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.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.