Tag Archives: Lemons

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Last week was teacher appreciation week at my children’s school. We have some pretty incredible teachers in our lives so it was important for me to let them know how much we appreciate them in a special and personal way.

No, I did not painstakingly craft and then artfully frame their initials in crayons. It’s all over Pinterest, you should check it out. That is over the top, even for me.

Nope, I baked (and stuck in a gift card on the side).

Each teacher received a dreamy lemon blueberry muffin, made extra special by the rich and velvety lemon cream cheese icing piped on top. I had a little fun and packaged the muffins in colorful plastic bowls and tied on a note of appreciation with some colorful ribbon.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-14

Just one muffin but a perfect muffin made and presented with appreciation and care.

I love homemade gifts.

And gift cards.

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now, obsessed with determined with getting just the right tart and tangy lemon flavor and dense but moist muffin texture; and now, finally, I am in love and happy, no eager to share.

Happy and eager. I hope you love them.

Especially since it will take me untold hours on the elliptical machine to burn off all of lemon blueberry muffin taste testing that was necessary. My husband was kind enough to recently fix the once broken elliptical and now I have no excuses. Although I still seem to find one or two.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Lemons-&-Blueberries-2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar to the dry ingredients and mix together with a whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, milk, lemon juice, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest.

Note: I was hesitant to use the lemon extract because for some reason, it feels like cheating to me. Especially when I have fresh lemons in abundance. But I just wasn’t getting the depth of lemon flavor that I wanted so I tried the lemon extract and it was just what I was looking for. Sometimes you just gotta’ go with your gut!

Make a well (an indentation in the center) in the dry ingredients and then pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffin-Batt

Mix until just fully combined.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-1

Coat blueberries with a sprinkling of flour which will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake.

Blueberries

Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-2

Fill the muffin cups using a standard ice cream scoop for consistency.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-3

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-4

Bake for 20 minutes (25 minutes for the jumbo muffins I made). Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular muffins, 9 jumbo muffins or 24 mini-muffins.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-15

Eat them hot out of the oven, just as they are or let them cool completely and then frost them with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing for an extra special touch.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-5

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 pound powdered sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter together for several minutes. Mix in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add the powdered sugar slowly and on low-speed. Once the powdered sugar is mixed in, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the mixture on high-speed for 3-5 minutes until you have a smooth and creamy icing.

Cream-Cheese-Frosting

Spread or pipe onto cupcakes …

Icing-2

A large star tip fitted into a disposable piping bag will give you a fancy swirled design.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-7

Or for a simpler look, just fill the piping bag, snip the end and pipe a smooth swirl of icing.

Icing-3

Top with a few fresh blueberries.

Cream cheese icing is very soft so be sure to refrigerate the muffins for an hour or more to set the icing, especially if you will be travelling with them or giving them as gifts.

Because my muffins were gifts, I did a little fancy packaging.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffin-Pack

I found these little bright-colored plastic bowls in sets of four at the grocery store.

The perfect size for a muffin. I was very excited!

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffin-8

I made a simple little note of appreciation on the computer and then punched two holes for the ribbon to thread through. I also mentioned that the muffin recipe could be found on my blog. You know, just in case. And thankfully now, five days later, it can be.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-9

I gathered  a piece of cellophane wrap around each cupcake.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-10

And secured it with a piece of ribbon knotted with enough room to keep the muffin from getting squished.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-11

I threaded each end of the ribbon through the holes in the note and then tied it off, finishing with a decorative snip on the ends.

Lemon-Blueberry-Muffins-13

Pretty simple stuff but a fun, delicious homemade gift from the heart.

Enjoy!

I’m off now to make about a million cupcakes for Cub Scouts tomorrow. After I hit the elliptical machine, of course.

Wink. Wink.

Advertisements

Lemon Yogurt Cookies

Here in Arizona, we have incredible citrus all around us.  The blossoms smell heavenly right now, perfuming the warming spring breeze.

On our little patch of ground, we have planted orange, Meyer lemon, Eureka lemon, Mandarin orange, and two lime trees but our trees are young because we have had to start from the ground up – literally. One of these days, I promise I will tell you all about the desert wasteland we purchased three years ago and have spent every moment since remodeling and cultivating into what is now pretty much my favorite place on earth.

Back to the trees; they are filled with blossoms and budding but not yet mature fruit. Soon. I just have to be patient. Sadly, patience is not my super power so I am grateful to our neighbors who are supplying me with more lemons than I know what to do with, presenting me with the challenge of coming up with all sorts of ways to use them.

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

The leaves are still looking a little rough from the cold but the lemons are incredible!

LYC-11

Over the weekend, our citrus supplying neighbors invited us over for cocktails and a tour of some recent renovations to their home. It is hard to get me out of the yard these days (just ask my son who was on a desperate hunt for a pair of clean socks this morning) so I needed to find something quick, easy and of course, “lemony” to take to them (after all it is their lemons I’m having so much fun with).

In my quest to use every last precious lemon, I have been looking for new recipes. I have a lot of good ones already but my curiosity led me to browse through the numerous “fundraising” cookbooks I have; you know the ones – spiral binders, put out by churches and booster clubs, lots of jello salad recipes.

LYC-1

Those are the ones.

Just to be clear, I am not knocking Jello salad, I am simply using it as a descriptive example. The fact that Mrs. Mabel Johnson or Mrs. Thelma Thompson thought it was the best dish in her arsenal, worthy of immortality, preserved for all time between the color coded pages of the “Best of fill in the blank Church’s” cookbook is none of my concern.

All joking aside, these little books really do have some “best of” recipes. Good basic recipes that offer considerable opportunity to fine tune, tweak and make your own. In the “Favorite Recipes from St. James” cookbook circa 1984, which was my Great Aunt Helen’s Episcopal church in Tigard Oregon, I found this lovely little Lemon Yogurt Cookie recipe.

LYC-2

After tweaking the recipe a bit, I baked up a batch of what turned out to be a soft and moist cookie that has a delightful cakey texture, more like a soft scone than a cookie.

I am IN LOVE with this recipe.

Because I am in love with this recipe, naturally, I just had to see which sweet church lady submitted it. I doesn’t matter that I would have no idea who she was, it would just be fun to imagine her, cheek dusted with flour, humming softly as she lovingly placed each cookie on a rack to cool and then turned her attention to one of the other four dishes she was working on for the church potluck the next day.

Scanning down the page, I found the lovely woman’s name at the bottom of the recipe. My great-aunt Helen. It was her recipe. What? Out of all of the recipes in the book, I chose hers. I kid you not. I was a little take aback.

Aunt-Helen-2

Helen LeFebre, age 20, circa 1936

The best part about this story is not the fact that up to this point I hadn’t noticed her name on the page, Helen LeFebre right there in front of me, and baked on oblivious to the fact that I was making a family recipe. No, the best part is that Helen LeFebre did not cook or bake. Never. Not ever. I have absolutely no memory of her doing anything in the kitchen beyond making tea.

Aunt Helen was more of the “let’s do lunch” type of lady and certainly never made five dishes for the church potluck. Actually, she would have been the lady who placed the tin of Danish Butter Cookies amid the Jello salads and countless hot dishes.

Aunt-Helen-3

In all honesty, this is probably the reaction you would have gotten from her had you asked “these are delicious, did you make them?”

Her life’s passion was not for the domestic. She was a teacher, studied at Berkley and spent nearly thirty years (1950-1978) in the Philipines as a missionary for the Episcopal Church, serving as a Medical Librarian for St. Luke’s hospital, training local women in her field.

Aunt-Helen-5

She never married or had children. Her heart was always in the Philipines and with the Filipino people.

I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have landed on this recipe. This little book was pretty much single-handedly created from the recipes of Alice Thornton and June Boone. Whoever they were. Sweet little 5 dishes for the potluck ladies I am sure. But I was led to one of the two recipes submitted by my great-aunt who didn’t cook. And it was fabulous. And I got to spend the morning thinking about her, writing about her, remembering her.

Aunt-Helen-4

I have no idea where she got this recipe. But I am most grateful that she submitted it and that 29 years later, it fell into my hands when I opened a small little paper cookbook looking for a lemon recipe.

Great Aunt Helen’s Lemon Yogurt Cookies

LYC-7

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt – I used lemon flavored Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (originally called for 1 tsp. lemon extract)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Add the lemon yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add in the flour mixture in thirds, incorporating well after each addition.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls two inches apart on prepared cookie sheet (greased or covered with a Silpat matt or parchment paper).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until just a light golden brown around edges.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The recipe did not originally call for a glaze but I decided to add one, which turned out to be a really good decision. It added a lot to the flavor to the cookies, upped the intensity of the lemon flavor and made them just a little bit more finished and special.

LYC-3

For the glaze …

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest

Mix until smooth and drizzle over cookies.

LYC-4

I feel like I have discovered treasure with these little cookies and I am so happy to share them and my great-aunt Helen with you.

LYC-5

I hope you will try them. They would be a wonderful Easter treat and will be on my Easter buffet. Alas, there will be no Jello salad.

Enjoy!

Spring has Sprung; well at Least it had Yesterday

I think, finally, I can say that it is officially Spring around here. Finally. It is a little cold and rainy again this morning but I am going to stick with the idea that it is indeed, Spring.

Spring-1

I know, I know, if you are back east, in the midwest or up north, you don’t want to hear a southwestern girl complaining about the cold – especially today with yet another winter storm blowing in. I used to live with snowy long winters too but I have been in Arizona for a long time now and my blood has become very thin. VERY thin. I could never go back, I wouldn’t survive a real winter.

Even here, we have had an unusually cold winter with several nights of record below freezing temperatures – not fun for desert plants or desert gardeners. There were a few mornings of taking kids to school in 20 degree temps that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Heated seats are the only thing that saved me.

But it has been warming up and for about a month now, I have been crazy to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and on the pruners. We live on just over two acres of Sonoran Desert and I have fallen in love with cultivating this harsh but beautiful land. One day soon, I will tell you the story of how we ended up here but for now I will just share that we have put almost 3 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally – everything here has a thorn or a spike) into our spread. I know it is only two acres but there are days when it feels like 200.

Finally, with the warm weather and long weekend, we were able to spend four straight days working outside; which is also why it has been a few days since I posted. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We  planted a couple of new citrus trees and did a lot of pruning, clean-up and fertilizing and started working on our outdoor kitchen. We still have a lot to do but I am happy to report that everything seems to be showing signs of life – everything except my beloved Hibiscus but I haven’t given up or lost hope yet.

Yes, it is spring and I have proof …

Spring-6

The tall spiky branches of the Ocotillo are covered in green.

Spring-10

The landscape plants are starting to bloom.

Spring-3

The Lantana, which was hit hard, is starting to show signs of life and recovery.

Spring-2Soon there will be peaches,

Spring-4

and mandarin oranges,

Spring-5

and lemons,

Spring-8

and figs,

Spring-11

and tomatoes,

and Meyer lemons, navel oranges, limes, grapefruit and fresh herbs (the full vegetable garden is in the works for next year).

We have also had our first visitor …

Spring-9

found happily sunning himself stretched out on the back patio. I have come to an understanding with his kind. As long as they don’t have a rattle or venom of any sort, stay outside – let me repeat that STAY OUTSIDE, don’t startle me, don’t end up in the pool either dead or requiring rescue, don’t hiss at or threaten me or camouflage themselves in such a way as to startle me when I don’t see them, we are able to live in harmony or at least in tolerance. The rest of my family thinks these gopher snakes (who are around 5′ long when fully grown) are cool, awesome and “soooo cute” as Nathan says. As for me, I am just happy they don’t have fangs and a rattle.

So, now that Spring is officially upon us, I will be outside, A LOT, happily playing in the dirt. I may be absent from the blogosphere a day or two, here or there, but I promise I will be back with more stories of the land, the house, the family, the food and the savior that I love.

Come back for a visit tomorrow – I have a confession to make.

Happy Spring!

So about 9 hours after posting this, I am feeling the need for a “Post-Publication Edit”  …

Spring 14

Ariel view, taken today, of the ball fields where “spring” training starts next week.

Spring 13A view of the Loop 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, taken today.

In this part of Arizona, we do not get snow. Not ever. Okay, once in a million years and today.

I may be an optomist but it is a good thing I’m not a weatherman.