where we are today, with these wonder-bars. With an apricot jam filling, every bite is jam-packed (haha) with that sweet fruity flavour and you don’t have to feel guilty because there is NO SUGAR in these bars. Bonus: they’re also paleo, vegan and full of everything that could ever be good for you on Planet Earth. We got almonds, we got chia seeds, we got oats, these bars will make your tummy so happy. The bars are the perfect balance of chewy and crunchy, so your teeth won’t break when you bite into them, but your jaw won’t get tired from chewing them. Have I got your attention yet?


Apricot Almond Chia Granola Bars with Yogurt Drizzle                                        makes 8 bars

Ingredients

Granola Bars:

2 cups oats

1 cup almonds, sliced or whole is fine, you could use pecans if desired

1 cup dried apricots, any other kind of dried fruit is okay

¼ cup chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup apricot jam (optional)

Greek Yogurt Drizzle: 

½ cup Greek yogurt

2 cups icing sugar

1 tbsp honey

Method

For the granola bars:

  1. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and line with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the granola bars and stir until well combined. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat together the peanut butter and honey, stirring often until blended together. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla essence. Pour the peanut butter and honey mixture into the dry oat mixture and mix well until fully coated. You’re welcome to use your hands to make sure to really incorporate the wet ingredients.
  3. Press half of the granola bar mixture into the greased baking pan. Make sure that the base is fully covered. Press down to make sure you have an even layer. Microwave the apricot jam on high for 30 seconds to make sure it’s pourable. Pour the hot jam over the first layer of the granola bars and use a butter knife to make sure it’s spread evenly. Cover with the remaining granola bar mixture and press down to make sure you have an even layer. Freeze for 2 hours, then slice into 8 bars and return to freezer.

For the Greek Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Greek Yogurt Drizzle and mix until combined. After cutting the bars, drizzle the drizzle (fo’ shizzle) over the bars and freeze for 30 minutes or until set. If desired, you could dip the bars into the drizzle and let set, drizzle side up. Store these bars in the refrigerator for up to a month.


This recipe was adapted from these Blueberry Vanilla Greek Yogurt Granola Bars by Half Baked Harvest.

Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats

If you’ve read the 3rd post ever put up on this blog then you’ll know how obsessed I am with oats. I go CRAZY for them. Baked, stovetop, overnight, I am not picky. You can catch me eating oats on any given day of the year, I will never get tired of them.


I uploaded a Q & A video on my YouTube this week, and one of the questions I was asked was what my go-to  school breakfast was. *Drum roll please* it’s these oats! These are easily prepared on a Sunday morning and portioned out for the rest of the week on Monday morning. Done. You don’t have to worry about breakfast for the rest of the week! The nutritional value of this breakfast is insane, and it will leave you feeling energised and ready to take on the week with a smile on your face. Pair this with my recipe for Salted Caramel Iced Coffee and you will have a winning breakfast on your hands.


Strawberry Chia Overnight Oats                                                                    makes 4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups of steel cut oats

½ cup chia seeds

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt

1 cup milk of your choice: full fat, almond or coconut work perfectly

¼ cup honey

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ cup chopped strawberries plus 2 tbsp of a milk of your choice

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the strawberries to a large bowl and stir well to incorporate. Leave in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight
  2. Add the strawberries to a food processor with the milk and pulse until completely puréed. Stir the puréed strawberries into the oats and mix well. Portion 4 servings into different jars/lunchboxes. Can serve immediately or keep sealed in the fridge for a week at the most. Serve with extra Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts or chia seeds.

Simple Spinach and Parmesan Pesto

Lately, I’ve been in a pasta kind of mood. If one could sum up my diet in a pie chart, this is probably what it would look like:

That is literally how much pasta I eat. I appreciate pasta in all its shapes and forms, from lasagne to fettuccine and macaroni, there is no species of pasta that is unwelcome in my stomach. There are a million and one ways to eat pasta, and in the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting my favourite accompaniments for this Italian masterpiece under the hashtag #hastalapasta. 

Let’s talk pesto. Spinach is my favourite vegetable so I decided to incorporate that into this easy sauce. It’s basically combining all the following ingredients in a blender and pulsing. Could it get any easier?

Simple Spinach and Parmesan Pesto
Ingredients

1 cup loosely chopped spinach

½ cup parsley

¼ cup flaked almonds

2 cloves of garlic

zest of 1 lemon

juice of ½ a lemon

½ cup light olive oil

¼ cup grated parmesan

2 tbsp water (optional)

Method

  1. Throw all the ingredients except the water and parmesan cheese in the blender and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the parmesan cheese and pulse for another 30 seconds until incorporated. Check the consistency of the pesto, if you find it to be too thick (as I did) then add in the water and stir. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

You can stir a couple of tablespoons of this right into your pasta and top with Parmesan cheese