Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

You know, I've always been a little leery of trying new things.  I love eating ricotta cheese (my best friend puts it in her amazing lasagna and it's like, the best thing EVER) but I've never had the nerve to actually trying eating something with ricotta in it.  I was the same way with sour cream until a few years ago.  I mean, you've had sour cream before, haven't you?  It's tangy!  I never understood exactly HOW a sweet dessert recipe could have sour cream and actually turn out okay.  But it works... somehow.  My feelings towards things made with ricotta cheese ran along those same lines.  Until now.  These muffins have converted me.

I'm not the biggest fan of very lemon-y things.  Despite the fact that my mom tells me I used to eat them when I was little - rind and all.  Maybe that's why I'm not crazy about really lemon-y things now.  I had too much of them when I was little.  But these muffins are not overly lemon-y at all!  They have just the right amount of tang that cuts through the sweetness of the muffins.  And the ricotta... oh Lord.  The ricotta cheese just makes these muffins melt in your mouth!  So drop whatever it is you're doing and go make these muffins.  They make a wonderful quick breakfast if you're on the go, like my husband and I are!

As a side note, this recipe calls for grated lemon rind and fresh lemon juice.  You can probably get those off of one large lemon but get two just in case.  If you've never had to use the rind off of a citrus fruit before, you are missing out.  There are such wonderful flavors to be had in those bright and shiny exteriors (keep away from the white part beneath)!  You'll quickly realize that using a Microplane Zester will become your best friend in the kitchen when you need those grated rinds.  If you try to use a fine cheese grater, you'll be there all day.  A zester is really what you need.

One more thing - zest BEFORE you juice!  If you just zest after juicing, it just gets awkward.

Lemon Ricotta Muffins
recipe courtesy of Cooking Light

1 3/4 c. All Purpose Flour
3/4 c. Sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 c. Ricotta Cheese, part-skin
1/2 c. Water
1/4 c. Olive Oil (I use extra virgin)
1 Tbsp. Grated Lemon Rind
2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Egg

Preheat your oven to 375.
Spray 12 muffin liners with cooking spray and put in your muffin pan, setting aside.
In a large bowl, mix together your flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Using a different bowl, mix EVERYTHING ELSE together and stir until its all combined.
Now make a little well in the middle of your flour mixture.
Pour the ricotta cheese mixture into that little well.
Stir until moist - try not to overstir!
Now add your batter evenly to the muffin cups.
Bake for 16 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling.

These look really pale... cause they are.  Doesn't mean they aren't delicious!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strawberry Muffins

You may have noticed on here that I love strawberries.  (From this post perhaps?) They are one of my favorite things about summer.  Whenever I get strawberries from the farmer's market, I have to fight from eating them on the way home.  I mean, who can resist that yummy, sweet strawberry-y goodness?  You want to talk about cruel and unusual punishment?  Tie me up and put a strawberry just out of my reach.  I'll crack in a second just to get at it.

Now, these muffins are topped with a special item - Spiced Vanilla Bean Sugar. I'm very lucky to have a phenomenal spice story really close to me called Savory Spice Shop.  They make their own spice blends to sell and always carry fresh spices. You can get as little as half an ounce if you don't need a lot which is wonderful if you just need a spice for one recipe.  Did I mention they'll let you taste their spices in the store?  I tried this spice blend in their store and just KNEW it would be amazing on these muffins!  It is a combination of sugar, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, cinnamon, allspice, mace, and cardamom.  Doesn't that just SOUND delicious??  Even if you don't have a Savory Spice Shop near you, you can order it online!  Isn't the internet great?  (Online ordering)  For this recipe, I've made the topping Sugar in the Raw since that's available at any grocery store.

Let me tell you a story.  Many of you know that I have a dog.  She's a beautiful eleven year old black Lab mix named Liz.  I tell everyone that my husband fell in love with her long before he fell in love with me.  And she owned my heart when she was only two weeks old.  So, one morning after I had made these muffins, Ryan had gotten two to have as his breakfast.  He got the muffins, set them on our coffee table, and stepped out of the room for a few minutes.  When he returned, the muffins were gone.  There wasn't even a crumb left on the table.  Liz was laying quietly on the couch, acting like nothing was amiss.  Ryan looked around for the muffins, thinking he'd left them in the kitchen or put them in another room.  No.  Liz ate them.  Both of them.  Muffin wrapper and all.  I wasn't sure who to be mad at - him for leaving them within her reach or her for eating them in the first place!  I will say that my years of training her to "clean up her mess" paid off.  She certainly left no trace of them!

Strawberry Muffins
modified from Best Recipes from American Country Inns and Bed and Breakfasts

2 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Egg
1 c. Milk
1/3 c. Canola Oil
1 c. Fresh Strawberries, chopped
3 Packets of Sugar in the Raw

Preheat oven to 375.
Line a muffin tin with liners; spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and oil.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until moistened, making sure not to overmix!
Fold in your strawberries.
Pour the batter in your muffin tin, dividing the batter equally amongst the muffin cups.
Sprinkle the muffins with the Sugar in the Raw.
Bake for 28 minutes or until the tops become slightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on a rack before removing them from the pan to finish cooling.  (You can also tilt the muffins to let them finish cooling.  See this post.)

NOTE:  Muffins made with fresh fruit like this only last for two or three days.  Please don't feed the leftover to the dog, either.