The Hungry Musician

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Maple Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

Somebody please stop me from eating all of these immediately.


I made these last night, and as of the exact moment I began writing this post (12:32 AM) I had already eaten two of them.

Okay, I had eaten three. But I didn’t eat enough dinner last night. ALSO, I hadn’t yet photographed them, so I had to get rid of all the ugly ones. See? It’s ok. I was doing you a favor… Yeahhh.1

I have been dying to make a healthy version of cinnamon rolls since birth, basically. I LOVE cinnamon rolls. In college, one of my roommates would make those amazingly delicious and crazy easy cinnamon-rolls-in-a-tube for special occasions. You know, the ones with the dough that you have to wear protective eyewear to open because the package is GOING to explode? Yeah, you know. SO good.

Unfortunately, those don’t exactly fit into an unprocessed lifestyle, and my goal is to make everything as delicious as possible while also using “real-food” ingredients. And so, these were born. And they are STILL gooey as all heck. 


I threw some apples into the mix, because I’m still a li’l bit stuck in autumn and am not loving this weird transition into winter. It has been raining like crazy in NYC for the past few days, but it has been FREEZING. It might as well be snowing. Except that it’s not, so instead of making snowmen in the park and getting days off from school, I’m getting soaked by tsunamis of cold taxi puddle water on my way to class. Do I look amused to you? (Imagine that you can see me, and that I look unamused.) The change in seasons is always a weird time on the East Coast, but cinnamon rolls are for all the time. So, let’s just call these seasonal and be done with it.


Since I didn’t want to use powdered sugar, these do not have your typical “icing,” but they are soaked with a maple syrup glaze, which I think is probably the next best thing. They’re SO delicious warm, with a piping hot cup of coffee or tea on the side. Also, when I was looking for recipe inspiration, I saw that Chocolate Covered Katie put raspberry jam IN her cinnamon rolls. So, obviously, I put some raspberry jam on a warmed up roll for breakfast, and my life was changed. Like, really forever.


The fact that I have a pan and a half of these in my kitchen is really dangerous. Anybody want to help take some of them off my hands?

I’m kidding. Don’t. I want all of them. <3

Maple Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 16
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Prep Time
1 hr 20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
1 hr 20 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 1/2 cup warm water
  2. 1 package (1/4 oz.) instant yeast
  3. 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, almost boiled
  4. 1/3 cup coconut oil
  5. 1/4 cup honey
  6. 1 tsp. salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  9. 2 c. Whole Wheat Graham Flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  1. 1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple, peeled and chopped
  2. 1/3 cup walnuts
  3. 1 tbs. cinnamon
  4. 2 tbs. coconut sugar
  5. 1 tbs. honey
  6. 3 tbs. melted coconut oil
  1. 2 tbs. melted coconut oil
  2. 1/4 cup maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  2. Dissolve yeast in warm water.
  3. In a saucepan, heat almond milk on medium heat until almost boiling. Reduce heat and add coconut oil and honey, whisking until melted. Remove from heat and transfer contents to a large bowl - let cool until a bit warmer than room temperature (so that the coconut oil is still a liquid)
  4. Once cooled, whisk in yeast slurry, egg, and salt.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flours.
  6. Slowly add flour to wet ingredients until completely combined and dough can be handled. Extra flour may be added. Knead dough for a few minutes with floured hands.
  7. Let sit in a warm place to double in size, about 1 hour.
  8. Combine filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a coarse paste forms.
  9. Once dough has risen, punch it down and roll out on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.
  10. Spread filling evenly over dough.
  11. Roll the long end of the dough inward to create a log.
  12. Using a very sharp knife, cut into 16 even slices.
  13. Arrange slices together into two greased cake pans.
  14. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  15. Whisk together glaze ingredients and drizzle evenly over warm rolls.
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Whole Wheat Cranberry Herb Challah


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. 


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:



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.


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)


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?   


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

IMG_1049   IMG_1057

  *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
  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
  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

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.


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.


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!



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.


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
  1. 1 large spaghetti squash
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt and pepper
  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
  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

Ricotta Toasts with Pomegranate Olive Relish

Last week was full of the most fortunate accidents.


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! 


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.


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
Write a review
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
40 min
  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
  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
  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.


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.


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.


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.


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
  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
  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.