The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

I understand why people seem frustrated with resolutions, and why there’s a backlash against the exuberance of the fresh start and the clean slate that dominate the media the first two weeks of January. But I’m not with them. I get that the shitty part is the sense of disappointment in ourselves when we don’t live up to our own grand expectations and hopes. But I really like to make resolutions. I am totally in favor of setting intentions, resolutions, hopes, aspirations, and goals for the new year.

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because one thing that struck me recently is that resolutions don’t follow a straight line. A resolution is an act. It’s a verb, a doing. I resolve to do this. Which is to say, it’s ongoing, a process. Perhaps the best takeaway that I got from this is to not be so hard on myself if I don’t read 50 books this year, meditate every day, floss every night, walk daily, practice yoga regularly, and generally be a kinder, happier, gentler person to myself and those in my life. It’s a tall order!

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

When I take a longer look at the arc of my life, I see some pretty huge resolutions that took shape slowly, perhaps so slowly that it was hard to acknowledge the change, because it didn’t happen dramatically, but in increments. They didn’t start cleanly on the first of the year, or resolve in a straightforward, linear way. They took a long time, with a lot of setbacks.

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

The biggest of these is that I used to smoke cigarettes. Which is the hardest thing for me to talk about here, because on top of being totally embarrassed by that, there is nothing appetizing about that conversation in the context of food, and it doesn’t fit with my sense of who I am now, publicly or privately. But I did. Never a lot, but pretty much daily. It took two years of really challenging starts and stops before I finally, completely quit. (7 years ago!) So all of the frustration and setbacks were totally worth it, because now, I can’t even imagine going there. Now I can climb mountains and run farther than a few blocks without feeling winded, and breathe beautiful, deep, clear breaths that make me feel really happy about this whole being alive thing. But it was a struggle to stop. I mean, two years! Probably, truthfully, longer. Resolutions are slow, ungainly, awkward, inherently challenging. Let’s be easy on ourselves as we resolve. And remember that the going will be slower than we’d like, and sometimes hard. But totally worth it.

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

I think this is the middle ground, and it’s what I’m aiming for: neither too grand and unrealistic in my resolutions, nor totally hopeless in the complete giving up. Not seeing a setback as a failure. Because it’s not. Sometimes things take years.

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins 
adapted from At Home in the Whole Foods Kitchen by Amy Chaplin
Yield: 10 muffins

I am in love with these. I am in love with Amy Chaplin’s beautiful book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. I love that the sweetness from the sweet potato lends a quiet, natural sweetness to these (without any added sugar) that is perfectly complimented by its savory, herbal elements. I made these three times. The first time was a resounding success, but one that came with a lot of off-the-cuff improvisation, based on me forgetting a few ingredients and being far away from a grocery store in the snowy woods, so I wanted to make them again. (This is perfect snow-day baking and eating, btw.) The second time, they kinda flopped. But that’s not the fault of the recipe, it’s the fault of a terrible, gummy, starchy gluten-free flour blend that I used. So I made them a third time, and they were winners again. Amy’s recipe isn’t gluten-free, but it is vegan (which I also swapped – because I believe in eggs), and I think it’s a delicate balance that needed a deliberate gluten-free modification. It needs a hearty blend of flours that absorb liquid. And a starchy, rice-based flour blend didn’t cut it. Keep that in mind if you make these gluten-free. (She used spelt flour.) I look forward to eating them all winter long.

1/4 cup rainbow quinoa (or black, or red, your call!)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh sage
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1 /2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour  (OR use 1 cup Bob’s 1-to-1 baking mix, plus 1/2 cup of oat or almond flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg, whisked
1 cup mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari

In a small pot, heat the quinoa and 1/2 cup water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside 1/2 cup for the muffins and save the rest to sprinkle on the muffins.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 10 paper liners.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sage and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, measure out the rice, oat, and almond flours, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, sweet potato, water, sliced almonds, apple cider vinegar, tamari, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Add flour mixture and mix thoroughly to combine. Fold in the 1/2 cup quinoa and the onions and herbs.=

Using a spoon, divide the batter among the lined muffin cups, filling them to the top. Garnish each with a bit of thyme and quinoa. Bake 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (My experience with these is that they remain a little wet, even when ready.) Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Although they taste better warm, they’re best stored in the fridge.

Herbed Sweet Potato + Quinoa Muffins | the year in food

  • sara forte - i love your honesty and the forgiveness you offer yourself, and encourage in the rest of us, because we are HUMAN. These look so delicious and I love Amy’s book as well. I haven’t been cooking much lately but I hope to try more out of her book. Happy belated new year to you, miss. Hope it’s full of adventure and peace for you.ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I really don’t have an opinion on resolutions! I don’t make them, but think it’s fine if others do. Either way, these muffins look totally delicious!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - I agree! Instead of resolutions, I like to set intentions – to use the free headspace over the break to sit quietly and think about what kind of shape I’d like the next year to take. This year: more exploring, being better dressed. Biscuit consumption to remain level.ReplyCancel

  • Lynn | The Road to Honey - I agree that if often takes baby steps and time to make a lasting and meaningful habit change. I’m so happy for you that you were able to persevere through the tough times and forge forward with your goals. You should be proud, not embarrassed. Btw. . .I love everything about these muffins. . and you know what they say – third time is a charm. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Stacy - I love this post! I am so with you on resolutions – I understand the backlash but am wholeheartedly ALL IN when it comes to setting intentions and resolutions. The resolutions—as well as the process of making them—keeps me feeling hopeful about my life. It’s such good exercise in dreaming about what good things might come in the year ahead. Oh, and good for you for sharing something hard and less shiny and perfect! I always love to see it, and you should still be so proud of that change.

    And I’ve also been eying these muffins (such a glorious book!) and now must make them. Let’s get together and talk resolutions soon! xoxoReplyCancel

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats - I don’t necessarily do the New Year’s resolutions but believe in resolutions overall, which can be spurred by many factors. Its been 5 years in the making but my diet compared to what I ate in college (Lean Cuisines, Diet Coke and fat-free sugar-free ice cream) is sooooo crazy improved.ReplyCancel

  • thefolia - Cheers to sticking to your goals no matter how long it takes. Happy adventure.ReplyCancel

  • Amy @ Thoroughly Nourished Life - A few years ago I stepped away from making a huge list of resolutions and instead focused on three or four intentions for the year. There’s less pressure with something you intend to do, and while I try to work hard at succeeding in my intentions, I am gentler on myself if they take longer than expected. Thank you for echoing this sentiment, and for opening up.
    Also, I love the look of these for a savoury breakfast or something easily healthy to snack on at work (one of my intentions this year).ReplyCancel

  • dixya@food, pleasure, and health - good for you!!! so proud that you have quit..i have yet to sit and think about my goal for 2015.ReplyCancel

  • Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table - What a beautiful, encouraging post. To all of us currently mired in the midst of New Year’s resolution, this is a beautiful reminder to not despair and just let time take its course. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sonja {Dagmar's Kitchen} - These look SO good – on my to-to-list asap! And that book by Amy Chaplin has been sitting on my to-buy-list since the release. Only, I have way too many cookbooks already… And among them yours is recently the most frequently used! Love it!

    Love your thoughts on resolutions too – I believe in slow progress and letting changes take time!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - This is such a great perspective on the concept of resolutions. It’s absolutely unrealistic to expect that you wake up on Jan 1 and all of a sudden those bad, or just undesirable, behaviours will suddenly change. Life doesn’t work look that. Thanks for the reality check and, as ever, your honesty. Also, these muffins look so good! I’m really feeling savoury muffins right now and these look like a must make.ReplyCancel

  • marzia - instead of resolutions, this year I’m simply determined just to be more resolute, in general :) (as for smoking, I have quit a century ago but I’m still struggling everyday on it!!). thank you for sharing your thoughts with usReplyCancel

  • Rosemary - It is true. Change takes time. It is easy to forget that. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your thoughts and the muffins too :)ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - Sometimes thing DO take years! Amen.ReplyCancel

  • Jasmin - I like your thought of resolution being an act and process – I’ll remember it for the next new year resolutions ;)
    Anyway, I smoke for almost ten years, and quit year and a half ago I have to admit that morning coffee and cigaret is something that I still miss, but health-wise it’s the best thing I done for this decade…
    Quinoa muffins recipe is something I’ll have to try :)ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - YES! So hard to do but the best thing we can do for ourselves. It took me a long time to stop missing it.ReplyCancel

  • Janet - Beautiful. Thank you for the wonderful reminder to be kind to ourselves. Pinned for the encouragement reminder!ReplyCancel

  • Gaby - I need to make these for a healthy on the go breakfast/lunch!!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - Is there any option for a substitute for rice flour?ReplyCancel

    • Kimberley - Hi Courtney,

      It was my own experimentation that led to the most successful of the three tries. If you can’t use rice flour, I’d encourage you to experiment with your preferred flours and to not let a little failure set you back – that’s the only way I figured this out. Good luck!ReplyCancel

  • Glen - Great, simple sweet potato recipe , have to try this tonightReplyCancel

  • French Toast Tasha - It’s so true that we need to go easy on ourselves, and yet keep setting goals that challenge us to move in the direction we need/want to go. And things take time! I couldn’t agree more. Wonderful thoughts, thank you for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Jasmine pulley - These look so amazing! I love anything sweet potato, especially the savory sweet potato combo!ReplyCancel

  • Genevieve Trail - These look so yum! Just wondering what changes need to do to make the original without eggs?ReplyCancel

  • Angela Brown - Hot damn, lady! You know how to use a camera! I’ve been following your site for a few years, and always admire your pics, though the quality in your last few posts is pretty unreal. Kudos to you! Also, like Sarah said, I really love your sense of honesty, and find this to be a really beautiful, really relatable post! I totally wrap myself up in my resolutions and beat myself up mid-year when I find I’m only sort-of keeping in tune with half of them. Really great post all around :)ReplyCancel

  • Alexa~FurnishMyWay - Wow! Great looking recipe! Also, I do have to say that I appreciate your honesty about quitting smoking. That’s such a great personal accomplishment and achievement! My personal opinion on goals is that they are great to make. It’s like an “achievement” that you’re running to one step at a time. I know personally that I haven’t always kept my goals; but that has never stopped me from continually trying! Thanks for sharing this post and your thoughtful words. I enjoyed reading this post a bunch!ReplyCancel

  • Raja Makan - woow thats the best recipe that i ever tried. Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

  • Restaurant Insider - I’m going to try this tonight but I need to go shopping for a few of these ingredients!ReplyCancel

  • Lorraine Thompson - Love this recipe. It makes my Afro-vegan list. Truly wonderful!ReplyCancel

  • Edlyn - First time commenting on your blog after having heard so much about your book. Congrats on all the great reviews. I hope to buy it someday once I get some money together. I just wanted to say that I was so touched by your honesty in this post. I have been feeling slightly jaded by the food blog world I have been following lately. I need honesty – I crave it. Thank you for sharing such a triump in your life. I don’t think you have anything to be embarrassed about. These phases come and go in our lives and shape us into what we choose to become as a result. You made the tough choice and persevered. Resolutions are a brave thing to do. You’ve come a long way. Congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • Janet - Can’t wait to try these.ReplyCancel

  • Nicolas - Sugar'n'Salé - hi,

    I am a French culinary blogger ( so excuse my English a little awkward ) and I came to see What did our friends across the Atlantic .

    I am delighted by your blog , beautiful pictures and beautiful recipes.ReplyCancel

  • Anita Alaganan - Any substitute for almond and oat flour please ? Is it ok to powder blanched almonds and use … The flour is not easily available …ReplyCancel

  • Boneca - This looks soooooo delicious . I am already hungry :DReplyCancel

  • Sarah - Okay, so clearly I am working my way through your blog! Yesterday, spiced cranberry cake, today – these muffins! I was just scrolling through your pages and noticed that these were the perfect opportunity to use up some leftover sweet potatoes. I swapped the sage, thyme and brown onion for spring onion, chilli and sesame seeds. It turned out I actually had no quinoa but that didn’t stop me! I added oats and subbed in regular flour to top it up. Delicious! I’m going to keep working my way through your recipes :)ReplyCancel

  • Annie Wilson - I made these last night subbing the 3 different flours for buckwheat flour and they are DELICIOUS. I put one in the freezer to test how well it will defrost. I’m so excited about the prospect of having a pre-made breakfast to grab-and-go when I have limited time in the morning :) Thank you!ReplyCancel

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