Lemon Muffins

by MomGrind

lemon muffins

“Mom, will you make me something with white flour?”

Ever since I started making healthy recipes, my youngest daughter has made it known that she does not appreciate my efforts to make healthy food that tastes good. I guess “tastes good” is subjective, because she refuses to touch many of the whole-wheat, reduced-sugar creations I’m so proud of.

So once in a while, I make something “just for her” that of course we all get to enjoy, and when we do, we have to agree – refined, buttery and sugary is so, so good.

These lemon muffins are more cake-like than muffin-like. They are sweet and buttery and delicate, and are probably more appropriate as a dessert than as breakfast, except if you’re a part of our family, in which case you will have them for breakfast, every day until they are all gone.
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“So, how much liquid do I need to add to the dough?”

“As much as it will take.”

This was how Ziporah, my husband’s late grandma, used to respond when my mother in law would ask her how to make one of her famous recipes (such as her soft, fragrant onion rolls). Needless to say, this is not how most of us make recipes these days- modern cookbooks and food blogs have spoiled us with exact measurements, detailed instructions and step-by-step photographs.

When I asked my own grandma (oma, in Dutch) for her boterkoek (Dutch butter cake) recipe, I was pleasantly surprised when she started with exact measurements: “Take 300 grams flour, 250 grams butter and 250 grams sugar.” Of course, it all went downhill from there – the rest of the instructions went something like “make a smooth dough out of these ingredients; transfer to pan (what size??); brush with egg white; bake 5 minutes at a very high temperature (how high, grandma??), then lower temperature and bake until done.”


But it was important to me to bake this cake. Boterkoek is a dense, extremely rich cake. It’s made of three ingredients, all in equal parts more or less: flour, butter and sugar. No baking powder – so it’s more like a big giant soft butter cookie than a tall cake.

Oma’s baked goods, in general, are one of my strongest childhood food memories. They were always so rich and buttery, and stood in stark contrast to the margarine-containing baked goods that most Israelis made back then (margarine was cheaper; it was considered healthier; and it kept foods Pareve for those eating Kosher).

So I did as best as I could under the circumstances, using a food processor to blend the dough, adding one egg (I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it will all bind together without an egg); and baking at a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 30 minutes. It came out amazing – just as I remember from my childhood. I was tempted to try a slice while the cake was still warm, but it is much, much better when cooled down to room temperature, because then it’s set and all the flavors blend in.

Needless to say, this is one of those cakes where a little goes a long way – as much as my Israeli/American habits tempted me to get myself a BIG slice, in this case you really should have just a small slice – the cake is so rich, you’ll be very satisfied.

Boterkoek Recipe

Makes 12 servings.

300 grams (2.5 cups) all-purpose flour
250 grams (1.25 cups) sugar
250 grams (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
1 egg white, lightly beaten with a TBS of sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a round 8-inch cake pan.
2. In a food processor, blend flour and sugar.
3. Add butter cubes on top and pulse until a crumbly dough forms.
4. Add egg and pulse a few more times. You will need to use a spatula to scrape dough from the sides and push it back into the center.
5. Transfer to a large bowl and knead into a ball.
6. Press dough into pan until flat and even. Brush egg white on top. Mark top with a crisscross design using a fork.
7. Bake 30 minutes, until golden brown and firm on top, and edges are brown. Cake will be crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.
8. Invert onto a plate, place plate on a wire rack, and allow to cool to room temperature (at least 30 minutes) before slicing and serving.
9. Do not refrigerate leftovers – the cake contains a lot of butter and will harden in the fridge. Wrap any leftovers in foil, then in a plastic wrap. It will keep a few days at room temperature.

A small slice (1/12) of this cake contains about 300 calories, 10 grams of saturated fat and 20 grams of sugar, so this is definitely a once-in-a-while treat. Enjoy!

Onion rolls closeup

We stared at the row of olive oil bottles, a little perplexed. We were sitting at one of the best gourmet restaurants in the world, Charles Abellan’s Comerc 24 in Barcelona. We knew it was going to be an amazing experience – and it was, so much so that we returned the next day for lunch.

But olive oil tasting? We knew about wine tasting, of course, but we never tried olive oil tasting.

Needless to say, Abellan knew what he was doing. Each of the four oils had a distinct color, aroma and flavor. They were very different from each other, and the way they were arranged on the tray, leading us from the mildest to the strongest flavor, just like you would do when savoring a cheese platter, enhanced the experience.

In beautiful Barcelona, in the summer of 2008, we learned that olive oil is not an either/ or thing (either “extra virgin, imported from Italy” or “grocery store variety.”) Olive oil has a wide variety of flavors, even textures. Tasting it, using freshly baked, crusty bread, is just as pleasurable as tasting wine, if not more so!

Fast forward three years. When the nice folks at Di Palo Selects have recently offered to send me a bottle of their Lochitello Cerasuola olive oil, and explained that it’s a gourmet, extra virgin olive oil imported from Sicily, I couldn’t possibly refuse. The oil, they explained, “has an aroma of freshly cut grass with a finish of a fresh green tomato. It is fruity and fresh, with a very green olive flavor.”

I was intrigued!

Olive Oil

I’ve been using olive oil a lot lately. As part of my slow transformation from a diet heavy in refined carbs and saturated fats (lots of butter on those thick, crusty white bread slices) into a healthier diet, I’ve been using olive oil in everything, including baked goods. I actually discovered that using olive oil, in small quantities, in muffins and even in pancakes works very well. It definitely works in savory baked goods, including my famous pita bread, yeast breads, and savory quick breads.

The first thing we did when the Lochitello olive oil had arrived was to pour a little into a small bowl. We then used crusty homemade bread to taste it. With or without a little balsamic vinegar, we loved it. We turned this into a proper olive oil tasting by also pouring a little extra virgin olive oil of a different brand – the Whole Foods store brand – into another bowl, and comparing the two oils. They were both very good, but the flavors were decidedly different. The Whole Foods brand was heavy and had a strong, earthy flavor. The Lochitello olive oil was indeed light, “fruity and fresh.”

The Recipe

Of course, I had to make a recipe too! I made onion rolls, AKA Pletzlach (thank you Avital for reminding me of those!). My husband’s late grandma used to make them. The first time I visited his parents’ house, I discovered a small basket filled with these rolls, wrapped in plastic, nestled above the refrigerator. They were golden brown and innocent-looking, but as he opened the plastic bag for me (I asked for a taste, I’m not the shy type when it comes to foods that look promising), the amazing yeasty-oniony aroma enveloped me, promising intense pleasure. I bit into one, and as I experienced the doughy goodness of these little baked treasures, I knew I was going to marry him. 😉

The original recipe is here: Lights of Life, and Food of Memory. I adapted it to use in my beloved bread machine. Here goes:

Onion Rolls Recipe

Makes 20 rolls

1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg
4 cups bread flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4.5 teaspoons bread machine yeast, or 2 packets rapid rise yeast

1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Place first 7 ingredients into bread machine pan and select the dough cycle. When done, remove, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile:
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Place diced onion in a small bowl, and stir in poppy seeds and 2 teaspoons olive oil.
4. Divide dough into 20 balls, each weighing about 50 grams. On a floured board, roll each ball into a 1-inch thick circle.
5. Sprinkle a tablespoon of onion-poppy seed mixture on each circle, and gently roll to 1/8-inch thickness.
6. Prick each circle with a fork and sprinkle with some kosher salt.
7. Transfer to 2 ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

This is for one roll, but you can’t stop at one!
Calories 137
Total Fat 3.8 g
Saturated Fat 0.6 g
Sodium 179.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
Sugars 2.6 g
Protein 3.1 g

The Giveaway

Di Palo Selects is generously offering to send one of my readers a bottle of Lochitello Cerasuola olive oil. If you’re a US resident over 18 and are interested, please email me – vered (at) I’ll keep this open for entries until tonight at 8pm Pacific time, and will then use to draw the winner. Good luck! –> Congrats to Patricia for winning!

lemon pound cake

Seriously. A former big fan of “Just eat whatever you want and keep portions in check,” I’ve recently started paying more attention to what I eat and making healthy recipes. You know the drill – lots of veggies and fruit, whole grains, minimizing white flour and sugar.

I’ll tell you all about it, and what prompted this change, in a future post. For now, let’s just say that this cake is a guilty pleasure – a high-sugar, high-fat exception to my new way of eating. It is so moist, so rich and good, and has such a pleasant lemony flavor that melts in your mouth, that each time I allow myself a slice, I sigh and remind myself that “you only live once” and that “being good 80 percent of the time is the goal.”

It all started with the abundance of lemons and oranges that our trees have been giving us this winter. I love eating oranges, and have enjoyed the healthy, low-sugar lemon muffins that I made the other day, but when I looked for more lemon-containing recipes, I found this one, and from the first glance it was obvious that I was going to make it, as is, butter and sugar and all, with no attempts whatsoever at making a healthified version.

Sigh. I do love to bake. I always have.

So here goes – a sweet, moist, buttery pound cake, flavored with a hint of lemon. Really amazing with a cup of strong, bitter coffee to balance out the sweetness of the cake.

Lemon Pound Cake

Adapted from The Best Recipe Cookbook
Makes one loaf cake, or 10 slices, about 400 calories per slice (don’t make me list the fat and sugar content, I really don’t want to know!)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 + 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks + juice from half a large lemon (1 tablespoon), all mixed together
½ teaspoon salt
Zest of 3 large lemons
1.5 cups minus 2 TBS all purpose flour (recipe calls for cake flour which I didn’t have, and the Internet has advised me to use all purpose flour but subtract 2 TBS. It worked).

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and line it with foil. Lightly spray the foil with oil spray.
2. Beat the butter with an electric hand mixer. Gradually add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture, the salt and the zest.
3. Gently fold in the flour, a little at a time, with a spatula.
4. Transfer the batter to the pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake about 70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean. Allow to set in the pan for a few minutes, then invert onto a plate, and from the plate onto a wire rack. Cool to room temperature, dust with powdered sugar if desired and serve, or slice and freeze. When ready to eat, gently thaw in the microwave.

quick bread

When the nice folks at Flanigan Farms offered to send me a package filled with goodies, it was the kind of offer you can’t refuse – and one of the nice perks of being a (OK I admit it!) mommy blogger. I asked them to include their Nuts and Fruit Mix, so that I could use it to make this quick bread recipe, adapting it a little because I didn’t feel like giving it a citrus flavor.

The result? A chewy, rich, flavorful bread, with a wonderful crunch from the nut mix and an interesting sweet-salty flavor that can go either way – I had it with a little butter and it was heavenly, but I can imagine having it with jam or honey, or – alternatively – with some Brie or Roquefort. You could probably use just half a cup sugar and one teaspoon salt to make the flavor more neutral, or leave the sugar at 3/4 cup and use less salt for a decidedly sweet bread. In fact, glancing at the nutrition information for this quick bread, I would say using less salt than the recipe calls for is probably a good idea – there’s quite a lot of sodium in there.

Flanigan Farms makes all-natural dried fruit and nut products that contain no added salt, sugar, oil or preservatives. Produced in small batches, their nuts and fruit/nut mixes are available in grocery stores on the west coast, or online – with free shipping for orders over $50.

Flanigan Farms would love to give one lucky reader their Gourmet Almond Gift Set, which includes gourmet almond oil, slivered almonds and sliced almonds, all nestled in natural excelsior and packed in gift packaging. If you’re a US resident over 18 years old and would like to receive the gift (shipped directly from Flanigan Farms to you) please email me vered (at) with your address. The first to email will get the gift. –> Gift has been taken. Sorry to anyone who was too late to email. Maybe next time. 🙂

OK, here’s the recipe.

Nuts and Fruit Quick Bread Recipe

Makes 1 loaf. Takes 10 minutes to mix and 1 hour to bake.

¾ cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp baking soda
½ tbsp salt
2 eggs
¾ cup 2% milk
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter plus more butter for greasing the pan
1 6oz package Flanigan Farms Nuts ‘N’ Fruit™

1. Stir together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in Nuts ‘N’ Fruit.
2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs; stir in milk and butter.
3. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until combined.
4. Turn into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. After 40 minutes, my loaf was nicely browned but not fully baked yet, so I covered it loosely with foil and baked for 20 more minutes.
5. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool some more. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Wrap leftovers in foil and store in refrigerator. Or slice and store in freezer.

Nutrition Per Serving (1/10 loaf)
Calories 262
Total Fat 7.8 g
Saturated Fat 2.2 g
Cholesterol 41.6 mg
Sodium 896.5 mg
Total Carbohydrate 43.0 g
Dietary Fiber 0.7 g
Sugars 15.9 g
Protein 6.8 g


So yes, I like fried foods. I love the crispy texture and unique taste that frying gives to foods and as I stated here before, as long as I keep portions in check and eat plenty of fruit and veggies, I don’t really feel that I should be apologizing for the many fried or otherwise unhealthy recipes this blog contains. 🙂

Grilled chicken breasts are nice, for sure, but there’s nothing like biting into a piping hot breaded and fried chicken cutlet, brown and crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.

Schnitzel is a traditional Austrian dish made of veal escalope, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. The schnitzel tradition was brought to Israel by Jews who immigrated there from Europe. During the early years of the State of Israel, veal was unobtainable, and chicken breast proved an inexpensive and tasty substitute. To this day, the Israeli Schnitzel is made with chicken breast.

Schnitzel resembles the American chicken tenders, but it is thinner and crispier. Chicken breasts are pounded very thin, the thinner the better, which results in a different meat-to-coating ratio than thicker (but juicier) chicken tenders.

Schnitzel is one of those magical dishes that both kids and grownups love. I usually serve it with rice and a veggie. The next day, the cold leftovers are great in a sandwich with mayo and pickles.

Schnitzel Recipe

Makes 4 servings

♦ Half a chicken breast, thinly sliced into 4 cutlets (or more). Ask your butcher to slice it for you, slice it at home using a sharp butcher knife, or buy a tray of pre-cut chicken tenders and make smaller schnitzels.
♦ A shallow plate with about 1 cup all purpose flour
♦ A shallow plate with about 1 cup plain bread crumbs. Optional: Add about 1/4 cup sesame seeds to the breadcrumbs and mix well.
♦ 2 eggs, lightly beaten and seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Pour egg mixture into a shallow plate.
♦ Canola oil for frying

Pound chicken cutlets very thin, using a meat pounder.

Pounding often results in some small pieces tearing off, resulting in “baby Schnitzels” that the kids absolutely love:

small schnitzel

Coat each cutlet in flour, then dip into the egg mixture, shaking excess off, and finally dredge in the bread crumbs mixture.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Place the cutlets in the hot oil and fry about 3-4 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

PS. If you’d rather bake your chicken breasts than fry them, check out this fabulous recipe for baked chicken breast.

chocolate cupcakes

I love chocolate, but baked goods containing chocolate are often disappointing. The addition of flour, milk and eggs often means that the decadent richness of chocolate is gone, and the chocolate turns into just another flavoring. I feel that many “chocolate cakes” need to be named “chocolate *flavored* cakes” – The intensity of the chocolate experience is just too low.

These chocolate cupcakes are different. They are rich, moist and have an intense chocolate flavor. They are so good, that my family prefers to eat them without the frosting. They’re based on several chocolate cake recipes, tweaked so that the chocolate-to-flour ratio favors chocolate without ruining the recipe (I’ve ruined many recipes in the process, though).

It’s an easy recipe. Just a few ingredients, no need to separate the eggs, beat the egg whites and carefully fold them into a stubbornly thick batter (this is probably my least favorite baking-related chore), and you mix all the ingredients in the pot you used to melt the chocolate. This makes it a perfect recipe to prepare with your kids.

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

Makes 18 cupcakes


♦ 200 grams (about 1 cup) unsalted butter, preferably European or European style
♦ 200 grams (about 2 bars) high quality bittersweet chocolate. Today I ran out of chocolate, so used just a small amount (about 50 grams or half a bar) Ghirardelli dark chocolate, and the rest was chocolate chips. But the better the chocolate, the better the cake will turn out.
♦ 1 cup sugar
♦ 1 cup all purpose flour, mixed with 1.5 teaspoon baking powder (make sure it’s fresh) and 1/4 teaspoon salt
♦ 4 eggs, lightly beaten
♦ 1/2 cup whole milk

Frosting ingredients:

♦ 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
♦ 1.5 cups powdered sugar
♦ 2-4 tablespoons chocolate syrup, depending on how chocolaty you want it


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners and lightly spray with oil.

In a large pan, over low heat, melt the butter, sugar and chocolate, stirring frequently. Chocolate burns quickly, so keep heat low and remove from heat as soon as melted.

Gradually add milk, flour and eggs to pan, mixing with a wooden spoon.

Spoon cupcake batter into muffin tin, filling lined muffin cups about 3/4 full.

Bake 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Avoid over baking – you want them to be moist. Start checking after 13 minutes.

baked chocolate cupcakes

Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. Avoid the temptation to eat them warm. They’re much better once they’re completely cooled.

While cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting: beat the cream cheese until softened, using an electric mixer on medium. Slowly add the sugar and chocolate syrup, and beat for a couple more minutes, until creamy.

Frost the cupcakes, and serve. They keep well in the fridge for a few days – just warm in the micro for 5 seconds per cupcake before serving.

As I said, we actually prefer these cupcakes without the frosting:

powdered cupcakes