In my family, there are people who remember in detail the dreams they had days, weeks or years ago. I don't mean hopes-and-dreams; I mean I-just-woke-up-where's-my-coffee dreams. I'm not one of those people, so when I tell you that the idea for these Irish soda bread muffins came to me in a dream, and I remembered and then actually made them, you'll understand why in every sense of the word, these muffins are a minor miracle. I know that Irish soda bread purists will cringe at the notion of golden raisins, but they add just the right amount of sweet. Though it's good to let the muffins cool for a few minutes so you don't burn your fingers, my husband Ted and I couldn't wait, and we slathered on some butter as soon as the muffins came out of the oven. It was the right thing to do.
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Real estate agents tell you that, when you are selling your house, you should bake chocolate chip cookies to fill the air with that tantalizing aroma. For me, it's the scent of cinnamon that makes my house feel like home, and that's what I was craving when I baked these cinnamon buttermilk muffins. Determined to use every drop of the quart of buttermilk I bought for this orange Bundt cake, I've made salad dressings and sauces, and still I have a cup of buttermilk left. You can add anything to this batter: fresh or dried fruit, chocolate chips, lemon or orange zest. Serve these light and fluffy muffins for breakfast, or with an afternoon cup of tea.
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When we wrote Rhode Island Recipes: Creative, healthy cooking with iconic local foods, Jennifer of Savor the Thyme and I didn't fully appreciate one of the perks: the opportunity to meet all of the food producers in the book, and to learn about new products, sometimes before they hit the market. Kenyon's Grist Mill isn't new -- they've been grinding grains on their Rhode Island site since 1696 -- but their red corn meal is new to me. I adapted a recipe from the Kenyon's site for this Mexican red corn bread. It's a rustic pan bread, lumpy and bumpy with chopped green chile peppers and whole corn kernels (I used frozen, fire-roasted corn). If you like your corn bread on the sweet side, add an additional tablespoon of sugar, as the original recipe suggests. You can substitute yellow, blue or white finely ground corn meal, or purchase Kenyon's red corn meal online or at their mill shop here in Rhode Island.
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Lucky for me, I like my sweets on the not-too-sweet side, and that's a perfect description of these sugar-free applesauce muffins made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. The muffins had to have raisins, because I love raisins. And they had to be sugar-free. And they had to be sturdy enough to hold a birthday candle for my friend Charlotte, because I made these muffins for her. Considering all of those "had to" items, they tasted pretty terrific, especially just out of the oven slathered with unsalted butter. No-sugar-added applesauce makes a great substitute for sugar, and it helps keep baked goods moist, too. I used a muffin top pan, because I only like tops, but you can make regular muffins if you like the bottoms. Muffins usually don't keep very well, so make these for a party or a brunch, and eat them the day you make them.
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Every holiday table needs something small, sweet, orange, and full of carbs. These squash walnut wheat muffins fit the bill. Made with healthy white whole wheat flour and canned squash purée (which could also be pumpkin purée, if that's what you have in the cupboard), these little muffins satisfy the sweet tooth, and the carb tooth (if there is such a thing). And on a table filled with dishes served family-style, it's nice to have something just the right size for one person. Muffins generally don't overnight well, but I like to save a few for breakfast the next morning, when a quick zap in the microwave brings them back to life.
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