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).

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  • 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

Peach tart

The tart is somewhat of an archnemesis to me.  It’s the dough, you see, it hates me.  It has such simple ingredients: a little butter, a little sugar, some flour, salt, and egg- how could one screw this up, right?  Well I could, and have, several times.  This is where Smitten comes in.  She took Dorie‘s recipe and she worked it and she published it and she explained that we need not be afraid of it because she had conquered it- and she was right!

I tried this tart shell recipe once last fall and loved the flavor, but the texture did not come together right for me.  I was impatient, you see.  This time I took the time and had the patience, and it paid off.  The dough is like shortbread in flavor and consistency.  In this particular instance, I used local peaches from the Open Square Farmer’s Market in Holyoke.  I baked them into the pillowy love of a goat cheese custard.  It was a marriage made in heaven.

Tart shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

  • In a food processor pulse the flour, sugar and salt together
  • Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in
  • Stir the egg, just enough to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  • When the egg has all been added, process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps, and eventually turns into a ball
  • Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about an hour before rolling
  • To roll the dough: Roll out chilled dough on a floured sheet of parchment paper to a 12-inch round
  • Peel off paper. Seal any cracks in the dough.  Fold any overhang in, making double-thick sides
  • Pierce the crust all over with fork
  • Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking
  • To par-bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  • Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 15 minutes
  • Let the crust cool on a trivet while you prepare the filling

Filling:

  • 6 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 6-8 slices per peach
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • zest of one lemon

To make the filling:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Arrange the peach slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until it’s completely covered (don’t be afraid to overfill the crust, as peaches will shrink during cooking)
  • Combine the egg yolks, goat cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the peaches
  • Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color
  • Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the side wall of the pan

Fantastic accompaniments to this dessert would be vanilla ice cream, freshly whipped cream, and/or a brandy reduction.  Enjoy!

J

Southwest Salmon & Black Beans

This dish was the best way that I have ever had salmon prepared.  It’s zesty and flavorful, has a great variety of textures, and is super-healthy.  Grilling the fish avoids stinking heating up the house on these days of 90+ degrees and ridiculous humidity, and it allows it to get a great crisp on.

I can honestly say that I was weary of using all of the herbs called for in the dressing.  I love mint, but I love it in desserts, and sometimes it weirds me out to have it in a savory dish.  Well not this time.  The cilantro, basil and mint meld together and you taste none of them individually, but the combination is smooth and wonderful.  Now if I can only figure out how to use of the remaining 4 lbs. of mint in my back yard, I’ll be all set….

I opted to take creative liberties with the recipe that I followed (of course) and served the beans on the side with some jasmine rice that had been cooked in chicken broth.  It was probably unnecessary as both Neil and I were so stuffed by the end of this meal that is was silly, but I was initially worried that a piece of fish on top of lettuce wasn’t going to cut it with our appetites.

Ingredients:

1 ½  lb salmon

1 small onion, minced

1 small red bell pepper, diced 1/4 inch

4 medium cloves garlic pressed

1 TBS +  ½  cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups or 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained

1 ½  TBS ancho chili powder

2 cups chopped lettuce (like butter or romaine)

Dressing:

4 TBS fresh chopped cilantro

2 TBS fresh chopped mint

2 TBS fresh chopped basil

5 TBS fresh lemon juice

4 TBS olive oil

1 TBS chopped pepitas

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Season salmon with salt and pepper and set aside
  • Heat 1 TBS broth in a skillet and when it begins to steam add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté over a  medium heat for about 5 minutes
  • Add 1/2 cup broth, black beans, and ancho chili powder. Cook for another 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • While the beans are cooking, preheat your grill
  • In a bowl mix together cilantro, mint, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, pepitas, salt and pepper
  • Grill the salmon for about 10 minutes (your grill should be between 400 and 500 degrees)
  • Serve the salmon on a bed of lettuce, topped with the dressing, with beans on the side

J

Wilted kale salad

This recipe could serve a few different purposes: it could give you a great way to use up an excess of kale, it could give you a great alternative to yet another mixed greens salad, or it could give kale a whole new flavor profile in your head that you just can’t get over because you love it so much.  Or, like Neil, you could really dislike it- which is fine.  Not everyone can share my love of all things green and funny looking that are meant to be ingested.  But, really, I did love this salad.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale

Mediterranean Dressing

2 tsp lemon juice

1 medium clove garlic, pressed

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Chop your kale leaves into 1/2-inch slices, and cut again crosswise (stems included)
  • Add the kale to a steamer basket and cover and let steam for 5 minutes
  • Transfer to a bowl and toss with Mediterranean Dressing ingredients  while still hot

This recipe was inspired by a post on World’s Healthiest Foods.

J