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The Recipe Gals: Celebrate Easter with these spring-inspired recipes

With Easter right around the corner, I thought I would give you a couple of sweet treats to share with family and friends during the holiday.

Lemon blueberry muffins with a crumble topping

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temp.

1 teaspoon natural lemon extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup low fat buttermilk

1 cup fresh blueberries

Crumble:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup ( 1 stick ) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the muffins: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon extract and mix to incorporate.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and nutmeg and whisk for 30 seconds to evenly distribute the leavening. With the mixer running on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then add the buttermilk and follow with the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Using a large rubber spatula, gently give the batter a few quick strokes to make sure there are no pockets of flour remaining. Fold in the blueberries. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full.

For the crumble: In a large bowl, combine the flour, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and salt using a wooden spoon or your fingers. Keep working the mixture until the butter is absorbed and the mixture starts to clump. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crumble on top of each muffin. Bake until the muffins just spring back when gently poked, 15-20 minutes.

Hint: You can make these muffins gluten free just swap out the

all-purpose flour for gluten free flour. If you have lemon extract but it is old you need to go and purchase a fresh bottle. I bought Spice Hunter pure lemon extract and it is really good. I was hesitant because extracts can taste and smell fake, but this has a nice fresh smell and taste to it. These muffins are so light and fluffy, your family and friends will love them. They will also make a nice addition to your Easter table.

Here is another sweet treat to put on your table this Easter season. I am into the lemon blueberry theme this year.

Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

For the base:

Butter, for greasing

2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

9 graham crackers

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 eggs, room temperature

2 lemons, zested and juiced

1/2 cup sugar, eyeball it to taste

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan with butter. Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners. In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the texture of bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate. Pour into the lined baking pan and gently pat down with the base of a glass. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. When done set aside to cool.

For the filling: Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to the food processor and mix until well combined. It should have a smooth consistency. Pour onto the cooled graham cracker crust and cover with blueberries. They will sink slightly but should still be half exposed — as the cake bakes they will sink a little more and break down. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the center only slightly jiggles. Remove from the oven and cool completely before refrigerating for at least 3 hours. Once set, remove from the pan using the parchment lining and slice into 10 rectangular bars. Dust with powdered sugar.

Hint: This recipe can be gluten free. Just make sure your graham crackers are gluten free and your cream cheese. I hope you try these sweet treats for your Easter holiday. They are light and refreshing and hopefully enjoyed by all. Happy Easter, everyone!

-Pam Rolley

Sweet and juicy grape or cherry tomatoes with fresh mozzarella balls are tossed in basil pesto and a touch of garlic, then stuffed into Avocados for an incredible light lunch, dinner or snack!

Caprese stuffed avocado

Yield: 4 halves

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

4 oz (120g) baby mozzarella balls (bocconcini)

2 tablespoons basil pesto homemade or store bought)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to season

2 ripe avocados peeled, seeded and halved

Fresh basil leaves to serve (optional)

2 tablespoons balsamic glaze reduction to drizzle

2 tablespoons fresh basil chopped

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella balls, pesto, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to evenly combine all of the flavours.

Arrange prepared avocado halves onto a plate with fresh basil leaves.

Spoon the caprese filling into each avocado halve and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Top with chopped fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Lightly breaded garlic lemon parmesan chicken and asparagus all cooked on ONE pan. Easy and delicious dinner.

One-pan lemon parmesan chicken and asparagus

Servings: 4-6

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders

1/3 cup flour

1 cup panko*

1 cup parmesan cheese separated

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3-4 lemons

1 tablespoon minced garlic

8 tablespoons melted butter separated, I use unsalted

1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning

1 pound asparagus

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons honey

Optional: fresh parsley, 1 lemon for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Grab three bowls. Add the flour to one bowl.

Combine panko, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, dried parsley, garlic powder, about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt (I use seasoned salt) and pepper. Stir.

In the final bowl, add 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on lemon flavor intensity desired), minced garlic, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Stir. Remove 4 tablespoons of this mixture and set aside.

Slice chicken breasts to the size of tenders (about 1 and 1/4th inch strips) or use chicken tenders.

Coat in flour, heavily dredge in garlic lemon mixture, and then coat in the Parmesan panko mixture.

Place on a prepared sheet pan. Use any remaining Parmesan panko mixture and sprinkle over tenders. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over the tenders

Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes and remove.

Flip the tenders to the other side.

Place the asparagus next to the tenders and drizzle the reserved lemon butter sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the asparagus and toss with tongs.

If desired place lemon slices over the chicken (optional)

Return to the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees F.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 3 tablespoons honey in a small bowl. Add some pepper and parsley if desired.

Remove from the oven and top with the honey lemon mixture and fresh parsley if desired and enjoy immediately.

Do not top chicken breasts with the honey lemon mixture unless eating immediately and aren’t planning on having leftovers since it will make it soggy.

-Karen Sick

The Recipe Gals, Pam Rolley and Karen Sick, together have more than 60 years’ experience as nutritionists in the public school and university settings. You’ll find their delicious offerings every other week in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette’s section, The Taste.

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