Lemon Basil Olive Oil Muffins – taste great and relatively healthy

Lemon Olive Oil Basil Muffins

So far I’ve been dismal in my attempts to be more healthy but today I made progress and it wasn’t even painful.   Don’t worry, I’m not up to tofu yet and my “no carb left behind” lifestyle will surely take time to reform but I’m making baby steps.  These muffins are really good and an improvement over my usual; by my standards these are positively healthy with eggs for protein, olive oil not butter, not too much sugar (which you could replace with Splenda) and whole wheat flour.  Of course, nobody can expect miracles overnight so I stuck with real sugar and a “white whole wheat” from King Arthur Flour.  According to the package it is “100% of the wheat germ and bran” with a “lighter color and milder flavor” which seemed like a good thing for a lemon theme.  They are not “cakey” but more dense, like the texture of a corn muffin but without the corn flavor.  They are sweet enough to eat for breakfast, but not so sweet you couldn’t serve with a meal, especially if you leave off the glaze.


The ingredients are:

  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar (or Splenda)
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Use zester - bigger strips

Use microplane for finer zest


2.  Zest and juice the lemons.  Use the zester for one lemon and the microplane for three.  Reserve the juice and zest (fine) of one lemon for the glaze.

Sugar and lemon zest (strips and fine)

3.  In the mixing bowl add the sugar and lemon zest and add the olive oil mixing on high speed.

Sugar, lemon zest and eggs

4.  Add the eggs one at a time.

5.  Add 1/2 the flour mixture, then half the lemon juice mixing on low speed.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and juice.


6.  Add the basil and mix well.  Of course you could leave this out, but it is surprisingly good, just enough to taste but not overpowering.  You may have to scrape some lemon zest off the beaters, I find it best to use a spatula to do a final mix to make sure everything is well-distributed.

Muffins ready to bake

7.  Place the batter in the muffin tins.  I used mini-muffins and muffin top pans because I like the crispy outside.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Mini's baked

Muffin tops baked





To make the glaze, in a small bowl add lemon juice to the powdered sugar until it forms a fairly thin glaze.  Either use a pastry brush or dip the tops of the muffins into the bowl to coat the tops of each muffin.




Let them sit uncovered for about 1/2 hour and the glaze will soak in and form a thin crust.





My Top Ten recipes for 2010

My Top Ten recipes for 2010

I decided not to fight the trend and picked my top 10 favorites.  Also, I mistakenly thought this would be a quick post to finish up the year with but it turned out to be much more difficult than I thought to narrow them down to just ten.    My sister-in-law (the healthy registered dietician one) recently pointed out that I lean toward desserts, which I have to admit is very true.  They are just all around better, better tasting, better photos and a lot more fun to do so of course this list is also a little heavy on the dessert side (I did sort of consider which posts got the most hits but basically I reserved the right to make the final decisions.)  In my quest for self-improvement, I promise to try to include more healthy items in the future (due to repeatedly failing at this in the past, I can’t actually promise – only promise to try).  Drum roll . . .  in no particular order, this years winners:

Mixed Berry Jam Creme Brulee Crostata

Mixed Berry Jam Creme Brulee Crostata

Pecan and Pecan Cranberry Pies

Three Great Pecan Pies

White Chocolate Wedding Cake for Small Wedding

White Chocolate Wedding Cake

Lemon Pudding Cake

Cook’s Country Lemon Pudding Cake

Honey Caramel Apples

Italian Caprese Sliders

Italian Caprese Sliders

Plate of Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Limoncello and Lemon Sherbet

Double Pucker – Limoncello and Lemon Sherbet

Peach and Raspberry Tart

White Chocolate Mouse Peach and RasbperryTarts

Daring Bakers Challenge – Christmas Stollen

Daring Bakers Challenge – Christmas Stollen

Christmas Stollen Slices

Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I have never made Stollen, but having spent several years living  in Germany I have had some good ones and was quite happy to give it a try.  I pretty much followed the recipe provided by Penny with a few minor changes.  I opted to make my own citrus peel (lime and orange), substituted dried cherries and Kirsch for the raisins and rum (just not a raisin fan) and added some extra cinnamon to the batter and a layer of cinnamon and sugar while rolling to make it a little sweeter.

Step 1

Orange and lime peel

Lemon and Orange after boiling

I followed the recipe from Harvest to Table for the Citrus Peel.  First peeling the fruit and boiling several times, then boiling with the sugar/water.  It was a little more candied than I recall them usually being, pretty crunchy, but it tasted good and actually gave a little texture to the stollen.

Candied Citrus Peel

Step 2 – the Stollen

As I mentioned, I followed the recipe provided with the following exceptions:





Lime and Orange Zest




Making the dough

Following the recipe I mixed the dough, using the dried cherries/Kirsch instead of the rum and raisins, using lime and orange for the zest (that’s what I had on hand) and using an extra teaspoon of cinnamon.  I didn’t add the candied citrus in deciding to put it in just before rolling to make more of a ribbon effect (although it really wasn’t that obvious I could have just mixed it in.)



Dough after kneading


After kneading, it was set off to rest overnight.


Dough Rolled flat


I then rolled out the dough.  It probably should have been a little more squared off  but it turned out fine with a little squeezing during the circle shaping.  Sprinkled it with the chopped candied citrus peel


Sprinkled with candied citrus peel


and about 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon


Dough sprinkled with candied citrus peel, cinnamon and sugar


Next I rolled the dough.


Rolling the dough


I have to admit because of the extra cinnamon it was quite brownish and a little pointed due to the more rounded (rather than rectangular) shape the dough was in and daughter and I had a small giggle fit after we determined that the rolled up dough looked pretty much like one of those giant alien slugs from the movies.  Fortunately it’s looks improved after forming it into the circle.  I should have taken the suggestion to use a bowl for the center as it would have made it easier.


Dough shaped into a circle


Then the cuts to make it wreathlike – again daughter had comments on a few of the misshapen “leaves” but after a little rising they were all pretty good looking!


Ready to rise




Ready to bake



Finally, baked, then the butter and powdered sugar sprinkling, add some cherries in the middle and it was done!


Ready to serve






The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

The Daring Cooks Challenge – Eggs Benedict “an epic fail”

Looks better than it was!

This month Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I have to apologize in advance, this month’s challenge sort of did me in.  Between being on the losing side of a battle with a brief but very painful illness and trying to prepare for the holidays I did not have time to do this properly, did not follow the really wonderful directions provided in the challenge nor did I take hardly any pictures like I usually do.  In my haste to make this after baking holiday gifts all day trying to catch up, first my Hollandaise broke as I threw in the butter with abandon (after using a pan much too large for the amount of eggs being too rushed to look for a smaller one) necessitating a quick trip to the internet to decide if “this marriage could be saved”.  I found that you can redeem the sauce by slowly adding the mixture to another egg yolk which actually worked very well and according to the food critic (aka spouse who never complains and will eat anything that fits in his mouth) it tasted like it should.  However, he further pointed out that my eggs were overdone (and they had lots of strings hanging off the sides see the picture below), the muffin was underdone and I put the muffin top on it which apparently isn’t the norm (note the strategic cropping in the top picture).  In my defense, I don’t eat any egg that is not completely and thoroughly scrambled and cooked until it starts to brown so I’ve never had eggs Benedict.  I do appreciate the challenge and think it is something that I should learn to make and will give it another try – alas,  as my daughter would say this one was “an epic fail”.

Second Try with No Top but lots of strings

Strawberry Peach Bread and Strawberry Lavender Jam

Strawberry Peach Bread and Strawberry Lavender Jam

ImageI know it’s been a long time, I’ve moved to a new job in Dallas so I’ve been mostly without my kitchen (or any kitchen at all for a while) and suffering some serious withdrawal symptoms.  I really miss my big kitchen and all my cooking supplies that just don’t fit in my apartment here.  I’m going back and forth though, so I do get to visit my stuff!
There is one big advantage to being in Dallas, they have a wonderful Farmer’s Market that goes for several blocks.  During my first visit, I of course went crazy and bought way too much.  I found a spice vendor and since I didn’t have any here, I just had to get one of each of my favorites, including some really fragrant lavender, cinnamon and vanilla beans.  Then a flat of strawberries and some great peaches, some vegetables . . .
First I made chocolate dipped strawberries, then strawberry lavender jam, then with just a few strawberries and peaches left, I made a bunch of mini-loaves of quick bread.  I took a basic recipe and exchanged the sugar for just a little maple syrup to keep it from being too sweet because I topped it with some almonds, brown sugar and some of the strawberry jam swirled in.
Strawberry Lavender Jam
1 lb. strawberries
1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
1 lb. sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender
1 teaspoon butter
Mash the strawberries with a potato masher if you like chunky or with a hand mixer or blender if you like smooth, add the juice, sugar and lavender and cook in a large pot over medium to high heat stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 220 degrees and the jam starts to thicken.   The butter should keep it from foaming too much, but if too much forms skim it off with a spoon.  To test, place a plate in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.  Spoon a couple drops of the cooking jam onto the cold plate and see if it sets up.  If so, it is ready to use, freeze or can, if not keep cooking sometimes it takes a while.
Strawberry Peach Bread
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup diced peaches
1 cup diced strawberries
¼ cup maple syrup
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
½ cup strawberry lavender jam
½ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup brown sugar
Mix together eggs, oil, sugar and fruit.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  Pour into one large or three mini-loaf pans.  Pour the jam on top, swirling it gently with a knife, then sprinkle on the nuts and brown sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Daring Cooks’ Challenge – Basil and Gruyere Souffle

Daring Cooks’ Challenge – Basil and Gruyere Souffle


Basil and Gruyere Souffle

Basil and Gruyere Souffle

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

I adapted their recipe for the Watercress Souffle by substituting basil and Gruyère and didn’t use the mustard.  Here’s my adaptation:

Basil and Gruyère Soufflé

Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish, 2 as an entrée


2 Tbsp 1 oz/30g butter plus additional for the soufflé dish
3½ Tbsp (55 ml) 1 oz/30g plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup/8 fluid oz (240ml) milk
½ cup (120 ml) 2 oz/60g Gruyere cheese, finely grated plus additional for the soufflé dish
1/2 cup (250ml) 2 oz/60g finely chopped de-stemmed fresh basil
4 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) (0.05 oz) cream of tartar*
Salt and pepper to taste * If you can’t find cream of tartar, a dash (~ ½ tsp) of lemon juice can be substituted


 1. Butter the soufflé dish(es) thoroughly, then grate a small amount of cheese in each dish and tap so that the sides are evenly coated with the cheese. Place the dish(es) in the refrigerator until needed (according to some sites, this helps the soufflé climb).

Butter and Cheese the bowl

2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350˚F/180˚C/gas mark 4

3. Wash and chop the basil if you haven’t already.

4. Finely grate the Gruyère cheese

5. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour to make a roux. Cook 1 minute, then add the milk, a little at a time, and stir until just thickened, about 1 minute. Add the cheese and stir until it’s just melted. Remove from heat then add the basil and salt and pepper.

Melting butter


Making the roux

Roux with cheese

6. In a larger pan, bring water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until pale and slightly foamy – about 6 minutes.

Tempering the egg yolks

7. Mix the egg yolks into the basil sauce.

8. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks yet are still glossy.

9. Fold the egg whites into the sauce in 3 additions so that it’s evenly mixed, but you don’t lose too much volume.

10. Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and spoon the mix into it. Use a spatula to even the tops of the soufflés and wipe off any spills. (I forgot to wipe off spills!)

Ready to bake

11. Bake 25 minutes for small dishes or 40 minutes if using a large soufflé dish, then serve immediately.

The souffle came out very tasty although it didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and it deflated very quickly as I was spooning it onto the plate.  Next time I’m doing chocolate!