Friday, July 24, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

There has always been something so clean and new about breakfast. What other part of the day has the consistent feelings of possibility? With so many hours ahead before the next nightfall.....


I doubt any morning is actually that idyllic. Usually I can't function like a normal human being before downing a big mug of coffee. Imagine for a moment: blinded by the lights of your kitchen, groggy from the previous night's spotty sleep. And then, with the blessed beep of the coffee machine, signaling that the coffee is ready, comes salvation. Coffee invigorates, coffee wakes. Good coffee is an essential ingredient to a good morning.

Of course, to get the most out of your coffee, you must have the perfect muffin. Blueberry picking is a summer tradition in my family, and with so many extra blueberries lying around, we have had the time to develop and fine-tune some truly outstanding recipes that showcase the fruit. The one below is one of my favorites.

Lemony Blueberry Muffins
makes around 15 muffins

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Lemon zest from 1 lemon

3/4 cups sugar

1 cup milk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper cups.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.
In another bowl, combine sugar, milk, oil, extract and vinegar. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the wet until just combined, do not overmix.
Fold in berries gently.
Fill the muffin cups about 2/3rds full.
Bake until golden brown, around 23 minutes. Check after 20 minutes because oven temperatures vary!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Orzo Salad

I am the last person to deny the world more sweets, but once in a while I crave a delicious savory dish, vegetarian of course.

My Mom would agree with me, that after a long hectic day, nothing is more relaxing and satisfying as watching the Food Network for a show or two. Although I regret to have fallen into the national obsession with Giada De Laurentis, no one can deny that her recipes are chic in a casual, understated sort of way. Take the Orzo Salad for instance. In an episode based around alfresco dining, the salad represents the truly great, yet simple, way in which modern cooking can be fast, easy and divine. In this recipe a smaller amount of olive oil was used for a less "wet" texture.

My Mom is the guest chef for this post, so she takes all the credit for making the Orzo Salad!

Orzo Salad

4 cups chicken, (or vegetable!) broth

1 1/2 cups orzo

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup chopped mint leaves

3/4 cup red wine vinaigrette

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Bring the broth to a boil over high heat- stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until tender, around 7 minutes. Drain orzo an transfer to large bowl. Toss orzo with beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot or cold, preferably outside.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

As a pastry chef-in-training, I am bound to produce some truly horrific creations from my oven. Last week, in an attempt to bake Heidi Swanson's "Carrot Oatmeal Cookies" on her blog,, I made a little mistake. In the recipe, she called for the ingredient, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. In my kitchen I had whole wheat flour. I also had pastry flour. But I did not have whole wheat pastry flour. Not to diminish the nutrition of the cookie, I decided to use the plain whole wheat flour. Consequently, my punishment was a dry, crumbly mound of ingredients that were more health pellets than cookies. Though the flavor was there, the consistency was just awful.

And so, as with anything in life that goes wrong, I decided to learn from my mistakes and try again. I used all-purpose flour this time, with painstakingly precise measurements of the wet ingredients. I followed the recipe quite accurately with the exception of almonds for walnuts and olive oil for coconut oil and was rewarded with a soft, chunky cookie, just slightly sweet. Sure they are still healthy, but now no one has to know.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup shredded carrot

2/3 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and oats together. Add carrots, ginger, nuts.
Combine the oil and syrup together and pour over flour mixture. Stir until combined and the wet ingredients are incorporated.
Drop rounded tablespoon-fulls of the batter onto parchment-paper lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.