Wednesday, March 28, 2012

recipe: whole grain lemon blueberry cornmeal muffins

My Mom, a.k.a. “Grandma”, has recently taught my three-year-old son John, a very valuable phrase. While I appreciate the lesson in manners, “it’s not to my taste” seems to be the only thing we hear lately - especially around 6 p.m.

John is definitely going through a picky phase (sigh).  No casseroles, stews or stir-fry’s for this kid.  All food must be separate and without sauce – even ketchup!  At least he still eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables…

One thing John never has a problem eating is dessert – big surprise. So I’m doing my best to make sure that any sweets he eats contain at least a wee bit of nutritional value.  

Here is a recipe for whole grain lemon blueberry cornmeal muffins.  The recipe comes from corporate chef, Rachel Bradley, who develops some of the recipes for the amazing line of olive oils & balsamic vinegars that we carry in the shop.  Rachael says “these muffins may look sinful but they’re not thanks to the addition of whole wheat flour, lemon extra virgin olive oil, honey, yogurt, and fresh berries”.  These lightly sweetened muffins are divine served with butter and jam for breakfast or drizzled with honey and served with afternoon tea.

Whole Grain Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins


·        2 (two) cups whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
·        2 (two) cups ground whole grain corn meal
·        1 (one) tablespoon baking powder
·        1 (one) teaspoon salt
·        1 (one) cup whole milk
·        2 (two) large eggs
·        ½ (one-half) cup whole milk yogurt (I used vanilla-flavoured Greek yogurt)
·        ½ (one-half) cup honey
·        ½ (one-half) cup lemon extra virgin olive oil
(you can substitute regular olive oil but the cake won’t be as lemony)

·        fresh grated zest from one lemon
·        2 (two) cups fresh or frozen blueberries


·        Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
·        Grease or line muffin cups or an 8” by 8” brownie pan (when I tested the recipe, I poured the batter into an 8” by 8” pan to make a “cake” and I had enough left over batter to make 8 small muffins as well).
·        In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
·        In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients and lemon zest.
·        In two separate additions, add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping down the bowl.  Gently fold in the berries.  Fill the muffin cups about half way with batter.
·        Bake in the center of oven for 20-25 (twenty to twenty five) minutes until a tester inserted in to the middle comes out clean. 
(Note: an 8” by 8” cake will take closer to 40 minutes in the oven).  

·        Makes 18-20 standard size muffins or one 8” by 8” cake and 8 small muffins.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ricotta Cake (Italian-style cheesecake)

My husband David’s birthday is this month.  I always look forward to making him a special dessert to celebrate the occasion.  Like my Dad, he’s a hard guy to buy a gift for, but he will gladly accept a homemade dessert in lieu of a gift!

Last summer, we visited David’s family in Thunder Bay.  Before we left, my father-in-law gave me some of his old cookbooks.  I left with several great titles but two stood out.  The first is entitled “The Modern Priscilla Cookbook”, published in 1929.  It first belonged to David’s grandmother.  As you can imagine, it’s held together with an elastic band, but that’s part of its charm – and proof of its value.  The other is “A Guide to Good Cooking with Five Roses Flour”, published in 1962.

The second cookbook, however, has an added bonus – David’s mother’s hand-written recipes, included at the back.  Many of them are written in Italian but I was pleased to see that the cheesecake recipe (“ricotta cake”) was in English.  I suppose I should say that the “ingredients” were in English, because there was actually no method listed!  It took me a few tries to get it right, but David assured me that my final creation tasted just like his Mom’s.  This is a European-style cheesecake, made with fresh ricotta cheese, so it is not nearly as sweet as North American-style cheesecakes.  To balance out the slight sweetness of the cake, David insists on drinking it with a cup of strong black coffee, no sugar.  He’ll also gladly, and without any guilt or apology, eat a big slab of it for breakfast… five days in a row!

Ricotta Cake (Italian-style cheesecake)

ingredients for crust

·         1¼ (one-and-one-quarter) cups graham cracker crumbs
·         ½ (one-half) cup brown sugar
·         1/3 (one-third) cup unsalted butter, melted
·         1 (one) teaspoon cinnamon

ingredients for filling

·         2 (two) pounds ricotta cheese (I used extra smooth)
·         2/3 (two-thirds) cup white sugar
·         1/3 (one-third) cup all-purpose flour
·         6 (six) eggs
·         ½ (one-half) teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         zest of half a lemon
·         2 (two) teaspoons pure vanilla extract
·         ¼ (one-quarter) teaspoon salt


1.       Preheat oven to 350 F.
2.       Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.  Wrap double layer of heavy-duty foil around outside of 10” spring form pan.  Combine graham crackers, sugar, and cinnamon in large bowl, stir well. Drizzle melted butter over and stir to combine until ingredients are moistened.  Press crumbs onto bottom (not sides) of springform pan.  Bake until crust is slightly golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to rack and cool while preparing filling.  Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.  
3.       Place the ricotta in a large bowl, stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.  Add in the sugar and flour to the ricotta, stir well.  Stir in the eggs 2 at a time.  Add in the cinnamon, lemon zest, vanilla and salt.  Pour the ricotta mixture into the prepared pan.
4.       Bake for 1 ¾  - 2  hours until light golden in colour, or until the point of a sharp knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool (it will sink slightly).  Cover, and chill until serving.  

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