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.

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.

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.

yogurt pancakes with mascarpone butter

Sometimes you just need to round up a few friends, throw your essentials in a bag, and skip town. Make a stop at In-n-Out for dinner on the way. Have a few bourbon negronis when you reach your destination. And just relax.

Sometimes a weekend in Tahoe is just what the doctor ordered. Especially when that weekend is filled with good company, good energy and some good eating. And waking up to morning snowfall is really the cherry on top of a perfect weekend.

Sometimes on a snowy Sunday morning you just need pancakes. In this case, it had to be yogurt pancakes. In my world, there would be no yogurt pancakes without Adrian.

Adrian used to make these yogurt pancakes that I was obsessed with. I’m not even really a pancakes for breakfast person, but those yogurt pancakes were something special. Notice all this talk in the past tense? That’s because the recipe mysteriously disappeared a few years ago, and we have been without yogurt pancakes ever since. Sometimes he jokes that I snatched the recipe, and now I kind of wish that I had because then at least one of us would still have it.

I tried to find the recipe online a while back, but there are a ton of yogurt pancake recipes on the internet, and the ones I did try weren’t quite right. I actually gave up kind of quickly. But recently I got this hankering for yogurt pancakes. So the search resumed.

After a couple of tries and some tweaking here and there, I ended up with a yogurt pancake that is pretty close to the original. It’s a flatter, creamier pancake; not as fluffy as a buttermilk pancake, but it does have some body and a similar tang. I like them with a little mascarpone butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, or a squirt of lemon juice and powdered sugar. A dollop of this warm blueberry sauce is also a really nice treat. And you definitely can’t go wrong with a few slices of bacon on the side. Sometimes only yogurt pancakes will do.

yogurt pancakes with mascarpone butter

adapted from the Washingtonian

makes about 12 6-inch pancakes

for the mascarpone butter:

1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth. Store, covered, in the fridge. Makes about 1 cup.

for the pancakes:

3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (not Greek style yogurt)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 eggs

1 teaspoon grated lemon or tangerine zest

1-1/4 cups milk, or more as needed (same note as yogurt)

1-1/2 cups self-rising flour (you can substitute 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder, mixed together)

3 tablespoons sugar

vegetable oil, butter, or bacon fat for greasing the pan

maple syrup and/or lemon wedges and confectioner’s sugar for serving

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, melted butter, egg, zest, and milk and beat well with a whisk or electric mixer. Add the flour and sugar. Stir carefully until incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Add more milk if the batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of a milkshake.

Preheat the oven to 175°F. Heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of oil, butter, or bacon grease. To see if the griddle or pan is hot enough, throw in a little batter. You should hear a light sizzle but shouldn’t smell or see smoke.

When the griddle or pan is ready, use an ice cream scoop to pour the batter. Watch for little bubbles to form on the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Keep the pancakes in the oven until you’re ready to serve.

Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup and 1 to 2 tablespoons of mascarpone butter. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and a lemon wedge.