Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tuscan Lemon Muffins

Why am I posting a recipe for Tuscan Lemon Muffins when it is snowing outside??  Why, because the snow was unexpected.  We do not normally get snow in October.  In fact, we haven't gotten a snow storm this big since the Civil War.  That is over 100 years ago. Well, I was not in the mood for snow or snow-friendly recipes. So, I made Tuscan Lemon Muffins. I am still stuck in summer.  These muffins are tasty.  

Tuscan Lemon Muffins
YIELD: 12 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)


7-9/10 ounces all-purpose flour (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar


1.       Preheat oven to 375°.
2.       Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt); make a well in center. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Add ricotta mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
3.       Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat with cooking spray. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle Turbinado sugar over batter. Bake at 375° for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
4.       Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

Cooking Light, May 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Orange, Lemon and Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemons, Meyer Lemons, Meyer Lemons....  I have been hearing about them on blogs for a long time.  I never really knew what they were.  I never saw them in any grocery store or market in Maryland.  I have lived in New York City and never saw them when I lived there.  I figured they must be some special type of lemon only available on the west coast.  I turned out to be wrong about that.  I went into my favorite grocery store of all time, Wegman's, the other day.  What do you think I found but a bag of lovely Meyer lemons.  I found out that they are a hybrid of oranges and lemons.  They seem to be "in season" around December or January.  That didn't stop me.  I still grabbed up a bag as quickly as I could. These Meyer lemons really look more like an orange to me but no one asked me!  I thought it would be really fun to make a Meyer Lemon Cake.  When I found this recipe it looked perfect.  I have never used Meyer lemons nor have I ever baked an olive oil cake.  It was an interesting experiment.  It made a very tasty moist cake.  I found the recipe on a blog called "Healthy Green Kitchen."  I won't tell you that I used all organic ingredients, because I didn't.  I used what I had in the house.  I'm sure using organic ingredients is a much better idea but ...  anyway try this cake!  You will absolutely love it.

Recipe for Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Adapted from the recipe for French Style Yogurt Cake in A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg.
Serves 8.


For the cake:
*1 1/2 cups white spelt flour (or use all purpose unbleached flour or almond flour if you need it to be gluten-free)
*2 teaspoons baking powder
*pinch of sea salt
*2 teaspoons candied Meyer lemon peel (or use Meyer lemon zest or regular lemon zest)
*1/2 cup plain organic yogurt
*1 cup organic sugar
*3 large eggs, preferably organic and free-range
*1/2 cup fruity olive oil (melted butter would work, too)
For the syrup:
*1/4 cup organic powdered sugar
*1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
For the icing:
*1 cup organic powdered sugar
*3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with olive oil, and flour the bottom of the pan.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the candied lemon peel or lemon zest and mix well.
3. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs and olive oil. Whisk well to combine. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk again to combine
4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I suggest you start checking after 25 minutes: you do not want to overbake it.
5. Cool the cake for 15 minutes and then remove the sides of the pan. Prick the cake all over with a fork, whisk the syrup ingredients together, and then drizzle the syrup all over the cake. The syrup will seep into all those fork holes you just made, and this is a very good thing.
6. Allow the cake to cool for another 30 minutes or so and then whisk the icing ingredients together. Using a offset spatula (or a spoon), cover the top of the cake with the icing. You can serve the cake immediately, or wait 45 minutes to 1 hour and the icing will harden.


The Creative Cook

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

You might be wondering why I decided to make two types of butternut squash soup today.  Well, I told you why I made the Butternut Squash, Swiss Chard and Bacon Soup earlier today.  I made another style of butternut squash soup because the butternut squash that I bought at the grocery store yesterday was almost 5 pounds!  I have never seen a butternut squash that big. I was compelled to use it all, so I figured another type of soup would be the best way to do that.  This butternut squash soup is creamier and smoother than the other soup.  Sadly, I did not have any heavy cream in the house today (I "forgot" to buy it) so I used a substitute that I found on  I will post it for you just in case you start making this soup without any heavy cream in the house.  I am not in the habit of buying heavy cream because I rarely use the stuff.  This substitute is a great idea for people like me who have an aversion to using heavy cream.  I didn't make any additional changes to this recipe.  I found the recipe on another food blog called Sweet Pea's Kitchen.

Butternut Squash Soup
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, chopped fine
1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds), cut in half length-wise, and each half cut in half width-wise; seeds and strings scraped out and reserved (about ¼ cup)
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
Pinch of ground nutmeg

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or heavy pot) over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the squash scrapings and seeds, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, place the squash cut-side down in a steamer basket, and lower the basket into the pot. Cover and steam until the squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. take the pot off the heat, and use tongs to transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin. Reserve the squash flesh in a bowl and discard the skins.

3. Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into a second bowl; discard the solids in the strainer. (You should have 2½ to 3 cups of liquid.) Rise and dry the pot.

4. Puree the squash in batches in a blender or food processor, pulsing and adding enough reserved steaming liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer the puree to the pot and stir in the remaining steaming liquid, cream, and brown sugar. Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste. Serve immediately. Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.

(Recipe adapted from The Best Soups & Stews by America’s Test Kitchen)  

Heavy Cream Substitute
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Makes 1 cup 


3/4 cup milk 
1/3 cup butter


1.  Melt the butter.
2.  Pour it into the milk and stir.
3.  Use in place of one cup of heavy cream.

Note:  This substitute will not whip.

Tip:  If you use low-fat milk, add a tablespoon of flour to the mixture to thicken.


The Creative Cook

Butternut Squash Soup with Swiss Chard & Bacon

I have to tell you that I ate the best dinner last Saturday night at Monocacy Crossing in Frederick, Maryland.  My husband took me and my son out to celebrate my birthday.  I had the Pork Tenderloin with Sage-Cider Sauce and Scalloped Potatoes, my son had the Crispy Buttermilk Chicken Breast with Tasso Ham Gravy and my husband had the Herb Topped Salmon over Warm Potato Salad with Bacon and Horseradish.  We all swooned over our meals but for me the best part was my soup.  It was a Butternut Squash Soup with Swiss Chard and Bacon.  I left there with a strong desire to make that soup at home.  I did just that this morning. I started with a recipe for Brodo (Broth) with Butternut Squash, Swiss Chard and Bacon by Betty Rosbottom that I found on a website.  I knew that the recipe needed some changes to satisfy my needs.  I added some skim milk and left out the pasta that the original recipe called for.  I also needed to add a tablespoon of flour to thicken up the soup a bit.  We have not tried the soup yet but it smells heavenly.  This is my version of Monocacy Crossing's delicious soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with Swiss Chard & Bacon
Makes 6 Servings
Prep time:  30 to 40 minutes

Make ahead:  Homemade or store-bought chicken stock

1-1/2 - 1-3/4 lb. (750 g to 875 g) butternut squash
1 bunch (about 12 oz. / 375 g.) Swiss chard, preferably with dark green leaves and red stalks
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch (1.25 cm.) pieces
1-1/3 cups (340 ml) onion, chopped
8 cups (2 liters) homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 cup skim milk (or 3/4 cup heavy cream)
1 tablespoon flour (if using skim milk)
salt to taste
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated

Using a large sharp knife, halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds and membranes.  Cut each half lengthwise into 4 segments.  Using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, peel the segments and then cut them into 3/4 inch (2-cm) cubes.  Set aside.

Rinse the chard and pat dry.  Cut off and discard the stalks.  If the ribs on the leaves are more than a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick, cut them out and discard.  Coarsely chop the chard to yield about 4 loosely packed cups (1 liter).

In a large pot set over medium high heat, saute the bacon pieces until they are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.  Pour out all but 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the bacon drippings and return the pot to medium heat.  When hot, add the onions and saute, stirring until golden brown, 3 minutes.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the squash and cook until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.  Once the squash is cooked, use an immersion blender or put soup carefully in a blender.  After blending, add the milk or cream and the flour.  Cook the soup another 5 minutes but do not boil.  If the flour gets lumpy just use the immersion blender to remove the lumps or put the soup back into the blender for a minute or two.  Pour soup back into the pot (if using a blender) then add the chard and cook until it wilts, for 1 to 2 minutes more.  Taste and season with salt and cayenne pepper.

To serve, ladle soup into 6 shallow bowls.  Pass around the bacon pieces and grated cheese separately in bowls.


The Creative Cook