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.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)