Chocolate Chip & Candied Ginger Muffins

Melty chocolate chips and spicy little bursts of candied ginger are a match made in muffin heaven, unless you’re Dustin (who isn’t the biggest ginger fan). Oh well. More for me. Today’s slightly overcast weather inspired me to take on a new baking project, and I had chocolate on the brain, as well as some candied ginger to use up. Trader Joe’s sells conveniently resealable bags of crystalized candied ginger that’s coated in sugar. In my opinion it’s a little too strong to eat by itself, but when finely chopped, it worked perfectly in this recipe. Try these muffins for a quick chocolate fix in the morning (or a decadent snack), and make sure you eat them while they’re still warm so the chocolate chips are still gooey. I found the recipe on Baking Bites, and made only a couple changes (which are marked with asterisks below).

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger*
1 cup oats**
6 TBS butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk***
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, dark or semisweet
3/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

* I didn’t have any ground ginger, so I used ground nutmeg
** not in the original recipe,  but I wanted to throw some in there!
*** I also didn’t have any buttermilk, so I used plain yogurt

  • Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin pan with paper liners (I simply buttered my silicone muffin pan).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground nutmeg, and oats.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chips and candied ginger.
  • Divide batter into prepared muffin pan, overfilling each muffin cup so that the batter slightly rises above the top of the pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm. Makes 12 muffins.


Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins

These muffins pretty much sum up everything I like in a muffin: The taste of banana bread, the tangy burst of seasonal blueberries in every bite, and the hearty texture (and health-benefits) of oatmeal. I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs – Vintage Victuals. I made only a few changes to her recipe: I didn’t have any wheat flour so I used regular all purpose flour (so they’re not quite as healthy as she originally intended), I didn’t have any apple sauce on hand so I used the same measurement of vegetable oil, and instead of buttermilk or sour cream I used the plain yogurt that was in the fridge. I still think they turned out great! Tomorrow I think one of these muffins will fuel me before rock climbing at the gym. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins
(From Vintage Victuals)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oats, rolled or quick
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (I used 2 bananas)
1 cup fresh blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin pan or line with baking cups.
  • In a large bowl combine the flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk until completely combined.
  • In a small bowl, beat together eggs, oil, yogurt, and bananas. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until almost completely moistened. Add blueberries and continue stirring just until completely moistened, being careful not to over-mix. Batter should be lumpy.
  • Fill muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This recipe yielded 16 small-ish muffins for me, but I could have just as easily made 12 larger muffins.

I ate one (ok, fine … two) right away (almost burned my mouth, but I was impatient and they smelled so good), stored some in an airtight container (which will keep for a few days), and froze the rest for a future breakfast or snack.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

What makes blueberry muffins even better? A crumbly cinnamon & sugar topping! I made these several times in Japan for my students. In true Japanese fashion, the students would always request that the muffins be divided into quarters. Then they would eat one quarter at a time (until they had eaten a whole muffin) with a small dessert fork. Picking up a whole muffin and biting into it must be an American thing! Anyway, cultural differences aside, this is a very easy and delicious muffin recipe that’s even better made with fresh blueberries. Try this crumb topping on any muffin!

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
(From Annie’s Eats via

1 ½ cups flour
3/4 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup blueberries (or more)

For streusel topping:

1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS. and 2 tsp. flour

2 TBS. cold butter, cubed

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease or line 8 muffin wells with muffin liners.
  • In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture.
  • Fold in blueberries. Pour into lined muffin cups; fill to the top.
  • Make streusel topping by combining the listed ingredients and mix well with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over tops of muffins.
  • Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes. Makes 8 large muffins.

Chocolate Chunk – Hazelnut Blondies

I was in search of a dessert that Dustin could take in his lunches all week when I came across this recipe. These blondies were simple to make and are very adaptable. You can top them with any combination of nuts and/or chocolate that you like. You’ll find that the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the crunch of the nuts compliments the sweet, chewy base. The perfect afternoon pick-me-up! The only challenge I encountered while making these was keeping my kitties off of the counter and stove while I was baking them. They sure are determined little guys.

Chocolate Chunk – Hazelnut Blondies
(Adapted from the recipe Blondies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips on Epicurious, from the July 1998 issue of Bon Appetit)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

10 tablespoons (1
1/4 sticks) salted butter
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
2 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 oz. (1 bar) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 oz. (a couple handfuls) roasted-salted hazelnuts, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and a flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugar to blend.
  • Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.
  • Gradually stir in the flour mixture (the batter will be pretty thick).
  • Pour into prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with the chopped chocolate and nuts.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the pan comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  • Cool the blondies in the pan, then cut into squares. Makes about 24.

    Lime-Glazed Birthday Cake

    Happy Birthday, Dustin! I’ve made muffins, cookies, fruit crisps, and quick breads, but this was my first birthday cake! I think I’ll be doing it again now that I’m less intimidated by my silicon baking pan. The cake itself was not too sweet, and the lime glaze (made with the limes that are growing in our backyard) was the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. And get this – according to the article in Bon Appetit (in which the food editors had to come up with a week’s worth of dinners for under $100), the cost to make this cake came out to only $1.10 (assuming you have everyday staples on hand, like flour, eggs, and butter). Now that is something to get excited about.

    Lime-Glazed Cake
    (From the Jan. 2009 Bon Appetit)

    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
    2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    1/4 cup milk
    1 1/3 cups self-rising flour*
    2 to 3 large limes
    1/4 cup sugar

    *If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand (as I didn’t), you can make it like this: For every cup of self rising flour, mix together 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and a scant teaspoon of salt.

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Butter and flour 8-inch square baking pan (I used a 9-inch round silicon cake pan)
    • Using an electric mixer, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk. Lastly, beat in flour.
    • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
    • Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, finely grate enough lime peel to measure 1 tablespoon. Cut the limes in half and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. In a small bowl, combine peel, juice, and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix and set the lime syrup aside.
    • Using a skewer, poke holes all over the baked cake. Spoon half the lime syrup (about 3 tablespoons) over hot cake. Allow to cool.
    • When cool, transfer cake to a platter (lime-syrup side up, of course). Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar into remaining lime syrup. Drizzle over cake. Let stand 1 hour. Cut cake into slices.

      Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

      What do German Shepherds, trees, people, stars, and firetrucks have in common? Absolutely nothing except that those are the cookie cutters that my Mom and I decided to use for our decorated sugar cookies! You can sprinkle the cookies with colored sugars and add pieces of nuts before baking, or you can decorate your cookies when they cool with a simple icing made from combining powdered sugar, a little water (until it reaches a good consistency), and food coloring of your choice. These cookies made great Christmas gifts this year!

      Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

      (Adapted from the December 2008 issue of Food and Wine)

      2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      3/4 cup sugar
      1/8 teaspoon salt
      2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
      2 large egg yolks
      2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
      Colored sugar, pieces of nuts, and/or icing for decorating

      • In a food processor, add the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into small pieces. Continue to pulse until flour and butter form small clumps.
        • Add the egg yolks and vanilla and process at low speed until the dough comes together in a few large clumps. Pat the cookie dough into two 1/2-inch-thick disks, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until chilled but not firm, about 30 minutes.
        • Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Refrigerate the cutout cookies until chilled, about 30 minutes (we skipped this step and the cookies baked just fine). Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar and add nuts, if you need to make eyes, ears, noses, etc.
        • Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, until they are lightly golden around the edges; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let the sugar cookies cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then, using a metal spatula, carefully transfer them to a rack (we just used the counter) to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
        • Decorate with icing and have fun!

        We hope everyone had a great Christmas!

        Vanilla-Lime Bites

        These bite-sized cookies are delicate and buttery, with a burst of lime and just enough sweetness from a dusting in powdered sugar – the perfect holiday cookie. Merry Christmas from our kitchen to yours!

        Vanilla Lime Bites

        (Adapted from the Vanilla Crescents in the December 2008 issue of Food & Wine)

        2 sticks salted butter, softened
        1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
        1 lime, zest and juice
        1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
        2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

        Pinch of salt

        • Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
        • Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar until pale white, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, lime zest and juice.
        • Add the flour and salt and beat at low speed just until combined.
        • Form small balls with the dough in the palm of your hand. Carefully transfer the balls to the baking sheets, leaving an inch between them.
        • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking.
        • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on wire racks (or the counter).
        • Fill a small bowl with confectioners’ sugar. While the cookies are still warm, coat them in the sugar and transfer to a clean sheet of parchment paper to cool slightly.
        • Roll the cooled cookies in the sugar again and let cool completely.

        *Vanilla-Lime Bites can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 1 week. Dust the cookies very lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving.