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Summer fruit puts red, white and blue in breakfast

This muffin is a great use for fresh summer fruit. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Recipe: Ricotta muffins feature strawberries and blueberries

Fresh local fruit is so wonderful in baked goods. I'm always looking for new ways to feature it, especially in quick recipes that don't require much time in the kitchen on warming-to-hot day. That's why I like baking for breakfast or weekend brunch: I'm done long before the temps are unbearable.

This recipe, adapted from
"Bake From Scratch: Volume 3," by Brian Hart Hoffman, gives a fruit muffin an intriguing tang by including ricotta cheese. I've used strawberries and blueberries here because that's what I had on hand, but I could see it working just as well with blackberries,  cherries or the peaches that are just coming to market.

Note: This makes a lot of batter. I chose to bake 12 extra-large muffins in a regular muffin pan, but you could use two pans to make about 16 regular-size muffins, or put the extra in a mini-muffin pan for snack-size muffins.

Ricotta muffins with summer fruit
Makes 16 regular or 12 extra-large muffins


2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole-milk or low-fat)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup canola or other neutral vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup diced fresh strawberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries, checked for stems, washed and gently dried
Confectioners' sugar, for finishing

Instructions :

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the muffin pan(s), either by spraying with cooking spray or lining with paper liners.

Combine in a large bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

These muffins are done, even though they're hardly brown at all.
In a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup, stir together the ricotta and eggs, then add the milk. Stir in the oil and the vanilla extract.

Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula until just combined. Gently fold in the prepared fruit.

Divide the batter among the prepared cups. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for regular-size muffins or 25 minutes for larger ones.

Note: The muffins do not brown much, if at all, so don't use their color as an indication of doneness.

Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Garnish with confectioners' sugar before serving. Store any leftover muffins covered, in the refrigerator. (They reheat well in the microwave.)

Variations :

Substitute 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups peeled diced peaches (pat fruit pieces with a paper towel if the peaches are very ripe) or pitted chopped cherries in place of the berries, and use a combination of 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

For blackberry muffins, use 1 1/4 cups washed fresh berries and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime zest if desired.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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