Soon after I learned to write, I asked for a journal for Christmas. I was in love with the idea of a secret, private place to unload all of my worldly secrets, so I chose an apricot-striped volume with an orange cat gracing the cover, and, most importantly, a brassy little lock. Reading through my failed attempts at regular diary-writing, a couple of realizations emerge. One: six-year-olds don’t possess a wealth of worldly secrets. Two: boy oh boy, was I ever a paranoid child.
In my kid scrawl, I laid out my fears and convictions that all of my classmates were constantly watching me and making fun of me, but they would turn back to their homework the moment I raised my eyes. I was sure that secret rules existed for just about everything, and that nobody told me because I wasn’t cool enough.
You know how it supposedly meant you were gay if you pierced one ear (I didn’t ever know which one)? I thought maybe there was also a covert meaning to hair parting. I didn’t want to give off the wrong signals by parting my hair on one side or the other, so for years I wore it parted down the middle.
I occasionally still feel pangs of “what does everybody else know that I don’t?”, but now I don’t care. Well, except in this instance. I just found out that people eat the peels of butternut squash. What? Why didn’t anyone tell me? Is it because my hair’s parted on the wrong side?
Well, Jamie Oliver told me. I loosely based these muffins off his recipe, and I LOVE the way the squash is prepared. You remove the seeds, chop it roughly, and blend it all up in the food processor. That’s it. No pre-cooking.
These muffins are almost healthy–there’s a ton of veggie in them, no oil, and wheat flour–until you add an entire bag of chocolate chips. Do you realize what that means? You can eat them for breakfast or dessert, or a mid-morning snack. They’re full of spicy fall flavors with bonus chocolate chips. Nothing can be wrong with that.
P.S. I actually forgot to add the oil, but didn’t miss it one bit (and neither did my taste-testers). The squash keeps the texture tender and moist.
Spiced Butternut Muffins with Chocolate Chips (heavily adapted from Jamie Oliver)
Yield: Approximately 20 muffins
1 pound butternut squash, cut in half, deseeded, then roughly chopped
2 cups dark brown sugar
2-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 package milk chocolate chips (about 11.5 oz)
Line muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350°.
Put the squash chunks in your food processor and pulse until well-pulverized. Add the sugar and eggs and pulse until fully combined.
In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and baking powder with a fork. Pour the squash mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined. Add the chocolate chips and briefly stir them in.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake until the tops are dark golden and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
Set the muffin tins on wire racks to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the individual muffins to the wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
These are best the day they’re made or the morning after for breakfast. A quick trip through the toaster oven refreshes them nicely.