Lemon Ricotta Muffins

While I was at Safeway the other week, I noticed that bags of great looking lemons were on sale. Since I think I buy at least two lemons a week anyway (or so it seems), I purchased a bag feeling that roommate Alex and I would easily make our way through it. A few days later, I was reading my cousin’s blog and saw a recipe for lemon ricotta muffins. The recipe seemed easy enough and cousin Cathy’s muffins came out superbly (her words), so I decided to give the muffins a try myself.

If there were an idiot proof muffin recipe, it may be this one. These muffins were ready in a jiffy and I can’t imagine them being any more difficult than making muffins from a boxed mix. On top of that, they were so delicious I think I ate a muffin each time I walked by the kitchen breakfast time or no. I loved the brightness of the muffins due to using both the zest and the juice of the lemon as well as the crunch from the demerara sugar on top. As a bonus, the recipe called for part skim ricotta rather than butter so the muffins are slightly healthier than the average muffin though still moist and crumbly. They taste the best when warm, but you can really eat them at room temperature if you’re too lazy to pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds. As proof of the versatility of these muffins below is a list of the top five times I enjoyed one of these bad boys.

Top 5 Moments I Enjoyed a Lemon Ricotta Muffin
1. Hot out of the oven late in the evening
2. Running out the door on my way to Mass
3. Upon returning to Mass but before lunch
4. After a run
5. Dessert Post Bo Ssam

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Bo Ssam Feast

Earlier this month, Sam Sifton wrote an article in the New York Times about Bo Ssam, specifically David Chang’s Bo Ssam that can be had at Momofuku Ssam Bar. The article mentioned how easily Chang’s version of bo ssam can be made at home. Although I had the Momofuku cookbook and probably looked at the same recipe for bo ssam a dozen times, I never thought it was something I could make myself until I read Sam Sifton’s article.

With some help from trusted friends, last Sunday’s bo ssam feast came together quite nicely. I made the pork and procured the kimchi from my favorite Eastern Market vendors, Emily was in charge of the ginger scallion sauce and the bibb lettuce, Alex made the rice and provided the wine, and former co-worker Adam made the ssam sauce. After setting off the smoke detector twice while caramelizing the crust of the pork, the four of us were ready to dig in.

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Quinoa and Vegetable Stew

Like many people, one of my new year resolutions is to eat healthier. Other than a piece or two of chocolate during the day, it usually it isn’t very difficult for me to eat healthy during the week. However, when I got sick last fall I became much less disciplined when it came to my diet. Although I rarely ate unhealthily, I stopped making the effort to fill up with fruit and vegetables.

Knowing I had a big weekend of eating ahead of me, including a Bo Ssam feast, I wanted to eat light and healthy in the days prior and with temperatures in the 30s, I also really wanted soup. Enter: quinoa and vegetable stew. Although I really like the nutty taste of quinoa and love that it is a super food filled with vitamins and protein, I do not cook it as often as I’d like. For one, the various quinoa salads and stirfrys I had made were fine, but there wasn’t anything I was eager to make again. Secondly, a lot of recipes use quinoa as a replacement for rice. While that may be fine for some people, I love rice way too much to replace it with anything.

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Hanky Panky

This past summer, my friend Ben came to D.C. for his one year Howard Hughes Institute Fellowship. Ben drove all the way to D.C. from Iowa and on the way, stopped in Rhode Island and had a Hanky Panky cocktail. When Ben first told me about this cocktail, I couldn’t believe it was a real drink. I insisted that it was something the restaurant had just made up and put on their menu, but Ben told me it was a legitimate classic cocktail and made it his mission to find one in D.C. Only a few days later, I was visiting my favorite bar and there on their chalkboard was a drink called the Swanky Panky that had all the ingredients of a Hanky Panky. This thing does exist outside of Rhode Island. In fact, the cocktail is credited to Ada Coleman head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

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Risotto with Winter Squash and Leeks

One of the favorite dishes Emily and I have made since we started cooking together is risotto with butternut squash and leeks. We first made it last fall when Emily, desiring a slightly healthier Sunday night dinner, suggested using butternut squash. While looking for ideas for butternut squash dishes, I was drawn to this recipe due to my love of leeks and the comfort of risotto.

The first time we made it, the risotto turned out so great I couldn’t wait to make it again so when roommate Alex offered up her acorn squash from the Green Grocer for our Sunday dinner, I jumped at the chance to make this squash and leek risotto. Fortunately, acorn and butternut squash are essentially interchangeable though acorn squash is a bit more watery. Due to its shape, the acorn squash was also a bit more difficult to work with than the butternut squash but the effort was worth it. The risotto was just as tasty as the first time we made it. I really enjoyed how the roasted squash slightly melted into the risotto. The melted leeks added a richness to the risotto that was especially delightful.

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Creamy Wild Mushroom and Turnip Soup

For the first course of the first Sunday dinner of 2012, Emily and I made a creamy wild mushroom and turnip soup. There is lots to love about this soup. Most importantly, the soup was incredibly earthy and delicious. Great for cold-ish winter evenings. I also liked that it was creamy without having to use any cream at all, making the soup a healthy dish. My favorite part was the floating island of toast and mushrooms. The soup was thick enough that it only softened the toast rather than soaking right through the piece of bread. Each bite of the island still contained a nice crunch with the taste of soup and mushrooms. I would happily make this again and eat it all on its own.

Creamy Wild Mushroom and Turnip Soup (adapted from the New York Times)

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, sliced, about 2 cups
2 small turnips, peeled and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 thyme branch, plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, more if necessary
2 tablespoons chopped dried morel or porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound wild mushrooms, in roughly 1/8-inch slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 slices day-old baguette
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS:
Melt the butter in a deep heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat.

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Sunday Dinner

Last Spring, my friend Emily and I started cooking together on a regular basis. This eventually evolved into our almost weekly Sunday night dinners. While I am constantly thinking about food and Sunday dinner possibilities, I wait until Wednesday to send her an e-mail and ask for her thoughts. We try to make something that we normally wouldn’t be able to during the week and which also provides us with leftovers for the next day or two. We also like to have a glass of wine or a cocktail in hand while cooking because that makes things more interesting. After a delicious 2011, Emily and I vowed an even more tasty 2012.

Roommate Alex, Emily, myself and a few friends started off the first Sunday dinner of 2012 with some pate I had picked up at Whole Foods earlier that day and Spanish ham which Alex brought back from her recent trip to Spain paired with cantaloupe.

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