That Time we Made Strawberry Muffins for a New Mother

That Time we Made Strawberry Muffins for a New Mother

Polly turned 3.5 yesterday, and has recently been asking me to teach HER a cooking lesson (she's aware of the fun that older kids have!). So, with her brother now in school, we had a free morning, and what with the pouring rain and the friend in the neighbourhood with a brand new baby, it was time for a muffin lesson.

 "Mummy, I'm going to eat all of this one but put all the rest of them in the muffins!"

"Mummy, I'm going to eat all of this one but put all the rest of them in the muffins!"

 Three-year-old knife skills. Butter knife, that is. Note her snacks for the lesson, on the left: smoothie and piece of stinky cheese!

Three-year-old knife skills. Butter knife, that is. Note her snacks for the lesson, on the left: smoothie and piece of stinky cheese!

I've been crushing on Weelicious these days, since all of her lunchbox details and snack board posts on instagram seem designed to inspire me during our family's first 'school September' ever. (Next year we can start saying 'back-to-school'.) I have her Lunches cookbook, and today we made the polenta berry muffins. We can still get local strawberries here in Nova Scotia (on September 28th!), so I used those. I made a few adjustments: we doubled the recipe, added a cup of rolled oats in place of a second cup of cornmeal (ran out of cornmeal, oops!), and used just whole spelt flour instead of all-purpose. I love incorporating whole grains when I cook and spelt is a lighter flour than whole wheat, so it does well in baking (these cakes, these bars and these muffins all use only whole spelt, too). Lemon zest replaced orange, and yogurt replaced buttermilk. (Basically by necessity of the look of today's pantry - the original version is gorgeous I'm sure!)

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Polly helped with very nearly everything in the recipe. She lined the muffin tins, chopped the strawberries, mixed the dry and the wet ingredients, poured the wet into the dry:

 *Must grasp personal tiny whisk while pouring*

*Must grasp personal tiny whisk while pouring*

...and even cracked the eggs all by herself (before mixing wet into dry, of course). She was also very proud to wear oven mitts for the first time, and helped tuck the pans into the oven after dividing the batter.

 "It tastes much better now that it has the lemon!" she said, with authority.

"It tastes much better now that it has the lemon!" she said, with authority.

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The muffins turned out beautifully, and we paired them with peach jam I made last week from Nova Scotia peaches. The cornmeal gives a lovely texture, and oats make the muffins more tender than they would be with just flour - the combination works really well. I'm always surprised by how long the summer produce season lasts...apple picking can truly coincide with strawberries! 

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Polenta-Strawberry Muffins
Adapted from Weelicious Lunches

1 cup polenta (cornmeal)
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups whole spelt flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar (scant)
1 cup whole-milk yogurt or buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup canola oil
1 Tb lemon zest
2 cups fresh strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two muffin tins with paper liners. This recipe made 24 muffins, some on the small side (sizes vary when a 3.5-year-old puts the batter in the tins!).

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Mix the wet ingredients gently into the dry, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the lemon zest and strawberries.

Divide the batter amongst prepared tins. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Take a walk in the rain to the house of a friend who has just had a baby. Leave a basket of 12 muffins on her doorstep. Also maybe leave balloons.

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