lemon poppy seed muffins

lemon poppy seed muffins

Bear with me, folks. We’re still adjusting to the time change over here. The days that follow the springing forward of clocks are always some of the most brutal for me, it’s like a weeklong hangover. Losing that one hour ruins me for months – I swear I never really make the adjustment. I’ve accepted the fact that my body is meant to be on standard time. I’ll be secretly counting down till November.

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But I will admit that it is quite glorious to leave work when it’s still light out. And driving over the Bay Bridge with the windows down and the sun shining bright at 5:20pm in the middle of March feels like winning. So I suppose I’ll just put myself to bed a little bit earlier for the next couple of weeks and do my best to cope.

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You’ve probably gathered from all of this talk that I’m not much of a morning person. The only thing I really like about mornings is breakfast – it’s my favorite meal of the day, which is why I always make a point of having something substantial and satisfying. Lately I’ve been into Straus Greek yogurt with blueberries and hazelnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup. I am hooked on that Straus Greek yogurt – I can’t go back to any other brand.

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While I really enjoy my simple yogurt bowl at work every morning, I love doing it up on the weekends for breakfast. Usually it involves eggs. But this past Sunday, after walking around in zombie mode for a good part of the morning, I thought some muffins would help me get through the day.

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Since I ended up with a bag full of lemons after our lemon tree split in two about a week ago, I knew it was going to be some sort of lemon muffin. I also happened to have some poppy seeds on hand, so when I landed on a recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins, my mind was made up.

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These are everything you want in a breakfast muffin. They’re the perfect amount of sweet and they’re fantastic just out of the oven. I love their all-around lemony-ness, especially the drizzle of icing on top. I decided to make these extra special with a dollop of surprise blueberry jam in the center, which is totally optional but highly recommended. And they come together in under an hour, which means you can totally make a batch of muffins in the morning before heading out for the day. And the people you share them with will think  you are awesome. Just don’t take any drug tests afterwards.

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lemon poppy seed muffins

From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

makes 1 dozen standard size muffins, or about 7 jumbo muffins

2/3 cup sugar

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/3 cup jam (optional)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted 

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 

for the muffins:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and hte fragrance of the lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whish the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough-a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
If making jam-filled muffins, fill the muffin cups with half the batter and top each with a teaspoon full of jam. Spoon the rest of the batter over the jam and proceed.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them. Best served the day they’re made.
for the icing:
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely.
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concord grape cornmeal cake

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October feels like crazytown. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening, but it feels like everything is happening all at once. There’s definitely something in the air right now. Even Susan Miller says so. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

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On a lighter note, we have Concord grapes. I’m sure I’ve gone on and on about Concord grapes around here at some point. They’re one of the things I look most forward to when the fall produce hits the markets. They’re not much of an eating grape (too soft for my liking and too many seeds), but they are great for baking and cooking. And boy are they flavorful. I started making my own Concord grape jam a few years ago and never looked back. The scent of Concord grapes boiling away on the stove is seriously heavenly. There’s nothing like it.

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I made this cake for the first time last year but never got around to sharing it. I made it again the other day and remembered exactly why I liked it so much. It’s a dressed up skillet cornbread, honey-kissed with a touch of lemon and a scattering of Concord grapes. Those jammy pockets of Concord grape really make it into something special. I especially like it served warm, with a cup of tea. It’s the perfect afternoon snack cake. It feels like fall.

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concord grape cornmeal cake 

adapted just barely from Bon Appetit

serves 8-10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, plus more

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; more for grapes

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil

6 tablespoons buttermilk

2 tablespoons honey

3/4 pound Concord grapes (or black grapes), stemmed, seeds removed, divided 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet (or an 8x8x2-inch baking dish). Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Stir in honey, being careful not to fully incorporate

Pour batter into prepared skillet. Toss about 2/3 of grapes with a large pinch of flour in a medium bowl until well coated. Scatter over cake batter.

Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

roasted plums and oatmeal

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What a whirlwind of a month. It was everything I could have asked for and more. September did not disappoint.

There was a little bit of everything in September:  a glorious beach day at Stinson, which basically consisted of perfect weather, an amazing nap, and an easy picnic of banh mis from Saigon Sandwich, a few bottles of wine, a basket of figs and white peaches;  a Saturday devoted to drinking wine in Healdsburg with the best bunch of boys; my 32nd birthday (a last minute brunch at Foreign Cinema, the best freakin mezcal Michelada, fancy pants desserts from Craftsman and Wolves courtesy of Sara, and a super mellow afternoon admiring the City from Twin Peaks); and a really special, very moving wedding in the South Bay, which was like an unofficial college reunion and resulted in a hangover that had to be nursed with an egg mcmuffin, pool time, and a bath the morning after.

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It was such a busy-busy month that I didn’t really spend much leisure time in the kitchen. There were things I meant to do, but just never got around to, like making myself a birthday cake, and canning some Flavor King pluots. I was so bummed to find out that I had missed the last of the Flavor Kings. The good news is there are still a few varieties of plums lingering in the markets. I call them the stragglers. I went crazy with the plums this summer. I made a couple of batches of jam. I made crumbles. I ate one with breakfast every day for weeks. It was fantastic.

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I’ve been really into roasting the last of the plums. There is something so satisfying about roasted fruit – it’s like pie without the crust. It’s really nice with a big dollop of yogurt. But lately I’ve been throwing it on top of oatmeal and I can’t figure out why I never thought to do this in the past. This is what I call a transition dish – the last of the summer bounty, combined with cold weather fare. It makes me a bit wistful. This summer was perfect and part of me wants it to never end. But big pots of soup and cozy sweaters don’t sound so bad either.

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roasted plums and oatmeal 

makes 4 servings

4 plums, halved and pitted

2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving 

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (optional) 

1 cup steel cut oats, prepared according to package directions, or here

1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place plums cut side up in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with thyme. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on ripeness, until fruit is tender and just beginning to bubble. Divide the oatmeal and plums between four bowls. Drizzle with more honey if desired and top with pistachios.

deviled eggs with bacon

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February was fast and furious. I can’t even believe it’s already over. I actually kind of love how fast this year is flying by, which is new for me since I’m usually in a panic when I feel like time is passing too quickly. But there are things I’m looking forward to later this year. So let’s keep this train a-rollin’.

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Deviled eggs, anyone?

My sister is the go-to for deviled eggs in our family. But they’ve totally been my thing this year. People are thrilled when you show up to a party with a platter of deviled eggs – I know this to be a fact. Deviled eggs are the perfect party food. They go well with champagne (and since they’re packed with protein, you can drink even more champagne and not get crunk). And they’re easy to pop in your mouth as you pass the snack table, which is a plus in my book.

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I first made these deviled eggs for this year’s New Year’s Eve soiree. A friend asked if I could show him how to make them sometime. At the time, I couldn’t actually give a recipe because there was no recipe – when I’m not baking, I have a tendency to just throw these things together without measuring. But when I made these for a baby shower last weekend, I made sure to actually measure ingredients and take notes. So, my dear Ryan, this is for you.

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What’s most important about these particular deviled eggs is that they’re topped with bacon. If you’re not into bacon, you can leave it out, the eggs will still be a hit. But there’s a reason why bacon and eggs are a breakfast staple – it’s because they’re a team. And because bacon just makes everything better. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

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deviled eggs with bacon

serves 12

12 extra large eggs (do not use farm fresh eggs; buy eggs at least 5 days before preparing for best results – it makes them easier to peel) 

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

5 slices of crispy bacon, finely chopped

chives, chopped 

smoked paprika

Place eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with an inch of  cold water. Place over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 13 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of cold water to cool. When the eggs are cool, carefully crack and peel and place on a towel-lined plate. Pat dry.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, and pepper to the egg yolk. Process the egg yolks until the mixture becomes smooth. Add more mustard, lemon juice, and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag fitted with a large tip. You can also use a freezer bag; snip off one corner.

Arrange the egg white halves on a platter. Pipe the yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg white. Top each egg with chopped bacon and chives. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

dungeness crab eggs benedict

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I don’t know what it is about January, but it’s been so fantastic that I don’t really want it to end. There have been some really good times – nights out with the girls, brunch and a lazy Sunday with the boys, a secret concert with the one and only Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, which was mind blowing and totally the icing on the cake for the month.

There were also a couple of outstanding meals. I know we’re well into January, and I should be detoxing and eating sensibly like everyone else right now. But I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’ve been kind of bad. And I’m actually okay with that. Since it’s Dungeness crab season in these parts, I see that as a sort of get out of jail free card. I’ve had crab a least four times this month alone and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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It started with a crab dinner with the homies at the beginning of the month. We ate crab sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and shallots, accompanied by a beet, blood orange, and fennel salad, potatoes with preserved lemon, and crusty garlic bread. It was an incredible meal. We all had to lie down afterwards.

A few days later, my mama steamed eight crabs for Sunday dinner. My mom’s crab is like comfort food for me. There’s nothing complicated about it, but her crab dipping sauce is insanely delicious – garlic oil, ginger, and red wine vinegar. It’s my absolute favorite and no matter what I do, mine never turns out the way hers does.

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Luckily for those of us in the Bay, this is the time of year when you see Dungeness crab on restaurant menus everywhere. Dungeness crab beignets at Brenda’s (amazing, by the way). Dungeness crab rolls (better than a lobster roll, in my opinion). Dungeness crab eggs benedict, which I passed on during brunch one afternoon and much regretted afterwards. I knew what I had to do.

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I hadn’t made hollandaise sauce in years, but I knew I could rely on Julia Child for the perfect recipe. Her hollandaise sauce is divine – simultaneously rich and light, with just the right amount of lemon. I would happily eat this sauce on cardboard. Instead, it was the crowing glory of this Dungeness crab eggs benedict. There’s just something about the runny yolk of a poached egg that makes everything better. Combined with the sweet crab, sauteed spinach, toasty English muffin, and luxurious hollandaise you have yourself a breakfast fit for a king. A little frisee salad goes nicely alongside.

Resume your detox tomorrow.

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dungeness crab eggs benedict 

serves 2

for the hollandaise sauce:

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

makes about 1-1/2 cups sauce

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus extra to taste 

kosher salt

ground white pepper

Cut 6 ounces of butter into pieces and melt in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside.

In a medium-weight saucepan, beat the egg yolks for about 1 minute, or until they become thick and sticky.

Add the water, lemon juice, and a large pinch of salt, and beat for half a minute more.

Add 1 tablespoon of cold butter, but do not beat it in. Place the saucepan over very low heat and stir the egg yolks with a whisk until they slowly thicken into a smooth cream. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. If they seem to be thickening too quickly, immediately plunge the bottom of the pan in cold water, beating the yolks to cool them. Then continue beating over heat. The egg yolks have thickened enough when you can begin to see the bottom of the pan between strokes, and the mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whisk.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter, which will cool the egg yolks and stop their cooking.

While beating the egg yolks with a whisk, slowly add the melted butter, a few drops at a time, until the sauce begins to thicken into a very heavy cream. Then add the butter a little more rapidly and continue beating. Omit the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan.

Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve warm.

To keep the sauce warm before serving, place in a pan of lukewarm water.

for the eggs benedict: 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach 

kosher salt 

2 english muffins, split in half 

4 large eggs 

a few drops of white vinegar 

8 ounces Dungeness crab meat (about 1 whole crab), at room temperature 

hollandaise sauce 

chives (for garnish) 

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and season with a pinch of salt. Toss until wilted. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange the English muffins on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 5 minutes.

Fill a wide, shallow saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add a few drops of vinegar to the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Crack one egg into a bowl. When the water is simmering, hold the bowl closely over the water and let it fall in. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a spoon. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.

After 3 minutes, remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done.

Place 2 muffin halves on each plate. Divide the spinach among the muffins, followed by the crab. Place one egg on each muffin. Top each egg with a generous amount of hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.

best of (a holiday round-up)

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Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

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granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

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vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

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fleur de sel caramels – I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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quince jam – My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

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rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

baked eggs with cream, spinach, and ham

Sometimes, when I’ve got a case of the mean reds, I like to watch my favorite YouTube videos to cheer me up. Like this (magic). And this (recognize that voice?). And this (because Lee and I cannot get enough). And this (ew!). There. I feel better already.

And sometimes, when I need a little pick me up, I like to make myself something really, really delish and satisfying. Sometimes a good breakfast fixes everything. Eggs baked with cream, ham, and spinach will usually do the trick.

These eggs come directly from Adrian’s kitchen via Gourmet. Adrian’s is hands down my favorite place for brunch; the man is a natural born host. And my idol. And one of my besties. I refer to these as the brunch eggs because they regularly make their appearance at Adrian’s brunches. They really are the perfect brunch item, especially brunch for a crowd. Be sure to make extras; people will happily indulge in seconds.

baked eggs with cream, spinach, and ham 

from Gourmet

makes 8 servings

1/4 cup thinly sliced country ham, finely chopped

Scant 3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, or finely chopped leek 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3/4 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

10 ounces spinach, coarse stems discarded

8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Bring ham and cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, then remove from heat. Let steep, uncovered, about 10 minutes.

Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add spinach, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, turning with tongs, until spinach is wilted.

Drain spinach in a colander, pressing to remove excess liquid, then coarsely chop. Divide spinach, then ham, among ramekins, spooning 1 tablespoon cream into each serving. Crack eggs into ramekins and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon 1 teaspoon cream over each egg. Cut remaining tablespoon butter into 8 small pieces and dot each egg with butter.

Put ramekins in a shallow baking pan and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 15 to 20 minutes, removing from oven as cooked. Serve immediately with toast or grilled bread.