Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Praise of the Humble Muffin

Finding a school-day snack that is quick to eat and remotely healthy has become a big challenge. Apparently if snack takes "too long to eat" my daughter doesn't get to play at "snack recess" and that makes me the worst mother ever for "ruining everything." Her words, not mine.

One morning, in a fit of laziness (or was it desperation?), I tossed a frozen banana muffin into her snack container. I tend to have a variety of muffins in the freezer at any given time - banana and corn are among the favorites around these parts. I figured it would defrost in time for snack. Worst case scenario she wouldn't eat it like countless school snacks that came before it. She isn't exactly wasting away.

Imagine my surprise when all that came home in the snack container was the empty wrapper. I tested my luck the rest of that week and gave a muffin every day. Lo and behold - the muffins were eaten. Hallelujah and Amen. I was back to "best mommy ever" status. All it took was a frozen muffin.

I put this recipe together basically by accident. Little Miss Muffin requested blueberry muffins and I didn't have any blueberries in the freezer. I did, however, have frozen strawberries from our strawberry picking excursion last summer. They held up surprisingly well over the winter. I also didn't have any butter. Or enough milk. So I improvised. Feel free to substitute another fruit for the strawberries (blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc.).

Strawberry Muffins
Yields 1 dozen

*Very* loosely adapted from "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 of the flour with whole wheat)
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup sugar (can reduce to 1/4 c if you prefer your muffins less sweet)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/2 tsp grated fresh lemon zest (optional)
1 TBS melted butter or neutral oil (I had canola, I used canola)
1 egg
1 1/4 c low fat sour cream or yogurt (plain or vanilla)
2-3 TBS milk
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, chopped (if using frozen do not defrost before stirring into batter)
2-3 TBS turbinado or demerra sugar (ie. Sugar in the Raw) to sprinkle on top

  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper or foil cups.
  • Combine dry ingredients, including lemon zest, in a bowl and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the oil, egg, sour cream and milk.
  • Using a spoon or rubber spatula add the wet ingredients to the dry. Do not overmix. Just mix until the ingredients are combined. The batter may be lumpy. It will also be thicker than you think it should be. As long as it's moist you're in business. If it isn't add in some more milk 1 TBS at a time.
  • Gently stir in the strawberries and combine.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin tin. I like to use an ice cream scoop - it makes for muffins that are uniform in shape. Fill the tins about 2/3 full.
  • Optional: top with a sprinkle of turbinado sugar (it adds a great crunch to the muffin tops).
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes (they take 18 minutes in my oven) until nicely browned and they spring back slightly when lightly touched.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Can be eaten warm. They also freeze well for great school-day snacking. :)