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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Muffins

The other day, I found myself lying around in my yoga clothes, drinking my 8th cup of coffee for the day, nibbling on freshly baked potato bread, and watching Sleepless in Seattle for what might be the 12th time since moving to Seattle. (Fun fact: We live right near Alki Beach, where Meg Ryan's character watches Tom Hanks and his son get off of their boat after they sail from their houseboat.) This was unusual for me. I don't sit down unless I'm by the computer. I don't like sitting. Sitting sucks. (It's for that reason that I don't normally watch tv and am a terrible date at the movie theater -- I'm convinced that I have restless leg syndrome -- but that's a diversion.) But I had no energy. No motivation. No pep. Nothing. It was like all of the energy had been sucked out of my body.
Then, I glanced outside. Yep, clouds. There they were. Everywhere. Gloomy. Overcast. Slight chill. Grumpy. Nastiness. Even the crows weren't making noises. They, too, were suffering. No sign of sunshine.

We've been blessed in Seattle since we moved here. Sunshine, nearly every single day. Heck, three days ago, it was still 80 degrees and sunny! But then it turned, drastically. I'm guessing this is what the locals mean when they say that "summer is great!!" And I guess I now understand why people just pull off on the side of the road and park their cars near the water on sunny days. When there's sun, you need to be in it. Because it doesn't come around much. So, I've been reading the headlines and hearing the locals talk about how "we're in for it" for the next 8-9 months. And when this bout of gloom rolled around, I think it sunk in and hit me like a ton of bricks. Copious amount of sunshine is a thing of my Seattle past. And truth is, I'm not good with clouds. Nor rain. Nor gloom. And I haven't been good with Seattle since arriving here. So I fear that our relationship will never come to be.

I stood up and walked in the kitchen, about to cut yet another slice of bread and stuff my face with it, and realized that I'm not gonna make it through this year if I keep it up at this rate. One day. It took one day of gloom for me to crash. Can we say S.A.D. much? Ron came home that night and asked me to bake an entire 4-layer chocolate cake; he had a rough day also. I told him "it's the clouds" and he looked at me in fear. It was almost like he understood that we need to buckle down and make the most out of these next months because we'll struggle if we don't. I pulled out 4 different cookbooks, bundt pans, cake pans, butter, eggs, chocolate, sugar!! I preheated the oven. But I fought every bone in my body. A giant cake will NOT solve this problem, Ashley! 

I didn't end up making a giant 4-layer chocolate cake to combat our energy-less Tuesday that felt like a Monday. Instead, I turned to these light and fresh tasting Lemon Ricotta muffins, to embrace the citrus smells of summer. And they were flippin' amazing. Just after pulling them from the oven, a ray of sunshine peaked through the clouds for one split second, I darted outside to soak it in and was instantly revitalized. And then I went and pounded out 9 miles on the pavement. Hey, I can't help it if my S.A.D. and my O.C.D. go hand in hand!
Lemon Ricotta Muffins
from Food Network, Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, or more as needed for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds, optional
Instructions
  1. Line 12 muffins cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended (batter will be thick and fluffy).
  3. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the almonds, if using, and then the remaining 1 tsp of sugar over the muffins. Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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