Food: Lemons offer an early taste of spring

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

I’m dreaming of spring. This morning while walking my dog, Dylan, under an achingly blue sky, I reveled in the sounds of the birds seemingly coming alive after months of hunkering down. Geese flew overhead and a quick inspection of the garden revealed bright green tips of daffodils poking through the cold, wet soil. Dylan lifted his nose for scents of things to come (and also picked up the scent of skunk). The stray cat, Boo, ventures out of her little house more often now and I tossed her a catnip toy so she could play in the sun.

I know the grumpy groundhog promised six more weeks of winter (OK, that was two weeks ago, the number has since narrowed to four and I can live with that) but in the meantime, a girl can dream. I’ve been giving myself hope by viewing the photos on my computer of my gardens and honestly, it’s hard to imagine today that they will look that good again. But spring promises new life and I’m a believer.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen I’m turning to lighter fare: Soups have moved from heavy stews to broths with fresh veggies, chicken and seafood and there’s lemon, lots of lemon. I put lemon in the soups, dress up chicken and shrimp, squeeze some on veggies and conjure up desserts and breakfast treats using the bright yellow citrus. I helps that my Meyer lemon tree is in full fruit, but Meyer lemons are also available in markets now and are quite affordable.

For days I have been craving lemon poppy seed muffins. I love the crunch of the seeds with the sunny citrus, and I figure that if I make them in a small muffin tin I can justify indulging in just one (OK, two) before my skinny-before-summer diet kicks in.

As with other seeds and nuts, refrigerate or freeze the poppy seeds to keep them from becoming rancid, that way when the craving strikes they will always be on hand.

Kate Lawson is a retired Detroit News food writer. Reach her at

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Recipe adapted from

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons lemon zest

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg white lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon poppyseeds


1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons water

1/4teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 24 mini muffin tray with paper liners.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, cut butter into 4 pieces and microwave at 15 second increments (stirring between) until butter is completely melted. Stir in lemon zest and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, measure out the heavy cream and stir in the lemon juice. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes.

In medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in canola oil, sugar, egg, egg white, and vanilla extract to butter mixture. Stir well.

Add heavy cream/lemon juice mixture and stir well again.

Gradually add the flour mixture to wet mixture, and gently fold in. Add poppyseeds and continue to fold the mixtures together, taking care not to overmix.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins, filling three-quarters of the way full.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes (See note)

Make glaze: Combine ingredients until well blended. drizzle atop cooled muffins. Makes 24 mini muffins or 12 regular-sized muffins

*Note: If making regular-sized muffins, bake for 22 minutes