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.

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)
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


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.

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).

Carrot Cake Cookies

One recent weekend Neil and I were invited to a small gathering where the theme of the night was soup.  The basic idea being that the hostess makes two or three varieties of soup to choose from, someone brings bread, someone else brings handheld nibbles, and we eat, drink, and are merry, then run outside into the cold New England evening to watch the annual Torchlight Parade (several towns trim their fire trucks out in Christmas lights and parade down the main thoroughfare).

Since bread had been accounted for, as had corn muffins, southern style red beans & rice, and three varieties of soup, I decided to bring cookies.  While at lunch that afternoon Neil commented “I wish that there were such a thing as carrot cake cookies.” and it was decided that was what we’d make.  What I did to create this recipe was look at existing carrot cake cookie recipes, then cross some of my favorite elements with our family recipe for carrot cake which includes the likes of shredded coconut and fresh pineapple.  The result was a chewy cookie with a creamy and not-too-sweet filling that was very well received by party-goers.


  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I like to use a variety: Thompson, red flame, and golden)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced (see note if using canned pineapple)
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon


  • Preheat your oven to 375°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, baking soda, and salt in a bowl
  • Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla until pale and fluffy
  • Mix in carrots, and raisins, shredded coconut and pineapple at a low speed, then add the flour mixture and beat until just combined
  • At this point the dough will be a little too wet to scoop, so add in the 1/8 cup of coconut flour a little at a time until the dough just tightens up
  • Drop walnut-sized balls of dough for each cookie cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, about 12 minutes
  • Pull the baking sheets out and flatten each cookie with a fork in a manner similar to that performed on a peanut butter cookie, then pop them back in the oven for 1 minute to finish
  • Cool cookie sheets on racks for a  minute, then transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely
  • While the cookies are baking, blend the cream cheese, honey and lemon zest until smooth
  • Sandwich the flat sides of the cookies together with a generous helping of cream cheese filling

*Note: if using canned pineapple, your dough will be more wet.  To offset this, add up to 1/4 cup coconut flour at the end to tighten it up to the appropriate consistency.

You could also add walnuts to the cookie dough for depth of flavor.  A great alternative to cream cheese would be a soft goat cheese.  Feel free to omit the lemon zest if it’s not to your liking.


Carrot Cake Cookie

Carrot Cake Cookie

A peanut-free version of the Rocky cookie

Never in my life, until just over a year ago, had I known so many people with food allergies.  Now I have adopted an entire family full  🙂  (and I love them all) and have several friends with them as well.  There are allergies to spices, some to raw fruits and veggies, to gluten, to tree nuts, to peanuts, to dairy, and the list goes on.  Then there are the folks who make life choices to exclude certain foods- people who eat paleo, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, etc.  All of this adds up to challenge the “foodie” at each party.  You want to bring a dish that looks good, tastes great, and that everyone will be able to partake in.  It can be a little crazy, but I’m up for the challenge.

This particular recipe is an adaptation of the Rocky cookie which tastes a bit more tropical and uses no peanut butter.  It’s for Sheila and Michael as she loves her healthy foods and he doesn’t breathe so well when peanut products are near him 😉


2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup steel cut oats

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (or oat flour)

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

dash of  nutmeg

Sprinkle of sea salt

Handful of bittersweet chocolate chunks

Handful of raisins

Handful of chopped dates

Handful of cashews

Handful of shredded coconut

Handful of dried pineapple

Handful of wheat germ

Handful of flax seed meal

Handful of sunflower seeds

1 egg

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/4 cup molasses

¾ cup plain, unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

a well-ripened banana

1 large scoop of Tahini

  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix
  • Scoop the batter by the tablespoon onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper (cookies will not spread)
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven).  You want a finished cookie that is golden brown around the edges and a bit on top

Rocky cookies

Bittersweet chocolate tart with pretzel crust

When I decided that I wanted to make a sinfully chocolate dessert for Christmas dinner with my siblings I went in search of recipes.  There were brownies and cakes, truffles and pots de creme, bread puddings and pies to choose from, but none were quite right to finish off our night of gluttony.  Then I came across this recipe and while it wasn’t perfect, it was workable.

What we have here is a shortbread type of crust which uses pretzels, rather than nuts, for a bit of texture.  The filling is a basic ganache, and it’s topped with simple crème fraiche (but you could also substitute whipped cream, ice cream, or even a yogurt dollop).  It is rich, silky, not too sweet, and absolutely lovely is small servings.  It pairs very nicely with a cup of coffee too 😉


1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed pretzels

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted


1 1/2 cups heavy cream

3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

sea salt, crushed pretzels and crème fraîche, for serving

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the confectioners’ sugar at a low speed until creamy
  • Beat in the flour and egg
  • Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact
  • Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 350°
  • Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap to the size of your tart pan
  • Press the dough into the tart pan and patch any tears, trim the overhanging dough and refrigerate the shell for another 30 minutes
  • Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (you can substitute a cake pan for the pie weights)
  • Bake the shell for 30 minutes
  • Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the tart shell is firm and just browned
  • Let the shell cool completely, then brush the melted chocolate over the bottom and up the side and refrigerate for 10 minutes
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, then take it off of the heat and add the chocolate and let it stand for 5 minutes
  • Whisk until smooth, then add the vanilla (or you can substitute any liqueur) and sea salt
  • Transfer the filling to a bowl and let it cool to room temp for about an hour
  • Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate until set (about 4 hours)
  • Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and crushed pretzels. Cut into wedges, top with crème fraîche (or other topping of your choice) and serve

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

In our family, one of the Christmas morning traditions has become this decadent shortbread which melts in your mouth.  My sister came across the recipe a few years ago on Smitten, and we’ve been making them ever since.The cookie is wonderfully buttery, with a tiny bit of sweet, the lovely background aroma of espresso, and itty-bitty chunks of chocolate.

As far as chocolate goes, I will say that my personal favorite for baking in this cookie is Valrhona guanaja.  I am able to buy it at Whole Foods in whatever size chunk I may need, then I cut it up myself, at home, with a serrated bread knife.  This way my chocolate is minus the stabilizers that are used in commercial chips and I get to have a variety of sizes and shapes of chocolate bits.

1 oz. fresh brewed espresso
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


  • Working with a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners sugar together until the mixture is very smooth
  • Beat in the vanilla and espresso
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until blended
  • Fold in the chopped chocolate
  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick.  As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so that it doesn’t make creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, and for up to 2 days
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and cut it open. Turn the chilled dough out onto the board and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares
  • Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines all the way through the cookies
  • Bake for 18 to 20 minutes (Note:  The cookies will be very pale as they shouldn’t take on much color)
  • Transfer to a cooling rack & cool to room temp before serving or freezing (I make these about two weeks before Christmas and freeze them, then pull them out on Christmas eve to thaw in the fridge overnight)