Lemon Ricotta Thumbprint Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Thumbprint Coolies

I’ve been so incredibly busy. I’m still working at the hospital to finish the required clinical time for my Advanced EMT license. I’m also teaching 7 classes per week at the dance studio, building websites, and cooking up a storm. With the shorter days (whose bright idea was it to make it get dark at 4 pm in October???), I seem to be in hibernation mode. However, these bright and fruity cookies were enough to shake me out of the doldrums. They taste like a bite of Spring!

Ingredients
2 Sticks butter, softened
8 oz Ricotta cheese
1 tsp Lemon extract
2 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Granulated sugar
Jelly or Jam (I used raspberry and apricot, but I believe blueberry would be terrific)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Beat butter, ricotta and vanilla together until creamy. Mix in flour to form dough. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Form dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls and roll in granulated sugar. Use 1/2 tsp measure to create an indentation in each cookie. Fill each cookie with about 1/4 tsp of jelly or jam.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are golden on the bottom. Let cool completely.

Adapted from Ricotta Thumbprint Cookies.

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Spiced Applesauce Muffins (grain, oil, dairy, and sugar free)

Spiced Applesauce Muffins

I’ve been doing a lot of non-traditional baking lately. I’m feeling pretty confident with my non-traditional cookies, but I was missing things like banana bread, applesauce cake, and crepes. I started researching paleo cooking and discovered that they have some ingenious recipes for muffins, including this one for Grain-free Banana Muffins. With a few tweaks and a bit of experimentation, I managed to recreate my favorite Spiced Applesauce Cake in a grain-free muffin form. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these as much as I did!

These can be made vegan with chia or flax eggs. They can also be made with other types of natural nut butter (no added sugar or oil), although I prefer cashew because it is mild and doesn’t compete with the apple flavor.

Ingredients
1 Cup Natural cashew or sun butter
3/4 Cup Apple butter or applesauce (strained in cheesecloth)
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 Cup Apple, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into a greased mini-muffin tin.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The muffins will rise during baking and will fall somewhat after they are removed from the oven; don’t worry, this is normal.

Spiced Apple Granola Bars

Granola Bars
I love granola in all of its forms. I could probably live on the stuff if given the opportunity. I’m sure you could understand my disappointment when I realized corn (in all of ITS forms) was one of the foods making me sick. Just about every granola product in the grocery store contains some form of corn syrup. Every time I picked up a box of granola bars for Boyfriend, I struggled with my desire to sneak just one. The occasional failure quickly reminded me that my body was not impressed with my lack of willpower. There was only one solution: figure out how to make my own.

My first attempt at granola bars was a complete failure, although what began as a granola bar failure turned out to be a candy bar success. (Peanut Butter Crunch Bars will be posted tomorrow!) The second attempt was far more fruitful. I mixed these up in just a few minutes, popped them into the oven while I got ready to go to the gym, and pulled them out right before I left. They were cooled and ready to cut when I got home…and I immediately ate 3! At least I worked out today. That balances out my granola bar indulgence, right?

See the notes below the recipe for alternative flavors.

Ingredients
1 Cup Apple butter*
1 1/2 Cup Rolled or quick oats
1/2 Cup Pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 Cup Golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom. Dump the mixture into the center of the pan; use a rubber spatula to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Use the parchment paper to remove the granola from the pan. Cut into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

*If you do not have apple butter on hand, substitute 1 Cup applesauce**, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Any other fruit butter (including pumpkin butter) may also be substituted.
**Canned pumpkin may be used in place of the applesauce if substituting.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Pumpkin Granola Bars on Girl Makes Food!

Microwave Pear Crisp in a Mug

Fresh, ripe, juicy pears are one of my favorite foods. To eat such a pear any way but fresh with the juice running down my chin and through my fingers is almost sacrilegious. However, I came across this wonderful recipe for pear crisp in a mug and decided it was worth sacrificing one juicy pear to try it.

Making Pear Crisp

Ingredients:
1 pear, sliced thin
1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 tsp brown sugar, divided
1 Tbsp oat flour
2 Tbsp rolled oats
1/2 tsp butter, melted (for dairy free, substitute canola or coconut oil)

In a small bowl, toss together pear slices, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar; pour into a microwave-safe ramekin or large coffee mug.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oat flour, oats, oil, and remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour this over the pear slices.

Microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1:30 minutes.

Adapted from Microwave Pear Crisp by Act like a Woman, Eat like a Man.

Easy Microwave Lemon Curd

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I've always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

My Beautiful Mother! (She would probably kill me if she knew I posted a picture of her on the internet, but I’ve always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I know.)

In (slightly early) honor of Mother’s Day, this recipe is dedicated to my mom.

My mother is a wonderful woman, and I have her to thank for my cooking acumen. Growing up, I spent almost as much time sitting on the kitchen counter or perched on a chair helping her cook as I did playing outside with my friends. Despite the fact that we’re both getting older, I still see her as she was when I was small, happily teaching me everything there was to know about cooking and baking. I still call her with questions like how to cook her meatloaf; she keeps telling me that I should write down the instructions, but I like calling her to ask.

My mother made Lemon Meringue Pie every single summer. I remember cracking the eggs, learning how to separate them, stirring in the lemon juice and licking the thick curd off of the wooden spoon; I remember watching her whip the meringue, and using the spatula to form pretty peaks. Unlike most lemon meringue pies, hers had a mildly tangy lemon filling with a lightly sweetened meringue. Her pie tasted like summer. Sadly, her recipe was lost and I’ve never found another like it.

Microwave Lemon Curd

If I could choose one item that encompasses every good memory I have of my mother, this would be it. I found this recipe for Microwave Lemon Curd a few days ago, but I had to wait until I had a free moment to make it; tonight was the night. I’ve never tasted lemon curd before, but everything I’ve read about it suggests it tastes like Heaven in a jar. The moment I licked the spoon, I was transported back to those childhood summers, learning to cook and idolizing the woman who magically turned eggs, lemon, and sugar into one of my favorite treats. This curd isn’t quite as thick as Mom’s lemon filling, but the flavor is absolutely perfect. It might not be Heaven, but it’s close.

Mom, this one’s for you!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a large microwave-safe bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the sugar and whisk together until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for 3-5 minutes, stirring after each minute. The amount of time will vary based on the strength of your microwave**. You will know the lemon curd is done cooking when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve and pour into sterile jar.

Notes: **Mine took 5 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave.
This recipe makes just under 3 cups.
Store lemon curd in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Microwave Lemon Curd by My Baking Addiction.

Pina Colada Muffin in a Mug

I’m feeling a little bit sorry for my regular 12 cup muffin tin. It doesn’t get much use these days and I can’t help but picture it sitting forlornly in the drawer beneath the stove, sighing and lamenting its neglect. Someday soon, I’m going to have to pull it out and make a big batch of muffin or cupcake shaped somethings to give away, but today is not that day. Today, I have some left over shredded coconut sitting in the pantry and a new can of crushed pineapple just begging for a chance to shine.

I’m using this recipe as motivation. (I have the ingredients figured out, and I have enough faith in my microwave muffin instincts now that I’m sure it will work out.) I need to start exercising more, especially since the weather is warming up and I no longer need to make the drive to the gym to keep from turning into an icicle. (Oh how I love Maine winters!) I have all of the necessary workout gear, but I usually lack the motivation to get up and go.

Boyfriend has been talking about starting a couch to 5k, although he’s pretty fit so he’s not really starting at couch, and he’s been hinting that I should too. So, today marks the start of my couch to 5k. As soon as I get back, I’ll put one of these luscious muffins into the microwave! I’m not quite sure that rewarding myself with baked goods is the best way to go about this, but a muffin in a mug is certainly a better option than a whole pan of brownies, right?

Speaking of a whole pan of brownies, I have a wonderful recipe for homemade brownies that almost perfectly replicates my favorite boxed mix, (Betty Crocker Ultimate Fudge Brownies). I’ll post that one this afternoon!

**After a two-mile walk, I came home to my pina colada muffin. It tasted just as amazing as I expected, although it had a slightly more custard-like texture, so I felt like I was eating dessert! All I needed was a bit of fresh whipped cream. I hope you enjoy it too! (Sadly, I just couldn’t seem to get a good picture.)

Ingredients:

2.5 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vinegar
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp melted butter
4-5 drops vanilla extract
4 Tbsp flour
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp shredded coconut
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp crushed pineapple (drain if using canned)

In a mug, add the milk and vinegar together, and allow to stand 5 minutes. Add the egg, melted butter, and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Stir in the pineapple.

Microwave on high for up to 3 minutes, checking after 90 seconds. (Mine took exactly 2 minutes.)

Adapted from Pina Colada Muffins by Kitchen Confidante.

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

I absolutely love to eat curry. I don’t love the amount of time that it takes to make. Some recipes take up to 2 hours including the prep, marinade time, and cooking. I have to admit that it’s well worth the effort, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to cook and I want something delicious that comes together quickly.

I’ve been collecting curry recipes on Pinterest, and I look through them occasionally to see what I’d like to make. In a recent search for something I could cook with the limited ingredients I had hanging around the house, I found this one. I have never seen a curry recipe with apples before, so the idea intrigued me.

Although I finally got around to grocery shopping today, I decided to stick with my dinner plans and make this with some Jasmine rice. Boyfriend gave this recipe 3 forks because the chicken was a bit dry and not as flavorful as it could have been. Next time, I think I’ll just barely brown the chicken instead of trying to thoroughly brown it on all sides before simmering.

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Curried chicken with  apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried chicken with apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 apple, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup light coconut milk
1/2 Cup of frozen pea
plain yogurt
naan/rice (optional for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, apple, raisins, and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cinnamon (optional). Push the apple mixture to one side of the pan, add more oil if needed, then brown the chicken on all sides (chicken will not be fully cooked).

Stir chicken and other ingredients together then add broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add peas, then cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Top with yogurt and serve with rice or naan.

Adapted from the Mommy games.

Blueberry Muffin in a Mug

I’m beginning to wonder how I survived my childhood, eating cold cereal or microwave oatmeal on most school mornings. Growing up, we occasionally made blueberry muffins on weekends from a boxed mix that came with a small tin of “real Maine blueberries.” These days, I live in Maine and I can get fresh blueberries close to home during the summer.

Homemade blueberry muffins are by far my favorite kind, but I’m the only real muffin lover in the house. It’s not worth making a whole pan of muffins when I’m the only one who will eat them, so I rarely get to have any.

This recipe was requested by another friend of mine, although I was planning on getting around to it soon anyways. A few months ago, I tried my hand at canning blueberries. With four pints sitting in the cabinet, I was looking for ways to start using them up. Once again, mug cooking seemed like a great option. I don’t know why it took me so long to think of trying this!

WARNING: Give this a minute or two to cool when it’s finished. The miracle of microwave cooking makes the blueberries hot enough to incinerate your tongue. No…I don’t know that from experience…really.

Blueberry Muffin in a Mug

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
1/2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp milk
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
Slightly heaping 1/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
Dash cinnamon
Smidgen nutmeg
1/3 Cup blueberries

In a mug, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and stir;
add the milk and stir again. Add the dry ingredients and stir
until thoroughly mixed. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Microwave on high for up to 3 minutes, checking after 90 seconds.
(In an 1100 watt microwave, my muffin cooked in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.)

Spiced Applesauce Cake in a Mug

Applesauce Cake with Butter

Can you tell that I’m obsessed with mug recipes? This past week, I’ve been working feverishly to put up a show. I choreographed a long dance piece that opened yesterday, so I haven’t had much time to grocery shop, cook, do dishes, or just about anything else unrelated to dancing. With few clean dishes, a nearly empty pantry, and very little time, I’ve had to get creative when I get hungry.

I find mug cooking for breakfast to be perfect. It only takes me a couple of minutes to put together, tastes great, and is additive free. Two days ago, I made banana bread in a mug. Unfortunately, that was my last banana. One of the few ingredients that I have lying around at the moment is applesauce. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to make applesauce cake in a mug. It was delicious! I hope you enjoy it too.

This recipe is amazing for breakfast or a snack with a bit of butter. It would also make a wonderful dessert with a bit of drizzled cream cheese icing or topped with vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce.

Ingredients:
1/4 Cup applesauce
1/2 Egg, lightly beaten (or 1 egg yolk)
Dash Vanilla extract
4 Tbsp All-purpose flour
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Baking soda
Pinch Salt
Dash cinnamon
Dash Ginger
Dash Cloves

Batter

Add all of the ingredients to a mug and stir to combine. Microwave on high for up to 3 minutes, checking after 90 seconds; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. This cake rises quite a bit, so keep an eye on it; if it looks about to pour over the sides, pause the cooking until it settles.

Applecause Cake