Lemon Poppyseed Muffins!

Lately I’ve been on a lemon kick! Lemon Ricotta muffins, Rosemary Lemon Tart, Lemon Curd, Lemon Chicken, Salmon with lemon and dill, Lemon Cookies, Artichoke and Lemon Risotto, Strawberry Lemonade… Ok, I got that from Sonic, but it’s still lemon-ish!

Today, my wonderful husband bought me a dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree! Isn’t it gorgeous? If you’ve never had a Meyer Lemon, it’s a delightful hybrid of lemon and a sweet orange. Perfect for home cooks!

Right now, it’s sitting on top of our patio table. I’ll put pictures up when it (and our square foot garden) are planted!

With dreams of future lemons dancing in my head, I decided to bake my favorite lemon treat. Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins! Lemon Curd added an extra burst of lemon goodness to these already delicious muffins.

These muffins are very basic. You can add a variety of things to change them up, blueberries, raspberries, chocolate chips, orange marmalade, bananas, whatever your heart desires!
Be creative and have fun!

For the Lemon Poppy Seed muffins, mix the batter with lemon zest, lemon curd and poppy seeds!

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking cups and fill with two tablespoons of batter. Put about a teaspoon of lemon curd in the center of the batter and cover with the rest of the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and viola!

I can hardly wait for breakfast tomorrow morning!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients for basic muffins:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Lemon Poppy Seed Additions:
1 TBLS grated lemon zest
6 TBLS prepared lemon curd, divided
2 tsp Poppy Seeds

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with baking cups or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds. Mix well.
In a medium bowl, combine milk, oil and egg, stirring until well blended. Add egg mix to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in 2 TBLS lemon curd. Do not overmix! The batter will be thick and lumpy.
Fill bottom of the cups with a few tablespoons of batter. Place a scant teaspoon of lemon curd in the center of the batter. Cover the curd evenly with the remainder of the batter and bake! Bake for 15-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Start checking at 15 minutes. Mine took about 18-20 minutes, but every oven is different. Cool for 1 minute, then turn out on a wire rack. Serve warm with the remainder of the lemon curd as a topping! Enjoy!


Ghirardelli Brownies!

You know I am a self-proclaimed “Ghirardelli Girl.” I love their chocolate! Over the holidays Ghirardelli opened an outlet store less than 5 miles from my house. Let me repeat that: Less than five miles from my house! That’s less than 26,400 feet! Not that I would look that up to sound impressive…or desperate for chocolate… 🙂

It has taken every ounce of my willpower to NOT go there. Today, I lost that battle…

It’s the cutest little store! Since it’s an outlet, everything is on sale. So really, I am SAVING money by buying chocolate there. Right? Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! After all, when your phone cover looks like this…

how can you NOT go visit this store?
As expected, I came home with a ridiculous amount of chocolate. (Can you really have “too much” chocolate? I didn’t think so either.) The nice woman behind the counter not only gave me a free sample, she also gave me a recipe idea!
Take your favorite brownie recipe, or a box of Ghirardelli Brownie Mix, which I just happen to have in my pantry! Go figure!

Add 9 – 12 squares of your favorite Ghirardelli chocolates. Which I just happen to have purchased! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Prepare the batter as usual. Put half the batter in the pan. Place those delicious squares on top of the batter!

Cover the squares with the rest of the batter and bake as usual.

I used chocolate hazelnut squares this time, but you can use anything! Imagine Caramel Square Brownies. Toffee Square Brownies. Mint Square Brownies. Raspberry Brownies. Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel Brownies. Ahhhhh! I am on chocolate overload! What a delicious and simple way to make your brownies extra special!

For the record, I am not sponsored by Ghirardelli, nor was I paid to write this post. However, if anyone from Ghirardelli is reading and wants to pay me in chocolate to “test” recipes, my name is Sara and my E-mail address is myimperfectkitchen at yahoo dot-com! 🙂

Enjoy your brownies my friends! We did!

“The Brunch Class”

I love spending rainy days in the kitchen! Saturday, it was pouring rain and though the kitchen wasn’t mine, it was still fun! I attended “The Brunch Class” at The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. We made Homemade Ricotta, a Broccoli Mushroom Cheddar Egg Bake, Homemade Lemon Curd, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, a Mediterranean Frittata and Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes!
Of course, it didn’t hurt that class started with a cup of coffee and a Mimosa (or two…)

I went to class alone but was paired up with a very nice woman named Javi! (Hi, Javi!) We started with the Ricotta because it takes the longest. I’ve made Ricotta before, but their recipe is different from mine. It was still easy and ours came out beautifully!

I love getting new variations of recipes!

As the Ricotta was draining, we made the Broccoli Mushroom Cheddar Egg Bake. This is one of those dishes you can make the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge. In the morning, pop it in a hot oven and an hour later you have breakfast!
We browned some onions and mushrooms in a small skillet…

Then we cut up these warm, amazing sourdough baguettes and spread them on a buttered baking dish. Thank goodness there was half a baguette left for of us to nibble as we were cooking! Mmmm… bread…

Next we beat eggs and milk together, then added onions and mushrooms, broccoli and cheddar cheese! We poured all of it over those wonderful bread chunks and it looked like this:

We wrapped everything in plastic and put it in the fridge for an hour so the bread had time to soak up all that eggy goodness!

The Lemon Curd to top our Ricotta pancakes was next! Lemon Curd has about a million different recipe variations! Seriously. Google it sometime and you’ll see. 🙂 This was a great version for pancakes. Very light and fluffy with a light tang from the lemon. Javi and I took turns whisking and this was the result!

Next up were the banana muffins! Now that I think about it, all these recipes would be perfect for my daughter. Everything is vegetarian friendly! We mixed bananas, sour cream and fresh vanilla in a food processor, then added eggs, lemon zest and pulsed it together. We added the typical dry ingredients and the most important ingredient – chocolate chips!

This is what it looked like when it was all together!

Into the baking cups! Can you see the flecks from the vanilla bean?


We took a break for a few minutes… What? Refresh my glass? If you insist.

We started the Mediterranean Frittata next. This was super cool! We roasted red peppers on the stove top!

After a few minutes they were blistered and toasty.

We put them in a plastic bag to steam while we chopped olives, zucchini, tomatoes and red onions.

We put it all together in a skillet to sauté, then we peeled and chopped the roasted red pepper and tossed that in too. We whisked eggs together, added feta, fresh basil, oregano and parmesan cheese.

While the frittatas were cooking, we made the last menu item – pancakes! We whipped egg whites until we had stiff peaks!

Then we folded the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients, including our beautiful ricotta from the beginning of class!

The pancakes were cooked on a hot, buttered griddle and topped with our lemon curd! I’ve never had ricotta pancakes before and these were fluffy with a rich, slightly nutty flavor from the cheese.

Everything came out of the oven and off the stove at the same time. You know what that means? Time to eat! A pancake with lemon curd…

Another muffin…

And a slice of our Mediterranean Frittata…

What a lovely (and delicious) way to spend a rainy morning! I know I’ll be trying these recipes with my family (and sharing with all of you) very soon!

Rosemary Lemon Tart!

I’m not proud of it, but sometimes I hold a grudge. When we had class at “the place that shall not be named” and the instructor told me I’d done something wrong to the dough for the tart, it made me mad. So mad, in fact, I’ve been determined to make a lemon tart again just to prove him wrong!

When a customer brought a whole bag of lemons from his tree and there was some gorgeous rosemary at Farmers Market, I figured it was a sign from the universe saying “Sara, make a Lemon Tart!” So that’s what I did!

I made the dough first because it needed to chill. Look Ma, No Sand!

If you haven’t read any earlier posts, my FFF (Favorite Foodie Friend) Marie and I attended a terrible cooking class where the lemon tart recipe was incorrect and our dough came out the consistency of sand. The instructor insisted nothing was wrong and made us finish the tart anyway (after accusing us of not following his recipe.) Thus the “sand” joke. That tart was not so great. This looks good to me though!

Plenty of lemons and eggs to make a gorgeous lemon curd filling!

This is so good, I could eat it all. No, I’m not even going to share. Well… maybe I’ll share the recipe so you can make your own. YUM!


Had you going there for a second, didn’t I? 🙂 I used most of this delicious lemon curd to fill my beautiful pastry tart…

Take THAT Mr. Instructor Man!

I had leftovers of both dough and curd so I made mini-tarts too!

Are you ready to make your own now? You can do it! It’s so easy!

Rosemary Pastry Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg, whisked
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBLS rosemary, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt and rosemary in a mixing bowl. Whisk until combined. Cut in the butter until the you have the consistency of wet sand. (Sand…haha!) You can cut it in with your hands, or use your food processor. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Don’t knead the dough too much, you don’t want the butter to melt! Shape the dough into a disc and chill in the refrigerator while you make the lemon curd.

*Lemon Curd
(Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown-here is the original recipe: Lemon Curd)

5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

You’ll need a double boiler for this. Use one you have, or create one with a saucepan and a metal bowl big enough to cover the pan, but not sit in the water. Add water to your saucepan. You’ll only need about 1-inch of water. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

While the water is heating, combine egg yolks and sugar and whisk until smooth. Zest your lemons, then cut in half and juice them. Measure the juice to 1/3 cup (if needed, add cold water to reach a full 1/3 cup.) Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk again until smooth. Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low and place your bowl with the egg mixture on top of saucepan. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens, about 6-8 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon. This happens quickly so keep an eye on it. Remove mixture from the heat and whisk in the butter one piece at a time. Let each piece melt before you add the next. Pour the curd into a serving bowl or container and cover with plastic wrap. It will stay good in your refrigerator for two weeks, or you can freeze it up to six months.

While your curd is cooling, remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out into the shape of your tart pan. The dough should be the same thickness as pie dough. Prick the dough with a fork and blind bake it for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Pour your curd into the baked tart shell and return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the curd is set. Delicious!

Follow That Chef – Linda Civitello!

Good things come in small packages; the taste of fresh blackberries, sugar snap peas straight off the vine, Hershey’s kisses and Chef Linda Civitello! This tiny, unassuming woman is a powerhouse of food knowledge and has one wicked sense of humor.

We met Chef Civitello at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. We’ve learned (having been to one or two of these tours now) that every Chef is different. Chef Civitello was no exception. She shook everyone’s hand and asked us our names when we arrived. From that point on, she addressed everyone by name. She remembered every person, every name, every time. We were quite impressed! This is nothing compared to what she knows about the history of food.

She’s very animated when she talks! You can tell food and people are her passion!

She introduced us to this beautiful vegetable…they are from the same family as the artichoke, but look like spiky, bushy, celery.

If you don’t know, they are Cardoons. See how BIG they are?

Chef Civitello showed us how to strip them down and dice them up for a Frittata.

These vegetables are new to me and they taste just like artichoke hearts! Chef Civitello taught us the history of artichokes as she blanched, then sautéed the cardoons. She also added onions, artichoke hearts,and asparagus.

She added eggs and we talked more about the history of food in Italy! My FFF Marie is Italian and Chef Linda brought back many family memories with her discussion!

After the eggs set, since there wasn’t a plate to flip the frittatas, Chef Civitello finished them in the oven. YUM!

We topped the frittata with this amazing artisan smoked cheddar cheese from Rosewood Hill Farm.

A little bit goes a long way with this fabulous cheese. It was so good, after the demo, we went back to the farmers market and bought some! Here is how the frittata turned out…

It was another great morning “Following That Chef” around the market! I learned a lot about the history of food, artichokes and now, we have a new vegetable to add to our wheelhouse! If you get a chance, check out Chef Linda Civitello and her book “Cuisine and Culture, a History of Food and People!”

Risotto Class at Sur La Table!

My latest cooking class was at Sur La Table! I didn’t even know they had cooking classes until my niece told me she and my sister-in-law were taking a Gnocchi class. Well, you know me! I’m like the dog from the movie “Up!” Instead of “Squirrel?” my distraction is “New Cooking Class?” After going through Sur La Table’s calendar, I settled on Risotto.

Why Risotto? Well, several reasons really. I’ve only had it a few times and I’ve heard it is hard to make correctly. So many things can go wrong in the preparation. I’m always up for adding new skills to my kitchen, so that intrigued me. Also, it’s a very versatile dish. You can change the flavor profile with just a few ingredients. Plus it’s vegetarian friendly, and that means I can make it for my daughter!

The menu for class included: Wild Mushroom Risotto with White Truffle Oil, Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage Leaves and Chive Oil, Fennel and Sausage Risotto with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and Balsamic Drizzle and Arugula Pesto Risotto with Shaved Pecorino Romano.

Let me tell you, everything you’ve heard about making risotto is true. You stir for a long time. You must use a wooden spoon. There are plenty of things that can go wrong that will change the flavor and ruin your dish! The good thing about taking a class is you get to see how everything goes together. Plus, Sur La Table gave us a great packet with all the recipes, basic terms and translations, Risotto rice 101, cooking tips and where to find additional resources! I love that!

Another very cool thing about taking classes in different places, is you pick up “extras.” Extra ideas, plating options, side dishes that work well with whatever you’re making and tips for changing the recipes. We fried sage leaves! That was interesting! We also made Sun-Dried Tomato Jam. I can see many different uses for that. That’s a keeper for more than just Risotto! My favorite “extra” in this class though was the Chive Oil!

Look at that gorgeous green color! It is simple to make too! Take a bunch of fresh chives and blanch them in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Scoop them out and immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Remove them from the water and drain on paper towels. Squeeze out all the excess water and put the chives in a blender or food processor. Puree with 1/2 cup olive oil until smooth. Transfer the chive oil to a bowl and put in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Pour the oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on the solids to release the flavor. Makes about 1/2 cup! The flavor is fresh and intense. It was so good!

Hmmm…I wonder if I can make Basil oil? That would be fantastic with a lemon garlic risotto and grilled vegetables!

I’ll be making Risotto this weekend, so I’ll share my recipes and tips with you in the next few posts. What’s your favorite way to make Risotto? Give me some ideas and share your own “extra” tips with me!

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