Vegan Pumpkin Streusel Muffins | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Ten

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Two: Behind the Scenes
 Secret ingredient: Is there an unconventional ingredient or product you use to make a certain dish that no one would suspect?

The idea of “hidden” or “secret” ingredients in my food has always weirded me out a bit, perhaps because I grew up with a younger sister who has some pretty severe nut allergies. “Hidden” nuts in food sent her to the hospital or to her emergency Benadryl/EpiPen stash more than once, so I’m all for transparency in labeling and serving.

That said, I appreciate the idea that sometimes an ingredient might put someone off a food if they knew what was in it. (Hey, kinda like those dumb-dumbs who don’t want to try vegan dishes even though they contain nothing weirder than vegetables, grains, and not-animal-based proteins!) I also appreciate the recipe developers who have found immensely creative ways to add nutrients to apparent junk food in an effort to healthify treats. (Though, to be honest, I personally want my junk food to be junk food and my treats to be treats!) Chocolate-Covered Katie in particular has a whole arsenal of ONE WEIRD TRICK-esque recipes, which rely on surprise ingredients to add moisture and flavor to (and reduce fat and sugar in) her baked goods. (See: a chocolate cake featuring cauliflower!)

So perhaps my issue is with semantics: Call it an “unexpected” ingredient and I have no quarrel with the notion. I even have a few recipes featuring unexpected ingredients of my own (black bean brownies, anyone?).

"Pumpkin" streusel muffins But one of my favorite ways to subvert expectations — while offering superior flavor — is a relatively simple one: using mashed roasted sweet potato instead of pumpkin. Much of the flavors we associate with “pumpkin” are actually the warming spices that typically accompany it, the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice that just scream “autumn!” to most Americans. In reality, pumpkin by itself is quite bland; it really needs the augmentation of said spices (and some sweetness) to shine.

I offer up in its place sweet potato, which plays just as well with those lovely spices yet has an inherent mellow sweetness of its own. Cup for cup, it also boasts more fiber, calcium, and vitamins A and C. Baked into a muffin and topped with a crumbly, oaty streusel, you get a treat that could easily pass for pumpkin. So, next time you fire up the oven to make muffins, pass over the pumpkin and pass me the sweet potato! (Just be on the watch for folks with sweet potato allergies.)

"Pumpkin" streusel muffins

“Pumpkin” Streusel Muffins

Makes 12

Muffin ingredients
  • 1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup roasted and mashed sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Streusel topping ingredients
  • 3 T softened butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 3 T rolled oats
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Dash salt
Method

In a small bowl, mix together the streusel topping with a fork until crumbly and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Prepare a muffin tin by adding silicone or paper liners or spraying it lightly with oil.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients (almond milk through vanilla extract, whisking to combine. Add the sugar and thoroughly mix.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to mix just until combined; do not over-mix. (If it’s too wet, add a tablespoon or two of flour. Some sweet potatoes seem dryer than others!) Scoop batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each well about 2/3 full. Add a spoonful of streusel to the top of each muffin.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or just until a toothpick or other testing mechanism comes out clean. Enjoy! You’re not eating pumpkin!

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"Pumpkin" streusel muffins

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Muffins on Monday

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Day 14: Share something vegan (and delicious, duh!) with a non-vegan. 

I am infinitely fortunate to work with lots and lots of vegans. (I guess that’s what happens when you work in the animal protection field!) But not all of my coworkers are vegan or vegetarian, so I figured this prompt was the perfect opportunity to serve up some vegan treats to the masses, veg and non-veg alike. And what better time than during a Monday morning meeting?

LPS Muffins

Representatives from every section of our department attend a daily 10:00 AM meeting to discuss new and ongoing projects, so today I brought a container of mini lemon poppy seed muffins to share. I think this is one of my absolute favorite muffin flavors! I found this particular recipe on the aquafaba group Facebook page and knew I had to try it. With a whole tablespoon of baking powder and six tablespoons of aquafaba, these little muffins were super light and airy. My only complaint was the lack of lemon flavor; although they look gorgeously lemon-hued, they don’t have the characteristic tang I want in a lemony baked good. Next time I make them, I’ll add lots more lemon juice.

Everybody was so pleased at this surprise Monday-morning treat that I might have to start bringing in baked goods more often!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Ah, weekends. I truly enjoy my job, but I still relish the no-obligations charm of the weekend. With a few exceptions, this Saturday morning was top of the charts. Reading, coffee, toast, cool autumn air, yesterday’s Diane Rehm show, the scent of pumpkin muffins in the oven… what’s not to love? (Cleaning Luna’s mucus-puke off the sofa, but let’s not get into that.)

I don’t know about you, but when I cook a pot of grains, I always make extra. Brown rice, quinoa, whatever—it’s a sure thing that we’ll use it up, whether it’s in a lazy lunch like a burrito bowl or a slightly more time-consuming meal like Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup. So when I prepped the quinoa for last week’s Nutty Quinoa-Stuffed Delicata Squash, I made extra. Instead of incorporating it into a savory dinner dish, though, I decided to try putting quinoa into muffins. And I’m really glad I did. I love the slightly nutty taste and the not-quite-crunchy texture it adds, not to mention the nutrition boost!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (or more flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash cloves
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • Heaping 1/3 cup granulated sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (or more regular sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or vegetable/canola oil)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and prepare a dozen-muffin tin using liners or a light spray of oil.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the wheat germ, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (not including the quinoa) and the sugar(s) until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet. Using a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon, stir gently to combine, but don’t over-mix. Fold in the quinoa, then add the batter to the prepared muffin tin with a spoon. Fill each well about 3/4 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating.

~~~

Fair warning: If you have a major sweet tooth, you might want to add more coconut or brown sugar to these babies. Although my younger self would probably recoil in disgust at this development, I find myself less drawn to sugary-sweet baked goods these days. (With a few notable exceptions!) Especially when those baked goods might well constitute my breakfast. So these muffins, which are spicy and quinoa-y and not so sweet, are my perfect fall breakfast snack. I think they could only be more perfect if I’d used spelt or whole-wheat pastry flour, but alas—we have neither in the house right now, and S took the car this morning, and I was too lazy to walk over to the grocery store. Ah, Saturday.

What’s your ideal Saturday breakfast? What else should I put quinoa in?!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Mocha Teff Muffins

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Last year for Christmas, my parents put bags of teff flour in the kids’ stockings. (Has that sentence ever been written before?!) I’d ask a leading question like, “What do you think it says about us that we were thrilled?” but I suspect many of my readers would be equally excited to receive a new ingredient as a present! I loved everything about this gift, from the thought behind it to the product’s packaging.

Truth be told, though, I haven’t used it till now. I wanted to do it justice, y’know? I figured I should make injera, but I wanted to do that only if I were making a big Ethiopian feast, and that just hasn’t happened yet. But as I rummaged through my pantry in search of nutritional superstars in disguise, I noticed that a quarter cup of teff flour has 20% of your daily value of iron, 8% of our RDV of calcium, 24% of your RDV of iron, and a cool 5 grams of protein. Needless to say, I had to try it, and I wondered how it would fare in a baked good. The answer? Really, really well.

Mocha Teff Muffins Mocha Teff Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 3/4 cup teff flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-processed, ideally)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup cold very strong coffee (feel free to make it using instant espresso powder)
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (or additional regular sugar)
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and prepare a muffin tin using liners or a light spray of oil.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the first seven dry ingredients (teff flour through cinnamon). Stir to combine, then add the oats. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and the sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet. Using a plastic spatula or a wooden spoon, stir gently to combine, but don’t overmix. The batter will be very smooth, almost silky. Fold in the chocolate chips, then add the batter to the prepared muffin tin with a spoon. Fill each well about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least five minutes before eating.

Mocha Teff Muffins

I’m enchanted with teff flour! The grain itself is teeny-tiny, and the flour is incredibly fine. It makes a silky-smooth batter that mixes with nearly no trouble, and the baked muffin has a light, delicate crumb. I’m itching to bake with it again already!

And the nutritional stats of these not-too-sweet muffins? If you eat two (and you will), you’ll get 22% of your RDV of iron, 7% of your RDV of calcium, about 7 grams of protein, and a respectable helping of fiber.

Have you cooked with teff flour?

Blueberry Spelt Muffins

It was only a matter of time until this day arrived. With a theme that heavily focuses on berries, there just had to be at least one muffin recipe, right? Blueberry muffins are the classic choice, and, well, I’m a sucker for the classics.

The bakery-style muffins from Vegan Brunch were my go-to muffins of choice for a while, but they don’t offer much in the way of nutrition, and they’re awfully sugary. Not that these muffins are much better! They’re certainly not what I would call particularly healthy or wholesome (though spelt and flax certainly don’t hurt), but hey—they taste damn good. And that’s what I want out of my classics.

 

blueberry-spelt-muffins_9714478779_o

Blueberry Spelt Muffins
(makes eight normal-sized muffins)

1 T ground flax + 3 T warm water
¾ C unbleached all-purpose flour
½ C spelt flour
½ T baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Scant ½ C sugar
½ C non-dairy milk
Scant ¼ C vegetable or sunflower seed oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Heaping ¾ C blueberries

Preheat your oven to 350˚ F. Grease or line a muffin tin.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flax and water and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients (flour through sugar) and stir to combine. Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients. Stir gently to combine, but don’t overmix. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, nearly filling the wells. Bake for 21-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

What’s your favorite blueberry muffin recipe

Muffin Monday: Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins

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This fourth installment of Muffin Mondays might be my best yet.

A series of serendipitous purchases gave me the ingredients to create a sweet and sophisticated muffin, one that rises above its more homely brethren and exudes an air of calm self-assurance. This muffin is damn tasty, and it knows it. If this muffin were a person, she’d be a Hamptons-going, slinky-gown-wearing, champagne-cocktail-sipping dilettante. But she’d also be grounded – her participation in philanthropic events would be genuine, and she’d donate that slinky dress to one of those centers that gives out free prom dresses to low-income teenagers. Basically, she’d be a kind-hearted, generous, lovable lady.

Who is she? Why, she’s a Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffin, of course.

A close-up of a muffin on its side. In the background is a tin of muffins and another lone muffin.

Well, hello!

Exuding a sweet almond perfume, she’s filled with tart dried cherries and dark chocolate chips, ensuring that each bite offers a unique sensation and combination of tastes. You know you want her. So why don’t you make her?

Cherry-Almond-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six good-sized muffins)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 + 1 T C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 C almond meal
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

1 1/2 t almond flavor (see note below)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2/3 C almond milk
Heaping 1/3 C vegan sugar

1/4 C sliced almonds
1/3 C dried unsweetened cherries
1/4 C dark chocolate chips (seriously, use the good stuff here – I got mine from the bulk bins at the co-op)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the almonds, dried cherries, and the chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Ingredient note: Oddly, my co-op only carries almond flavor, not almond extract. The main difference seems to be that the flavor is slightly thicker, as its base is glycerin (eek?). The brand I have uses natural almond essence, so I know that at least this isn’t a totally synthetic almond flavor. Small comfort, but there it is. Next time I’ll shop elsewhere – or maybe my co-op was just out of stock! If you make these muffins and use almond extract, you might want to cut down the amount given here.

Another close-up of a muffin.

Nom nom.

There you have it. My most decadent muffin yet, one I know I’ll recreate in the future to enjoy again and again. I hope you will, too! These are best eaten warm with a smidgen of Earth Balance, when the chocolate chips are a little melty and soft. Mmm.

What’s your favorite muffin variety? Have you ever bought a lesser version of a food item (e.g. almond flavor instead of almond extract)?

Note: This is a scheduled post, because I’m currently in Italy. Apologies for any weirdness with auto-publishing!

Muffin Monday: Banana-Chocolate Chip

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I hope you don’t judge me too harshly for this unoriginal installment of Muffin Mondays. Everyone and their mom’s dentist has a banana muffin recipe, so who am I to add one to the collection? I have no compelling answer to that question, so I’m going to show you a picture and hope that it’ll distract you from judging my boringness too harshly.

Close-up of a muffin cut in half; in the background is a small bowl filled with muffins.

Sliced.

These are pretty simple, but they’re tasty. Brown rice syrup gives them a sophisticated sweetness, and a smattering of chocolate chips makes them a little more playful than your standard banana muffin affair.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes six)

1/2 T ground flax + 1 1/2 T warm water

3/4 white whole wheat flour (Note: I found that WWWF made my muffins a bit grainy. Next time, I’ll use whole wheat pastry flour.)
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon

1 large very ripe banana
1/4 C dark brown sugar
2 T coconut oil
2 T almond milk
1 heaping T brown rice syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract

1/3 C chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients and the brown sugar to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the dried coconut and the pineapple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll come up to the top of each well. Bake for 20 or so minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Close-up of a small bowl filled with muffins.

Bowl o' muffins.

I’m sorry for posting these so late – I usually draft my posts at night and then edit and publish them when I get into work in the morning, but I hadn’t added the recipe to this post last night, and it was saved on my home computer. Alas! So I had to wait until I got home from work to add it and publish. But here they are!

What’s your favorite banana muffin (or bread!) recipe?

Muffin Mondays: Never Let Go [of Summer] Muffins

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This is the second installment of Muffin Mondays – each Monday during MoFo, I’m posting a brand new muffin recipe. Carb lovers, rejoice!

Last week’s first installment of Muffin Mondays featured Fruit Medley Muffins, a hearty, wholesome, fiber-packed morsel to help you ease into another week of work on a crisp autumn morning. But what if you happen to live in a region that’s experiencing a return to summer, with temperatures in the upper 70s, clear blue skies, and nothin’ but sun? Then I suggest you celebrate pseudo-summer by baking up a batch of tropical-inspired muffins.

A bowl of muffins in the left-hand background and a plate with a muffin (cut in two) in the foreground.

Bowl full o' sunshine.

Never Let Go [of Summer] Muffins
(Makes 6 good-sized muffins)

1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
scant 1/4 t salt
dash cinnamon

1/2 flax egg (1 T ground flax + 1.5 T warm water)
1/2 C coconut + almond
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 T freshly grated ginger (optional but recommended)
3/4 t vanilla
1/4 C + 2 t sugar
1 T maple syrup
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup coconut flakes
Heaping 1/2 C diced pineapple (I used frozen pineapple chunks cut into smaller pieces; you could use fresh or even try canned – just be sure not to add excess liquid)

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the flax mixture and stir well, making sure all wet ingredients are mixed. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated. If the batter seems extremely liquidy, add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour. When it’s wet but not liquidy, fold in the dried coconut and the pineapple. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin – it’ll cup up to the top of each well. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Close-up of a muffin cut in two on a plate. It has visible coconut flakes and pineapple chunks.

Sweetness.

Each of these cheery muffins is filled with bright flavors; pineapple and ginger take a star role while coconut and lime provide subtle background notes. Feel free to play with the proportions; you could reduce the amount of ginger and add extra coconut, or include lime zest to up your citrus quotient. Whatever way you go, these muffins are a summer-inspired treat to keep you smiling on a sunny Monday morning. I’ll never let go, Jack! of summer!

Do you embrace seasonal changes? What’s your favorite muffin? What should I make next?

Easing into Monday with Fruit Medley Muffins

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This is the first installment of Muffin Mondays – each Monday during MoFo, I’ll post a brand new muffin recipe. Carb lovers, rejoice!

Sometimes, Sunday night rolls around and the thought of heading back to work the next morning really bums you out. You’ve had a great weekend, taking long walks with your sweet dog and spending quality time with your even sweeter significant other. You just want that blissful state of relaxation to continue, and visions of your desk and the work that awaits just fill you with dread. So you head to the kitchen, sure that a bout of baking will cure your woes. And the result – muffins, in this case – will accompany you to work, giving you something delicious to nibble when it’s time for elevenses (or even second breakfast).

Rooting around in the fridge, you discover remnants and leftovers – half a can of pumpkin puree, a holdover from the time you made pumpkin spice lattes, sits next to a third-full jar of coconut milk, languishing on the shelf ever since you made a sauce that only needed 1/3 cup. And there’s that bag of mixed dried fruit you purchased at the drugstore weeks ago when you were on a road trip and needed a quick energy fix en route to the Renegade craft fair in Chicago. What to do, what to do…

A muffin sits on a small plate alongside a pile of dried apricots.

Fruitlicious.

Fruit Medley Muffins
(makes 6 good-sized muffins)

1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger

1 flax egg (1 T ground flax plus 3 T warm water)
1/2 C coconut milk
1 T oil
2 T agave
1/4 C sugar
1/2 t vanilla
2 T pumpkin

1/4 C chopped Medjool dates
1/4 C chopped apricots
1/4 C chopped prunes

Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 6-muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flax into the warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the flax mixture and stir well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix until just incorporated, then fold in the dried fruit. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Substitution notes: For a lower-fat muffin, you could substitute your favorite alt-milk for the coconut milk. If you don’t have pumpkin puree, I’m sure applesauce would work equally well. Finally, feel free to substitute any dried fruits you have in the house. Medjool dates add a really delicious caramel flavor, but any dried date (or no dates at all!) will do.

As long as you don’t forget to pack a few of these hearty snacks in your lunch box, you’ll have a sweet, mostly healthy treat to enjoy with your morning cup of tea or during your mid-afternoon “Is it time to go home yet?” slump. The pumpkin adds a nice smoothness to these muffins, and the dried fruit and flax fills them with fiber to keep your innards clean. Is there a better way to start a week than with clean innards? I didn’t think so.

What’s your favorite muffin recipe? Do you bring homemade treats to work? Do you have suggestions for a muffin I should create?

P.S. Only two more days to enter my giveaway!

Lemon & Lavender

Last Christmas, I had one of those “you know you’re a vegan foodie when…” moments: my mom stuffed my stocking with spices, and I was thrilled. She’d purchased six fun spices for me at a local craft fair, and after Christmas I lovingly transported them back to Madison from RI and have been using them ever since. All of them, that is, except for the lemon peel and the lavender. But this weekend I put those less-loved spices to good use.

Crappy-photo-taken-at-work alert!

This, friends, is a lemon-lavender muffin. I don’t have a recipe to share because I basically made the delicious Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Vegan Brunch, omitting the lemon zest and poppy seeds and substituting lemon peel and lavender instead. Bursting with lemony flavor from the peel and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, this is a delicate, sophisticated muffin I’d happily serve at a tea party or bring to a formal brunch. (Do formal brunches exist? If not, THEY SHOULD. Let’s have one.) Although I was concerned that the lavender might be overwhelmingly floral in flavor, instead it’s subtle and refreshing and works perfectly with the lemon. Lemon and lavender are, in my book, a winning pair.

They are not, however, remotely seasonal. This seems like a flavor combination more suited to spring than winter. But I welcomed that little hint of spring this week, because winter’s come out to play, and I start my days defrosting my car in subzero temperatures.

Despite that indulgence in thoughts of spring, my mind is definitely full of sugar plums and snowflakes. I’m helping to plan our family’s Christmas dinner, even though I’m currently 1300 miles away and won’t be home ’til next Tuesday night. My family is traditionally very open when it comes to Christmas dinner; we’ve done Mexican-themed meals and Italian-inspired dinners in the past. This year, I’ve come up with a great idea – we’ll make foods that represent all the different parts of our heritage. I am the quintessential American mutt, a mix of Irish and Portuguese and Russian Jew and French-Canadian and English and Scottish and, perhaps, Welsh. I’ve come up with lots of ideas for dishes we could make, but I’m interested in hearing your ideas! What foods from those cultures would you recommend? I’m interested in appetizers, soups, breads, desserts, entrees, sides, desserts, drinks, whatever! Do share your thoughts!