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.

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.
 
 

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok folks, get your self-restraint ready.

Got it?

No?

It may be hidden in the fridge behind the carrots, or perhaps under the whole grain bread.

Alright, ready? Excellent, because you’re definitely going to need it when these treats are in the cookie jar.

I’ve always been a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate’s relationship.  It’s a perfect marriage between salty and sweet, creamy and crunchy.  I could never choose one over the other.

It’s no surprise then, that one of my favorite cookies is the famous peanut butter- chocolate chip.  I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies a few years ago that quickly found its spot in my baking rotation.  Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to be my own.  With a swirl of grade B maple syrup, a dash of cayenne pepper, and a crunchy coating of turbinado sugar, they are dangerously addictive.  Seriously, I dare you to try stopping after just one…

Dangerously Addictive Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:
These cookies are a definite crowd-pleaser; I have had several requests to make them.  I recommend using the best chocolate chips you can get your hands on (I use Callebaut), or perhaps you can chop up a fancy chocolate bar.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup high-quality chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1/2 cup turbinado sugar, for coating (optional, but adds a really nice crunch)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, if using.  Mix well. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and maple syrup together until fluffy and lighter in color, about 4 minutes. Add the egg, mix well.  Mix in the vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combine.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and coat with turbinado sugar, if using. Place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Smash the dough balls down with a fork to flatten a bit (the cookies shouldn’t spread too much during baking).  Bake 10-12 minutes.
Enjoy.

Oh how time flies…

These past few weeks have flown by in a flurry of papers, projects, exams, and meetings.  It feels like I just whipped these brownies up yesterday and this pie the day before. Although I have made some tasty treats, I haven’t managed to snap a decent picture of any of them!  And so, I give you a bevy of descriptions and recipes to try:

First, I made a version of  Jean-Georges fried rice.  If you are short on time, this is a fantastic choice to soothe your growling stomach, as it took me less than an hour to make from start to finish. I did make some changes to the recipe, however.  Faced with a seriously stark fridge, I had to sub onions for the leeks. I also tossed the garlic and ginger in with the onions, which made one less step in the recipe.  And, as I cracked my egg into the hot pan and found it sticking, I decided to mix the egg right into the rice mixture. Despite the changes, the dish turned out great! I found myself wishing the bowl would never end, grumbling a satisfied “Mmm” as I ate.

I also discovered a treasure trove of bananas in the back of my freezer, begging to be made into my favorite treat: banana bread.  Needless to say, the loaf disappeared before I even managed to snatch a picture.  I promise to post the recipe soon!

Last, I found out that my immersion blender also doubles as a smoothie maker. Go figure! Toss a splash of lemon/orange/ginger juice in with a 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries, a frozen banana, a large spoonful of yogurt, and **BAM** you have a tasty breakfast treat.  I can’t wait to try a banana/peanut butter/vanilla/chocolate milk combination!

So, even though I haven’t been posting, I have been squeezing in some time to cook.  Give these recipes a try!  By the time you check back I’ll have another post up, acceptable picture included.

-k