Morning Glory Muffins

Have I ever told you about my love for breakfast?  I’ve raved about granola and pear bread, and I’ve told you about my affection for avocado and whole wheat toast. But, I have to tell you a secret. There’s one breakfast treat that has never been on top of my favorite list: muffins.

I just really don’t like muffins.

Why, you ask?  Well, I’ve eaten a lot of muffins that are too gummy, too sweet, and, to be honest, not all that flavorful.  I want a muffin with substance, with pizzazz, with “oh my god, I just ate three of those muffins” power.  The morning glory is my muffin!

This muffin packs a big nutritional punch.  Carrots, apples, raisins, pears, and coconut all float in a sea of whole wheat and spelt flour.  Unlike your typical muffin, the morning glory will keep your stomach satisfied and your taste buds smiling.

Morning Glory Muffins
For some reason, I like these muffins even better the second day. I leave them on the counter for hungry hands to grab for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Variation: Omit the almond garnish, and toss in 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts with the raisins.  Makes 12 muffins.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, grated
1 Granny Smith apple, grated (I kept the skin on for extra fiber)
1 ripe pear, peeled and grated
1 egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (low-fat is fine)
1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
12 almonds, for a decorative kick! (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or line a 12-cup muffin pan.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 15 minutes. Drain.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the spelt flour, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the carrots, apple, pear, egg, yogurt, melted butter/oil, vanilla, raisins and coconut.
Add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined, being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling to the top (the batter will not rise very much). Top each muffin with an almond, if using.  Bake 40-45 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from the pan, and let cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy.
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The Best Lemon Bars

When signs of spring begin to pop up around town, I always make lemon bars.  Lemon has the power to wake you up from the cloudy fog of winter with one, slightly tart bite.  Quite the powerful fruit!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that these lemon bars will be the best you’ll find.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the creator of my favorite brownies, Alice Medrich.  The bars are slightly more tart than a traditional lemon bar, but I think that’s the key to their success.

I always add a dash of ginger to any lemon sweet that I am making, convinced that the spice lets the lemon sing.  One day, I’ll experiment with earl gray or jasmine tea in the crust as well. For now though, get yourself ready for spring by whipping up a batch of these easy, and utterly delicious lemon bars.  Let me know what you think!

 
The Best (or at least my favorite) Lemon Bars
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s Very Tangy Lemon Bar recipe)
Makes 16 large or 24 small lemon bars.  The recipe can easily be doubled and prepared in a 9 x 13 inch pan.
For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with foil. Set aside.
To make the crust: in a medium-sized bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and ground ginger and mix until combined.*  Press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is completely baked and golden brown.
To make the filling: While the crust is baking, stir together the sugar and flour in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  Whisk in the eggs. Add the lemon zest and juice and stir.
When the crust is fully baked, turn down the oven to 300 degrees. Pour the filling onto the hot crust and slide back into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping doesn’t jiggle when the pan is moved. Cool completely before cutting.**
Enjoy.
*Note: the crust will seem too greasy, but it will come together in the oven. Don’t add more flour.
**Note 2: Store leftovers (if there are any) in the refrigerator.