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).
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.