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).
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?)