Blueberries are definitely my favorite berries to bake with. As much as I love the other berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.), blueberries are the easiest to bake (no seeds to worry about!) and the most forgiving (meaning that they don’t go bad in the refrigerator after a few days!). And blueberries muffins? Oh – how can I say no to them? They’re my absolute favorite, breakfast, snacks, or brunch – you just name them. I have yet found a recipe though, that I like, without using a ton of butter. My favorite one so far is these Blythe’s Blueberry Muffins, because they are simple like muffins should be – with lots of blueberries, and moist and gorgeous tender crumbs. With 1/2 cups of butter, they fall under occasional treats. These ones caught my eyes several months ago, and I knew that I had to try them while the berries season is still here.
I love the combination of the blueberries and lemon, and I definitely wanted the lemon flavor to be strong, so I used all lemon juice in the icing, but if you wanted something a little subdued, you can substitute half with warm water. I also had just recently switched to using unbleached organic all purpose flour, so the new flour that I have been using actually has a significantly darker color than its all-white conventional all purpose flour, so I was a little skeptical to see how they would work in the recipe. But it absolutely had no impact on its tender, moist texture. The batter was pretty dark; it almost looked like I used all whole-wheat flour, but somehow the color lightened up after baking.
I am actually pretty impressed at how it turned out, and loved that this recipe used half oil, and half butter. I also believe that it will be versatile enough to be made into other flavors, and can be made into baked doughnuts. I may need to break out my doughnuts pan and make these into delightful little doughnuts. If you’re looking for other baking inspirations, make sure you check out Jaida’s blog for other fabulous recipes using summer fruits!
We’re a week away from the first official day of summer; and summer schedule has kicked in at a very high gear at our house. I’m overdue for another (or two) recipe to share with you guys. With some hard-core spring cleaning weekend, my son turning two, followed fiercely by pre-school graduations, friends’ and family visits, first trips to the zoo for the summer, birthday parties’ invites (a couple that we’ve just had to say no), dance activities(picture, rehearsal and then recitals!), we haven’t officially had any free weekends since April. I am guilty of unintentionally trying to squeeze in any and all outdoor activities whenever possible. I’m constantly trying to step my toes outside of my doors to catch the beautiful warm sun and summer breeze. I must say though, the rain that we’ve been getting has given me a little bit of an excuse to do some baking as well.
I have been eyeing this new chocolate chip cookies for a couple of years now; and decided that it’s time for me to give it a try; as a couple of our good friends were coming to visit for a zoo outing. I had to share these cookies with them! This cookie recipe, with an extended resting time, gained popularity among bloggers probably around that same time. And I think I know what the buzz was all about; and really kick myself for not trying it sooner. Joanne Chang completely changed my perspective on using bread flour on chocolate chip cookies, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the bread flour being used again on this recipe; along with cake flour. This cookie isn’t for the faint of heart – it is a big handsome cookie: it is recommended to be served large (I use my large ice-cream scoop), chewy on the inside, with intense chocolate flavors, crispy in the outside, and you get a bite of chocolates in every bite. It is the kind that you would bite into, and immediately want that very cold glass of milk to wash down all of that chocolate. I am definitely stocking my freezer with this cookie now (and you should too!).
My son tuned TWO years old yesterday! Yes, two whole years old. Everyone always tells me that when it comes about parenting, or raising kids, the days are long, but the years are short. And boy, this weekend, as I frosted these chocolate cupcakes for his birthday, I couldn’t agree more. For the past several months, I have noticed a huge difference in how much he talks and rambles off his colors, shapes, numbers, and animals, he also strongly voices his preferences, showing his independence, and he plays pretty hard with his almost five-year old sister. One of the disadvantages of having families who live far away, our birthday parties are small, and intimate, and they are often combined with visit. On the other hand, I get absolutely no pressure of throwing parties where extended families expect an invite of an elaborate birthday parties. Since my folks were coming to visit for this upcoming holiday weekend, I thought that we can just push back his birthday celebration to next weekend; so I can bake a nice layered cake, and have him open all of the gifts at the same. My husband and I also took Friday off to do some major de-cluttering in our garage and basement, so we were pretty pooped.
But get this, as most moms can relate, as I laid down on my bed (on Friday night) thinking about his upcoming birthday on Sunday, I decided that while yes, he’s only two years old, and I’m not sure even sure if he would care or even remember. I thought, I would celebrate it on the actual day. Even if it’s a small-ish one, with balloons, cupcakes, and a gift that he can open. After all, this wasn’t only a celebration for him, it is a celebration for all of us in the family, a tradition in our family that I hope that both kids remember. My daughter is convinced that she recalls her two-year old birthday, when she cried as soon as she saw her Elmo-shaped cake. So maybe he will remember anyhow, who knows! So at the last minute, I decided to make cupcakes, and my daughter thought that chocolate sounds good. She’s pretty convinced that her little brother loves chocolate cupcakes. I had been eyeing this new chocolate cupcake recipe that I thought sound so fantastic. And if the frosting has magic in its name, it’s got to be good, right? I told my husband that we absolutely should do something to celebrate him on his actual birthday. And I am so glad that we did.
He woke us up bright and early yesterday, and we wished him a happy birthday. He kept on saying that he was two years now (see, I think he gets it!). We fed the kids a quick breakfast, and we all went to get balloons, which he gladly picked out himself. Then I hung a Happy Birthday banner on our fireplace mantle, his balloons, and a gift bag nearby, smack in the middle of our living room. We told him that I was baking him birthday cupcakes. He waited pretty patiently, for a two-year old. He couldn’t keep his eyes off his gift bag the whole time. When we finally finished the cupcakes, along with the ah-mazing frosting, my daughter led us to a chorus of Happy Birthday, then she blew his candle for him, gave him a huge kiss, and helped herself to a cupcake as he was tearing up the gift bag. And oh, let’s talk about the cupcake. The chocolate cupcake was probably the best one yet that I have tasted. And trust me, I made and ate a lot of chocolate cupcakes. I also love that it has simple ingredients that I normally keep around the house, and no coffee (I really don’t need my kids to stay up any longer than they already do!) But that frosting! I have now declared that frosting to be the birthday frosting at our household. Yes, THAT good. It’s not very sweet, but it literally melts in your mouth. This meringue frosting reminds me of this version that I made a long time ago, but this one tasted better than I recall, and felt a lot sturdier and much more stable (great for piping), much more satiny, and feels more delicate. Either way, I will surely be making this frosting again for another birthday in the near future.
We’re officially in the first full week of May, and I am so excited that we’re one step closer to summer! This winter has been a long one for us: we had some ridiculously cold days, crappy snow storms, and a snow blower that decided to quit in the middle of it all. As you can see, I’m happy to not have to worry about all of that for a while. The weather has been warming up pretty nicely, too, which means that I get to send the kids outside as soon as we get home to occupy them until dinner time. Then of course, the end of the year activities. This weekend was full of all kinds of activities: dance recital pictures for my oldest daughter, which sounds so simple and easy, but it took almost entire morning of our Saturday. Then my little man had a fever. Not sure if he has just colds, since the weather change is usually pretty hard on the kids. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood through all of it, and I surely hope it will go away. Sick kids is definitely something that every working parent dreads.
And then, a big and very personal milestone for me was that I had decided to start practicing yoga again. I was scrambling to find all of my work out clothes, and my yoga mat. But I made a point to practice twice last week. One of them was a hot yoga. It was my first time trying it out, and it was fabulous; and I think my body, while it was pretty much out of practice, still remembers the routines. I started practicing yoga religiously, about six times a week, when I graduated from college. It was an incredible experience, as I learned my ways through eating mindfully, cooking to fuel my body, learning how to balance exercise and respecting my body for what it was capable of doing. I managed to continue my practice all through my first pregnancy. As soon as my daughter was born, almost five years ago, I fell out of practice. The daily caring of a newborn who didn’t sleep through the night until she was 18 months old wore me out. Years of almost daily yoga practice and gym routines helped me through two healthy pregnancies and labor and I was grateful for that. I knew that I was ready to go back to it. So I did. I felt like everything and everyone around me is going through some sort of changes, myself included. Good changes, I would say. And it has really inspired me to rejuvenate myself; as well as the dishes that’s been prepared in my kitchen lately. This simple chicken dish has a burst of flavors, loaded with vegetables, and you can make it as healthy or indulgence as you want it to be. I hope you enjoy it, and it’s so perfectly timed for a Cinco de Mayo celebration! Have a great week!
In the middle of scheduling a meeting for this week, my jaw dropped when I realized that I was putting meeting placeholders for the third full week of April already. What? Yesterday was the third full week since I have transitioned to my new role at work. I have been on the road more the past four weeks than I have been for the past five years; and I was out of sync. I was lucked out that I didn’t really need to travel much in my previous two jobs, so that’s about a total of five years. No matter how long my work days were, I always went home to see my babies at the end of my day, and to me that was a fair compromise. And trust me, there were too many long days than what I care to remember. Juggling a few work trips here and there have was something that I have had to relearn in the past several weeks. I’ve been meeting lots of new people, and learning at a tremendous pace about the business which I absolutely love. On top of that, I have gotten been able to reconnect with a couple of old friends that I don’t get to see on a regular basis.
All in all, the experience has been good, and I really needed the change. One thing that surprised me the most is that I missed the normalcy of cooking at home. Often times I get so bogged down with the idea of cooking dinners every single day that the novelty wears off. Cooking can feel like a chore, especially after a long day of work, and knowing that your little customers sometime will turn their nose up at the fruit of your hard-labored cooking. Fortunately to me, I was missing some solitude time in the kitchen. My husband is always willing to occupy the kids. Then I get to chop some veggies to make these salads, this particular one I was craving terribly while I was on the road. And I kept on dreaming about these fudgey homemade brownies as I was driving home.
One of the things that my husband volunteered to do, being helpful and all, was to take care of dinner recently. And what did he have in mind? Homemade pizza. The thing is, I used to love pizza. Well, let’s use the term “love” loosely now. You don’t love pizza unconditionally until you agree to still eat pizza after eating way too many take out pizzas topped with black olives, pepperoni, and cheeses since your toddler won’t eat anything else for dinner. Like that, yes. I groaned and told my husband that I wanted a little fancier topping; like shredded artichoke, a fried egg (like they do it in Rome!), anchovies, and bring on the smelly cheese. Wbat I should have known, was that making it homemade, while it takes a little extra time and more planning ahead (especially since this dough needs to rest overnight), made all of the difference! Homemade dough my friend; if you haven’t ventured out to homemade pizza, you won’t care what the toppings are, because it’s good enough. The flavors are subtle, yet prominent enough like how you imagine a pizza should be: a little crusty layer and chewy bites. And shred your own cheeses. Get the big chunks of cheeses, and slice them or shred them yourself to your heart content. And add basil leaves, since it will make you feel like an adult.