Pumpkin & Feta Muffins

Now that our garden is literally overflowing with pumpkins, we're taking advantage of the bounty and trying to use as many as we can. Pumpkin is making its way into lots of things lately: bread, more bread, tarts (like this one), gnocchi, on dinner plates simply roasted with butter and salt, and now in these tasty little muffins.

I've had my eye on these guys for a while. I quite enjoy savory baked goods and these muffins do not disappoint. You'll notice a few interesting ingredients but I assure you that they are wonderful complimenting flavors. The squash lends a hint of sweetness, the feta a bit of salt and creaminess; the mustard is not overpowering, but rather hints in the background, as does the black pepper and Parmesan. Really, these muffins are a great way to use up a little more of that wonderful winter squash. I can imagine they'd make a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving meal, too! I hope you enjoy...

Notes: The first time I made these muffins I could tell the had a lot going for them... Unique, savory, wonderful flavor combinations, yada yada. BUT the only thing was that they were quite dry. Interestingly enough, the original recipe doesn't call for a speck of oil. Not one drop. I'm not sure why this is, but on my second batch I decided olive oil was definitely making its way into the mix. Cha-ching! That was all these little muffins needed. The olive oil adds the perfect amount of moisture and compliments the other earthy/savory flavors perfectly. I also increased the amount of pumpkin from 2 cups to 3, because pumpkin is delicious. Two more things: As noted in the recipe below, butternut squash may be used in place of the pumpkin. And, as usual, feel free to use exclusively all-purpose flour in place of the whole-wheat pastry, if you prefer.

Adapted from Martha Goes Green, as seen on 101 Cookbooks
Pumpkin & Feta Muffins

3 cups cubed pumpkin (or butternut squash), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup sunflower seeds kernels
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2/3 cup crumbled feta
1 large handful spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or cilantro)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously grease a 12-hole muffin pan with olive oil and set aside. (I always have a little bit of batter left after filling the 12 muffin holes, so you can choose to also grease 2 additional muffin holes in another pan, or grease a little loaf pan. I do the latter.)

Place the cubed squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and add a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat the squash and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, olive oil, and mustard. Stir in the sunflower seed kernels, Parmesan, and 3/4 of the feta. Add 3/4 of the roasted squash cubes, then gently fold in the spinach and parsley.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently fold just until the batter comes together; be careful not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan(s), filling each muffin hole 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a bit of the remaining squash and feta. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let the muffins cool for a few minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a cooling rack.

Yield: 12-14 muffins