Monday, February 10, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins for #MuffinMonday #ValentinesDay

Dark chocolate and cherries make a sweet and tender muffin. These may be the perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast because they are easy and tasty and pretty.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I say it early because first thing Wednesday morning I am headed off to Uganda to work as a volunteer in a local elementary school near Kampala called Masooli School.

I do have muffins ready for the coming Mondays, of course, but other than those, this space will be pretty quiet for the next two weeks. I just wanted you all to know so you don’t worry. I hope to come back with some amazing stories and photos to share. I’ll be staying in a rondavel, which is a hut of sorts made out of local materials so I don't know about electricity but I definitely won't have internet.

The plan is for me to teach basic sewing skills and handicrafts as extracurricular activities and pitch in wherever needed during the school day. As I’ve told my friends and family on Facebook, our family is sponsoring two of the students for the second year now but this is my first opportunity to go and be of help in person. To those of you who have added your monetary support to ours, thank you again from the bottom of my heart. I will send you photos, I promise!

So without further ado, I give you these Black Forest-inspired muffins. Except they are missing kirsch because I think it’s nasty. Want to defend it? That’s what the comment section is for!

3 1/2 oz or 100g cherry intense dark chocolate bar (Or sub regular dark chocolate.)
7 oz or 200g glacé or candied cherries
2 cups or 250g flour
3/4 cup or 150g white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup or just over 26g unsweetened cocoa powder (I used the special dark.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1 egg
 Scant 2/3 cup or 140g plain yogurt
 1/2 cup or 120ml milk
 1/2 cup or 120ml canola or other light oil

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by spraying with non-stick spray or lining with muffin papers.

Set aside 12 cherries for decoration and chop the rest. Chop up the chocolate into small chunks.

Combine your flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together your egg, yogurt, milk, oil and vanilla extract.

Add the chopped cherries into the wet ingredients and whisk again to separate the sticky pieces from each other.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stop when it’s still quite dry looking.

Add the chocolate chunks. Stir until just mixed.

Divide your batter between the 12 muffin cups.  Top each with one of the reserved cherries.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan and then remove to continue cooling on a wire rack.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Meyer Lemon Butter Sauce Prawns with Linguine

Meyer lemons, thought to be a cross between Eureka or Lisbon lemons and mandarin oranges, are only available for a few months at the beginning of the year. They work well in both sweet and savory dishes, especially seafood.

If you’ve been reading this space for a while, you know that last year, for the very first time, I found myself living somewhere I can buy Meyer lemons.  I brought a bag of six home and spent a great deal of time creating recipes that would let them play an important role. After all, they were not cheap. And, to reiterate, I only had six. This dish was one of our favorites and it’s just perfect for today’s Sunday Supper Valentine Recipes for Two theme.

1 lb or about 450g prawns or shrimp, cleaned and peeled
Sea salt
1 Meyer lemon
6-8 cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic
2 shallots
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Olive oil
2/3 cup or 155ml dry white wine
1//2 cup or 120ml cream
7 oz or 200g linguine
Generous handful arugula (rocket) or fresh spinach

Thinly slice half of your Meyer lemon.  Juice the other half and set the juice aside.

Split each prawn in two down the middle with a sharp knife and give them a light sprinkle with sea salt.

Mince the shallots and garlic.

In a large non-stick skillet, pan-fry the lemon slices over a medium heat in a drizzle of olive oil.

When the slices are nicely browned, removed them from the pan and set aside. Add in two tablespoons of the butter and let it melt and sizzle.

Now toss in the prawn halves and cook them until they are all curly and just pink through.

Remove them from the pan and set them on the browned Meyer lemon slices.

Add in the last two tablespoons of butter, then the minced shallots and garlic. Turn the fire down and sauté them until they are soft and translucent.

Meanwhile put water on to boil for the linguine.

Add the wine and lemon juice to the shallots and garlic, along with the cherry tomatoes.  Stir well.

 Cook until all of the liquid has almost evaporated, keeping an eye on it and stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile put your linguine in the boiling water with a teaspoon or two of salt. Cook according to package instructions but set your timer for about one minute less than the prescribed time. When the linguine is almost done, toss in the greens, allow them to wilt.

Drain the whole pot through a colander.  Set aside.

When the shallot/garlic pan is almost dry, add the prawns and Meyer lemon slices back into the pan. Give it a good stir.

Pour in your cream and stir again.

Season with some extra salt and a few good grinds of fresh black pepper.

Divide your pasta into two bowls and then share the creamy, lemony butter sauce with prawns over the top.


If you are looking for special Valentine’s Day inspiration, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve got dishes for two galore today!  Many thanks to our host this week, Susan from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen, who just happens to have the perfect red Valentine kitchen.

Alluring Appetizers:
Exquisite Entrees:
Decadent Desserts and Drinks:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Moscow Mule for #ElleAPalooza

An easy cocktail that packs a punch of bright flavors from ginger beer and lime, the Moscow Mule is as refreshing as it is pretty. 

This post is a tribute to a friend and blogger who passed away suddenly last week. Her real name was LeeAnn but we all knew her as Elle of Elle’s New England Kitchen.  She was 45 years young and leaves behind an enormous group of devastated family members and friends, including her husband and four children.

Here’s a question for you:  Can you be genuine friends with someone if you haven’t met them? I think back to the days of elementary school-age pen pals and handwritten letters and I say yes. And nowadays, social media and the internet make it even easier than ever. For instance, I meet people through comments on this blog, interest groups and fan pages on Facebook, communities on Google Plus and forums like Chowhound. Some become real life friends. To the point that I would squeal and get excited at the chance to spent time together in person. Elle was one of those people. I met Elle through a Facebook group called The Cookbook Junkies and her fun personality and quick wit endeared her to us all. As a fellow food blogger with a love of family and cooking, not to mention the aforementioned addiction to cookbooks, I couldn’t help but feel we had a lot in common. More than anything else, social media have shown us that we are more alike than we are different. Which made the news of her death a huge shock to everyone in our Facebook and blogging communities. 

We wanted to do what we could to ease the suffering of her family and, frankly, make ourselves feel a little better, a little less useless in the face of loss. So, we give you #ElleAPalooza, a multi-blogger tribute weekend to one of our own, one of the best of our own, when we all choose a recipe to share from Elle’s blog and ask you to consider contributing an item for an online auction in her honor which is being organized in the coming weeks or donate to a fund for her family right now. 

I spent ages looking through Elle’s New England Kitchen, reading from her very first post  back in 2008 and searching for just the right recipe. I finally settled on a cocktail called a Moscow Mule. I could have toasted Elle with a piece of blueberry pie or honey lime chicken tacos or even Watermelon Nectarine Salsa (Doesn’t that sound divinely refreshing?) But I finally decided that Elle deserves a proper toast and a proper toast requires a cocktail. 

I’ve got to tell you that I’ve never had a Moscow Mule before but it was fresh and delicious and it is my new favorite drink. So here’s to you, Elle! Know that you have touched more lives that can be counted with your kindness, your generosity of spirit, your snarky sense of humor and especially your delicious recipes. You are greatly missed.

Ingredients for one Moscow Mule 
1/2 oz fresh lime juice (about half of one big lime)
2 oz or 30ml vodka 
4-6 oz or 120-180ml cold ginger beer 
(My bottle says Ginger Soda because this is Dubai and I guess they aren’t allowed to call it beer in case someone thinks it has alcohol but it’s the real deal, from Australia.

Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime into a tall glass, and toss the lime in after it.

Add about one cup of ice and pour in the vodka.

Top up with the cold ginger beer. Stir lightly and serve.

Lift a glass to Elle and enjoy!

If you’d like to read more #ElleAPalooza recipes and tributes, please join the Friends of Elle Facebook page where we will be sharing our links.

Here are a few that are live already:

If you’d like to sign Elle’s legacy guestbook online, here’s that link as well. 

Once more: the link to Elle’s family fund Paypal account.  Find the link to donate here

If you would like to donate an item for the upcoming auction, please drop me a line at or contact the organizer Heather Shively by sending an email to