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).
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.