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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.