Saturday, October 03, 2009

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

I sat down to do this blog and discovered I'd somehow managed to not blog all of September. So much for resolve! I have the makings of several blogs that I kept meaning to get to... half credit, I suppose.

In the last six weeks everyone in the family has started school. Except me. Kiddo's in first grade, Junior started preschool, and hubby's taking night classes for his A.S. In the midst of that we had a brush with the flu, Kiddo had an ear infection, and I had my 25 year old crown removed for replacement. I've been busy at work too, as EQII released another game update and I had one staffer in the hospital for a week.

I really don't know how families with two working parents do it. I've been running everywhere for doctor's appointments, school orientations, regular errands, and getting kids to and from school (we're too close to Kiddo's school for a bus and Junior's preschool is across town). If I had a regular job I would have missed at least a quarter of it in the last month and I'd be paying for before-and-after-school care for the kids. Just trying to schedule appointments so no one misses school and I can pick everyone up on time requires a high level of organization.

This week my extra task is snacks for Jackie's preschool. We were told at the beginning of the year that parents would take turns week-by-week. So far Miss Jeannie, Jackie's main teacher, has taken all the weeks. I get the first parent's turn.

When I picked Jackie up yesterday they were having popcorn and fruit ring cereal for snack. Which is fine, I guess, the cereal's fortified and popcorn is a great snack, but I can't do anything by halves. I whipped out all my healthy fun kid snack recipes - chocolate zucchini bread, oatmeal applesauce cookies, banana blueberry muffins, and pumpkin cookies. I'll be baking all weekend!

I only had four recipes so I went looking. One thing I've got excess of is dates, which have been in our last few TEFAP boxes. I was thinking to make the Joy of Cooking basic muffin recipe and just fold chopped dates in, but then I found this recipe. The only thing I had to buy was an orange for the zest. The original recipe is linked; what I actually used is below.
Orange Date Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons oil
2/3 cup chopped dates

Makes 12 muffins (I tripled the recipe and it came out fine)

To get orange zest, take a fine grater to the skin of a thick skinned orange (try to avoid the white part). This will give your muffins a lovely fragrance and taste. The original recipe also had walnuts, but I've never liked nuts in my baked goods.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Place rack in the middle of the oven. Prepare a muffin tin by coating the cups with non-stick spray or use paper muffin cups.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, and orange zest. In a separate bowl, mix together the orange juice, buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, and melted and cooled butter. Add the milk and egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Fold in the dates. Do not over mix the batter or the muffins will be tough when baked.

Evenly divide the mixture among the 12 muffins cups and sprinkle each muffin with a little sugar, if desired. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Buttermilk substitutions are worth mentioning again. Buttermilk not only gives baking good flavor, but helps the raising. You can use plain yogurt in place of buttermilk, or you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk and letting it stand for 10 minutes. I like to use buttermilk powder, which you add to the dry ingredients and then add the water you'd reconstitute it with to the wet ingredients.

By the way, you can fit 12 muffins in a gallon zip-close bag. Get as much air out as possible and you can freeze them. Just be sure they are completely cool before you do, or the condensation in the bag will make them a bit mushy when they thaw.

Coming soon: another product review, and the banana bread recipe that won me several blue ribbons as a kid.

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