Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

You know the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Well, you may not think this phrase applies to the humble muffin, but I’m here to tell you it does.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

As a muffinomaniac, I am constantly scouring the internet for new muffin varieties to try, but sometimes, alas, I just can’t find exactly the recipe I want for the ingredients I have on hand.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Thankfully, muffins are the perfect drawing board for recipe experimentation, even for anyone new to the process. If you can’t find a recipe for exactly what you want, you can always take the DIY route. Muffins are like a bake-able paint-by-numbers kit: hard to screw up and with a bit of room for creativity. All you have to do is find a good basic recipe (like this one from King Arthur Flour or this one from Mark Bittman) and tweak it to your liking, or to fit whatever items in your kitchen need using up. You might even use a flavor guide like The Flavor Bible for inspiration on ingredient combinations. That’s how I ended up with these Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins–which, by the way, are no basic muffin.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Popping with lemony tartness both in the batter and in a glaze on top, these little gems also have an undercurrent of the distinctive, mellower flavor of olive oil. They were just what I was hoping for when I decided to roll up my sleeves and figure out a recipe that used honey, lemon, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. Knowing they were awaiting me for breakfast even motivated me to get out of bed in the morning during this week of my kids’ return to school after Christmas break. (How did I get so used to sleeping in after only two weeks?)

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

So tell me, what kind of muffins would you make if you were to create your own recipe? Or what other types of foods do you find easy to experiment with? I’m always looking for new ideas!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Print Recipe
Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins
These lemony muffins get their sweetness from honey and their moist texture from olive oil.
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 10 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, almond milk, and lemon juice until smooth.
  3. Add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest and mix until just combined.
  4. Spoon into greased muffin cups and bake 3 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 15-17 minutes.
  5. Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan. Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking together the remaining lemon juice and powder sugar. Remove muffins from tin and drizzle with the glaze. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

When it comes to Christmas, I am big on tradition. Really, when it comes to any holiday. There were beloved holiday experiences that repeated themselves every year when I was growing up–like gingerbread house parties, for example–and now, as a parent, I am strongly committed to instituting and observing traditions for my own family. They certainly don’t have to be the same traditions that I grew up with (I mean, dressing up like clowns for Easter is kind of weird, right?) as long as they are wholesome and relatively easily repeatable.

You may think, “Sure, traditions are fun, but they’re not that big a deal.” I believe, though, that they are a big deal because of two things they create: family unity and family identity. As for unity, when we all enjoy the same activities together year after year, it can only bring us closer to each other. As for identity, having a sense of family personality is crucial. In a world where the family gets less and less respect, we have to try that much harder to instill in our children the conviction that family is fun, positive, and–perhaps most relevant to observing traditions–unique. As my kids go out into the world, I want them to know what it means to be a Garone. I hope they come to believe it means being creative, hospitable, and community-oriented (and also appreciating Dr. Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb as the most underrated cartoon villain of all time). And when my kids grow up, I want them to recall lovingly the great times we had together and ultimately pay that forward to their own families.

This peppermint hot chocolate has become one of our Christmastime traditions, sipped alongside watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Something about these two activities in conjunction has worked its way into the fabric of our family lore. It’s been years since I switched from packaged mix to homemade hot chocolate, and somewhere along the line started adding peppermint extract to it to give it a special holiday flair. My daughter, middle son, and I think it’s spectacular. Creamy, richly chocolatey, and of course, perfectly pepperminty. The other two members of our household prefer the original version. Now we live in a House Divided: the Peppermints and the Originals. (Maybe one Christmas we should get team jackets with our preferences written on them, a la the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies from Grease.)

peppermints

originals

How’s that for family identity?

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

So whatever your family traditions at Christmastime, may I suggest making this delightful hot drink one of them? I hope it adds to your family’s sense of unity and identity. Grinch viewing optional.

 

Print Recipe
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and pinch of salt. Stir in hot water.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peppermint extract.
  4. Distribute evenly into 4 mugs and stir 1 Tbsp. half and half into each. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.

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Showstopper Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Happy December! I hope your Thanksgiving was happy and, like we talked about in the last post, HEALTHY!

So…I hope you won’t hate me…or think I’m a big ol’ hypocrite…if my next post is about a ridiculously amazing, gingersnap-crusted, cream-topped showstopping pumpkin cheesecake.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sorry? But not sorry?

Pumpkin Cheesecake

All I can say is that my approach to food is all about balance, and with that in mind, occasional portion-controlled indulgences like pumpkin cheesecake can absolutely be included. That’s my Official Nutritionist Stance on the matter. My Official Foodie Stance on the matter is that this cheesecake rocks my world.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

You may be feeling pretty over it when it comes to anything pumpkin-flavored now that it’s December, but let me encourage you not to trade all your gourds in for candy canes just yet. If a Christmas party or other special occasion is in your future this holiday season, THIS is the dessert you want to bring. For me, it is ALWAYS the dessert that people hover around, comment about, groan over in delight, sneak into their purse, etc. Last month I served it at a house concert we hosted and a week later, two people happened to mention separately that they were still thinking about it. (So am I.) It takes some time and effort, but really is not difficult to make for such a gorgeous and delicious final product. There are no unusual ingredients, no chef-level techniques, and–best of all for cheesecake–no water bath.

So this season, be the showstopper of the neighborhood Christmas party/work potluck/New Year’s Bash with something truly special. And for me, your nutritionist friend, enjoy it in moderation.

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Showstopper Pumpkin Cheesecake
This stunning cheesecake is always a hit!
Course Dessert
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Make the crust: in a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, gingersnap crumbs, and both sugars, then stir in melted butter. Press carefully into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Make the filling: in a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Add the cubed softened cream cheese and sugar and blend on medium speed with a hand mixer until no lumps remain. Beat in cream, cornstarch, vanilla, and bourbon (if using). Pour into chilled crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the center is set. (If your springform pan tends to be leaky like mine, you may want to place a baking sheet underneath it.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the cream topping: in a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and maple syrup. Spread over the top of the baked cheesecake, smoothing with a spatula. Bake another 5-10 minutes, then cool completely. Garnish with pecan halves and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. *Tip for serving: instead of a knife, try slicing the cheesecake using dental floss. Way less mess!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Boston Uncommon.

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Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: it’s a weeknight and you’ve planned to make dinner. All best intentions–you grocery shopped, you got ingredients, you know more or less what you’re planning to make and how. But somehow you got home late from errands or got stuck on a phone call with the teacher or had to discipline whoever hit whom with a badminton racquet, and it’s suddenly 5:45 and you haven’t started a darn thing. The kids are starting to get hungry and so are you, and you think, Oh, forget it. There’s no way I can get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s go out to eat.

You pile everyone in the car. You drive to some fast-casual restaurant you think won’t take too long and won’t break the bank….and 40 bucks and 90 minutes later you’re finally home, and NOW it’s almost bedtime and no one has started their homework. You heave a sigh and roll your eyes because, really, when all is said and done, there’s a nagging voice in your head going, “Wouldn’t it have just been faster and cheaper to eat at home?”

I’ve been there many, many nights. And finally, after years, I’m starting to actually learn from the experience. So when I meal plan, if I can build in at least one dinner that’s guaranteed to come together easily and fast, I can breathe easy knowing that the nights we dip into our restaurant budget (and our limited time) will get fewer and further between. These Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo are one of my secret weapons.

I love this recipe because it doesn’t require anything to thaw or marinade or any do other activity that eats up chunks of time and requires pre-planning. Plus, most of its ingredients are things you just might have on hand at any given time. Two cans of beans? Check. Bread crumbs and spices? Check. As for the chipotle pepper in the spicy mayo, in a real dinner emergency, you could even do without it and use chili powder instead. (And if you do use the real pepper, you can always adjust the spice by cutting back to half a pepper instead of a whole.) And did I mention these burgers are a heckuva lot healthier than that In-N-Out calorie bomb you’re likely to pick up eating out? Just sayin’.

So from one busy weeknight meal maker to another, I pass the baton of these secret weapon bean burgers. Use it wisely for the triumvirate victory of time, cost, and health!

Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

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Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, mash the cannellini and black beans until smooth with some chunks. Add garlic, cilantro, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, combine egg, egg white, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and panko bread crumbs. Stir into bean mixture until well combined.
  3. With your hands, form mixture into six patties.
  4. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until browned.
  5. Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo: using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients.
  6. Assemble burgers topped with lettuce/spring mix and chipotle mayo.
Recipe Notes

Bean Burgers adapted from How Sweet Eats; Chipotle Mayo A Love Letter to Food Original.

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Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak

Pecan Crusted Skirt Steak

It is finally election day. Having slogged through the most miserable, acrimonious election cycle in the history of the USA, I’d say we all deserve a reward. I wish I could offer something truly useful, like a magic wand we could wave to start the whole thing over with candidates we actually believe in. But in the absence of a magic wand, how about a big old-fashioned steak dinner?

This easy skirt steak is adorned with an irresistible honey-sweetened, buttery-crunchy pecan topping, and it comes with the added benefit of possibly putting us into a food coma and making us forget our electoral woes. Our family enjoyed it recently as part of a spontaneous dinner-for-lunch when we had steak to use up one Sunday afternoon. It was so unexpectedly fancy to have a steak meal for lunch–especially one this pretty–that I got out the good china and set the table with candles. It apparently made quite the impression on my five-year-old daughter, who is still talking about it weeks later. (Not sure if it was the table setting or the steak she remembers most, but for me, it is definitely the steak.) Even my husband, when he saw I was going to blog about this recipe, said, “Ohhhhh, yeah. That was SO good.”

So, my friends, let’s eat, drink, and be merry, for today we vote. May God bless this food to our bodies, and this nation whose future we are determining.

Print Recipe
Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak
Instructions
  1. Heat broiler on high and position oven rack about 6 inches from broiler. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray generously with baking spray.
  2. Season the steak with about 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper
  3. In a food processor, pulse the pecans, butter, honey, rosemary, salt, and pepper a few times until combined.
  4. Broil the steak 3 minutes on each side. Spread pecan mixture on top and broil an additional 1-2 minutes, until pecans are lightly toasted.
  5. Allow the steak to rest 5 minutes, then slice against the grain.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

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