Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Last summer my best friend Lauren invited me out to her family’s house in the Hamptons. I’ve lived on Long Island for 23 years and yet somehow, this was my first opportunity to visit the infamous area. I didn’t want to show up empty handed, so I made these lemon chia seed muffins. The original recipe calls for poppy seeds, but I only had chia seeds on hand, and I actually prefer them now. I also substituted plain greek yogurt for the buttermilk, since I found that it made for moister muffins. Because of these additions, I think the muffins qualify as healthy. That’s why I ate not one, but two, for breakfast at work this morning.

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One of the best traits of any muffin is its portability factor; I like a breakfast that can be zipped in a bag and taken with me, no muss, no fuss. That’s why I eat candy for breakfast so often. Very portable.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, SEPARATED. SEPARATED!

1 1/3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp chia seeds (these can be found at Trader Joe’s in a resealable bag)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (about 1 single serving plastic cup)

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half of a juicy lemon)

1 tsp vanilla extract

The zest of 2 lemons
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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray (this recipe makes about 12 muffins).

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well with an electric mixer after each.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, chia seeds, and lemon zest.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating two times with the greek yogurt, then lemon juice, and then vanilla.

Beat just until smooth.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Gently fold them into the muffin batter until blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, 3/4-full.

Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely.

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Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

It’s not even the end of September and I’m already plotting which Halloween decorations will go where. Halloween isn’t even my favorite holiday- it just signifies the beginning of the holiday season, and perhaps more importantly, loads of candy. Since I’m diving right into fall with my decorating, I figured I might as well jump right on the pumpkin recipe bandwagon.

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Since it’s still relatively warm out, I didn’t want to make anything that has to be served hot, so muffins seemed like a good choice. I found this recipe on VeryBestBaking.com. It’s wonderfully simple; I just tweaked it to include vanilla and dried cranberries, as well as a streusel-inspired topping. I love grabbing a soft, crumbly muffin on my way out the door in the morning, or even eating one for dessert with some cool whip. They’re also great for taking in the car if you have to drive somewhere and need an easily accessible, hands free snack (i.e. NOT sushi, which I had to eat while rolling through Times Square while working at New York Fashion Week).

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups  all-purpose flour

2/3 cup  packed brown sugar, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling

1/3 cup  granulated sugar

1 tablespoon  baking powder

1 teaspoon  salt

1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon  baking soda

1/4 teaspoon  ground ginger

1/2 cup  butter, melted

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

2 large  eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup  buttermilk

1 cup dried cranberries

1-2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease or paper-line 12 muffin cups.

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Combine flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and ginger in large bowl. Combine butter, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk in medium bowl. Add to flour mixture, stir just until moistened. Gently fold in cranberries. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and dot with the cut up butter.

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely. I always take my muffins/cupcakes out of the oven a minute or two before they’re fully cooked, since they finish baking in the tin.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

As summer winds down I’m trying to make recipes with produce that is only available during the hot, sweaty months. If you can’t tell, summer is my least favorite season. I can’t stand the sweltering humidity that feels like a wet sweater clinging to my arms every time I go outside, or the fact that I sweat every time I walk thirty feet- it sort of throws a wrench in looking presentable.

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But back to the benefits of summer: I really like zucchini bread as an alternative to banana bread, which is a bit denser. Zucchini is super versatile being that it’s very water based and, in spite of its vegetable food grouping, is quite sweet. Therefore, it can be used in dessert and main course dishes alike. Zucchini bread in particular is great because you can eat it for breakfast or with a plop of whipped cream for dessert. And, since it’s technically veggie based, you can pretend you’re being healthy by grabbing seconds.

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This recipe comes from my old standby, Allrecipes.com.

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup vegetable oil

3 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups white sugar

2 cups shredded zucchini

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 pint fresh bloobs (blueberries)

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 4 mini-loaf pans. I used 4 super mini pans, so I had extra batter to make mini muffins with. If you make mini muffins, only bake them for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar. Fold in the zucchini. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini-loaf pans.

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Bake 45-50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

S’mores French Toast

I KNOW I just missed National S’mores Day by a hair, but I’m sure you can find it in your hearts to forgive me and try this recipe anyway. I’ve been wanting to play around with variations of french toast for a while, and adding s’mores to the classic breakfast was one of the first things I thought of.

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Growing up, I used to make s’mores at my aunt’s house in Connecticut. She doesn’t have a fire pit and bonfires definitely weren’t allowed in her suburb, so we always used the flames from her gas grill to toast our ‘shmallows. She bought these long roasting sticks at Christmas Tree Shop (one of her favorite stores, and one that I enjoy as well). I think we reused the same ones for a couple of summers in a row -not sure if that’s hygienic but oh well, we were kids. Being the sentimental person that I am, I wrote the dates that we used them in sharpie on mine. If I looked really hard, I’m sure I could find one tucked away under my bed, shrouded in dust bunnies and other childhood memorabilia.

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I also have a delightful memory of s’mores-making shenanigans from my semester living in LA: In the last week that we were there, one of my wonderful classmates Orrin had all of his fellow Business of Acting students over to his scenic house in Malibu. His parents made us handmade pizzas, grilled chicken and veggies for dinner. As the night wore on and the ocean breeze became chillier and more persistent, they built a fire and we made s’mores sitting around it under the twinkling white lights strung around the yard.

S’mores encompass summer, companionship, and community. French toast is a delicious treat that my mom makes for me once in a while (although this recipe is not the one that she uses). So, why not marry the two into one delicious, ooey, gooey, delightful mess that is sure to rot my teeth out of my head?

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Makes two sandwiches.

INGREDIENTS:

4 pieces hearty, day old white bread

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

Very scant 1/2 cup whole milk

1 tbsp orange zest

12 large marshmallows

8-10 rectangles of Hershey’s chocolate

A couple of pinches of brown sugar

4 tbsp butter

Maple syrup, if desired

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DIRECTIONS:

Combine the eggs, milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest in a shallow bowl or pie pan. Whisk until combined and the spices aren’t lumpy and are evenly distributed. Heat 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a medium frying pan. As the butter melts, start soaking the bread, one piece at a time, in the egg mixture. Make sure you flip each piece so that they’re evenly coated and won’t stick to the pan. Once the butter is fully melted, add a piece of bread to the pan. It should sizzle. If it doesn’t, turn up the heat a tiny bit. Once the first side is golden and no longer soaking wet, flip it. Continue with the rest of the bread, putting them on a plate as you finish each one. Set aside.

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Once the bread has cooled ever so slightly, place half of the chocolate and half of the marshmallows on one slice of bread. Top with another slice, and add a pinch of brown sugar to the top. Repeat with remaining two slices.

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Add the remaining butter to the pan. Once it’s melted, add one of the sandwiches, brown sugar side up, to the pan. If you can fit both sandwiches at once, feel free to do so. Once the bottom seems firm but not dried out, flip them very carefully, so that the brown sugar side is facing down. Again, once the bottom feels firm but isn’t dry, per say, remove the sandwiches from the pan. The marshmallows and chocolate will keep cooking for a few minutes after they’re taken off the heat, so don’t worry if they aren’t completely melted at this stage. Drizzle the sammies with maple syrup if desired, and serve immediately.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Maple Muffins

I think we all know by now that I’m a huge fan of autumn and everything that comes with it. One of my favorite autumn flavors, which often gets overshadowed by pumpkin and apple, is maple. Though maple syrup isn’t harvested until the late winter or early spring, its decadent flavor reminds me of eating warm pancakes on chilly autumn mornings.

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My aunt recently lent me a very cute maple leaf muffin tin, so I’ve been searching for a recipe to use it with. I happened upon this maple muffin recipe on tasteofhome.com; what a perfect fit! For an easy recipe like this, I try not to buy any ingredients if I don’t absolutely have to. For example, this recipe calls for sour cream and milk. Presumably, the author intended us to use full fat sour cream and milk, but that’s not what I have laying around the house. So instead, I used skim milk and light sour cream. Let me cut to the chase: use whichever version of these ingredients you prefer.

These muffins are ideal for eating on your way out the door in the morning, or tossing in your bag for an afternoon snack. Or, if you’re like me, they’re perfect for munching while you write your blog post. I prefer my muffins with a glass of cold milk, but go crazy- try them with tea!

Original Recipe: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/morning-maple-muffins

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INGREDIENTS:

BATTER:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

TOPPING:

3 tbsp all purpose flour

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

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DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine milk, butter, syrup, sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. For topping, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pans and moving to wire racks. Serve warm.

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Enjoy!

Leslie

Breakfast Cinnamon Buns

One of the most comforting scents of fall is that of cinnamon baking, especially when it’s accompanied by butter and sugar. It’s a unique spice in that’s familiar and exotic at the same time. Cinnamon buns, though excellent, take a pretty long time when you make them the standard way, which involves yeast. In contrast, this yeast-free recipe takes a measly 45 minutes including prep time, which makes it perfect for breakfast. Because they lack yeast, these breakfast buns are more biscuit-like than regular cinnamon buns, which err on the lusciously gooey side of things (eat at Cinnabon for reference). Normally I’d be all about lusciously gooey cinnamon buns, but in the morning I like to keep it pretty low key, which is why I recommend these delicious delights. If you don’t have time to make the dough and bake them in the same morning, simply prepare the dough and filling the night before, and bake the next day. Cinnamon buns are always best warm, so try to eat them as soon as possible after baking them (it won’t be hard).

This is a slightly modified version of a recipe I found on epicurious.com. Based on suggestions from other bakers, I doubled the filling. If you like a lot of icing, I recommend doubling the icing amounts as well since what’s listed below is only enough to drizzle sparsely on top.

Original recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Shortcut-Cinnamon-Buns-101437

INGREDIENTS:

FILLING:

4 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

DOUGH:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp cold unsalted butter

1 large egg

scant 1/4 cup milk (I used fat free since it’s what I have, but whole milk is usually best for baking)

ICING:

3 1/2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

FILLING:

In a small bowl stir together 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and cinnamon.

ICING:

In another small bowl stir together confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth.

DOUGH:

Into a large bowl sift together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and with your fingertips or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal. In another small bowl whisk together egg and 3 tablespoons milk and add to flour mixture, stirring until just combined.

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Transfer mixture to a lightly floured surface and gently knead, 3 or 4 times, until it forms a dough. Pat dough into a 10- by 6-inch rectangle. It doesn’t have to be exact, so no need to pull out the ruler!

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ASSEMBLY:

Brush dough with some remaining milk and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar.

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Beginning with a short side, roll up rectangle to form a 6-inch log and cut crosswise into 4 pieces.

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Arrange pieces on the center of a baking sheet, cut sides up, with seams touching.

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Bake buns in middle of oven until pale golden and cooked through, about 16 minutes.

Drizzle icing over warm buns.

 

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Enjoy!
 
Leslie
               

Graham Cracker Cookies

If you live anywhere near me (any New Yorkers out there?), you know that the sweltering humidity we’re currently experiencing is far from autumnal. With that said, I usually consider everything post Labor Day and pre Christmas to be part of my favorite season: fall. Fall is the rebirth of the year for children… sort of like New Year’s for adults. It’s when they get to start the new school year with a clean slate, new hopes and dreams, and most importantly, great snacks in their lunchboxes.

One of the snacks that my mom always kept stocked in the house growing up was graham crackers. When I was younger I didn’t really get the appeal unless they were transformed into s’mores. But now I enjoy them with peanut butter and fresh strawberries as a dessert when I’m being healthy. When I’m not being healthy, I still use them for s’mores making purposes.

This recipe, which comes from the pretty and pink Miette cookbook, takes graham crackers to the next level by making them into cookies. They’re delicious with milk, as most cookies are, but I especially like putting them out when I have people for tea.

Buy the Miette Cookbook here: https://www.miette.com/mailorder/books/miette-book.html

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

Heaping tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark, but either works fine)

2 tbsp honey

DIRECTIONS:

Sift together flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

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In the bowl of a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid) fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey on low speed for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl throughout.

Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture a third at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Form the dough into a disc shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Similarly to a pate brisee, this dough has a lot of butter so it must be chilled in order to roll properly.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough and place between 2 sheets of wax paper. It’s important to use wax paper and not flour because flour would ruin the caramel complexion of the dough. Roll out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. I made mine a little bit too thick so they didn’t turn out as crispy as they otherwise would have. If you like chewy cookies, feel free to make them thicker, but if you want more of a traditional graham cracker texture, I recommend sticking to the 1/4 inch suggestion.

Using a 3 1/4 inch round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge, cut out the cookies. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1/2 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and LET COOL COMPLETELY! I put that part in caps because I tend to be impatient and always move my cookies too early. But be warned: these cookies will break very easily.

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Re-roll remaining dough scraps and cut out more cookies. Bake as directed and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Enjoy!

Leslie