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Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins

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When I was growing up one of my favorite things to bake with my mother were blueberry muffins. I always knew it was spring when we made these muffins because that’s when the blueberries started to show up in stores. We always used the same recipe. It was the recipe my mom used when she was growing up. The recipe was from her aunt (my great aunt) Judy, but it actually came from the famous Boston department store, Jordan Marsh.

Growing up in Swampscott, Massachusetts, there were two department stores my mother went to: Filene’s and Jordan Marsh. Jordan Marsh was a fancy department store in Boston from the 1860’s up until the 1990’s when they were absorbed by Macy’s. As with a lot of fancy department stores of the time, there was a restaurant on the top floor where shoppers could sit and pour over their wares while sipping coffee and enjoying a variety of baked goods. While there were plenty of items to choose from, their most popular treat were the blueberry muffins. What made these muffins so special? Unlike most blueberry muffins out there, these muffins used two-and-a-half cups of fresh blueberries, a half cup of which were mashed. It’s those mashed blueberries that make these muffins so darned moist any why I love them so.

muffins in the pan

Over the years my mother and I made a few changes to the classic Jordan Marsh recipe. As with all our recipes, we cut the sugar in half, and never, ever sprinkled sugar on top. See, the blueberries were always so sweet on their own, two-and-a-half cups of sugar made them sicky sweet, and I hate sicky sweet. That’s not the only change I’ve made, though. Now that I’m on my own, I’ve added lemon juice and zest to these delectable baked goodies. I’ve always believed lemons and blueberries go together because lemons not only temper the sweetness of the berry, they add a nice, tangy zing to an already delicious muffin. The juice adds even more moisture, making these muffins all but melt in your mouth with each bite.

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These muffins always used to be a spring treat, but now that blueberries are pretty much available year round, I can make them any time I want: spring, summer, winter or fall. I usually pick winter and spring though because that’s when Meyer lemons are in season. Sure, you could use any lemon you want to get that nice tart pop of flavor, but I prefer the Meyers because they’re just a little sweeter and combine so well with those sweet little blue spheres.

While these muffins are a delicious breakfast option, they’re also perfect for a mid day snack. You can have them like the shoppers at Jordan’s used to: warm with a cup of tea or coffee, or you can munch on them at room temperature for a midnight snack. But for me, I always eat them straight out of the oven or toasted with a pad of butter spread across each half. They’re by far and away my favorite breakfast treat. So, whenever blueberries and lemons are in season, I grab my muffin tin and get to baking. Mom and I may have changed the classic recipe over the years, but those muffins still remind me of baking with her, and always bring a smile to my face.

sliced muffin

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Muffins (adapted from Jordan Marsh)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and either grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Using a high speed mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one a time and beat until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the batter alternately with the milk until both are combined. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Using a fork, crush a half cup of blueberries on a plate and fold into the batter. Fold in the remaining blueberries.
  7. Fill each cup of the muffin tin to the top with the batter.
  8. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes (if you can wait that long) and serve.

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I’m a huge meat eater. I love chicken, beef, lamb… If it flies, walks or swims, I’m in. But every so often I want to take a break from the chicken and beef and eat a vegetable or two. It’s on those nights that I usually make a pasta dish or a dinner salad. While throwing together a quick salad or spaghetti is pretty easy, it also can get stale. I mean, how many times a month can one eat spaghetti marinara or a spinach salad? There just have to be other veggie options that are quick to whip up and don’t require dirtying an entire kitchen.

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Carla Snyder had the same thoughts. She knew there were plenty of people out there who were vegetarians or ominvores and wanted to consume more vegetables without all the fuss. So, when she saw how successful her book, One Pan, Two Plates: More than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two was, she decided to make a veggie version; only this time everything in the book would be made with vegetables or grains. The idea behind One Pan, Two Plates: Vegetarian Suppers was simple: make delicious, versatile vegetarian dishes that weren’t complicated, didn’t take a lot of time, but were still full of flavor.

Having the opportunity to sample a few of Snyder’s vegetarian dishes at Melissa’s Produce a couple weeks ago, I’m here to tell you she definitely succeeded. Everything I tried was delicious from the Superfood Salad made with quinoa and blueberries to the Crunchy Black Bean Tacos. But the dishes didn’t just have me going back for seconds (and thirds), they’re so easy to make. Snyder actually whipped up the tacos for us in about 15 or 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. And the fact they they only take one pan, makes them even more enticing. I mean, if you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is spend an extra hour in the kitchen cleaning up a sink full of dirty pots and pans after you’ve spent an hour (or more) making dinner.

final combo

Now, I know it seems odd that you only need one pan to make a pasta dish, but seriously, that’s all I used. See, I boiled the pasta and the brussels sprouts in a large saucepan, drained them and then mixed everything together back in the same pot. The heat from the freshly boiled pasta melted the cheese and when combined with a little pasta water makes for a nice creamy sauce that coats everything. The recipe was so easy to follow I can’t wait to make it and several others in the book again.

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Bow Ties with Brussels Sprouts and Gorgonzola

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 8 ounces Bow Tie Pasta
  • 12-15 Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the pasta and cook about 7 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until the pasta is al dente and the Brussels sprouts are tender; drain, reserving at least a half cup of the pasta water.
  2. Return the pasta and Brussels sprouts to the same hot pan. Mix in the cheese, butter, sunflower seeds, pepper, 1 tablespoon parsley and at least a quarter cup of the pasta water. Continue to stir until a creamy sauce forms. If the pasta is still too dry continue to add the pasta water until the sauce reaches the consistency you prefer.
  3. Mound the pasta on plates, sprinkel with remaining parsley and serve.

Rusty Nail

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Ever notice how some cocktails take off like a shot and then disappear from the cocktail lexicon before someone discovers them again and gives them a rebirth? Yes, there are those drinks that are classics as soon as they’re created, like the Manhattan or the Martini. But there are other cocktails out there that take a little time to gather a following. The Rusty Nail is one such cocktail.

It may be a pretty popular drink now, but when it was first created it wasn’t event called a Rusty Nail. As a matter of fact, it didn’t become the Rusty Nail until the 60’s, when Drambuie chairwoman, Gina MacKinnon, tasted the drink and declared that it should henceforth be called the Rusty Nail. Incidentally, this is about the same time it gained popularity, which might be why MacKinnon gave the drink it’s official name.

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It kind of makes sense. I mean, if people all over were ordering the same drink, shouldn’t it be called the same thing? Believe it or not when this cocktail was originally created in England in the 30’s it was called a B.I.F. for the British Industries Fair. In Thailand it was known as the MiG-21, after the fighter plane. It was also known as the D&S because, well, it’s made with Drambuie and Scotch. In New York, it was called a “Little Club No. 1,” after a hip watering hole on East 55th Street, and in the Midwest, they called it the Knucklehead. But with all these names, why in the world did MacKinnon settle on Rusty Nail? Well, the story goes (and with drinks this old there always seems to be a story) that a Scottish bartender was so upset by a rude American customer, that he stirred the drink with a rusty nail. While I’m pretty sure this story isn’t true, it does make for a great moniker.

So, how did the Rusty Nail finally become the popular drink it is today? Well, a cocktail won’t gather a following if it doesn’t taste good, and the Rusty Nail is quite tasty. Even if you’re not a scotch fan (which I’m not), the spicy, sweet flavors from the Drambuie elevate the drink making it ideal for sipping after dinner by the fire. But the real reason behind the cocktail’s resurgence is probably thanks to that small Pack from the 60’s. You know… those guys who were headed up by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin? Yes, it’s true that more often than not Frank could be found with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand, but every so often he would also enjoy a Rusty Nail. So, if the Rusty Nail was good enough for Frank and his crew, then it’s definitely good enough for me.

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Rusty Nail

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces scotch
  • 1 ounce Drambuie
  • lemon twist

Directions:

  1. Pour the scotch and Drambuie in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir to combine the flavors. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice, add a twist of lemon and serve.

Citrus Raspberry Trifle

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We’re right in the middle of two of my favorite seasons: citrus and Girl Scout Cookie. Okay, I know Girl Scout Cookies aren’t necessarily a season, but they’re around for at least a month (and still available until March 12th) and that’s more than enough for me.

I’m a huge girl scout cookie fan. I’ve been eating them since I was a girl scout myself, many moons ago. As a matter of fact this year marks the 100th anniversary of girl scouts selling those awesome little cookies. Every time I get an email or text from my friends whose daughters are selling cookies, I immediately make my list of which ones I want. My favorites are the Samoas, Thin Mints and Do-si-dos (but there are several other flavors in case you want to pick some up). While I love munching on those three with a tall glass of milk, the Savannah Smiles are my go to when it comes to baking. It was actually this time last year that I made another recipe using the lemony Smiles thanks to Melissa’s Produce and the Girl Scouts of greater Los Angeles.

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I prefer to bake with the Smiles because they’re light little cookies that taste of sweet lemons. While they’re delicious on their own or with a cup of tea, I like them in my desserts because they add an extra burst of lemon flavor, which is why I knew these little cookies would be a great base for a trifle. I’d only used cake before in trifles because it’s already soft and moist, so I wasn’t sure how the cookies would fare. But they were wonderful. Yes, they got a little soggy from the two different curds, but they still retained a slight crunch and melded with the rest of the trifle wonderfully.

Trifles are often thought of as spring and summer desserts. But since we’re right in the middle of citrus season, this is the perfect opportunity to make a beautiful dessert that’s light and delicious. While lemon curd is a common curd of choice when it comes to trifles, I wanted to add a little something extra. So I didn’t just make a lemon curd, I also made a blood orange curd. Not only does it make for some great colored layers, both curds really smack you with that delightfully tart citrus flavor. When combined with the raspberries and those Savannah Smiles, you get one awesome trifle and a dessert definitely worthy of those amazing girls and all they stand for.

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Citrus Raspberry Trifle

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups butter, cubed and divided
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup blood orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 7 eggs, divided
  • 8 egg yolks, divided
  • a couple drops pink food coloring (optional)
  • 5 pints of raspberries
  • 3 boxes of Savannah Smiles

Directions:

  1. Make the curds: Combine the lemon juice, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the juice mixture boils, whisk 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks with a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and whisk the egg mixture into the juice mixture. Continue stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the curd coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, whisk in the lemon zest and set aside to cool.
  4. Combine the orange juice, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the juice mixture boils, whisk 2 eggs and 6 egg yolks with a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and whisk the egg mixture into the juice mixture. Continue stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the curd coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, whisk in the orange zest and the food coloring (if you’re using it) and set aside to cool.
  7. Build the trifle: Place one-third of the cookies on the bottom of a large trifle bowl. Spoon half the lemon curd over the cookies and spread to the sides of the bowl. Cover with one-third of the raspberries. Repeat with the remaining cookies, curd and raspberries, alternating between the orange curd and lemon curd as you go. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Melissa’s Produce provided me with the Meyer Lemons and raspberries, and the Girl Scouts provided me with the Savannah Smiles for recipe testing. As always, any opinion expressed is my own and is not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm as I only review products that I have personally tested and endorse.

Suburban Cocktail

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Every time I think I’m out of retro cocktails, I find something new; or new to me. Such was the case with this week’s classic. I was looking for a whiskey drink since I’m such a fan of bourbon, rye and whiskey during the winter months. Thanks to Google and plenty of research, I discovered the Suburban.

While this is mainly a rye cocktail, it isn’t just rye with mixers like a lot of the drinks on this blog. It’s actually got a couple other liquors in it: rum and port. Although the extra liquor taps out at an ounce, that much liquor means this drink packs a serious punch. No, it’s not a Long Island Iced Tea, but according to famed cocktail historian, David Wondrich, this cocktail “is a sledgehammer”.

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Unlike some of the historical cocktails on this site, the story behind the Suburban is pretty well documented. It was created in the 1880’s as a tribute to James R. Keene who immigrated to America in 1852. By the 1870’s Keene had made a decent amount of money thanks to his love for horse racing and breeding and several wins by his thoroughbreds. All these wins made Keene pretty famous, so famous in fact, that an unknown bartender mixed up the Suburban specifically for Keene himself; and just like Keene, the cocktail became popular in New York upper crust society.

But why was the drink named the Suburban instead of the Keene? As I said Keene was a huge fan of the horse races. One of the races in which his thoroughbreds competed was the Suburban Handicap which just so happens to be the last of three races that completes the New York Handicap Triple. He had a few winners in this race over the years, so the bartender, whomever he happened to be, named the cocktail as such.

If you’re thinking the rum and port make this a sweeter drink, you’d be wrong. The spiciness from the rye combined with the bitters actually give this drink a drier flavor. But those two sweet liquors mingle nicely with the other ingredients, turning this into a rich, complex and quite palatable winter drink.

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Suburban

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 ounces rye
  • 1/2 ounce rum
  • 1/2 ounce port
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coup and serve.