Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Tales of a chronic multi-tasker: I kid you not. As I write this, I am simultaneously watching the utterly delightful movie Julie & Julia (uh, finally!), baking cookies (in the toaster oven - don't ask), and rubbing my dog's belly with my foot (spoiled brat). Lately I feel as if my life just keeps trucking along while my body just really, really wants to morph into a sedentary couch potato. Instead, I ran five miles this morning...while listening to my iPod, reading a magazine and watching the morning news. Blast. Try again.

Well thankfully when life gets me down, I bake! After performing an end of the week inventory of the refrigerator, I found that I needed to play a little Iron Chef and figure out what to do with leftover ricotta cheese, blueberries, already zested lemons and celery. Even after channeling my inner Chef Morimoto, I couldn't think of a practical application for the celery, but I did create these lovely Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins.

Combining a variety of internet sources, I came up with a recipe that used the lemon juice from my already-zested lemons and the zest of an un-juiced, but nearly-end-of-life-lime. While clearing the pantry, I randomly found exactly 1 cup left of whole wheat pastry flour and used this instead of 2 cups of all-purpose flour. And finally, I made cutie mini muffins from the scraps of batter left in the mixing bowl. Don't let a crumb of these go to waste!

Hopefully eating one of these will put a smile on your face. It worked for me! Off to go rescue those cookies then finally concentrate on the movie!

Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins
Adapted from Baking with Dorie and Recipe Girl
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
zest from 1 lime (medium to large size)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries
coarse sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 cupcake tins with paper liners.

2. Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Add sugar and zest to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, rub zest with sugar until sugar is moist and fragrant.

4. Using an electric mixer, add butter to sugar and beat until creamy. Beat in applesauce, ricotta, then egg, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Carefully fold in blueberries.

5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

6. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

7. Place on wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rainy California Style Italian Wedding Soup

Despite the famous song,"It Never Rains in Southern California" it's honest to God actually raining in Southern California. Having spent about 95% of my life in the finicky weather of the Midwest, I never thought I'd get caught up in the hysteria of a pending storm. I mean, its just rain, right?! Well, I suppose not really as the flooding roads are clearly ill equipped to handle rain and so are the drivers!

California Style Italian Wedding Soup
After driving through rivers that were once roads and barely escaping panicked drivers, I returned home to the realization that I had never anticipated the difficulty of taking care of a dog when it rains. If you live in Seattle or some other rainy clime, please do enlighten me! A simple walk around the block turned into a muddy adventure and a smelly wet dog, followed by some fun wrestling as I tried in vain to clean up said odorous dog.

Italian Wedding Soup
Well after getting myself slimed by my once cute, but now stinky mutt, I settled in for some nice warm and cozy leftover soup last night. I spotted this recipe on and doctored it up with some garlic, veggies and spices and used ground turkey instead of beef. This is even tastier the next day as the flavors have a chance to meld. While I loved the combo of orzo, meatballs and veggies, I may experiment with adding some lemon juice for a little extra flavor in the broth.

Hope you had a good weekend and stay warm out there!

California Italian Wedding Soup

1/2 pound lean ground turkey (or beef)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large celery stalk, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup orzo, uncooked
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 cups finely sliced spinach
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

1.In a large bowl, mix together the meat, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, basil, parsley, green onions, salt & pepper; shape into 3/4 inch balls.

2.In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add in carrots and garlic. Stir for about 2 minutes and add celery. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

3. Add in broth and increase heat to high. When boiling, drop in meatballs. Stir lemon zest and orzo. Season with a dash of salt and pepper, and the oregano. Return to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook at a slow boil for 10 minutes or until orzo is tender, stirring frequently. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Asian Noodle Bowl with Chicken

The web seems to be full of healthy recipes, resolutions, and new starts these days. Though I personally haven't resolved to cook healthier in 2010, I have been quite obsessed with Ellie Krieger's new healthy cookbook. I believe this may be the third recipe of hers this week! Alas, all good things must come to an end as I also received a yet-to-be-used Fry Daddy for Christmas and must get this unhealthy new gadget to work.
Soba Noodle Bowl with VeggiesBefore I start frying everything in the kitchen, I'll leave you with this nice and healthy soba noodle bowl full of colorful veggies and lean chicken. Sadly I forgot my favorite quasi-veggie, the baby corn. I first decided to love baby corn as a child, mainly because it had the word 'baby' in the name. After all these years, the mini-me version of corn still makes me smile.

Asian Noodle BowlMoral of the story: don't forget your baby corn! Despite the missing ingredient, we greatly enjoyed this recipe. I added a little garlic rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper for good measure and think this was a good call. I also happened to use Polynesian marinated chicken breasts since they were on sale in the butcher case at Henry's. I'd say this is a pretty flexible recipe -- feel free to substitute meats and veggies as you please!

Healthy Asian Noodle Bowl
adapted from
So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week
8 ounces soba noodles (my package was closer to 9.5 ounces)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 bunch scallions
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 pound boneless skinlesss chicken breast, sliced thinly (lightly season with salt and pepper)
1 15 oz can baby corn, drained
1/2 pound broccoli florets
1/2 pound shiitake musrooms
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted garlic rice wine vinegar (i used Nakano brand)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions.
2. Heat oil in a large wok over medium high heat. Add scallions and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and cook until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the veggies, broth, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Cook until broccoli and peppers are crisp tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the noodles and sesame oil and toss to combine. Garnish with scallions if desired.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ellie's Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens

For all you go-getter-New Years-resolution-people who happened to be clogging up the gym tonight at 6pm, here's an uber healthy meal that I made not while trying to be healthy, but because I was cold.

Lemony Lentil Soup with GreensAlas! Lucky me, it also happened to be quite a hearty meal and left me with a bead of sweat on my nose when dinner was finished. Chock full of goodies, this soup packs 30g of protein per 2 cup serving and gobs of iron from the lentils. Add in some carrots, kale and celery and you've got yourself a vitamin packed power meal.

I was initially skeptical of this recipe because I gravitate towards thick soups, not broth based soups, and let me tell you this guy uses a lot of broth - 12 cups to be exact! However, the hint of lemon gives the soup a lift and brings out a good flavor. Tastes are sometimes hard to change though, and I think next time I'll experiment with smashing some beans or lentil to make the soup a little thicker. All in all this was a good soup that I'll make again.

Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week
(definitely one of my new favorite cookbooks!)
Ellie Krieger Cookbook
2 tsp canola or olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz green lentils
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
8 cups chopped kale leaves (about 6 oz)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1. Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium- high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until the carrots are softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 12 cups of the broth, the lentils, basil, thyme, garlic salt and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the kale, and cook until the lentils are tender, 30 to 35 minutes, adding more broth if necessary. Stir occasionally while simmering. When finished, stir in the lemon juice and zest and serve.