Cool Mornings, Warm Muffins

The weather has turned. There is no denying it—fall will be here soon. Most cool mornings you’ll find me in one of two places: sitting at my computer on the back porch with coffee in hand or in the kitchen baking something that perfumes the house with deliciousness. On those oppressively hot late summer days, I avoid turning on the oven. Baking is simply not an option, but as soon as the first 59° F morning hits, all I can think about is muffins, cakes, tarts, and cookies. I start to dream of all of the goodies I will make for the holidays.   Consequently, I also vow every fall to continue my workout routine through the dark days of winter to justify enjoying the fruits of my labor.   It’s so difficult to put down the muffin and go to the gym though.

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Muffins are one of my favorite cool morning baked goods because they can be enjoyed, still warm, for breakfast or as a late afternoon snack.   Do you know the best use for those bags of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or cherries hiding in your freezer? Muffins. Most recipes follow a similar ingredient template and ratio of fruit to batter; so do not be afraid to change it up a bit. I rarely make a muffin without a crumble topping. That little bit of crunch on top adds texture, a bit of sweetness, and is the key to bakery-style muffins.

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Months ago, I lovingly pitted a whole bag of cherries and popped them in the freezer. I am waiting for the perfect fall morning to use them in this recipe. Perhaps I’ll even share with the neighbors, so I don’t feel tempted to eat them all.

Cherry Almond Muffins

  • ½ c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ c. milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • ¾ c. flour
  • ½ c. almond flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups pitted, halved cherries

Crumble Topping:

  • ½ c. flour
  • ½ c. almond flour
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. rolled oats
  • 8 tbs. cold butter, cubed
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F
  2. Cream butter and sugar together using paddle attachment on a mixer. Add eggs one at a time and stir to incorporate. Add milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
  3. In separate bowl combine flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Fold in the cherries.
  5. Use paper muffin cups or grease each muffin cup with butter.   Fill each cup 2/3 full.
  6. Crumble Topping: Mix together flour, almond flour, brown sugar, and oats. Using a pastry blender or a fork, mix in cold butter until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  7. Top each muffin with the crumble topping. *To make larger crumbles, squeeze mixture in your hand and lightly crumble over the top of the muffin batter.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Greens. Love or Hate?

Greens. We either love them or we don’t. At least, that is my unscientific observation at the mere mention of this word in the culinary world. I love them—some more than others. Often seen as the quintessential southern dish, greens are eaten, well…all over the world. Perhaps it’s because they are inexpensive and nutrient rich or maybe because they are quite abundant. And by greens, I mean all greens…collards, spinach, kale, Swiss shard, turnip, mustard, beet, sweet potato, and more. I am sure I have missed a few exotic ones, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of greens out there.

Kale and spinach have enjoyed ego boosts lately due to the health craze of green smoothies and juicing; however, I would venture to guess that the consumption of all greens has increased. Let’s face it, greens are good for us. When thoughtfully prepared, they taste good, too. In an age of the awareness of mounting food waste and farmers markets where we can get beautiful produce with the greens still attached, greens are getting a second look from chefs and consumers alike.

Stewed, sautéed, flash-fried, puréed, or chopped raw in a salad—any way you eat them, greens can be a flavorful dish. The key is picking the best greens for the recipe. Some greens are best stewed for a good amount of time with seasonings that compliment their earthiness and a cooking time that makes them tender (collards, mustard greens, turnip greens). Others can be enjoyed raw or lightly sautéed (kale, spinach, Swiss chard).   I have even had them fried. On that note…if you ever visit Chef Vivian Howard’s restaurant in Kinston, NC, Chef and the Farmer, you MUST order the fried collards. They will blow your mind.

My favorite “go to” recipe for a quick side dish of healthy greens, is to sauté them in olive oil with sliced garlic. If you like a little heat, add red pepper flakes to the oil before sautéing. This recipe can be done with kale, spinach, beet greens, or Swiss chard. It is delicious on its own or you can use it as an ingredient in the recipe below. It’s perfect for breakfast or a light lunch. The addition of Two Chicks Farm Spicy Red Pepper Jelly was my attempt to use this tasty ingredient in more recipes. And, as we all know…everything is better with a fried egg on it!

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Glazed Greens with Fried Eggs

  • 1 bunch kale, spinach, or Swiss Chard
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • Spicy Red Pepper Jelly
  • 2 slices artisan bread
  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • butter
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The beautiful greens pictured here were from Colorfield Farms. You can visit them at the Western Wake Farmers Market every Saturday!

  1. If using kale, remove the spines from each leaf. Chop greens into bite-sized pieces
  2. Heat about 3 tbs. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add, garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add greens and sauté for about 4-5 minutes or until wilted. Remove from heat and add 1-2 tbs. red pepper jelly, salt, and pepper.
  4. Evenly divide the greens over two pieces of toasted bread. Top each with a fried egg—I use a little butter and some olive oil to fry my eggs. Salt and pepper to taste.

Want more info on the various types of greens and what to do with them? Visit The Science of Eating.