The Parent Trap: Spiced Muffins

One of the nice things about going home, aside from getting most of my meals made for me, is that I get to experience what home cooking could be like if I had the time, patience, and money to actually make something good. I think my mom is a good cook, and if anything the level of her cooking has only gotten better, maybe either because now she sticks to such a healthy diet for herself, she doesn't mind making tastier things for the rest of us, or possibly because when she has a child in the house, she gets to show off and make fancier stuff. Either way, I'm happy.

Certainly, for example, growing up I never tromped down to the kitchen on Sunday mornings to be awakened to the dreamy smells of frying bacon, fresh bread, coffee, tea, and muffins in the oven (we also had eggs, which were good, but don't really have a terribly discernible smell). Most days it was like "Here pour the last bit of broken and stale cereal into a plastic baggie so we can go." And yet! Last weekend Dave and I enjoyed a breakfast so delicious we had to hold ourselves back so that we could save room for the New Jersey Border Cafe, where we were planning to have lunch (a mistake. i wish i had gorged on those muffins...).

I don't really like to do fancy stuff for breakfast, as breakfast, while it might be the most important meal of the day, is important to me only for how easily I can shove food into my half-comatose mouth (Disclosure: my breakfasts are usually provided by my office, and generally either entail toast and peanut butter, cereal, or crackers with peanut butter and honey. Every now in then I bring in some of my dinner rolls. But it's spartan.). So it's nice to go home and enjoy my mom's home-cooked goodies. She usually only makes them for special occasions, like the cinnamon rolls we have at Christmas, or the waffles we'd used to have after sleepovers, but, as mentioned above, now it's like every time I came home it's a party! (it actually literally was a party, since we were celebrating me bein born 23-some-odd years ago)

Last Sunday, she made her wonderful spiced muffins, which are actually just the best muffins I've ever had in my life. To be fair, muffins are a hard food. They are almost always disgusting unless just out of a oven or heated up in a toaster, and they are too often sold at pretentious coffee stores that think it's ok to charge $6 for a dried-out, crumbly, and chalky pastry. When I make muffins, I usually use Jiffy, a box of which costs something like 49 cents. The muffins are very good, and in fact for a while in high school I would make a batch every week, the muffins getting progressively more unpalatable by Friday. Still, they're nice and simple, good for experimenting (my cinnamon-cocoa muffins got great acclaim), and at such a decent price, they're the most cost-effective breakfast out there.

My mom's muffins though, are so absurdly delicious. Spicy and soft, with whole pecans in them, they have an unusual, but fragrant, taste, the pecans adding texture and complexity. I love them with butter, although they are so light and delicious that it's almost unnecessary. And while muffins are not quite health food, these substitute most of their sugar for applesauce, making it ok to have more than just one. Dave and I both left dreaming of more muffins (although we were distracted by my totally awesome ice cream birthday cake, which we ended up finishing on the train), and I emailed my mom for the recipe. Turns out, with my dad visiting my grandma this week, my mom is swimming in leftover muffins, more than she knows what to do with! (this is very near my fantasy...)

1 cup applesauce
½ cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 5/8 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup raisins or nuts (optional) (pecans work best but any nuts may be used)

Mix applesauce with oil, sugar, and egg.
In another bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly (sifting is good, though not necessary).
Stir first mixture with dry mixture. Then stir in nuts or raisins.
Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin cups. (Spraying muffin pan is good.)
Fill about 2/3 full. Sprinkle extra nuts on top of muffins.
Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, until muffins are brown. (Don’t overcook.) Makes 12 large muffins or 18 medium muffins.
Can also be baked in a greased loaf pan at 350° for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Image of Jose the Muffin. Plans are in order to buy myself a new camera for my birthday, as soon as Andrew gets off his butt and tells me what kind of camera to buy.

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