indian summer lavender-lemon muffins

We may have just celebrated Halloween but I still have overflowing pots of herbs happily growing on my back steps. I’m thinking about turning some into herbed salt, freezing a bit and making a little chimichuri with a bunch, but really I’d prefer to use as much as I can right now while they’re still fresh. Sage, basil, tarragon, thyme and rosemary are a real no-brainer, you can throw those herbs into just about any savory dish and come out with a winning meal, but what about the lavender? Lavender flowers have a gazillion uses, but recipes using the fresh leaves are much more limited. Lavender, lavender, lavender… what should I do with you?

While I was recipe hunting I found a few recipes for rosemary and lemon shortbread. While I did briefly consider making cookies I thought muffins would be more fun and instead of rosemary I decided to use that elusive fresh lavender. The resulting Lavender-Lemon Muffins were a huge hit, fresh with a subtle lavender flavor and a lovely pop of sweet from the lemon glaze on top. They have quickly become another Greco family favorite and perhaps they’ll become one of your families favorites as well.

Lavender-Lemon Muffins
The lavender in these babies is subtle not overwhelmingly perfumey. They’re really pretty delicious.

lavender-lemon muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. finely chopped fresh lavender
zest of one lemon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 whole eggs + 1 egg white

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and lightly coat with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine together the flour, lavender, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. Place the sugar and remaining ingredients (through eggs) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed until smooth. Add the wet mixture to the dry and beat again until blended.
  3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. Combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  5. When the muffins are finished baking allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before drizzling with lemon glaze. Let glaze set and enjoy!

mea culpa muffins

I think I owe you an apology. You see I have a recipe, a really good one that I know you’ll like, and I’ve been purposely keeping it to myself. I don’t know why. I’m usually a good about sharing and not at all the jealous or easily threatened type, but I guess my actions would say otherwise. And the real kicker about this recipe is that there’s a time component to its key ingredient. In other words, if I don’t share this recipe with you now I’ll have to wait another year before I can.

Oh the inner struggle; the soul searching; and ultimately the decision to come clean with you my readers and share this most coveted of recipes.

So here goes. Here’s the recipe you’re gonna love, you’ve gotta try and you can’t go wrong with. (drum roll please) It is… Cranberry Orange Muffins! I know, you’re feeling let down right about now, right? All this fuss over a muffin. I hear ya, but these muffins really and truly are the most fantastic muffins you’ll ever make. Ever. I’ve been making these babies every Fall/Winter (when fresh cranberries are available in stores) since my son was a toddler—he’s now 8—and I have yet to have a single man, woman or child declare them anything but delicious.

So here you go my dear reader, my loyal listener, here is the recipe most near and dear to my heart. Use it well and think of me fondly with each “Wow, these muffins are delicious!” compliment you accept.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
This recipe would also work well as a quick bread but since muffins make the perfect breakfast or school snack, I usually stick to muffins.

cran-orange muffins3

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
2/3 cup orange juice
1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin pan with liners, lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Add the orange zest to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Toss in the cranberries and stir until each is well coated with flour.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the oil and orange juice and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until just moist. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 16-18 minutes, until muffins are golden and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool the remainder of the way.

Hooray for Back to School!

Ahhh, back to school. I love this time of year for all the obvious parent of a school-age child reasons and yet I dread it as well. I can totally do without the daily scramble to get out the door on time, the projects meant to teach my child something but really just showcase my craft abilities and the “just get your homework out if the way so you can relax after dinner” conversation my son and I have every afternoon. But what I dislike the most about back to school is packing lunches and snacks. Funny right, since I’m so food obsessed, but true nonetheless.

Thankfully most nights my husband takes over lunch duty, but I’m still in charge of snack. At my son’s school the kids bring in a snack and a drink everyday, but the snack must be a healthy one. They are not allowed to bring in any junk food, cookies, gummy whatnot or simply unhealthy treats. I agree with this policy, little brains can’t learn when fueled by junk, but it does pose a bit of a challenge as well. While I would sooner throw myself off a bridge than send my son to school with a Ring-Ding, there are only so many pieces of fruit I can give the kid before he revolts. Muffins and quick-breads are my solution. I can make them in all sorts of flavor combinations, with honest and healthy ingredients and add a little demerara sugar or a simple glaze topping to make them seem a little less boring and a little more kid-appealing.

So there’s one school related hurdle down, now to finish my (I mean his) model of the Parthenon that’s due on Monday…

Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins
I didn’t peel the zucchini and my children didn’t seem to mind the green flecks in their muffins. But if yours will then by all means peel away!

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup crushed pineapple in juice, drained (reserve juice for glaze)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. reserved pineapple juice

  1. Preheat to 375° F. Put liners in muffin pan, spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In a separate bowl combine the oil, vanilla, eggs, zucchini and pineapple and stir until combined.
  3. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix well. Scoop batter into muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and place on a rack to cool completely before glazing.
  4. For the glaze: In small bowl mix together the powdered sugar and pineapple juice until well blended. Drizzle glaze over cooled muffins and let set 5 minutes before serving.

*adapted from stolen moments cooking

“those” blueberry muffins

My family and I just returned from our annual summer vacation in Vermont. It’s our yearly opportunity to kick back, relax and enjoy doing all the wonderful outdoor country things the Green Mountains have to offer; not the least of which is going blueberry and apple picking. July is actually blueberry season in New England which means that come mid August the pickins’ were a bit slim. But what was left on the bushes was so crazy plump, sweet and juicy that we had to fight to kids to actually have enough left in our pail to bring home!

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits. They’re perfect eaten out of hand, can jazz up an ordinary bowl of cold cereal, turn plain pancakes into something special and even add a little something unexpected to a green salad. They’re perfect made into sauce, jam or even turned into an infused cocktail. It seems like the simple blueberry has limitless possibilities.

As you are aware, a few weeks ago I was on a blueberry muffin bender of sorts. I made numerous batches, tweaking and adjusting the recipe again and again until I had what I thought was a winning version. But (sigh) it wasn’t, at least not in the eyes of the bake-off judges. So while my dear son proudly basked in his bake-off glory I quietly collected my cake plate and headed for the door…

But damn it, I worked hard on those muffins and I stand by my recipe! So here it is; the recipe that didn’t make me famous, win me a blue ribbon or change my baking career forever. They may not have been winners at the bake-off, but I still think these are some of the tastiest blueberry muffins you’ll ever make. But you be the judge.

Blueberry-Limoncello Muffins with a Lemon Zest Crumble Topping
These muffins are equally tasty without the limoncello (substitute lemon juice instead) and are great in mini size as well.

For the muffins:
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 pint fresh blueberries (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup limoncello
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the crumble:
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Gently stir in the blueberries and lemon zest.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the melted butter, lemon juice, limoncello, yogurt, egg, and vanilla; stir well with a whisk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold everything together until just moist. Set bowl of batter aside and make the crumble topping.
  4. For the topping; in a small bowl combine the sugar, flour, and lemon zest. Add in the butter and stir until the mixture is crumbly, breaking up any large clumps.
  5. Give the batter one last stir then spoon evenly into the lined muffin cups. Top with a generous amount of crumble.
  6. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then place on a wire rack for remainder of cooling.