I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I’m out and about as I find they’re often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there’s only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I’m tentative on muffins. But not these. We’ve been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping — quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare.
I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine’s post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don’t remember the last time a Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I remember when Sam and I were first dating long distance, and occasions or holidays would feel like a hurdle: I’d so wish we could be together and fell into the trap of constantly thinking towards the next birthday or the next Valentine’s Day and assuring myself it’d be different the following year — envisioning the grand places where we might celebrate (if we were in San Francisco maybe at Zuni to share the famous chicken and a few oysters; if in Seattle, perhaps Spinasse for a plate of that simple, buttery pasta). The funny thing: now that that period in our lives is over, I think much less eagerly towards grand dates or sweeping gestures, and look forward to the smaller dates and moments. Sam asked last night if we should think about going out to dinner on Saturday and we both glanced at each other with the same look in our eye: I hope the other says no; let’s stay in.
This is not to say that we don’t love going out because we love trying new cafes around town and visiting our favorite neighborhood spot, but there’s something almost more special about planning the quieter moments — figuring out what kind of pancakes we’ll make and how to balance the coffee on the bed without spilling it, making homemade whipped cream, catching up on the week.
I have a quote taped to the computer in my office at Marge; it’s an Annie Dillard quote that reads “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” It’s possible I’ve shared this quote here before, but I can’t remember and maybe it’s a good one to revisit regardless. Instead of inspirational photos of people and places, this alone serves as a good reminder when I start to feel overwhelmed by all of the Bigger Things in life (success of a business, taxes, celebrating holidays and occasions). While fancy dates and dinners are nice, it’s really the everyday meals (and occasional breakfast in bed) that comprise most of our life — and when focusing too much on the grand and fancy, you lose sight of most of the really good stuff. Like muffins in bed. I hope you have some this weekend, solo or joined by someone you love.
Megan’s Note: I know the ingredient list for these muffins looks long, but a handful are spices alone and I imagine a few are things you already have in your pantry. I know some of you are hesitant about coconut oil, but it really is so wonderful in these muffins; it has a sweet fragrance that adds so much. If you don’t have it or would rather not use it, I imagine that butter would work just fine as well. I haven’t tested these with butter, but I can’t think of any clear reason why they’d be negatively affected (if you try it, let me know!) The one thing to remember about the oil: do make sure it isn’t very hot when adding it to the wet ingredients as you don’t want to curdle your yogurt and milk — I let mine cool to almost room temperature while still making sure it’s in its liquid state.
My best advice for these muffins is not to be conservative with the crumble topping; as the muffin tops spread in the oven you’re going to wish you had more of it, so feel free to really layer and even lightly press it onto each.
For Crumble Topping:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the two flours, oats, sugar, baking powder and baking soda, spices and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, yogurt, milk, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Fold in orange zest, apple, carrots, raisins and walnuts.
Scoop batter into 12 paper-lined muffin tins, filling each almost to the top. Spoon crumble filling on top.
Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown around the edges and feel firm to the touch, even in the center. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Muffins will keep for 2 days if stored covered at room temperature.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos. Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.