Things have been slow around our kitchen lately. After a whirlwind of canning victory (oh the applesauce! glorious applesauce!), our lives switched over to MRSA-mode and there they’ve stayed for a week and a half.
We did make these muffins, though, and they’re pretty darned good (says the person who ate over half of them). I found the recipe at Kitchen Preserve, a website I’ve got a crush on because it brought these muffins into my life and because one of the sidebar categories is gin.
I’m pretty sure we need a gin category around these parts. Yes?
Just so you know, I used steel cut oats because we were out of old fashioned rolled and I think they gave the muffins a nice heft.
I also ate one of these muffins with a scoop (and by scoop I mean the remains of a carton) of butter pecan ice cream with salted caramel. That was umm…awesome. And kind of nutritious, right? WIN WIN, PEOPLE.
What are you all eating these days?
We’ve got a finicky eater on our hand. By finicky I mean that someone in this household who is only about yay high has issued a moratorium on trying new things. And by new things I include hot chocolate. No matter the deliciousness, Miss M simply refuses to let anything new cross her lips. Thank god we’d gotten a few super nutrients over the threshold before the embargo settled in. The fact that she will eat interesting and strongly flavored foods (such as garlic and ginger), though, makes her refusal to continue adventuring all the more frustrating. John and I both offer her things to try with confidence that she’ll like them, only to find our spoons butting against her cheek instead of her open mouth.
So while my parents were relishing the power in my mom’s New York apartment this past weekend, in my house we were spending the days in our pajamas while blowing our noses. For some reason these family-wide colds make me highly effective in the kitchen. This weekend I made a batch of pumpkin muffins with cream cheese and a streusel topping. They were delicious. Thank god I made them, too, because they’re the only thing sick little M has wanted to eat for days.
I found the recipe at allrecipes.com. There were several delicious looking alternatives I might just have to try soon.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.
So, my mom’s stuck living in the part of the country that is freezing and living in darkness without flushable toilets or showers. Though I’ve been given a good deal of grief over living where I do over the years, I think it’s pretty clear that I officially live in the right place. I mean, otherwise there’d be no blog posts until my mom’s part of the grid turns back on (current forecast for that is next week…yup…NEXT WEEK) and then clearly you all would starve…or, at least die of boredom.
The mornings have turned cooler here, crisp and nipping and lingering longer over the days than they did a few weeks back. And though it’s really not particularly fall-like here (we took M trick-or-treating in a sleeveless dress, for instance), I find myself craving the crackle of leaves beneath my feet and the pop pop pop of a wood fire.
So, I’m making fall happen.
I’m spending this afternoon (after I finish my grant proposal…you know, in case my boss is reading this) roasting butternut squash and white onions to puree them into soup. I’m peeling a million apples to fill the kitchen with a sweet cinnamon-y aroma while they macerate and turn into sauce. And then, time allowing, I’m going to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins (I haven’t chosen a recipe yet for these, though…suggestions anyone?).
And while it all roasts and simmers and whatnot, I’ll step outside into the sunshine and savor these last few warm days before the rain comes and soaks us through and makes me start to hate soup all over again.
What’s happening in your kitchen lately?
Rachel here: One of my major pregnancy cravings is oranges. I like the fruit, I like the juice, I like the artificial flavor…you name it, if it tastes even remotely orangey I probably want it (and I also probably don’t particularly care to share). This is odd to me because in my entire life up to this point oranges have never held much sway over my taste buds. I’ve never been anti-orange per say, just never been one to seek an orange out. And now, seriously, I need to eat an orange (or orange-related something) on a daily basis or I am simply just not quite satisfied. This is a deliciously strange shift in my eating patterns.
Anyway, this orange-centric eating pattern I’ve developed leaves me desiring new and interesting ways to bring the orange into my daily diet. I’m also trying to eat healthy so that our baby grows big and strong and whatnot (and because, generally, eating healthy really appeals to me). And so, I ventured into the kitchen and concocted my very own mini-muffin recipe to try to satisfy both of these interests.
The muffins I developed are little things and are sort of like the runt cousins of pretty, super sugary and floury muffins. They are absolutely scrumptious, though, and I’ve been throwing a few in my bag each morning on my way out the door to nibble on when I get a little peckish. They’ve really been hitting the spot. Plus, I’m always just amazed when I generate my own recipe and the food actually comes out remotely resembling what I was thinking of, so I’ll admit to cherishing these little nubbins a little extra on that count.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the recipe. If orange isn’t your thing you could use lime or lemon zest instead. I’m also a fan of using clementines, but I didn’t have any around when I was baking. Also, know that you can go lighter on the zest depending on how strong of a citrus flavor you’re looking for. Obviously, per my incessant orange cravings, I went as heavy as I dared and these are certainly quite orangey as a result.
How do you incorporate your favorite fruits into your food (besides the topnotch way of whole and raw)?
Mini Orangey Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins Bites
4 T. butter
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 tspn. vanilla
1/4 tspn. salt
1 tspn. cinnamon
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tspn. baking soda
zest from 1 large orange
1 c. blueberries
demerara sugar (for tops, optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin. Beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add buttermilk, egg and vanilla and mix (this will be very wet). Add salt, cinnamon, flour, rolled oats and baking soda and mix until just combined. Fold in zest and blueberries. Fill muffin tin and sprinkle demerara sugar on top. Bake, rotating halfway through, 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool on wire rack before removing.
Janet here: The first muffins I remember making were bran muffins when I was a newlywed. New to cooking fulltime for someone besides myself, I embraced cooking and the planning of meals as if it was my job. (It wasn’t, or more accurately, it was only one of my jobs.) I read women’s magazines voraciously, ripping out recipes and thinking about the next perfect meal.
That marriage ended up being a starter marriage, doomed to flop like a failed souffle. But I brought away from the relationship many invaluable lessons, including a realization of how much I love cooking and in particular cooking for someone else. I never knew how much that meant to me until I lived it daily in that relationship. It was just one of the many lessons I could only have learned in that moment and in that way, so I remain grateful.
My interest in healthy cooking began at this time — becoming a vegetarian was one of the many personal changes I made as a result of that relationship collapse — and so bran muffins became one of my first forays into fiber. I found this recipe in Ellie Krieger’s new cookbook, So Easy, a book you’ll be hearing more about because it’s amazing. I had to adapt it a bit; I used dates instead of figs because I live in a place where figs, apparently, are considered too weird to actually stock in the local grocery store. Pathetic really, but I think the result is still mighty tasty. What’s your favorite kind of muffin?
Fig (or Date) Bran Muffins
makes about 12 muffins
1 1/2 cups bran cereal, (I used All-Bran)
1 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup natural applesauce
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 cup chopped dried figs, plus 3 whole dried figs thinly sliced
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine the cereal and milk. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the applesauce, honey, oil, molasses and egg to the cereal mixture and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the chopped figs (dates). Spoon the batter into the pan and top each muffin with a fig slice. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles. (Who knew?)
Bake for about 20 mnutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool.
Rachel here: Ok, so I find bran muffins oddly satisfying and delicious (I say oddly because ummm…really?…bran and muffin sound like opposites on the yumminess scale, but so it goes) and am currently feeling a little jealous that my mom thought to make them. This is not, however, because I am not gaga for the muffins I made for this post. The other thing about my mom’s bran muffins is that they led to her writing a bit about her first marriage, a marriage I have been intrigued by since I first found out about it (I was in 4th grade and I remember making my mom do a mathematical breakdown of the time between her first marriage and her marriage to my dad to prove to me that he was my real dad). I think it’s the idea of my mom being a different person, really, that grabs my attention and curiosity. I have so many tangible ideas about her as partnered with my dad that picturing her partnered with this man who I have barely seen a picture of (and who has a VERY unique name, particularly to my 4th grade mind) sort of invites me to conjure my mother as a person in a set of parameters that I can only imagine, a person with different ideas about herself and what she wants. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, other than to say that I got really excited when I started reading about this first marriage and, in the process, realized that I should really explore that more with my mom because it’s obviously something that remains sort of fascinating to me 15 or so years after first finding out about it. Like, who was that woman? But anyway, back to my muffins.
These muffins are seriously good. I modified the recipe slightly from the original (in The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox) and suspect that both versions are equally awesome. The only warning that I’ll give is that these muffins should probably be made in a setting with more than two mouths to feed, because the number of mouths around will consume these muffins quickly (and two mouths means six muffins a piece and that’s just a sort of obscene amount of breakfast sugar, although there is a really good flavor balance between the cake and toppings components). Anyway, these are certainly polar opposites to my mom’s bran muffins, but I (we) hope you enjoy them both.
Clementine Coffee Cake Muffins with Almond Streusel
1 c. almonds, chopped
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn. kosher salt
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
8 T. unsalted butter, very soft (plus extra for greasing the muffin tins if you’re not using liners)
Finely grated zest of 3 clementines
1 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c. plus 2 T. sour cream
1/2 tspn. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tspn. baking powder
1/2 tspn. kosher salt
First, make the streusel. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Chop your almonds and then spread them on a baking sheet to toast, about five minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and 1/4 tspn. kosher salt, mixing well (so that sugar is completely broken up). Stir in the butter. Set aside.
Next, make the muffin batter. Butter or line your muffin tin. Combine the 8 T. butter, clementine zest and granulated sugar, beating until fluffy (about 5 minutes on medium speed with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer). While mixing, add the egg, then the sour cream and the vanilla. In a small bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/2 tspn. of kosher salt. Beating the wet mixture at a low speed, add in the flour mixture until just combined.
Pour the muffin batter into the muffin tin and then top each with a generous amount of the streusel. I pushed mine down a little to really maximize the streusel opportunity. Bake, rotating halfway through, for about 25 minutes (muffins will spring back to your touch). Remove and let stand for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack (this might be the hardest part of the entire recipe because everything smells and looks soooo good at this point). Dig in.
Janet here: We’re kicking off this week’s blogs with, appropriately, a breakfast item. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, why not make it something just a little special? I’ve been eating yogurt — usually Dannon‘s coffee flavor, although Stoneyfield‘s organic non-fat yogurt has been a staple since I did Weight Watchers — for decades. My husband and son S, meanwhile, are cereal eaters. All kinds of boring, don’t you think? And that’s the joy of muffins. Bake up a batch on the weekend, and you have instantly made breakfast a cheerier meal for the rest of the week.
Muffins’ ability to bring cheer hit home with me last year after my mother-in-law died. My father-in-law was understandably bereft losing his help and soul mate after 56 years of marriage. She was also a good cook so the loss was a double whammy for a man who enjoys a good meal. So I started making these muffins. I made them week after week after week — so regularly, in fact, that he started calling me the Muffin Queen. We all got just a bit tired of them, but he didn’t and so I kept baking, bringing just a bit of sunshine to a life that was all shades of gray.
This particular recipe is from one of my favorite culinary ladies, Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa. I have five of her cookbooks and I refer to them all the time. (Indeed there will be another recipe of hers featured later this week; stay tuned.) This one for triple berry muffins is from The Barefoot Contessa at Home. I amended it to just use blueberries and raspberries; I’m pretty sure Ina would approve. I also make my muffins in large tins rather than the regular size. Why scrimp when muffins are so special?
Triple Berry Muffins
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (the ingredient that really gives these pizazz I think)
1 1/4 cups milk
2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. (FYI, I don’t sift. Ever.)Stir with your hand to make sure ingredients are combined. In another bowl combine milk, eggs and butter. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour wet ingredients into the well and stir until just combined. There will be some lumps; don’t overmix the batter. Add the fruit and sugar and combine gently.
Use a 2 1/4 ice cream scoop to spoon the batter into the liners. Bake 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are brown.
Rachel here: So, my partner and I are in the process of moving. We have the good fortune of having two apartments this month and, with that luck, the accompanying difficulty of remembering what is where at any given moment. Seriously, the only thing I own whose location I am positive of these days is my bed. Anyway, needless to say, this created some err….fun…baking escapades this morning.
The plan was to spend the day at the new apartment, unpacking what we could and generally getting things going in the new space. So, after our coffee this morning, I dutifully packed up my cookbook, butter, a spatula, and other muffin making necessities, checking items off of the list I’d developed in my head. No sooner had I preheated the oven (oh, and what an oven it is…it’s an O’Keefe and Merrit a la photo number 6) then I realized I had brought no measuring spoons NOR did I have a single spoon in the house, I had fewer muffin/cupcake paper wrappers than I needed AND I had neglected to bring the paddle to my KitchenAid mixer. Grrr…
My partner was adamant I could still pull these muffins off. This optimism irritated me until I decided that, if not, it would at least make a good story and, most likely, a pretty yummy mess. And so, instead of creaming my butter and sugar into a wonderfully fluffy goo, I threw them in my Cuisinart (which, of course, I only had the sharp metal blade with me for) and turned them (along with the eggs, banana and yogurt…which I also didn’t bring enough of) into an unpromising liquid. At this point I had strayed so far from the recipe’s orders that I was convinced there was no way in hell these muffins wouldn’t come out like little boulders. Instead, in some freak incident I’m sure (because if not following the rules always works this well than my entire world will be turned upside down), my muffins came out just fine. WEIRD. OK, they’re not wonderful, but they are completely edible and definitely still better than their store-bought counterparts. Could they be fluffier? Absolutely. Will they all be eaten? Without a doubt.
The moral of my story is, I suppose, twofold: First, just because your partner thinks something can still work out doesn’t mean he is trying to ruin your life with his optimism or that your general propensity toward skepticism need be re-evaluated; second, evidently muffins (and baking in general?!?) might not be the finicky princesses I had figured they were beforehand. Anyway, follow this recipe from The Best Recipe (I added some strawberries to the banana walnut variation) or just mix all of these ingredients together and cross your fingers. Either way, I’m pretty sure your breakfast tomorrow morning will be a little bit brighter.
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tspn. baking soda
1/2 tspn. salt (*Note: I always lean towards the generous side with salt during baking. I swear it brings out flavors.)
1/2 tspn. nutmeg
10 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. plain low-fat yogurt
1 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. finely diced banana
1/2 c. strawberries
3/4 c. walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position. Whisk flour, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg in bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Add half of dry ingredients and incorporate. Beat in 1/3 of the yogurt. Continue alternating dries and yogurt until everything is incorporated. Fold in bananas, strawberries and walnuts.
Now, according to the official recipe you should scoop your batter into greased muffin tins. I used little cupcake paper wrappers, though, to cut down on clean-up (on account of the move). While the sides don’t get quite as well cooked, I personally feel like there’s nothing wrong with this approach. If I were making them for an event I wouldn’t use the paper wrappers, but when it’s just for home, the time I save on clean-up is worth the compromise to me! Anyway, enjoy!