There are certain foods that, even if quite marginal, are still kind of good. Pizza is one. I certainly appreciate and prefer really good pizza – but when the craving for hot, melty cheese strikes, I’ll take bad pizza over no pizza any day. Brownies fall in this camp, too. Muffins, on the other hand, can’t claim this category and I don’t often write about muffins here only because they are so often overly-sweet and not all that interesting. But I’m also always up for a challenge and creating a great updated classic that’s simple to make and packed with whole grain nutrition and flavor (savory, please!): Game on.
Growing up, my mom used to buy the store bought Jiffy corn muffin mix: when I’d see that charming little blue-lined box sitting on the counter after school, I’d know it was chili night. These days though, when I come across corn muffins or even cornbread, they can either be really dry or overly sweet, which is a shame because they’re such a great vehicle for all manner of savory inclusions — which I took liberty to use here.
I added millet — one of my favorite little gluten-free grains for extra crunch — a whole can of mild green chiles (don’t worry, these aren’t spicy: your kids will likely not even notice they’re in there), sweet yellow corn, and a cup of grated cheddar cheese for extra flavor. The result is a savory muffin that’s almost as easy to make as its boxed cousin, will only dirty a few bowls, and is perfect with soup or chili but can stand on its own for breakfast or a midday pick-me-up when you’ve been out in the back yard pacing, trying to figure out what the heck to do with your overgrown garden this spring (not speaking from experience or anything).
Next week Oliver and I are flying to visit my mom in Vermont; it’ll be the first time I travel with him solo, so wish us all the luck. I’ve picked up some stickers, a little travel set of blocks (thanks for the recommendation, Natalie!), and I’ll be sure to stick a few of these muffins in my bag for airport snacking (I froze half the batch to pull out for future snacking; they freeze beautifully).
P.S. Thank you all so much for your sweet and often insightful comments on my last post. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps I should talk to a friend (or a therapist?!) about some topics rather than posting them on the site, but then it’s also refreshing to read real stories and feelings and not just polished recipes all the time. Lately I really crave getting to know the actual people behind my favorite sites or social media accounts, and I’m always shooting for a little more of that here, too. Happiest of spring Fridays to you all. The weekend: we made it!
These flavor-packed, savory muffins are tender with a light yet sturdy crumb. Make sure your honey is nice and liquidy when you’re using it (if it’s more solid, just microwave it for a few seconds until it liquifies) and look for a looser, traditional yogurt versus a thick Greek yogurt. While it’s tempting to try one right out of the oven, the flavors really do develop as they cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 16 muffin cups or line with paper liners (the recipe makes 16 muffins so if you have two muffin pans, line 16; if you don’t, line 12 and you’ll just bake them off in two rounds).
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, millet, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and garlic powder.
In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, honey, and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Once all the dry bits are fully incorporated, fold in the corn, green chiles, and grated cheese.
Let dough sit at room temperature for ten minutes.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each one to the top (don’t be shy here – these won’t overflow). Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are turning golden brown around the edges and are firm to the touch. Cool in the pan 5 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack for additional 15 minutes. Enjoy warm or room temperature, preferably with butter.
Cover leftovers and store at room temperature for up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 3 months).
Glimpses of Spring
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).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
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.