This moist lemon lavender cake has culinary lavender baked right in! Perfect for a bridal or baby shower, tea, or light afternoon sweet.
It all started with a unique cocktail recipe I wanted to serve at my birthday party earlier this month: a blueberry lavender vodka spritzer. Hence, I headed to Amazon to purchase some culinary lavender…which of course arrived in a package large enough to last the rest of my natural life. (The cocktail, by the way, was delicious–not too sweet with an earthy undertone!)
In a strange twist of fate, I’ve also been having trouble sleeping lately AND, for work, was assigned to write an article about pillow sprays for better rest. So *obviously* I was going to have to investigate lavender as a remedy for insomnia. (Results pending…I’ve been trying out ThisWorks pillow spray. I so want it to work, but not bowled over just yet.)
Long story short, it’s a lavender-palooza up in here lately. And what with that giant bag of culinary lavender staring me down from the pantry shelf, I knew a baked good recipe had to been the pipeline. Something with lemon, perhaps? The bright tang of citrus sounded like the perfect foil for lavender’s more subtle, floral flavor.
I found this lemon lavender cake recipe over on Food52. What drew me to it was its simple list of Mediterranean diet-friendly ingredients. (I mean, okay, it has way more sugar than you’d find on a true Med diet, but at least you’ve got Greek yogurt and olive oil going for you here.) Besides calling for culinary lavender, this comes together with familiar baking basics you’re likely to have on hand. And after a quick whizz of the lavender and sugar in the food processor, this recipe is ultra-simple.
Since I’m a frosting-a-holic, I was convinced the cake was going to need frosting, or at least a scoop of vanilla ice cream to add richness, but was floored by how it stands alone as a moist, flavorful dessert. A dusting of powdered sugar is all it needs for finishing off.
With its pretty look and easy slice-ability, I’d say this one would be just right for a bridal or baby shower, afternoon tea, or any time that calls for something light, sweet, and absolutely unique.
Lemon Lavender Cake
- 1 1/2 c. white sugar
- 3/4 tbsp. dried culinary lavender
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 c. Greek yogurt
- 1/2 c. light olive oil
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper and spray the sides with non-stick spray.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the sugar and dried lavender until well mixed and the lavender has broken down.
- In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl or large measuring cup, mix the eggs, yogurt, and olive oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet, stirring to combine. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and springs back when pressed. Cool about 5 minutes, then remove from the springform pan and plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
For fans of smoked salmon, this Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Frittata is a delightful brunch or lunch!
I remember the first time I heard of smoked salmon. I was in junior high, and a bagel place had just opened up at the intersection nearest my house. That summer between seventh and eighth grade, my mom and I would walk over to Bagel Nosh and grab bagel sandwiches, then come home and watch movies to stay out of the punishing Arizona heat. Good memories.
What always seemed weird to me, though, was this bagel topping called “lox.” I had never encountered the concept of cured fish, and it definitely seemed bizarre that anyone would want to eat it on a bagel…with cream cheese…and something called capers? No, thanks. I stuck solidly to my tuna salad or turkey and cheese.
As I’ve become more open-minded about food through the years, however, I’ve come around to smoked salmon as one of my favorite proteins. I now love its smoky flavor and tender texture in dips (like this Creamy Smoked Salmon Dip), on sandwiches, or just with crackers and cheese. So a smoked salmon and cream cheese frittata? A big YES from me!
This frittata is a modification of a recipe in a cookbook I’ve especially been enjoying lately: Ellie Krieger’s Whole in One: Complete, Healthy Meals, which features meals you can make in a single pot, skillet, or sheet pan. (This also gets a big YES from me, for obvious reasons.)
This cookbook has so far been a total winner, and I’m sure you could cook anything in it exactly as written for a fabulous finished product. But to make this particular frittata, I took some substantial liberties! Like most egg dishes, this is one you can play with to tailor to your tastes–but the basic ingredients of smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill, and chives are the primary non-negotiables. (Oh, and eggs, I guess.)
I made this for a quick lunch on a Lenten Friday and it was just perfect–light, herby, and fluffy. At least I thought so. My preteen, non-smoked salmon-loving son was less convinced. So note to junior highers everywhere (my former self included): Get on the smoked salmon train ASAP. You won’t be sorry.
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Frittata
- 7 large eggs
- 1/4 c. milk
- scant 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 c. green onions or scallions, sliced
- 4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. fresh dill (or 2 tsp. dried)
- 2 oz. cream cheese (I used light, which tends to be easier to spread)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large oven-proof skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add green onions and cook about 1 minute. Add smoked salmon and dill and stir to distribute evenly across the skillet. Pour whisked egg mixture on top and cook (without stirring) about 8 minutes over medium-low heat. The eggs should be set around the edges but a bit jiggly in the center.
- Preheat broiler. Dollop the cream cheese by teaspoonfuls on the surface of the frittata, then broil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until the surface turns golden brown. Let sit a few minutes, then dig in!
Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins bring the heart-healthy goodness of olive oil to your breakfast table.
Is olive oil all it’s cracked up to be? You hear it touted as the heart-healthy oil–almost a savior of recipes. Something’s got three pounds of cheese and oodles of bleached, refined flour but it has olive oil???? Must be healthy!
As a nutritionist, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that olive oil automatically makes anything good for you, but it does come with significant health benefits.
As part of a Mediterranean diet, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), especially if you’re already at risk. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people at risk of CVD who followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with–get this–extra olive oil had fewer major adverse cardiovascular events than those who supplemented with nuts. In another, more olive oil (yes, more fat and calories!) helped reduce body fat and improved blood pressure.
I’m convinced that subbing olive oil for other oils and butter whenever possible is a smart choice. I’m especially into including it in baked goods. (These delicious banana chocolate muffins and orange cake are among my favorites.) As long as the olive flavor isn’t overpowering, I find it a really nice, mellow complement to the sweetness of most baked goods.
So, being that it’s fall and therefore time for ALL THINGS PUMPKIN, I of course wanted to give olive oil a whirl in some pumpkin muffins. Trouble was, I had a hard time finding a recipe. When I Googled “Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins,” it yielded very few results. “Pumpkin olive oil face mask” was much more popular. (Why would you put these delicious ingredients on your face without putting them in your mouth??)
Clearly, it was time to get creative. I adapted this recipe from the one on Olio Olive Oils’ website. A bit less sugar, a bit more time in the oven, and a yogurt-milk blend instead of time-consuming DIY buttermilk made these turn out perfecto–full of pumpkin spice flavor with a delicate, chewy crumb. I *may* have conveniently hidden the Tupperware full of these muffins under our countertop bread stash, where my kids wouldn’t readily notice them.
If you’re looking to add more olive oil to your home baking, you won’t be disappointed with these perfect-for-fall treats!
P.S. Want to know more about cooking oils? You can learn more about which oils work best for which types of cooking in this guide I wrote on Healthline.com.
Pumpkin Olive Oil Muffins
- 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 c. milk, any variety
- 1 c. canned pumpkin
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
- scant 1/3 c. white sugar
- scant 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (even better if it's olive oil-based.)
- In a large bowl, stir together olive oil, applesauce, eggs, yogurt, milk, and pumpkin until smooth. Add all remaining ingredients and combine until no lumps remain.
- Distribute among prepared muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes.
The unique flavors in this Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs blend perfectly for a memorable side dish.
A few weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner.
Am I allowed to say that?
This is such a weird time where admitting to a dinner party feels like confessing an affair. (Also where coughing is the new farting.) Granted, our dinner group only just grazed the “gathering of 10 people” mark, so technically, we weren’t overstepping any official bounds. (There, now no one can yell at me in the comments.) Plus, personally, since having people over for dinner is something like a religious calling in my life, I felt pretty okay about inviting another family into our home after weeks of only virtual contact with friends.
While deciding a menu for our much-anticipated guests, I asked my husband if there was anything in particular he’d like to have on our special night. “How about that couscous thing you make?” he said, “The one with apples and herbs?”
I knew right away what he was talking about. I’ve been making this Giada de Laurentiis recipe for pearl couscous with apples, cranberries, and herbs for a few years now, and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t *sound* like it’ll be anything spectacular–and then you eat it and go…
Not surprisingly, the wife of the couple who joined us for dinner ended up asking me for the recipe–not the first time someone has asked! Which I figure means it’s about time to share it on the blog.
So what makes this such a standout side? First of all, we have to give credit to the real star of this dish: the pearl couscous. If you’ve never had this larger, meatier type of couscous, you’re seriously missing out. It’s just the most delightful thing to eat–almost squeaky in its chewy roundness. Meanwhile, a savory olive oil and fresh herb dressing soaks into not only the couscous, but also into tart green apples, crunchy almonds, and sweet dried cranberries. While it may sound like more of an autumn combo, I think it’s one to enjoy all year round. It’s delicious all on its own, or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork chops. Magnifico!
I’m happy I served this for our friends, and I stand by the decision to have them and their kids over for dinner. (I’ll even confess that we’ve now had friends over for dinner TWICE. Rebelzzzz.) Cooking for others after a lengthy stretch of isolation did wonders for my sense of well-being. And, if you ask me, while social distancing for physical health matters, connecting with others–yes, even in REAL LIFE–matters, too.
Pearl Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs
For the couscous:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
- 32 oz. chicken broth
- 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 c. dried cranberries
- 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
For the dressing
- 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 c. olive oil
Cook the couscous:
- In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous. Cook and stir until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Make the dressing:
- While couscous cooks, whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and olive oil.
Put it all together:
- In a large serving bowl, combine cooked couscous, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cranberries, almonds, and apples. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.
These Lemon Ricotta Muffins are sweet, rich, and cake-like–even though they contain whole wheat flour and not a ton of sugar!
Even though I live in one of the hottest places in the country, I still always look forward to the end of winter and the beginning of spring. (Especially now that I’m getting older and seem to be turning into a cranky old lady about the cold.) Here in Phoenix, one of the signature harbingers of spring–along with our beautiful wildflowers and the snowbirds leaving town–is the harvesting of lemons.
I don’t have a producing lemon tree myself, but my mom does, and BOY does that thing produce. There’s no way I could get through the lemon juice from the 49,000 lemons she brought over recently (in addition to the 49,000 I’m sure she also has at her house), but I of course want to hang on to it for use in tasty muffins, sauces, desserts, and more.
My favorite method for preserving all that good, fresh juice? Freezing it in a handy-dandy ice cube tray.
A couple of weekends ago, I enlisted my eight-year-old daughter to help me with juicing–a task she actually seems to enjoy. There really is something kind of fun about watching the whirring devastation of the juicer emptying lemons of their insides. We let it do its quick work, poured the juice into individual little wells, and…
Boom! Fresh lemon juice for months to come!
Now that I have a freezer full of lemon juice, I’ve been going a little nuts with the lemon recipes. The other day I made a batch of these lemon ricotta muffins–which was a bit of a leap of faith, because the lemon ricotta muffin recipes I’ve tried in the past have been a complete disaster. (Granted, that’s probably because I tried to substitute cottage cheese for ricotta and ended up with hard, chewy balls of baked cheese in each bite. Learn from my mistakes: Do NOT use cottage cheese for ricotta in baked goods.)
These muffins, on the other hand, turned out delicious, with a rich, cake-like texture. The creamy ricotta added moisture while eliminating the need for butter or oil. And not only did these taste like spring with their light lemon flavor, some pretty muffin liners (from TJ Maxx) made them look extra fresh and appealing–almost like Arizona wildflowers blooming right out of my oven.
For an Easter brunch or sweet afternoon snack, give these Lemon Ricotta Muffins a try! And tell me in the comments: What flavors make you think of spring?
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Lemon Ricotta Muffins
- 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 2/3 c. granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 c. ricotta cheese
- 1/2 c. almond milk
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, mix both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add all remaining ingredients. Stir gently until combined.
- Divide batter among muffin cups and bake 16-20 minutes. To retain freshness, store baked muffins in the refrigerator.