Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lemon Cream Cheese Muffins, Gratitude and a Giveaway!

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, 
and that gratitude is happiness doubled in wonder."  ~ G.K. Chesterton

It's April 25th, which if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that it is the official publication date of All the Sweet Things.  This means my book baby is out in the world, for all to read and enjoy.  It's an overwhelming feeling, frankly, to see all of your hard work and dedication for the past two years, being held by other people in their hands.  To think that two years ago I was just thinking about what my cookbook proposal should be.  And now, the book is real and being purchased by friends, family and strangers.  I love the strangers!

Last night was the official launch party for the cookbook, and it was a glorious, memorable evening from start to finish.  My mom and I arrived early, so we could set the table with pretty table cloths and cake stands and fill them with sweet treats she and I have been baking just for the event.  There was no shortage of Butterhorns, Cinnamon Twists, Chocolate-Swirled Molasses Meringues, and Petit Pains au Chocolat.  I bought flowers and tucked them into jam jars.  I printed the menu and put it in a blue vintage-looking frame, but really I got it at Winners for $10.  Just as we finished making the table pretty, early birds started coming up to me, wanting a hug and an autograph, which I was happy to oblige.  I'll never forget sweet Verna, who reads my columns in the paper regularly, and even sent me the sweetest handwritten note over a year ago.  I still have her letter, written in the cursive of yesteryear.  She was full of high praise, which made me blush with pride, and I thought to myself,   yes, she gets what the book is all about.  And then, she wanted to meet my mom.  If you read my book, you'll know why she wants to meet my mom.  

Festivities got underway with my sweet friend Jenni (she also made delicious food for the event) introducing me (again, more blushing!) and then it was me. Up there by myself, looking out at so many familiar faces, and faces unknown to me, but yet they wanted to be there and be with me.  It was awesome.  And then I started talking about the process and the hard work involved, and what it was like to finally hold your dream in your hands.  The tears came before I could stop them. But, like Charles Dickens wrote, "Give me a moment, because I like to cry for joy."  And that's what it was.  Pure joy.  Then I launched into my introduction, which if you've read, you know it's a bit of tearjerker on its own.  I think half of McNally Robinson was sniffling along with me, but composure was soon gathered and all was well.  More than well!  There were plenty of fantastic questions and banter between Jenni and I, the standing-room only crowd chiming in, too.  After the applause, and more blushing, I took up residence at a small table and signed books, gave hugs, took selfies, with people I knew and didn't know.  Some came out because they saw me on TV that morning; others because they follow my columns in the paper.  It seems that I have fans, which still blows my mind.  In my own mind, I'm just a lady who loves food and cats and my handsome farmer.  Now, I can add cookbook author to the mix.  

I signed so many books last night my Sharpie went dry.  This must be a good sign.  I loved how the ink soaked into the page as I scrawled my name and a short note.  It was me passing on my labour of love, my heart, to other people so they can find a place for in their kitchens and their hearts.  I said a little goodbye to each book as I passed it back to the owner, like you would a child moving away from home for the first time.  I know that sounds bonkers, but in a way, this book isn't mine anymore.  It's all of ours.  

To celebrate the launch of my cookbook, and to say thank you for following me along on this blog for so many years, I'm giving away a signed copy of my cookbook to one lucky reader.  In the comments below, please share with me a kitchen triumph or disaster.  Because, we've all had both.  The winner will be picked at random on Sunday April 30th.  Best of luck!  Sorry, contest only open to Canadian residents.  

And, because I'm feeling super generous, here is the recipe for my Lemon and Cream Cheese Muffins - one of my favourite recipes in the book.  

Lemon and Cream Cheese Muffins

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/3 cup canola or other cooking oil
1/2 cup whole milk
4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the rack in the centre of the oven. Line a muffin pan with 10 papers
or grease well with your preferred cooking oil. Pour some water into the empty muffin cups to stop
them from burning.
Combine the flour, 2/3 cup of sugar, the baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut the cream
cheese into 1/4-inch cubes and work it into the dry ingredients, using a pastry blender or your hands,
until small and large chunks of cream cheese remain. Beat together the egg, oil, milk, 2 Tbsp of the
lemon juice and the lemon zest. Stir this gently into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan so the cups are about three-quarters full, and bake
for 20–25 minutes, until the tops are golden, the tops spring back when lightly touched and a
toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp of
sugar and remaining 2 Tbsp of lemon juice in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture
on top of the hot muffins. Let them cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove them
from the pan and let cool completely on the rack.
Store the muffins in an airtight container for 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.


  1. Don't use baking soada when you meant to use baking powder when making pancakes...and don't use 2 Tablespoons instead of 2 teaspoons!

  2. Congratulations on your book and thanks for the chance to win a copy! The most memorable kitchen disaster was when I used chili powder instead of cinnamon in a french toast recipe. It was dreadful!

  3. Hmm...kitchen disaster. I feel like just me being in the kitchen is a disaster. However, I've managed to make some edible dishes lately. I did forget to put the oil in a banana bread recently. I kind of felt the batter seemed a bit solid.

  4. Congratulations on your cookbook! Triumph? I made my own wedding cake and it was divine!

  5. Many disasters and a few triumphs. My favourite disaster (if such a thing exists) was making hot chocolate and - to this day I don't know what we used - instead of cinnamon, we used another spice that turned the measuring cup of chocolatey goodness into a sloppy goopy blob. Thanks!

  6. Very interested to read your book! My most recent disaster was baking beautiful brownies for my son and his band who were rehearsing at our house - and forgetting SUGAR!!! Didn't realize that until I had proudly taken a plate downstairs for them to consume (which they didn't)! ;)

  7. Hmmm, which kitchen disaster to choose.... well, one of them was oddly enough both disaster and triumph! My husband had been away for quite a while and I decided to make his favourite pie, lemon meringue, to welcome him home. It didn't stop me that I never make pie crust. I made everything from scratch -- real lemons, the whole nine yards. And it was amazing! The meringue was puffy and beautiful! It tasted fantastic! The crust, however.... well, let's just say a knife was inadequate to the task of cutting through it. A chainsaw might even have had a tough go. The kids still say years later, "Remember when you made that terrible hard pie crust?" No one remembers that the rest of the pie was awesome!

  8. My worst kitchen disaster of all time was when making a beautiful apple tart. It came out of the oven looking and smelling divine...but because my husband likes pies on the sweeter side I decided to dust the entire top of the open-faced 10 inch tart with some white sugar. I had my sugar and salt in glass canning jars on the counter and I picked up the wrong jar and liberally put salt all over the top of the apples. There was absolutely no way to salvage the dessert...believe me, we tried! Such a waste of time and ingredients. Won't be doing that again anytime soon.
    Congratulations on your cookbook! I read your articles/recipes in the newspaper all the time, and enjoy being subscribed to your newsletter.

  9. For years, I had a fear of working with yeast. I think that it was more impatience on my part than anything else. I took a one-day bread making class last September, and since then, have been baking my own bread. No more store bought in this house!

  10. I've certainly had my share of kitchen triumphs and disasters. I would say a disaster was my attempt at baking macarons for the first time - more like meringue cookies or worse! Thankfully, I finally feel like I have triumphed over making macarons and now each tray turns out great!

  11. Kitchen disasters all too familiar to me recently, as i've made two recipes in the past week and each time missed half the sugar (half brown/half white). Or this past christmas, hurriedly spreading naniamo bar filling onto the base and dropping the pan face down onto the floor. eeek. Congrats on your book, saw a copy at McNally and it sure is beautiful, will eventually get my hands on my own!

  12. Congrats! My biggest success is mastering moms parm chicken! It tastes like home

  13. When I was little I was making cookies and accidentally put in 1 cup of baking soda instead of 1 tbsp (I think I combined 2 lines). Needless to say I read recipes very carefully after that!

  14. My best was cooking for the holidays for the first time after getting married for all the family

  15. Oh so happy for you!! I am a long time blog reader and I know that you have had some significant ups and downs, personally and professionally, that you have shared through insta and on your blog. It really does go to show that persistence will lead to growth and happiness. You are very inspiring Renee!! Congratulations!! (Biggest triumph? My biggest fear in baking: BREAD! I conquered it...and now I love making it! It's the fact that it is so simple in ingredients but technique is everything! )

  16. I think that setting the oven timer for 9 hours instead of 9 minutes when baking cookies qualifies in the disaster department. Fortunately, the charred aroma alerted me to this situation before the smoke detector went off. Of course I would never do this to any of your beautiful recipes!

  17. my current disaster is that my oven is broke, and I can't afford a new one :( it has been months without an oven, and I am running out of stovetop ideas !

  18. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of your lovely cookbook..My kitchen victory was making a four layer cake for my parents 50th anniversary and kitchen fail...was making Canadian Living's Cabbage Rolls it took me 5 1/2 hours to make Haha...I was making dinner for the family I nannied ..

  19. These are all so fantastic. Keep them coming!

  20. I am making the muffins tonight :) thanks.

  21. I remember one of my first cooking experiences was making frenchtoast with a friend after a sleepover as a kid. I mixed up the amounts for the salt and sugar!

  22. From rana - Yeah baby! It's SO real! Congratulations and I WISH I WAS There! I can even make these muffins tomorrow morning for kids' lunch boxes. Kitchen triumph - many, as I prep and cook all the meals, all day long, for my family of seven. Kitchen disaster - likely when I (rarely) burn something. I'm a recipe follower and usually don't go wrong. As long as I have a solid recipe and follow it, I can't fail. From rana

  23. I've had many a triumph but still remember my first disaster...
    At age 11 I made a beautiful Pineapple Upside Down cake complete with strategically placed maraschino cherries!
    I placed candles in it for my Dad's Birthday and made the trek to deliver it to him... And it slid off the platter and. Landed on the floor!!
    It became Pineapple Inside Out Cake!!
    My family never lets me forget this one!!

  24. I think my biggest success has been a perfect bison roast (I'm vegetarian), and biggest fail was making a lasagna a d adding a lot of mystery Italian spice I got at Winners. It was so hot I nearly died.

  25. I will share with you my very oldest, but most cherished kitchen disaster. I was seven and it was the first time my Grandma allowed me to make up a batch of Gingersnaps for our visiting hunters on my own. She was busy canning tomatoes so I was entirely unsupervised. I couldn't find the ground cloves, only the whole cloves so I figured they would do. Tge hunters were too polite to say anything so they sat there, crunching away on their cookies. Later, after cleanup, when Grandma sat down for tea and a cookie, my mistake was discovered! This story is still told quite often at family gatherings and I will never live it down!

  26. I have been following your blog for many years, and I am so happy for you about the book! And other life success too!

    As for baking success or other: I have been experimenting with European butter with extra fat. Perfect for making pie crusts, but not so much with other baked goods... I am still trying to figure out ratios to avoid muffins that fall apart with a single touch, or cookies that spread over the entire pan--but these are still delicious!!

  27. I remember I once put 1 tbsp of salt instead of 1 tsp into a butter tart recipe. Needless to say, those were thrown out!

  28. You guys! These are so good. Thank you for entering!

  29. My worse kitchen disaster was making a carrot puree for my dad's birthday and I added way too much cayenne. After several tastings I realized that nothing could be done. My solution was to make another 3 batches and combine them together..we ate carrot puree for a long time after that....I love your blog and many of your recipes are in current rotation...Congratulations on your new book!!


  30. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. The lucky winner has been notified. I so enjoyed reading about your triumphs and disasters. Hopefully there are more of the former than the latter from now on!


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