When most people think of Thanksgiving, they think of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberries.
I think of spinach...and oranges.
More specifically, my mom's Spinach and Orange Muffins, also known as Thanksgiving Muffins. I spent many of my childhood years as The World's Pickiest Eater and ate countless Thanksgiving dinners consisting of only these muffins and a slice of pumpkin pie.
"They sounded terrible, I have no idea why I ever made them," says my mother when asked how this tradition started, "but they turned out to be delicious. I made everyone try them before I said what was in them." Which is pretty much what I always have to do, as the words spinach, orange, and muffin in one sentence tend to elicit the words "ew" and "gross" from most people. But trust me. They are delicious.
This year was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, and the first time I made these muffins myself. I don't usually stray from what is written in a recipe (it frightens me, especially when the stakes are a muffinless Thanksgiving) but I made a few substitutions and they turned out perfectly. I put the recipe below with my alterations in parentheses. Give them a try, they are a perfect savory winter treat.
Thanksgiving Muffins (Spinach Orange Muffins)
3 cups fresh spinach, stems removed
1 medium orange, seedless and halved
4 large eggs
1 and 1/3 c vegetable oil (I used walnut oil, which is better for you, but expensive, so I wouldn't substitute it all the time)
2 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1 cup sugar .75 cups raw blue agave nectar)
1 cup chopped pecans
4 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 and 1/4 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan, even if it is nonstick.
Wash the spinach and drain well. Cut into 1/4 inch ribbons.
Cut the orange in half and grind in a food processor, one half at a time.
Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl. Then add the sugar and oil and mix well. Stir in the spinach, orange, and pecans.
Sift together dry ingredients, then add to the liquid ingredients until just moistened. Do not over mix. Spoon into muffin pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes and turn the pan halfway through. When done, a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then on wire racks. They are best served warm, so if you make them ahead of time, warm them in the oven or microwave before serving.
Makes 2 and 1/2 dozen muffins.