The Best Blueberry Muffin Recipe!

June 20, 2015

The best blueberry muffin recipe ever! The perfect blend of not-too-sweet and great texture.

The best blueberry muffins ever!!

I know that it’s a pretty lofty claim, but I think I’ve stumbled upon the best blueberry muffin recipe ever. I have always loved the Smitten Kitchen Blueberry Muffin recipe. It has been my go-to recipe for years now, with the perfect combo of sweetness and texture. As I prepared to make that recipe this morning, I realized that I didn’t have the required amount of butter. So I modified it and substituted some of the butter with coconut oil. I also didn’t have a lemon (for the zest), so I subbed orange zest instead. I also was scraping down to my last bits of sugar, so I had to modify that as well. I ended up subbing some of the sugar with the sweetness from a half banana. The result was pure bliss for my family. My kids ate a bunch of these. “These are the best blueberry muffins you’ve ever made. You need to go write this recipe down before you forget it!” proclaimed my husband, who is not usually a big fan of muffins, due to the carb overload and ultra-sweetness. Hearing those words from him prompted this post!

Recipe (modified from the Smitten Kitchen recipe):

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 of a medium banana, sliced very thin
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t bother defrosting). I am very partial to Trader Joe’s Wild Boreal frozen blueberries, due to their superb flavor.

 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray (I love Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray). Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer. The add the egg and beat well, then the yogurt and the orange zest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a sifter and sift half of the dry ingredients over the batter. Mix with the electric mixer until combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients into the batter and mix with a spatula just until the flour disappears. Gently fold in your blueberries and bananas. The dough will be thick, resembling a cookie dough, which is why an ice cream scoop or a spoon is a great tool to fill your muffin cups. You’re looking for them to be about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.

Corned Beef Hash

March 17, 2013

Do you have leftover corned beef from St. Patty’s Day?  Here’s a delicious recipe for corned beef hash that I made today:

photo(11)

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil ( I use grapeseed oil)
  • 1/2 red onion (yellow or white is also fine), chopped
  • 8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes*, chopped in small 1/2″ cubes (I use the Progressive Onion Chopper – I LOVE this kitchen staple for chopping veggies!)
  • 3/4 pound cooked corned beef
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 or 2 pats of butter
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil on medium-high in a cast iron skillet and add the onion.  Cook until slightly brown.
  2. Add potatoes and 1/4 cup of the wine, leaving uncovered for 30 seconds to allow the alcohol to evaporate.  Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook the potatoes until al dente, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the wine, the corned beef, butter, oregano, thyme, and garlic powder.  Stir.  Cover for another 3-5 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.

YUM!

*Note: It’s best to use Yukon Gold potatoes because they hold their shape and are super-creamy.  Russet potatoes will not yield the same result!

Healthy Homemade Crock Pot Refried Beans – No Lard

March 13, 2013

I really had no idea that homemade refried beans were so easy to make until I tried this recipe at 100 Days of Real Food.  I tweaked that recipe enough that it became somewhat different from their recipe, so I thought creating my own recipe was in good order.  Most of the ingredients are the same, but  I changed the amounts to suit my preference for stronger garlic, onion, and salt flavors.  I always figured refried beans only came from a can and that making them at home would be a long laborious process.  Boy, was I wrong!  I’ll never buy another can of refried beans again.  This takes literally 5-10 minutes to prepare and is absolutely more delicious than anything from a can.  Be sure to do this before bed or in the morning before work, because they need 6-8 hours to cook fully.

Put in your crock pot the following ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 chopped jalapeno peppers, ribbed and seeded (or leave them in if you like it very spicy)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups water


Dry ingredients in the crock pot

Cook in your crock pot or slow cooker on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.  After they are fully cooked, use a ladle to remove about 3/4 of the remaining water.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher and viola! you have healthy, delicious refried beans that are not from a can!  Salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.  They will be a bit runny until they cool some, so don’t worry.

I love to top them with shredded Gruyere cheese and a large spoonful of plain yogurt.   Mmmmmm…..  And a nice way to have them on-hand is to bag them in 2-cup serving sizes in the freezer and defrost when you’re ready to use them.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine they could be defrosted in the crock pot!

 

Braised Lamb Shank Stew

December 13, 2012

I love eating nutritious, whole foods as much as possible… and I love making them from other people’s recipes.  Key words here: other people’s recipes.  What I mean is I don’t really like creating and writing food recipes.  I feel like there are gazillions more organizations/chefs/people qualified to do this, who have dedicated so much more of their time to recipe-creation (hello, Cooks Illustrated!) that it just isn’t worth the hassle to try and change them.  But, dear reader, I make a mean braised lamb shank stew and I will now share it with you.

While I have always loved braised lamb shanks, I was never fond of the lamb stock left after the process was complete.  It was always too gamey and adding vegetables to it made the vegetables gamey as well.  This resulted in a hold-your-breath-while-eating-your-veggies phenomenon for me.  No bueno.  To resolve this issue, I tried using one set of broth for braising the lamb and then removing about 3/4 of it after the meat started falling off the bone.  Then I brought in separate chicken broth (homemade, when possible) to finish off the meat and veggies.  This resulted in beautifully braised lamb shanks with delicious vegetables and a rich, lightly lamb-y broth.  Not only did I get fall-off-the-bone lamb goodness, but I ended up with a complete stew to go with it.  Woo hoo!  This got rave reviews in my house, from the hubby and kids alike.  The removed gamey lamb broth can be frozen for future use (sparingly) in both lamb and non-lamb dishes.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb lamb shanks
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp herbs de Provence
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, choipped
  • 4-5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
  • 3 medium stalks celery, chopped
  • 14 0z. can of diced tomatoes, drained

Instructions

  • Pat lamb shanks dry with paper towel.
  • Combine salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence in a bowl.  Rub lamb shanks all over with this mixture.

  • Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large dutch oven pot on medium-high. Do not let it get to smoking.
  • Once the oil is heated, brown the lamb shanks uniformly (approximately 2-4 minutes each side).

  • Add red wine to the pot and let it simmer for a 2-3 minutes.
  • Add chopped garlic cloves and pour enough water into pot that it is almost covering the lamb shanks.

  • Add 2 bay leaves and a pinch of salt.
  • Once water starts to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for approximately 2 hours or until the meat  separates from the bone and is tender.
  • Remove lamb shanks, placing them in a large plate.  Remove all of the gamey lamb broth, placing it in a large bowl.  Do not discard!
  • In your already-hot pot, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and add the onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, until transparent.
  • Add carrots, celery, and potato.  Saute for a few more minutes until aromas are released.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Add the lamb shanks to the vegetables and ladle about 1/4 of the gamey lamb broth into the pot.
  • Add chicken broth, 2 bay leaves, and a can of drained diced tomatoes.  Sprinkle in some herbs de Provence for a bit of added flavor (optional).  If you need a bit more liquid to cover the vegetables, add water.
  • Get to a rolling boil, then simmer until the vegetables are cooked through, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Try not to eat all of the lamb while standing over the stove, because there are other people in the house who will want some too (I always have to remind myself of this).
  • Ladle into wide bowls and serve with a slice of Italian bread for soaking up juices.

Enjoy!

Sore Throat Remedy

June 29, 2012

I found this recipe on www.earthclinic.com and just had to share it.  So far, it has worked very well for two sore throats that I had, and there are testimonials from other people on the Earth Clinic website that say the same. You may have to do this twice to knock out a tough sore throat, but be sure to space it out (once in the morning and once at night). It burns going down, but don’t worry…  The heat dissipates and all you’re left with is a relieved sore throat after about 30 minutes!

Recipe:
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see note)
1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the “mother” intact, see note below)
2 tablespoons water

Mix well and sip until gone.  Please do NOT down this like a shot, as that could burn immensely.  Sipping is key!

Regarding the maple syrup: Be sure to get real maple syrup, not Aunt Jemimah.

Regarding the apple cider vinegar (ACV): Not all ACV is created equal.  Most of the standard grocery store brands are filtered and pasteurized, resulting in a transparent liquid.  Stay away from those, as their nutritional benefits have been completely stripped.  You can get unfiltered, unpasteurized ACV with the “mother” (a cloudy substance) still intact at Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Vitacost, and most other natural foods stores. You will know that you have the right ACV when you shake it and you see cloudy residue.  The resulting liquid (after shaking) is opaque.

This remedy works very well, and most likely due to the capsaicin content of the cayenne pepper.  Therefore, if you have mouth sores, throat sores, or stomach ulcers, this remedy is not recommended for you.  It could cause burning.  As always, check with your doctor before partaking in any home remedies. This remedy does NOT cure strep throat or any other bacterial or viral infection.  If you have strep throat, the only way to cure it is with antibiotics.  The remedy presented here is simply a way to relieve the pain of a store throat. It will not kill a bacterial infection.

Homemade Popsicles

June 16, 2012

A great way to save money and eat healthier snacks is by making popsicles at home.  Most of the store-bought popsicles are loaded with HFCS, artificial flavorings, and food colorings.  Plus, store-bought popsicles are expensive and wasteful (think of all of the wrappers).  Those natural/organic yogurt popsicles from places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are even more expensive.  I usually see them for $1+ each.

I have been making homemade popsicles for my kids for a couple of years now.  All you need is a mixer, your ingredients, and popsicle molds.  These popsicles molds have been great for us.  I love that I can tone down the sweetness by not adding any extra sweeteners.  If we need a bit of sweetness, we add some agave nectar, dates, or stevia.  We almost always throw some yogurt in for the calcium and active cultures.  And when the girls aren’t looking, I add in some spinach as well.

Here is a favorite recipe of ours:

  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 5-6 medium organic strawberries
  • 1 medium banana
  • a splash of orange juice or organic apple juice
  • a few spinach leaves (optional)
  • natural sweetener of your choice, to taste (optional)

Blend until smooth.  If there are lumps, it’s okay.  They will freeze and become part of the solid popsicle.  Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, freeze for 8-12 hours.  Run under hot water to loosen the mold from the popsicle.

Another super-easy recipe:

  • Fill your mold about halfway with your favorite juice (be sure to use 100% juice).  We like Trader Joe’s peach or mango.
  • Fill it the rest of the way with water.

Freeze 8-12 hours.  Run under hot water to loosen the mold from the popsicle.

ENJOY!  Have one yourself… you deserve it!

Homemade Popcorn Recipe

May 2, 2012

Do you make popcorn from those store-bought Orville Reden-whoever bags?  Once you see how easy it is to make homemade popcorn, you’ll never want to buy those bags again!  They are lined inside with chemicals (specifically, perfluorinated carboxylic acids or PFCAs) that should not be heated up.  Heated PFCAs enter the bloodstream and their effects are largely unknown, as is the case with so many of the chemicals used in food products these days.  These are the same chemicals that are used in junk food wrappers and non-stick pans, among other things.  Also, the chemicals they use to flavor the popcorn are all artificial.  Making popcorn from scratch takes about two minutes longer than the bagged stuff, and it is significantly cheaper and much more environmentally friendly.  It’s worth it!

Recipe
Just three ingredients:

  • a handful of popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons oil that can handle heat (I use grapeseed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

Heat the oil in a large stock pot on medium heat.  Add the salt and stir it around some.  Add the kernels and stir to coat them all with the oil/salt mix:

There are some kernels in the photo that have already started popping!

Put the lid on the pot but leave it slightly open so steam can escape:

The kernels will begin popping rapidly after a few minutes of heat.  Once 2-3 seconds pass without any popping sounds, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a bowl.  Salt to taste.

Enjoy your chemical-free popcorn!  Variations – after popping:

  • Drizzle melted butter for a movie theater popcorn experience
  • Drizzle honey or agave nectar for a sweet ‘n salty popcorn similar to kettle corn
  • Sprinkle garlic powder and crushed seaweed for a gourmet treat
  • Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian herbs for a fresh, herby popcorn

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