Lemon-lavender muffins

From the edge of winter, my mind is already on the brink of spring (which officially kicks off in 16 days- not that I’m counting or anything) and all of its sunshine, happy flowers, and fabulous flavor trends.  Top of my thoughts this week has been lavender and creating these refreshing floral muffins that pop with the brightness of lemon in the background.  They are moist, and just sweet enough to soothe a craving without being over-the-top.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do!

Because the baked muffins take a dip into a butter bath, cupcake liners may be tough to use, especially if they peek above the crown of the muffin.

Ingredients
Muffins
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons lavender buds (rolled between your hands to release their flavor)
Zest of one lemon
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup whole milk
½ cup plain kefir (or plain yogurt or sour cream)
Topping
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lavender buds (rolled between your hands to release their flavor and break up some of the buds)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted (in a small rice bowl)

Alternate Topping
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lavender buds (rolled between your hands to release their flavor and break up some of the buds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

Directions
Muffins
Preheat oven to 375° and spritz the cups of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and set aside. Measure the milk and kefir together in a measuring cup meant for liquids and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and 2t lavender buds in a large bowl until they are light and fluffy. Using a low mixer speed, beat in egg, then add the vanilla and lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with milk/kefir.

Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups (I found that a number 2 scoop worked perfectly for this) and bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool for five minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack.

Topping
Mix the sugar and 1t lavender buds in a small rice bowl. Working one at a time, dip the tops of muffins in melted butter, then roll them in lavender sugar.

Alternate Topping
Mix the sugar and lemon juice in a small rice bowl until it forms a thick but pourable/dippable consistency. Working one at a time, dip the tops of muffins in the glaze, then sprinkle lavender bits over them.

Store the finished muffins in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. Depending on room temperature and humidity levels these will keep for 4-5 days (if you manage not to consume them all before then).

How to soak, cook and freeze dried red kidney beans

I work a 9-5 type of job so Saturday & Sunday are my days off and I tend to use them for food prep.  This includes the soaking and cooking of dried beans which tend to take more time than I have to spend on dinner on any given week day.  I like to buy more beans than are called for in whatever recipe I’m tackling, cook them all, and freeze the unused portion for another meal the following week.  This way I get twice the bang for my single buck of time.

For kidney beans I buy about a pound of dried beans, put them in a container twice as big as the bean content, cover them with water, put the lid on, and pop them in the fridge overnight.  When it’s time to cook, strain the beans out of the soaking water (as it has oligosaccharides in it which were released by the beans during soaking and can lead to digestive discomfort).  Place the strained beans into a pan at least twice the volume of the beans and add about ten cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and put on a timer for 40 minutes.  At that point try one bean for doneness.  If there’s still a tiny bit of crunch to it, let them continue to cook for a minute or two (or five- whatever it takes).

When the beans are cooked to my liking I shut the heat off and add about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, give them a stir, and let them sit for just a couple more minutes to absorb some of that flavor.  Next, strain out the cooking water (make sure to check your recipe to see if you need to reserve that flavorful H2O) and place the cooked beans in storage containers in the fridge or freezer.  This method results in a firm (I hate mushy beans!) bean with a hint of salt that is great in soups or stews or even just to snack on.

If you are going to eat the beans as a side dish where they are the star of the show, rather than in a soup or stew where there are lots of other flavors coming together, consider cooking them in stock rather than in water.

Chile relleno

Chile relleno

Ingredients

  • 4 large poblano chiles
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pear, peeled and shredded
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 3/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Roast the peppers under the broiler, cooking about 2 minutes per side, turning once, to char each side
  2. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes or so
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease an 8×8-inch baking dish
  4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until browned
  5. Stir in beef, shredded pear and chopped tomato and cook for a few longer until beef is browned, stir in black beans, then remove from heat
  6. Make a slit on one side of each pepper and remove the seeds and stem and set aside
  7. Stir the queso fresco into the browned beef mixture and stuff the peppers
  8. Place the stuffed peppers in the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes

Recipe slightly adapted from Whole Foods Market.

Mexican Pizza

Mexican Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Kosher salt
  • GF crust (we are loving the Against The Grain ones from the freezer section these days)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 3 ounces- you can get a little crazy and blend in some cheddar too)
  • ¼ cup pickled jalapeños
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Set a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°
  2. In a food processor, combine the black beans with the roasted red pepper, garlic clove and chili powder and puree until smooth. Season with salt
  3. Place the pizza crust on a pizza peel and lather it with black-bean puree, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (this recipe typically yields about twice as much as we need, so I freeze the leftover puree for our next pizza)
  4. Sprinkle with tomatoes, jalapeños, scallion and top with cheese
  5. Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone and bake for 9-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and just a little brown

Chicken and Cauliflower Casserole

Chicken and Cauliflower Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup raw cheddar
  • 4 scallions, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Place the chopped bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat to cook until crispy and move on to the next step while the fat is rendered
  3. Separate the cauliflower florets and steam until fork-soft (about 10 minutes)
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan leaving the bacon drippings in the pan
  5. Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper and brown them on both sides in the bacon fat (no need to cook the chicken all the way through in this step), and move on to the next step while they cook
  6. Remove the cooked cauliflower from the steamer and rice it (with a ricer, a food mill, or a food processor) and set aside
  7. Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and set aside, and add some olive oil to the Dutch oven and carefully slide in the onions and mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their moisture and turn golden brown on the edges
  8. Sprinkle the onions and mushrooms with the thyme and salt and stir until fragrant
  9. Add the riced cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and move onto the next step while this works
  10. Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces
  11. Add the cut chicken, cooked bacon and sour cream to the Dutch oven and stir until combined. Season with salt to taste, sprinkle with shredded raw cheddar and bake for 20 minutes or so until top is golden brown
  12. Sprinkle with scallions & serve

Recipe slightly adapted from Deliciously Organic.