The Hungry Musician

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Whole Wheat Cranberry Herb Challah

You GUYYYYYYS.

I done did it. 

I done made you the best homemade bread in the entire world.  Before you get all skeptical and tell me to stop using so many superlatives, hear me out. First of all, this is challah, so it’s automatically better than all other bread, just by virtue of BEING challah. Second, there are NO bleached or processed flours WHATSOEVER in this recipe. Still not sold? It’s soft and warm on the inside and golden brown on the outside. AND, it has herbs and cranberries in it. 

I knew you’d come around. 

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This week, I went around telling everyone I possibly could about this challah because it came out perfectly. To my surprise, I got the question, “What is a challah?” several times. So, just in case, here’s the Merriam-Webster definition:

chal·lah

 noun

1) egg-rich yeast-leavened bread that is usually braided or twisted before baking and is traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays

2) the most fantastic food in the universe

Ok, so I may have put that last part in there. I know, I know, the superlatives.

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This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was to recreate a healthy version of a dish that we associate with happy memories. As a child, having gone to my synagogue’s preschool and having been raised in a Reform Jewish household, challah was one of the first foods I can remember eating regularly. Every Friday morning, my parents would buy a challah from the bagel shop and bring it home for Shabbat in the evening. We would say the “hamotzi” blessing all together (or in some cases, sing, because singing is one of the only ways you can get a 4-year-old to do anything), and then pass around the eggy end piece, each tearing off a bite. This was always my favorite part of the Shabbat blessings, because the end piece of the challah is pretty much the BEST. It also meant that afterward, we would sit down to a beautiful meal as a family. Even if it was just takeout, it was always a given that we’d be eating it together. (Crying yet, mom? :D)

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On top of all these fond memories, challah has always been my ultimate sicky-time comfort food. Any time I come down with a cold, bug, or food poisoning, even when I can’t fathom the idea of putting anything into my stomach, the one food I will always agree to eat is challah. And, I’m always fine to eat it again once I recover. Challah may not be physically capable of having any bad memories attached to it. This has been true for 22 years, and I don’t see it changing. 

As with all great comfort foods though, challah isn’t always the best for you. Most challahs you will find for sale are made with processed white flours and sugars. If you’re like me and are trying to limit your processed food intake, comfort foods like these are often very hard to give up. Like, what if I want to eat challah more often than once every few months?   

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Well, I’ve found a solution. At least for me! ;) This recipe uses roughly 2 parts whole wheat flour and 1 part whole wheat pastry flour. Originally, I was petrified that the dough wouldn’t rise like I wanted due to the heavier consistency of the flours I put in the dough. Instead, the baked end result was just as fluffy in the middle as the challah I grew up eating. Only it was nuttier, sweeter, and filled with herbs and cranberries.

I’m still shocked, but I won’t question it. I’ll just make my own challah from now on, and hope I don’t sick of it. Eh, who am I kidding. I could never be sick of challah.

Also, by the way, this recipe would impress the pants off your Thanksgiving guests, and would be even MORE amazing if made into individual dinner rolls. AHHHH THE POSSIBILITIES! When is the next Thanksgivukkah happening again? :D

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  *This recipe makes two loaves. I made one traditional three-strand braided loaf and one with a round braid. You can read up on how to do both here and here.  

Whole Wheat Cranberry Herb Challah
Yields 2
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Prep Time
4 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
4 hr 30 min
Prep Time
4 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
4 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
  2. 3/4 cup warm water
  3. 1/4 cup + 1 tbs. honey
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  5. 3 eggs (2 for dough, 1 for egg wash)
  6. 1 tsp. salt
  7. 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  8. 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  9. 1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  10. 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  11. 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
Instructions
  1. Empty yeast into a large bowl and add warm (NOT hot) water.
  2. Whisk in 1 tbs. of honey until mixture is thoroughly combined. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk in 2 eggs, remaining honey, oil, and salt until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine both flours.
  5. Add flour to yeast mixture gradually, kneading with your hands until fully combined and there are no spots of dry flour left.
  6. Let dough stand in an oiled bowl and in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  7. Once dough has risen, deflate and add cranberries, thyme, and rosemary. Knead until incorporated.
  8. Divide the dough in half. Each half will be one loaf, so depending on what braiding you want, divide each half again accordingly.
  9. Braid loaves, and transfer them to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Let sit for one more hour to rise.
  10. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  11. Brush each loaf with remaining egg, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake!
Adapted from What Jew Wanna Eat
http://thehungrymusician.com/
 


Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Peas

“I received free samples of Libby’s new Vegetable Pouches mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Libby’s and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

I am the queen of overcomplicating things.

It’s true.

I always make things more involved than they need to be. This applies to all aspects of my life, although it happens to come up mostly when I’m preparing food. The recipe has to feature the least findable ingredients, or I HAVE to try a new lengthy cooking technique, or the dish has to be the way I first imagined it, even if the time saving way would be just as good. Sometimes this works out, but really, most of the time it just makes things less convenient for me (surprise?).

Does this sound like you? Or, are you a big fan of making everything as simple and easy as possible, whenever possible? Either way, I think I have something you might like.

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For the final sponsored contest of the year, Libby’s kindly sent the Recipe Redux bloggers some free samples of their new vegetable packets! The packets will be in stores starting in January, and I’m loving them for a few reasons. They’re precooked, packed in water without preservatives, easier to open and faster to use than canned veggies, and the packages fit nice and cozy into my packed kitchen cabinets! Ahhh, city living. Plus, because they’re precooked, they can be added to any dish in a snap! 

Originally, when I read that we would be working with precooked veggies, my mind (as per usual) glazed over the entire point and went straight to recipe ideas that were complicated and involved. But, like I said, that was the opposite of the point. These veggies can be used to accomplish a quick, easy dish - so they should be! So, I made a lower-carb version of a dish many of us know and love: pasta carbonara. Or should I say, LOW-CARBonara. Heh. Dad jokes.

squash

Spaghetti squash is an incredible, low-calorie alternative for pasta if you’re trying to watch your carbs. You don’t taste much of a difference when sauce is inolved, and the texture is shockingly similar. In fact, when roasted with some olive oil and seasoning, spaghetti squash has even MORE flavor than pasta. Whaaaaat? Mind blown.

While traditional carbonara is just made with parmesan, eggs, and bacon, I have had it with peas added, and it was oh so delicious. So, I threw a whole packet of Libby’s peas in there. Woops ;) It was delicious, and I felt pretty good having snuck even MORE vegetables into the dish. It’s actually not that sneaky (in fact, it’s pretty obvious that the peas are there), but they make the dish even better. I promise!

 

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The only thing about this dish that requires any type of “waiting” is the squash. Spaghetti squash only takes about a half an hour to cook, but if you want to make this dish EVEN quicker, prep and shred your spaghetti squash ahead of time, and store it in the fridge for a day or two before using. If you prepare the squash prior to cooking, all you have to do is reheat the squash when you’re ready, and the dish will take you about 10 minutes from start to finish. Pretty great, huh? Be sure though, that no matter what preparation you choose, that you drain the squash “noodles” well before mixing them into the sauce. Otherwise, the sauce may become a bit watery.

 pasta1

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
Serves 5
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 large spaghetti squash
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt and pepper
Sauce
  1. 6 oz. thick cut uncooked bacon, chopped
  2. 2 shallots, diced
  3. 1 1/2-2 tsp. crushed garlic
  4. 1 pouch Libby's peas, drained and rinsed
  5. 2 eggs, beaten
  6. 1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  7. Pepper, to taste
  8. 2 tbs. Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Ahead of time, prepare the squash. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and thoroughly remove seeds.
  3. Drizzle flesh with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Turn the squash flesh side down. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until flesh is easily shredded with a fork.
  5. Remove flesh and store in refrigerator if not planning to use immediately.
  6. -
  7. Add chopped bacon to a pan over medium heat.
  8. Once mostly cooked through, add garlic and shallots to pan.
  9. Once bacon is crispy, remove from heat, and add peas to the pan.
  10. Combine cheese and egg in a separate bowl.
  11. If spaghetti squash has been prepared ahead of time or has cooled, reheat squash until very hot. Drain.
  12. Toss squash into the pan with the bacon and pea mixture.
  13. Transfer contents to a serving bowl, and toss with cheese and egg mixture, thoroughly tossing to ensure the egg mixture cooks and the cheese melts.
  14. Season with pepper as desired.
  15. Serve with chopped parsley and more shredded parmigiano.
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
http://thehungrymusician.com/
 


Ricotta Toasts with Pomegranate Olive Relish

Last week was full of the most fortunate accidents.

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Last Wednesday, while seeing a friend of mine perform at Carnegie Hall (casually), I ran into a different friend who I hadn’t seen in forever backstage – he was seeing a friend of HIS performing on the same concert. Crazy, right? Sometimes the music world is just the right amount of small.

Then on Halloween, I had dinner with two former teachers, one of whom was in town with the Philadelphia Orchestra. They were going to be playing Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, also at Carnegie, but they sold out before I was able to get a ticket. *Commence hysterical crying sequence* So, I went to the hall 40 minutes before the performance to test my luck.

While waiting on the cancellation line, I met the nicest concertgoer who had an extra balcony center ticket she was trying to sell. I don’t usually trust total strangers, but in the name of Mahler… Who KNOWS what atrocities I would commit in the name of MAHLER ;) The concert was incredible, and I’m sure I cried for about 33% of it.. Ok, I cried the whole time. I miss that orchestra and everyone/everything in Philadelphia so much. It was a bittersweet (but mostly sweet) taste of my second home! 

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But even before all of this, the week of happy accidents kicked off on Sunday with a little brunch I put together for family at my apartment. You know those days when you have something REALLY specific in mind to cook, but then the grocery store doesn’t have every single EXACT ingredient you plan to use? No? First world problems? I’ll stop talking.

…No I won’t, that’ll never happen. The plan was to make crostini with a crusty whole grain bread and then this here relish. My grocery store didn’t have any kind of fresh baguette that was made with whole grain flour. So, I settled for a whole grain bagel. This was, weirdly enough, the best decision I could have made. I cut the bagel into very thin rounds, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baked them (until they were ALMOST burnt – this was a less fortunate accident). Homemade crunchy bagel chips? IS THIS REAL LIFE?!   IMG_0349

The rest of the recipe went exactly as planned. Sweet and tart pomegranate arils, briny chopped olives, thyme, and citrus all mixed together and left to sit overnight, and then sprinkled over the bagel chips which had been generously schmeared with ricotta. Oh, and then I drizzled honey on top of alllll of it because I have zero self control. You drooling yet? If you’re not, I’m worried. 

 Not only are these toasts like a holiday in your mouth, they LOOK like something you should be serving for the late fall and early winter holidays! Between all the deep reds, greens, and earth tones, all you need is a crackling fire and some hot cider and you’re good to go. I felt a little guilty for sneaking some summer ingredients into the relish, but they worked! I’m not trying to hold onto summer or anything, but not everything has to be cold all the time in the fall and winter. I’m all for seasonal ingredients, but sometimes in the winter, you just need to “wake up” a little.

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Plus, these ARE perfect for entertaining! Super easy to put together, minimal cooking required, and taste fancier than they actually are.  Make them for your family, friends, and neighbors at your next holiday. They will definitely be back. Make them for your book club – instead of discussing the latest chapters in The Fault in Our Fifty Shades of Twilight, you may end up spending the whole time convincing your winedrunk friends that no, these are not in fact that hard to make. Impressive, delicious, and low maintenance. Just how entertaining should be! 

My one word of advice: whoever you do make these for, make more than you think you’ll need – it’s pretty much impossible to stop at just one.

 

Ricotta Toasts with Pomegranate Olive Relish
Yields 50
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 whole grain bagels, sliced into rounds
  2. 2 tbs. olive oil
  3. Salt and pepper to taste
  4. 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  5. honey
Relish
  1. 1.5 cups pomegranate seeds
  2. 1/2 cup mixed olives, pitted and chopped
  3. 1 tsp. grapefruit zest
  4. 1 tbs. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  5. 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
Instructions
  1. Combine all relish ingredients into a mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 4 hours (or overnight) in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
  3. Slice bagels into rounds - the slices don't have to be the same shape, but should maintain even thickness.
  4. Toss bagel slices with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  5. Arrange on a baking sheet. After about 5-7 minutes, check to see if the first side of the bagel slices are browned and crispy. If so, flip them and return to oven. Watch frequently to prevent burning!
  6. Once both sides are crispy, remove from oven and let cool.
  7. Spread ricotta on each toast, then top with about 1 teaspoon of relish.
  8. Once all toasts are assembled, drizzle them with honey and serve.
http://thehungrymusician.com/
 

 

Chipotle Butternut Squash Shepherd’s Pie

If I were to try to come up with a list of quintessential Fall flavors, I think “spice” would be on the top of the list. Even more important than pumpkin, you say? Well… Yeah. Let’s be honest, pumpkin without spice is kinda like halloween without candy. You can try to fool yourself, but it’s just not as delicious.

Pumpkin spice is also EVERYwhere. And you have to branch out sometime, right? How timely that this month’s Recipe ReDux challenge, “Spooky Spices,” challenged us to do something new with spice. I have never made a Shepherd’s Pie either, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re not exactly the first thing you think of when you hear the word “spices.” But I don’t like going with the norm, so here we are.

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I first got the idea while sitting in the airport this weekend waiting for a delayed flight. I was watching “Cutthroat Kitchen” on Netflix (which, by the way, is the best show EVER) and the contestants had to make Shepherd’s Pie amidst a whole slew of sabotages. One guy got his potato privileges revoked and used egg whites to make a meringue topping (ew), and another guy was forced to replace all his protein with beef jerky (EW). This got me thinking, though – what would I have made? It’s fall, and there are so many beautiful varieties of squash available. And so, it was decided – butternut squash Shepherd’s Pie.

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For the filling, I used a spice that’s kind of “spooky” for me – Chipotle. I have used dried chipotle powder before (like in this empanada recipe) but I’ve never gone hardcore and used the actual pepper. So, I bought a can of chipotles. Hooooly moly. So spicy. So smoky. Sooooo delicious. I also used another “spooky” ingredient, but it wasn’t a spice – butter. I. KNOW. I don’t think ONE recipe on this blog so far has included butter. But, slowly and surely, I’m starting to appreciate “real” foods that are also for once-in-a-while use, like butter and full-fat dairy products. As long as we don’t go into full Paula Deen mode, butter and I will probably keep our relationship in a healthy place.

This dish came out so unbelievably flavorful and delicious. It’s not your typical Shepherd’s Pie… Dare I say it may be better? The chipotle makes the filling stand-over-the-skillet-and-nosh good, and the squash makes for a deliciously smooth, sweet, and fluffy topping. Can you say go-to meal until further notice? It’s THAT good.

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Chipotle Butternut Squash Shepherd's Pie
Serves 8
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  2. 3 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
  3. 2 tbs. melted butter
  4. 1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  5. salt and pepper, to taste
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1 tbs. olive oil
  8. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  9. 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  10. 1 large red onion, diced
  11. 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans
  12. 3/4 cup sweet corn kernels
  13. 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced + 3 tsp. sauce from the can
  14. 2 tbs. tomato paste
  15. 3/4 cup chicken broth
  16. 1 tsp. paprika
  17. 1 tsp. cumin
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Bring potatoes and squash to boil in a pot of water.
  3. While boiling, heat olive oil and garlic in a deep skillet over low heat.
  4. Add ground turkey, raising heat to medium. Break up meat and stir until browned.
  5. Add onion, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften and become translucent. Add beans and corn.
  6. Stir in minced chipotle, chipotle sauce, tomato paste, and broth. Make sure the liquid combines evenly.
  7. Once broth has mostly cooked off, add paprika and cumin, and stir to combine. Lower heat, and let sit for a few minutes.
  8. Once squash and potatoes are cooked through, drain thoroughly. Mash until smooth with a fork, and then add the butter and cheese and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture has somewhat cooled, add egg and combine well.
  9. Pour meat mixture into a casserole dish and distribute the squash topping evenly over the top. Be sure to lock in the meat mixture, so none of the juice will bubble up to the top (learned this the hard way)!
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until topping begins to brown.
http://thehungrymusician.com/
 


Pumpkin Spice Noodle Kugel (Dairy Free)

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

As a born-and-raised member of a Reform Jewish family, I know how and what it’s like to consistently leave family events in pants that are suddenly 3 sizes smaller. Especially after Yom Kippur, which was last weekend. 

For those unfamiliar with this Jewish holiday, it’s the “Day of Atonement.” We fast for 24 hours to repent, and then consume two days’ worth of calories once the sun sets and the day is officially over. I never QUITE understood that. I mean, doesn’t it kind of defeat the logic of having just said you’re sorry for every bad thing you did during the year, to then go and eat ALL the things?  Also, nowhere in the Torah is it written that “you shall each consume one too many sesame bagels with whitefish salad, and half of a brisket.” But, overeating tends to be one of our greatest (?) talents, and this tradition is certainly no exception! And of course, any occasion to eat all together as a family is also one to celebrate (translation: …overeat).

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When I heard that this month’s sponsored contest for the Recipe Redux was being hosted by The National Pasta Association, I think “excited” was an understatement. Everyone loves pasta – literally. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t. I personally love pasta, because you can do SO much with it. It’s quick, easy, versatile, and helps you get in your carbs! I like carbs.

It’s apparently National Pasta Month this month, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by eating a ton of pasta. So, when my mom called to tell me we would be hosting this year’s break-fast and she wanted me to cook, I knew exactly what to do.

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Noodle kugel is one of my favorite Jewish cultural dishes of all time. It’s a casserole type of thing made with egg noodles, eggs, and usually cream or cheese with a buttery streuselesque topping. Basically, a custardy, egg noodle crumble, which can be sweet OR savory. Awesome, right? Now, we’re trying to thin things out a little bit, so some exchanges had to be made, but the recipe still kept ALL of its flavor. It was indeed quite awesome.

For this dish, I decided to go into FULL ON yoga-pants-and-Uggs-wearing, top-knot-sporting Autumnophile mode. You guessed it: Pumpkin Spice. It’s like, so Fall, I legit can’t even. What’s better than pumpkin, spices, pasta, and a flaky, nutty, golden crust? WITH RAISINS THAT HAVE BEEN COOKED IN BOOZE SPRINKLED ALL THROUGHOUT? …How about all of those things in a dish that you can feel good about?

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If it were acceptable to hug a kugel, I would hug this one. If it were acceptable to marry a kugel, I would marry this one. (Take note scruffy Jewish doctors, circa 6’0″ – you have some competition.)

 

Pumpkin Spice Noodle Kugel
Serves 16
A healthier twist on a classic Jewish dish!
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. whole wheat egg noodles, cooked
  2. --
  3. 3/4 cup red wine
  4. 3/4 cup raisins
  5. 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  6. 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  7. 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  8. --
  9. 1 cup pumpkin purée
  10. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  11. 1/3 cup coconut cream*
  12. 1/3 cup honey
  13. 6 eggs (opt. 3 eggs + 6 whites)
  14. 1 + 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  15. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  16. --
  17. 2 cups organic corn flake cereal
  18. 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  19. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  20. 1/4 - 1/3 cup honey
  21. Cinnamon to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain completely and let dry.
  3. While noodles are cooking, bring wine, raisins, and spices to a simmer in a large saucepan. Lower heat, and stir occasionally until wine is thick, syrupy, and completely reduced. Remove from heat.
  4. Combine pumpkin and coconut oil and whisk to combine.**
  5. Stir coconut cream, honey, eggs, and spices into pumpkin mixture.
  6. Add raisins and noodles to pumpkin mixture and toss to coat.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the corn flakes, walnuts, honey, and coconut oil.
  8. Grease a large, shallow casserole dish with coconut oil or nonstick spray. Add pumpkin noodle mixture to the dish, and sprinkle the corn flake topping evenly over the noodles. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the mixture is totally set and the topping is golden brown.
Notes
  1. *To get coconut cream, leave a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight to separate. The cream is the solid part.
  2. **Make sure your pumpkin puree is at room temperature before adding the coconut oil, or else the melted oil may solidify!
Adapted from Jenessa's Dinners / Meal and a Spiel
Adapted from Jenessa's Dinners / Meal and a Spiel
http://thehungrymusician.com/