Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes

Spring has only just barely joined us here in Bozeman and I am ready for it. Although I haven’t yet figured out in what capacity I’m going to participate in running season this year, not needing multiple layers of clothing to visit the great outdoors is definitely improving my morale. M and I have been hiking every weekend since mid-March when the ski area closed, and with the social distancing practices it’s turned us from standard trails towards wandering about new-to-us public lands.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

As the snow became less frequent and the plants started to show bits of color, my typical lemon cravings arrived too. I’d had cupcakes on my list to make for approximately a year at this point and a springtime version seemed the obvious solution. (Plus it allowed me to use these gorgeous cupcake liners I bought at Costco way too many years ago.) Borrowing a recipe from the always-amazing Pastry Affair, I set out on a cupcake quest. I knew I wanted to incorporate an herbaceous aspect and with thyme being the most appropriate herb available at the store that day, I was inspired by yet another Pastry Affair scone recipe I’d made last year.

Knowing I wanted a lighter buttercream frosting in lieu of a decadent cream cheese concoction, I modified a separate recipe with another addition of thyme in order to harmonize the two recipes with plenty of springtime flavor.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Moist and light, these cupcakes are packed with blueberries and accented with lemon and thyme for a slight twist on a classic. They are not exorbitantly sweet which means even with the buttercream frosting it’s a reasonable sugar high. (Still plenty sweet though, it is a cupcake, after all.) The frosting is fluffy and bright with a little thyme flavor, and a few specks of the herb throughout. I opted for some simple rose swirls to keep it a relatively light amount of frosting, and to bring an edible bouquet to my kitchen.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

These keep well on the counter, remaining moist and delicious for at least five days. Realistically probably longer but we’d given away or demolished all 18 of them by then. If you’re in need of a wonderful treat with plenty to share, these cupcakes are perfect. They’d make a lovely addition to Mother’s Day but are low-stress enough for any weekday treat.

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Cupcakes {{Baking Bytes}}

Blueberry Thyme Cupcakes

Vaguely adapted from Pastry Affair
Makes 18 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2-3 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp lemon zest, minced

2 large eggs

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Sicilian Lemon olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp vanilla

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 Tbsp flour (if using frozen berries)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare two cupcake tins with a total of 18 baking cups.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer, cream together butter,  sugar, and thyme until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one, then mix in yogurt, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Add in the dry mixture about 1/4 cup at a time,  until mostly combined.
  6. Stir in the milk on low speed until the batter is smooth and there are no flour streaks.
  7. If you have frozen berries, toss them with the tablespoon of flour until well coated.
  8. Gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.
  9. Fill each baking cup with about 1/4 cup off batter, then bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (If your tins will fit side by side on the same oven rack, you can bake them all at once, otherwise I recommend doing each tin separately.)
  10. Cool briefly in pan, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely prior to frosting.
  11. Frost as desired, then store in a sealed container on the counter up to one week (or until devoured.)

Lemon Thyme Buttercream Frosting

Borrowed from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes about 2.5 cups

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp lemon zest, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, minced
pinch of salt

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy, about two minutes.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients on low speed until just coming together.
  3. Beat on high speed for three minutes, until frosting is fluffy, uniform, and fragrant.
  4. If necessary, adjust consistency with an additional 1/4 cup powdered sugar another tablespoon of cream to thicken or thin, respectively.
  5. If you are relatively light with frosting (like me), you can store leftovers in the freezer. Bring to room temperature and beat again before using, adjusting texture with additional cream if needed.

Bacon, Bean, & Brussels Bowl

One of my yearly intentions is to use up the special and fun ingredients I have hoarded over the years. Much like gift cards, I enjoy the idea of using fancy things even more than actually doing so. Unfortunately, this results in a somewhat ridiculous amount of my cupboard space being filled with anything I consider rare, expensive, or difficult to replace. In an effort to not wait for a special occasion but instead to make every day a special occasion, I’m off on a journey of using what we have.

Brussels, Bacon, & Bean Bowl {{Baking Bytes}}

As such, when I rediscovered this delightful lemon dill mustard I started to put it on, well, everything. You may remember it from the meatloaf grilled cheese from two weeks ago. Wraps, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, burgers, bowls…you name it, I’ve done it. It’s a wonderful spring and summer condiment since it carries all the lightness of lemon with the heartiness of a mustard. I am nearing the end of the jar and after I make it through my remaining hoarded condiments, I will definitely be treating myself to another.

Brussels, Bacon, & Bean Bowl {{Baking Bytes}}

This bowl was born of needing to use up items in the fridge without making a trip to the store. In the current climate, not making unessential excursions outside the house is even more important, and it’s definitely cut back on our trips to the grocery store. Since it’s only about a 10-minute walk, I’m not usually opposed to heading over on a baking whim, but these days I am doing my best to avoid it.

Brussels, Bacon, & Bean Bowl {{Baking Bytes}}

As such, the Brussels sprouts, canned kidney beans and copious amounts of bacon ends called to me. Mixed with a scoop of rice and a handful of spinach, the lemon dill mustard compliments everything while making it a cohesive dish. It’s extremely filling and hearty and easily tailored to your macro preferences, but hits a number of lovely flavors with minimal effort. Crispy Brussels, salty bacon, creamy rice and beans, and a pop of color from the spinach are all pulled together with a light coating of mustard (or any sauce you like) and a generous crumble of goat cheese. For vegetarian/vegan options, sub the bacon in favor of a few extra beans, and ditch the cheese or use your favor non-dairy version.

Brussels, Bacon, & Bean Bowl {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re making a single serving you can easily do it in a cast iron skillet, but for the full recipe I preferred to use the oven, which is the method outlined below. (Mostly for less bacon grease to clean up afterward.) This dish is and excellent way to use up leftover rice and beans from tacos, and it’s delicious both warm and cold if your weather also tends to flip-flop back and forth. Keeps well in the fridge for a few days (mine was all gone by then) and makes an excellent entree or side for whichever spot on the table you’re looking to fill.

Bacon, Bean, & Brussels Bowl

Serves 2 (entree) – 4 (side)

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into halves or fourths
1/4 tsp salt
2-4 oz bacon

2/3 cup (about half a can) kidney beans
1 cup cooked rice
2-4 Tbsp (lemon dill) mustard or other sauce
2 oz spinach
2 oz goat cheese (or Parmesan)
fresh pepper and dill, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line 1/3 of the sheet with foil, with the ends turns up to form a mini tray. Arrange bacon on the foil.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on the remainder of the baking sheet and add sprouts and salt. Use your hands and toss until well coated. Spread evenly on the tray, cut side down, if possible.
  4. Roast for 18-20 minutes, or until bacon is to desired crispiness. Remove foil with bacon and continue to roast the sprouts for another 5-10 minutes or until crispy. Place the bacon on a paper towel to drain, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the beans, rice, and 2 tablespoons mustard. Use a rubber scraper to gently toss until well coated.
  6. When the Brussels are done, add them and the bacon to the bowl and stir gently until evenly coated. Taste and add additional mustard, if desired.
  7. Stir in spinach, then top with goat cheese, pepper, and dill. Serve immediately for a warming entree, or cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Great as leftovers either chilled or reheated in the microwave.

Notes

Words

Squash & Lemon Spiral Tart

Springtime means lemon in my brain, so when I saw this spiral tart from Bunsen Burner Bakery I knew I wanted to incorporate that flavor. A lemon hummus seemed the perfect accompaniment to a series of veggies and I set out to test this hypothesis.

Squash & Lemon Spiral Tart {{Baking Bytes}}

The bright flavor of lemon is complimented by a generous amount of garlic. I opted to use my hefty supply Olivelle products but you can use standard varieties if needed. The turmeric lifts the yellow coloring up a notch which isn’t necessary for the tart but it’s beautiful for a party platter. You’ll have plenty of leftover hummus to enjoy on its own, and it provides a lovely creamy base for this tart without any additional sogginess.

Squash & Lemon Spiral Tart {{Baking Bytes}}

My trusty no-fail pie crust recipe is the base for this delicious dish. Since I don’t have a tart pan (something I should probably rectify, pronto) I used a standard 9″ pie plate, which works just fine. I love this pie crust recipe because it never gets over browned, but you can easily substitute your own go-to pastry here if you wish.

Squash & Lemon Spiral Tart {{Baking Bytes}}

The flaky pastry and crisp lemon flavor of the hummus blend beautifully into a base for all your veggies of choice. I chose zucchini, carrot, summer squash, and eggplant, but feel free to use whatever you have laying around the kitchen that you can slice with a mandolin. You’ll want veggies thin enough to bend, but no thinner. On my mandolin I used the thinnest setting for the carrot and the next one up for the rest of the vegetables, but definitely do a test slice to see what makes sense for yours.

spiral_tart_2

Concentric rings of vegetable goodness are pleasing to the eye and the tongue. Finished with a bit of rosemary (or your favorite herb) for a spark of flavor and a pretty garnish, this tart is a prefect addition to your next brunch. This tart is inherently vegan (presuming you use a vegan pie crust) but for the rest of us a sprinkle of goat cheese is the perfect topping for each piece. To round out the meal, I enjoyed mine with a side of eggs and fruit.

spiral_tart_5

This tart would be sure to please at a Mother’s Day brunch, or to brighten any regular day too. If you have any leftovers, they are excellent cold or reheated in the oven, so be sure to enjoy every last bite!

Squash & Lemon Spiral Tart

Inspired by Bunsen Burner Bakery
Makes one 9″ tart

Ingredients

pastry for a single-crust pie

1 medium zucchini
1 small eggplant
1 small yellow squash
3 large carrots
1 Tbsp (Caramelized Garlic ) olive oil

1/2 cup lemon garlic hummus (below)

1-2 tsp fresh rosemary or other herb

lemon garlic hummus (adapted from Well and Full)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp (Caramelized Garlic or Sicilian Lemon) olive oil (I used 2 Tbsp Garlic and 1 Tbsp Lemon)
2 Tbsp tahini
1-3 cloves garlic (depending on if you’re using infused oil)
zest and juice from 1 large lemon
1/2 tsp (Garlic) salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Make ahead: add all hummus ingredients to a food processor, starting with half the lemon juice, and process until smooth. Taste and add additional lemon juice (for flavor) or oil (for consistency) as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Gently lay pastry in a 9″ pie plate or tart pan. Trim and crimp the edges, as desired. Refrigerate pastry for 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Prick pastry generously all over with a fork (or use pie weights if you prefer) and bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool while you prepare the veggies.
  5. Use a mandolin to thinly slice all the veggies. (On mine I used setting 2 for the squash and eggplant, and setting 1 for the carrots.) Add all the slices to a large bowl and use your hands to gently toss in olive oil. Don’t add too much oil because the eggplant likes to soak it all up!
  6. Retrieve the pastry and spread 1/2 cup of hummus evenly along the bottom.
  7. Starting from the outside, layer the strips of veggies in whatever order you like; I opted for a repeating pattern of concentric circles but it’s totally up to you.
  8. Spray with olive oil (or lightly brush it on) and sprinkle with rosemary or herb of choice.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender and starting to crisp, and crust is a golden brown. If necessary (it wasn’t for me) you can cover the crust edges with foil if they are browning too quickly.
  10. Serve warm, optionally topped with goat cheese. Goes great with a side of eggs and fruit!
  11. Store leftovers in the fridge. I suspect it’d last about 3 days but I can’t confirm because we ate it all before then. Enjoy chilled or reheat in the [toaster] oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.

Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Quinoa

Springtime in Montana can be a bit….wintery. Around my mid-March birthday is usually the time I stop dreaming about skiing and start wanting to get on the trails again. Unfortunately Montana is more of the “maybe let’s snow until May” mindset which is great for extended ski seasons and less ideal for the hikers and runners.

It also makes it challenging to match meals to the season when the season is January in the morning and June by the afternoon. My brain says citrus and the snow says soup, which can be matched successfully but not without a lot of sighing involved.

Most of the year I start my day with a bowl of oatmeal or a veggie scramble, but as summer gets closer I start looking forward to something new to switch it up. I still want something warm since it’s often chilly in the mornings, but my standard peanut butter and banana oatmeal can feel a bit heavy some days. Having recently seen a couple recipes for breakfast quinoa, I decided to give that a try.

Springtime always means lemon to me, and since I’ve been craving poppyseed muffins lately that seemed like the route to go. Fresh and light with citrus but still a bit sweet and cozy with poppyseeds, it turned into an easy breakfast perfect for those days when I am just not feeling the oatmeal vibe. Much like all porridge creations, there is a lot of subjectivity to what makes a perfect bowl, so use my recipe as a guideline to get you started and then play with it to your heart’s content. I keep mine pretty low sugar and I will not be upset if you want to add more sugar or more lemon juice to bring it up to your par.

I added sliced almonds for a little crunch and a protein boost, and a drizzle of my favorite Meyer Lemon Vinegar on top. An ardent Olivelle fan, I use their products whenever possible, but I understand you may not have access. (Although they do have sellers all over, and they also ship. I’m just saying. They should really give me a commission.) It is not a necessary addition but it does add a boost of flavor and a touch of sweetness that I found complimented everything nicely.

If you, too, need to mix up your mornings a bit, give this a try. With around 15 grams of protein per serving it should satiate you nicely, while feeling fresh and light for spring. Hope you enjoy it!

Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Quinoa
Makes one serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1-3 Tbsp lemon juice (Meyer lemon if you can get it, otherwise regular is great)
enough water to total 1 cup
1-2 Tbsp sugar (or simple syrup)
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)

2 Tbsp sliced almonds
Meyer Lemon Vinegar (optional but fun!)

Directions

  1. In a small pot, briefly whisk together quinoa, lemon juice, water, sugar, poppyseeds, and extract.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in half the almonds, then transfer to bowl. Top with remaining almonds, and, optionally, a drizzle of Meyer Lemon Vinegar.
  4. Serve immediately.

Notes

Pour desired amount of lemon juice into a measuring cup, then add water until the total is one cup.

For reference, I used 1 Tbsp sugar with 2 Tbsp lemon juice because I don’t like my porridges to be very sweet but I prefer a decently strong lemon flavor. If you like a sweeter experience definitely up the sugar and/or reduce the lemon juice.

Lemon Basil Ice Cream

[Welcome to July AKA National Ice Cream Month! To celebrate, each Friday I will be posting a new delicious ice cream flavor alongside my regularly scheduled posts. Hope you enjoy the series!]

Once again we have arrived at the final week of National Ice Cream Month. It’s been a whirlwind of a month (at least for me) and hard to believe August is nearly upon us. With three weddings and two extremely intense races ahead of me, the next five weeks are set to be pretty crazy. Here’s hoping I make it out alive and unbroken. In the meantime, we can enjoy one more ice cream recipe together.

This one is easily my favorite of this year’s ensemble. Although I’ve really enjoyed the other three, this is the one that really struck home for me. Light and refreshing lemon with the herbal notes of basil, it’s a concoction more often found in a savory entrée than sweet desserts, but I assure you it works extremely well in both situations. I originally tasted this pairing at a gelato shop in Boulder, Colorado last summer, during a work trip. I loved how the basil added a different note to the whole experience, without being overpowering.

This year I attempted to create my own version to share with all of you. Although it took a few tries to get right, it was worth those mediocre batches to get to the final product. The superbly creamy texture is brightened with a pronounced lemon flavor without it tasting sour. The basil comes as a surprise since there’s no indication in the pale yellow coloring (unless you miss a few leaves when you strain it…which I did), so I recommend warning consumers ahead of time. The two are a flawless pairing and perfect on a hot summer day, but might be shocking if you aren’t expecting it.

Like the blueberry lavender from a few weeks ago, this ice cream tastes much lighter than it actually is, but I assure you it’s as high in fat and sugar as ever. I portioned mine into small 4-6oz servings as it’s very easy to get carried away, and then I can just grab them straight from the freezer. This makes it easier to serve, and to make sure it’s a reasonable amount – it’s also much faster to serve to guests! I will admit the containers I use have a tendency to fall over, but I’ve yet to find stable ones that are both small enough and not crazy expensive. The search continues.

This ice cream is delightful all on its own, but I think it’d also be lovely with a scoop of blueberry crisp. Lemon and blueberry are always a sure bet, and I think the basil would blend wonderfully into the whole shebang. The next time I make crisp or cobbler I will definitely make a batch of this to pair with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s series and have some fun new flavors to try, or at least drool over. We will now resume our regularly scheduled programming, with plenty of deliciousness ahead!

Lemon Basil Ice Cream 

Makes ~6 cups

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole or 2% milk
1 oz fresh basil leaves (a large handful), chopped
zest of 2 lemons

3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup egg substitute
juice of 2 lemons

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, lightly muddle basil and lemon zest. Add milk and heat to a light simmer.
  2. Remove milk from heat and let steep at least 15 minutes.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients until completely combined.
  4. Slowly stream in milk with the basil and zest, whisking constantly.
  5. Cover bowl and chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, or overnight. (Mixture will likely be rather thicker than normal – this is expected!)
  6. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain mixture to remove leaves and zest.
  7. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions, then place in a cold freezer-safe bowl to freeze overnight, or until firm.