Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Blueberry Muffins with crumb topping

I’ve made many blueberry muffins in my day, but I have to say, these are the best I’ve ever eaten, hands down. Maybe it’s because of the addition of almond extract, or maybe it’s because they use butter instead of oil. Or maybe it’s because I added a crumb topping to the recipe that’s so irresistible I plan to double it next time I bake it. For all these reasons, you have to make these muffins. The basic recipe is from a website called “Once Upon A Chef” and for once, the batter filled all twelve muffin cups, something that rarely happens with so many muffin recipes. So go get some blueberries while they’re still in season, and make these muffins. If you like, you can slather these with butter while they’re warm for even more deliciousness (my husband is a butter fiend), but honestly, they’re so good even without a pat of butter, you’ll be tempted to eat more than you should.

Congratulations to the winner of the giveaway of wonderful products from Limone Market from my last post: Frank from “Memorie di Angelina,” chosen by a computer random number generator.  Thanks to everyone who participated and left comments on both the blog and my Instagram page.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Blueberry Muffins
Author: Ciao Chow Linda via Once Upon A Chef
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup milk, or more as needed
  • 2 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
  • turbinado sugar, optional
  • CRUMB TOPPING: (I recommend doubling the crumb topping for even more joy.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • scant 1/2 cup flour
  2. In a medium bowl, combine sugars, cinnamon, salt and melted butter.
  3. Whisk until combined.
  4. Add flour, and stir until the flour is combined.
  5. Set Aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place oven rack in the middle position..
  8. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  9. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar for about 2 minutes.
  11. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.
  12. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.
  13. The batter may look a little grainy and that’s ok.
  14. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed to combine.
  15. The batter will be very thick.
  16. Add the blueberries to the batter and fold gently with a spatula until evenly distributed.
  17. Do not overmix.
  18. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin (an ice-cream scoop with a wire scraper works well here).
  19. They will be very full.
  20. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly on top of the muffins, or scatter the crumb topping over the tops of each muffin.
  21. Bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly golden.
  22. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
  23. (But they taste so good when they’re warm!)
  24. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin to free it from the pan if necessary (the blueberries can stick), then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool completely.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Italian Rice Salad and a Giveaway

I first ate a rice salad years ago in Italy, prepared by one of my cousins near Piacenza during a particularly hot summer spell. I have since seen them in many places all over Italy, whether served with a vinegar and oil base as I have here, or a mayonnaise base. Either way they’re delicious and they typically include tuna, hard-boiled eggs, peas and many other vegetables. Many even include chunks of ham, but I kept this one vegetarian. The beauty of this salad is how it adapts to whatever you have on hand in your kitchen, and you can add ingredients in whatever quantities you like. It’s a perfect salad to take to a picnic, and tastes even better the day after you make it. But it makes a fine cold lunch or dinner too, since it contains proteins as well as vegetables. Add a green salad on the side and you’ve got a healthy and delicious meal. I used arborio rice and olive oil, both sent to me by  Limone Market. The rice is a brand called “Lucedio,” from a farm in the heart of Italy’s Piedmont region.  The grains are husked only when orders are received, to ensure freshness, and they held up well to all the strong ingredients in the salad. After cooking the rice, make sure to let it cool completely before proceeding with the recipe. The oil is from an estate in Sicily called “Bona Furtuna” and is made from a single, organic variety of olive called biancolillo centinara. The oil has a mild flavor, with a slight peppery taste at the end and would work well with any type of salad, seafood or even cake recipes. Both are available at Limone Market’s online shop.

Now for the giveaway: Limone Market has graciously offered to give one of my readers an assortment of its products – arborio rice and olive oil, that I used in this salad, plus lentils and pasta. The organic pasta is made by Monogramo Felicetti with kamut, an ancient grain that originated in the Middle East. It retains its firm texture, and is an excellent source of protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals, including selenium. Plus the shape — chiocciole (snails), is great for soaking up a sauce. I served it in a meat and tomato sauce, but the next time I use it, I plan to serve it in a lighter, olive-oil based sauce, to highlight its nutty, buttery flavor.

The organic lentils are from the Umbria region, from Casa Corneli.  Although the package recommends pre-soaking them, I found this step totally unnecessary, since they have very thin skins. I used them in a salad and they retained their shape perfectly. They’d be great in a soup or as a warm side dish too.

All you have to do to receive these products is leave a comment telling me your favorite way to enjoy rice. If you’re on Instagram, follow @ciaochowlinda and @limone_market and you’ll get two extra chances to win. The winner will be chosen using a random number generator.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Italian Rice Salad
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 6.7 oz. jar tuna in olive oil (preferably an Italian brand like Tonnino), broken into pieces
  • 2 eggs hard-boiled and roughly chopped
  • cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onions, chopped into pieces
  • 1/4 cup pickled or roasted peppers, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 6.5 oz. jar marinated artichokes, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, diced in small pieces and boiled until tender
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, used directly from the package (not cooked)
  • minced parsley
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large sprigs of basil
  • salt, pepper
  1. Cook the rice in tthe water for about 20 minutes.
  2. Let the rice cool completely.
  3. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and mix.
  4. Place the dressing ingredients in a blender and whir until all are combined well.
  5. Pour over the rice salad and mix in thoroughly.



Monday, July 5, 2021

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with streusel almond topping

Here’s hoping you all had a fun and happy Fourth of July, celebrating with family and friends. We spent the day with family, enjoying a delicious clambake, with these blueberry cheesecake bars for dessert. The recipe comes from a website called  Valeries Kitchen, although I gussied it up a bit with the addition of a streusel topping. You could omit that if you like, but it gave it a nice crunchy contrast to the creamy cheesecake filling. Made in a 13″ x 9″ pan, it serves a crowd. I cut it into 20 individual pieces, but you could make your pieces smaller, or larger. Make sure to chill it unsliced at least four hours, or preferably overnight, to make it easier to slice. They’re sure to be a hit with any crowd, whether you’re celebrating a holiday or just enjoying an ordinary day at home.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with streusel almond topping

  • From
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (you’ll need 14 whole rectangle shaped graham crackers)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (reduced fat or regular)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light or regular)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries (about 2 cups)
  • STREUSEL TOPPING (optional):
  • 4 tablespoons buttter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Make the streusel topping by mixing the flour, sugar and cinnamon with the butter, using your fingers to blend the butter with the other ingredients.
  3. Stir in the almonds and set the streusel topping aside while you prepare the cheesecake.
  4. Coat a 13- x 9-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. For the Crust:
  6. Break 14 graham crackers in half and place in the bowl of a food processor.
  7. Process until they are fine crumbs.
  8. Add the sugar and melted butter and process again to combine well.
  9. Transfer the crumb mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down to form an even layer.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned.
  11. Remove dish from the oven and let cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
  12. For the Filling:
  13. Add cream cheese and sour cream to a large bowl and using hand or stand mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth.
  14. Add in the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  15. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  16. Blend in the vanilla extract, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Fold in the blueberries gently with a wooden spoon until evenly incorporated.
  17. Pour the mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently spread into an even layer with an offset spatula.
  18. Scatter the streusel topping over the cheesecake.
  19. Bake for 35 minutes or until the center appears to be just set.
  20. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  21. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.