Here Comes The Sun | Orange Strawberry Muffins

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful mamas out there! I was able to spend the morning with my fabulous mama, and celebrated her with the most fabulous cinnamon buns ever. In fact, those present at our little brunch exclaimed that they were the best cinnamon buns they had ever tasted. Don’t worry, I will share later this week, but I’m going to hold out on you for now. I have been meaning to share this muffin recipe for a couple of weeks now, and little old life has gotten in the way of me doing so. Spring brings with it the start of many outdoor activities, like soccer and Ultimate frisbee, and at present three of my weeknights are occupied with these activities. Little Miss Bella is in love with this new season, and its new sights and smells, and we are trying to let her enjoy it as much as possible. This means long evening walks, playing fetch in the park, and joining honey and I on the occasional run. When is a girl supposed to blog with that schedule?

My papa spends his winters in Phoenix to escape the frigid Canadian weather, and when he returned in April, he brought back with him 600…yes, six hundred oranges. Six hundred of the most juicy, sweet, amazing oranges I have ever tasted. He threw about 40 oranges my way, and I enjoyed several oranges per day for the first few days before I soon realized that I would not be able to consume all of those delicious oranges before they were past their prime. So I scoured recipe books, foodie magazines, and blogs for some orange recipes. One failed orange cake (which used 12 oranges!) and a batch of orange butter (think lemon butter, but with oranges) later, I stumbled upon this recipe for Orange Strawberry Muffins. I was intrigued by a few aspects of the recipe, including the almond topping and the addition of strawberries. These muffins baked up tender and sweet, with a lovely little hit of orange flavor. And they are quite healthy in comparison to other muffin recipes out there. Give these muffins a try if you’re looking for something a little bit different than the every day muffin. They just might be that little ray of sunshine that gets the day off to a good start.

Orange Strawberry Muffins (slightly adapted from

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. orange zest

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup orange juice

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen (not thawed) strawberries


3 TBSP. almonds

2 TBSP. flour

2 TBSP. brown sugar

1 tsp. orange zest

1/4 tsp. salt

2 TBSP. canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin (with cooking spray or muffin liners). In a food processor, combine the almonds, 2 TBSP. all-purpose flour, 2 TBSP. brown sugar, 1 tsp. orange zest and 1/4 tsp. salt and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl, add the 2 TBSP. oil and stir to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp. orange zest, 1/4 cup oil, buttermilk, orange juice, egg, and vanilla and mix well. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just moistened. Add the strawberries; stir just to combine. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle generously with the topping.

Bake the muffins until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Happy eating!

The Exchange | Neapolitan Cookies

Ready for more cookie recipes yet? ‘Cause there are a few coming down the pipe! Today I hosted a cookie exchange with some of my favorite family and friends. There were so many delicious cookies to share – I fear that I may end up eating my body weight in baked goods in the coming weeks! Clearly the afternoon was a success – check out my haul!

So many amazing treats – I can’t wait to try them all! I decided to share a recipe that I came across last holiday season – Martha Stewart’s Neapolitan cookies. I adapted the original recipe slightly (it also called for espresso powder in the chocolate half of the cookie, but I wanted to keep it a little more simple). The cookies were very well received last year, so I definitely wanted to share them with everyone this year. They take a little bit of time to make, but overall are quite easy, and they taste wonderful. The flavor of the orange, almonds, and cranberries blend perfectly with the chocolate and walnuts. These would make such a lovely homemade gift!

Christmas can be such a stressful time of year, with many demands (cooking, preparing for guests, shopping for gifts), but baking cookies is such a relaxing experience for me. I better be careful – at this rate I may end up with an insane amount of cookies to eat. But that would just mean more for sharing, one of my favorite holiday activities. Wouldn’t you love to receive a tin of homemade cookies from a friend? Try sharing these cookies (or making them for yourself). You won’t be disappointed. Happy eating!

Neapolitan Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the orange-sable dough:                                         For the chocolate-walnut dough:

1 ¼ cups whole blanched almonds                              1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar                                                                           ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temp.                               1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.

3 TBSP. finely grated orange zest (2-3 oranges)       1 cup sugar

1 large egg                                                                            1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 TBSP. freshly squeezed lemon juice                           1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

To make the orange-sable dough: Place almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the flour and set aside. Place the butter and zest in a bowl and mix using an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until white and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. On low speed, add the almond mixture; beat until combined. Add egg and lemon juice; combine. Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the chocolate dough: Sift flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy, 3-4 minutes. Working in additions, gradually beat in flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl twice. Wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap. In a large bowl, stir the cranberries into the orange-sable dough. In another large bowl, stir the walnuts into the chocolate dough. Press the orange mixture into the bottom of the pan. Using an offset spatula, (or wet fingers) smooth top evenly. Spread chocolate mixture over the orange mixture and smooth evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350oF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shake the dough out of the pan and remove plastic. Cut into 2-by-8-inch bricks; cut bricks into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place slices on sheets, spaced 1 ½ inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 6 dozen.

PS. Later this week…Christmas Biscotti!

PPS. What is your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?

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