Well folks, we made it. 2016 is over and gone, and 2017 is here — of course, as we knew it would be. On the eve of a new year we always proclaim the previous to be “the worst year ever,” willing the next to be better and brighter, because it just has to be, right? Seriously, we do it every year. And while 2016 might have been an exception in crappiness, even in our current era, on the grand scale of politics and the like I’m not betting 2017 will be much better. But a friend posted a thread on Facebook encouraging people to post the good things that happened in 2016 — because on a personal level, I’ll bet there were as many for you as there were for me. I spent much of the year trying to regain my footing, find my place in the world — a miasmic endeavor that left me, often, in tears. And yet, 2016 was the year my sweet nephew Charlie was born, and it was the year I married the love of my life on the most gorgeous day of the year — two huge events that also left me in tears, but happy ones. Watching videos of Charlie laughing over and over again and just looking into the eyes of my new husbo have been a salve to my soul. And as 2016 came to a close and 2017 dawned cold and sunny, I’m stepping closer and more firmly to where I want to be, where I need to be, where I belong. And so, in honor of this awakening, I’m sharing with you these Orange Cranberry Streusel Muffins — as bright and glorious as the cold winter sun, and like a warm hug to welcome you in from the chill of last year.
This isn’t a post about moms. The ones who wake in the middle of the night at your slightest cough or gasp from a nightmare. The ones who schlep from one end of town to another, to the next town, and back again, for figure skating lessons, violin lessons, piano lessons, general shenanigans. The ones who give in and get you a cat when you’re six years old, have you jumping around your living room with your brother at the thought of bringing home a tiny grey kitten-friend. The ones who hold your hand as you wade through life’s murky waters, are okay with a phone call in the middle of the day while they’re at work just because you’re bored or lonely or wondering what to do about a weird burn. The ones who teach you “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” The ones who are there for you, every single moment of every single day, without you ever having to ask, because being a mom means being completely selfless.
No, this isn’t about that. My mom hates coconut, and I did not plan very well this week. This weekend I’m making my mom key lime pie, but this post is really about Coconut Banana Nut Muffins. After all, Mom did teach me to listen to my body and eat the things I crave.
Somewhere, deep down, I wish I remembered my first steps. Our parents always remember our first words (mine were “thank you,” or, more accurately, “gackoo” — what can I say, the potty mouth came later), but they don’t always remember where we finally stood, wobbling on our tiny feet, and tentatively waddled awkwardly over to open arms. What did we feel? Was it pride? Exhilaration? If you’ve ever been off your feet or away from the sport you love for any length of time, I think maybe you get a bit of an inkling when you finally take your first steps back. I did, last night, only hours after breaking down into sobs over the memories of my last marathon, of the stubborn thought that I might never run again, of nothing working, of nearly picking up the phone and making an appointment for an experimental treatment with a 50-50 chance of success. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, even with my under eyes still stained with mascara from my tears, my ankle felt… great. I couldn’t even manipulate the pain I had felt upon waking in the morning, that I feel nearly every day. With the weather hovering in the mid-60s, I decided to go down to the track, where my teammates were running 1600-meter repeats, and just walk, maybe jog a little, just to see. My first steps on the track were hesitant, but magical. As I continued on with my friend Tracy by my side, I felt exhilarated, free. This must’ve been what it was like all those years ago.
It must also be what it’s like to tap the sap from a maple tree as winter begins its thaw in the northeast — it’s maple sugaring season! I never knew, not until I saw a video of sap boiling in preparation for a maple syrup festival at the Union Square Greenmarket last week and Food52 posted a delicious looking recipe for maple syrup-filled “sugar pie.” Because I haven’t been terribly active these last few months, I haven’t been terribly hungry. And I’ve felt uncomfortable in my skin. If we pass Donut Plant, yes, I will buy all the donuts (hello, tres leches). But I will feel incredibly guilty about it. I have very little self-control. So I’ve been thinking a lot more about how to put nutrients in my body — and tasty treats in my face — in compact packages without lots of refined white flour or sugar. Sugaring season was the perfect excuse to experiment with these Maple Rye Muffins. Continue reading →
There are days when I dream of sun-ripened fruit and farmstand veggies and other fresh things. And then there are days when I try to Nutella everything. I’ve gotten into the habit of baking off loaves of peasant bread and schmearing warm slices with Nutella, or rescuing day-old peasant bread by toasting it and schmearing it with Nutella. It’s been my daily afternoon treat and I think it was saving me from the depths of everyone else’s winter depression. When we ran out of the sweet stuff over the weekend, we took advantage of the current thaw and took a walk up to one of our many local European markets (one of the great things about living in a Greek neighborhood) to see if they were selling it any cheaper than the supermarket on the corner. They weren’t, but they did have giant jars. Don’t worry, I said, I’ll find a use for it. But when I say “Nutella everything” I don’t just mean a schmear on things here and there — I’m talking about recreating Nutella in all kinds of food forms. Enter these chocolate-hazelnut banana muffins. Continue reading →
A video went viral recently in which an explorer and documentarian, clad in a heat-protective suit, climbed down into the crater of Manu, an active volcano on the island archipelago of Vanuatu, later describing it as a “window into hell,” like looking into the center of the earth. The churning, bubbling, exploding sea of lava before him sent chills down my spine, in utter awe of the life within our world. But in those crashing waves I also saw something else: I saw a pot of sweet, spicy, boiling, churning oatmeal.
It’s one of my favorite sounds: milk and oats, rising and colliding and becoming more than they were alone. Expanding, creating. I have my method: milk, brown sugar, a healthy dose of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Bananas folded in off the stove, topped with sliced almonds and another sprinkling of cinnamon. Toss in some blueberries and it’s heaven on a cool morning. Delicious, filling, and – time consuming. It got me thinking: can I make this in muffin form, for an easy, grab-and-go breakfast treat?