The Monday after spring break has its ups and downs. In my case, having stayed home with my kids for the better part of ten days, I’d be lying if I said I weren’t a little grateful to have them headed back to school this morning. Like, if I hear one more “He hit me and I did NOTHING!” I might need to pack up and move to Aruba. On the other hand, I do treasure the concentrated time home with them doing fun activities like park play dates, library visits, and living room picnics.
And after almost a whole week or waking up without an alarm, it was a little hard to get out of bed this morning.
That’s partly why I made these Coconut Almond Muffins yesterday–to trick myself into the motivation needed to get up and go about regularly scheduled life. With the hearty texture of ground almonds and tropical sweetness of coconut, they’re a tasty treat that’s worth hauling myself into the kitchen for.
What I didn’t anticipate, though, was that my ten-year-old son (who took a sudden interest in cooking over spring break) would make me coffee, pour me a glass of water, and plate me two of these muffins–complete on a tray for breakfast in bed! Since our spring break was somewhat derailed by the bickering so common to school-aged kids, we’d had a long talk last night about service and kindness. Something must have sunk in.
I guess the only problem is that I didn’t actually have to get out of bed to eat them!
Coconut Almond Muffins
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 2/3 c. white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. butter, melted
- 1/2 c. almond milk
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 c. slivered almonds
- 1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease 12 muffin cups.
- In a large bowl, combine all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add melted butter, almond milk, almond extract, vanilla extract, and eggs. Stir until just combined.
- Coarsely grind the almonds: pulse almonds in a small food processor or zap a few times with an immersion blender until broken into small pieces. Mix almonds and coconut into batter.
- Divide batter between 12 muffin cups and bake in preheated oven 14-18 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
I’ve never really thought about it before, but cookie cakes have played kind of a major role in my life.
It started in high school. Junior year when my husband and I were dating, there was a Sadie Hawkins’-style dance called MORP (backwards prom). Everything about it was supposed to be the opposite of the regular protocol for school dances. Instead of dressing up in our fancy best, couples were supposed to dress exactly alike. (This was much trickier in the ’90s, before the age of gender neutralized clothing.) The dance was casual instead of formal; even the photo backdrop was a departure from the usual Grecian columns and silky fabrics:
Ah yes, here we are, dressed alike and casually hanging out on our garland-draped ATV. (Who comes up with this stuff?)
The final detail of MORP was that the girl was supposed to ask the guy to the dance in some clever way. I guess food has always been my love language, because I decided to present my then-boyfriend-now-husband with a cookie cake popping the question in frosting. Unfortunately, “Will you go to MORP with me?” was too long to fit on the cookie I ended up ordering, and instead, I remember it just had the word MORP with a giant question mark.
Good thing he knew what I was talking about, or he probably would have thought I was suffering from some sort of delicious aphasic episode.
Fast forward several years. When we found out I was pregnant with our first child, we figured we’d break out the old cookie cake communication trick to inform my husband’s parents of their new grandparent status. We had been tasked to bring dessert to Sunday dinner. Imagine my in-laws’ surprise when they read the happy news in frosted lettering. Good memories.
With this history, cookie cakes have always held a place in my heart as special occasion desserts. So the other night when a friend and her daughter joined us for dinner, I decided a red velvet cookie cake sounded like just the delectable treat to serve after dinner.
When our visiting friend and I took our first bites, we looked at each other and went, “Oh. WOW.” The subtly flavored chocolate cookie dotted with white chocolate chips and covered with smooth cream cheese frosting made for an amazing finish to dinner. Cookie cakes for the win once again!
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, or for any special occasion, consider this decadent dessert. You don’t even have to spell out any messages on it. It’s special enough all by itself.
Red Velvet Cookie Cake
For the cookie cake:
- 3/4 c. butter, softened
- 2/3 c. white sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 tsp. red food coloring
- 2 tsp. vinegar
- 1 3/4 c. flour
- 1/4 c. cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. corn starch
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. white chocolate chips
For the frosting:
- 4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 c. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- colored sprinkles (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk, vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar and mix to combine.
- Add flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing the top of the batter until even. Bake 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then vanilla and milk, until smooth and spreadable.
- When cookie cake has completely cooled, spread frosting in a smooth layer on top. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, if using. Keep refrigerated.
I’ll be honest and say I had pretty low expectations when I decided to make sweet potato muffins. In terms of baking, sweet potatoes have always seemed to me like pumpkin’s stringy-haired, less charming step-sister. I have no evidence to back up this notion. Maybe it’s just that in this country, in all the months that end in -ber, pumpkin gets all the glory in baked goods, while sweet potatoes dutifully play side dish. Probably there’s a Pumpkin Baking Lobby at work beneath this phenomenon.
At any rate, sometimes it’s good to get out of a rut, even if it’s just a pumpkin baking rut. So when I realized I had a heaping helping of leftover cooked sweet potatoes nobody in my family was chomping at the bit to consume, I went hunting for a recipe to repurpose them as breakfast. Am I glad I did? Well, I’ll just say, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins, that…
These muffins come out with flavor as bright as their color. A hint of orange zest in the recipe adds just the right counterpoint to the heartier tubers’ taste. And despite the heft of sweet potatoes’ texture, these are light, moist, and even–dare I say–fluffy? With a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top, I’m kind of sad I only made about a dozen.
So there you have it. I’m a sweet potato baking convert. Are you? Next time you have extra cooked sweet potatoes leftover, remember to try out this recipe, and I think you will be in no time!
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins
- 1 Tbsp. white sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. orange extract (or 1 Tbsp. orange zest)
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. milk (I used almond milk)
- 1 1/2 c. cooked mashed sweet potatoes
- In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 14 muffin cups with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
- In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, orange extract or zest, oil, and milk. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
- Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Store in an airtight container.
Fall may not technically start until tomorrow, but I’m calling it. My fall decorations are going up and I am ready to go Full Throttle Pumpkin. Are you?
I must say, however, that this year I am learning from previous pumpkin mistakes. Last fall, I made numerous batches of pumpkin butter and sold it to friends, family, and my husband’s co-workers. Major pumpkin love! When I circled back to see if anyone wanted to purchase a second round, though, the response was almost always the same: “We love it, but we haven’t used it up yet.”
That’s where these Pumpkin Butter Muffins come in. As far as I know, pumpkin butter is a beloved seasonal treat, but most people don’t eat enough toast to use up a whole jar of it as a spread. That means it’s time to get a little creative, because the last thing you want is for this pumpkin-y deliciousness to go to waste.
Swirling creamy pumpkin butter into tender muffins is a great way to use that extra bit of it hanging around in your fridge–and makes for a colorful breakfast that screams autumnal goodness. And hey, who’s to stop you from slathering more pumpkin butter on top of these after they come out of the oven? Not I!
Pumpkin Butter Muffins
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 c. milk
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. pumpkin butter
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a smaller bowl or large measuring cup, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
- Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Dollop a bit of pumpkin butter into each and swirl into batter using a knife or toothpick.
- Bake 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of muffins comes out clean. Store in an airtight container.
Generally, I’m not much into specialty ingredients. If it can’t be found with relative ease at my local Fry’s or Trader Joe’s, I tend to feel I can pretty well do without it or find a reasonable substitute. We don’t need no hifalutin’ muscovado sugar, soy flour, or buffalo yogurt around here, thankyouverymuch. Especially here on the blog, I like to feature recipes that don’t require excessive effort, whether in techniques used, time spent, or ingredients called for. (And I tend to roll my eyes and click right past when other food bloggers post recipes that want you to track down some vegan hemp matcha flax milk. Ain’t nobody got time for that, and the 2% in my fridge will work just fine.)
But today I’m going to make a small exception to my no-specialty-ingredients policy, because my muffin world was recently rocked by the discovery of whole grain medium-grind cornmeal. (Yes, when you make muffins as often as I do, you can legitimately claim to have a “muffin world.”) My dear husband brought me back some cornmeal from the U.S. to Germany when I couldn’t find any here, and lo and behold, it was whole grain medium-grind–something I had never heard of before, since I always buy the cheapo generic 89-cent cornmeal.
When I used this semi-specialty ingredient to make the Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins featured here, I fell in loooooove with the result. The grittier texture it yields might not to everyone’s taste, but I found it super hearty and satisfying, like the kind of cornbread the pilgrims would have had at the first Thanksgiving before we got all technologified with grinding our cornmeal into powder.
Come to find out, there is also a difference between whole grain cornmeal and “regular” cornmeal not labeled as whole grain. As a nutritionist, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never really given whole grain corn much thought, but it stands to reason that, just like with any other grain, when the bran, germ, and endosperm of the corn are left intact, the corn will be more nutritious. Therefore, whole grain cornmeal contains more fiber and B vitamins than non-whole grain. Bonus! Awesome taste and texture PLUS better nutrition. And some mega-tasty muffins to use it in.
So there you have it…not too crazy a special ingredient, but maybe a fun one to give a try. After all, the Bob’s Red Mill brand seems to be sold in most mainstream U.S. grocery stores, so I imagine whole grain medium-grind cornmeal won’t be too tough to find if you want to try using it in these summery, bursting-with-berries muffins. When you taste them fresh out of the oven with a schmear of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar, I think you’ll agree they’re worth it.
Raspberry Cornmeal Muffins
- 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. plain yogurt
- 1/2 c. milk
- 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 c. medium-grain whole wheat cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 c. frozen raspberries, unthawed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add melted butter, eggs, honey, sugar, yogurt, and milk, stirring to combine. Gently stir in frozen raspberries.
- Divide batter among the prepared muffin cups and bake 18-20 minutes.