There is a fine line between being a "know it all" and a confident learner. Life has too much to offer to think we can possibly consume, let alone understand it all before our physical time on this earth is done.
And yet, there is an exceeding pressure, on kids and adults alike, to be perfect. It's an unrealistic goal. And a boring one too. Heck, if we become perfect, what pleasure would there be in waking each morning?
Three years ago when I ventured out on a freelance career, I had one main goal in mind—never miss a school event, recital or bringing birthday cupcakes to my daughter's classroom ranked pretty high up there. I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be active and involved. I wanted to pick her up from school each day and talk about her favorite part—always lunch and recess, and her least favorite—none to report so far, which is good, I think.
That idyllic situation seems like a fairytale most days. Two kids later, a mountain of homework and studying to be done—she's only in first grade for heaven's sake, sometimes the things I wanted to cherish just feel like a chore.
That is until bedtime. Yes, I'll admit, I'm excited come 7:30pm because it means I'm close to reclaiming some "me" time. But it's also the time we unwind and get lost in a book. Oh, the way the baby's fingers dance across the bookcase until she finds just the right one. She then backs up into my lap—or daddy's if he's home from work in time, and gets comfy for a story. Good Night Gorilla is a favorite right now, as are some French board books we bought to help her sister with school.
Once she goes to bed, it's Isabella's turn. She takes out her level books, and now that she's becoming an accomplished reader, she actually enjoys this part of the evening. Before it was a struggle, and honestly it used to drive me and the Mr. crazy. I mean, I'm a writer and we both have a fierce love of books. How could we possibly have birthed a non-reader? She had to come into reading on her own terms, as with every milestone she's reached so far.
Wondering how I'm going to connect this to those blueberry muffins, eh? Easy. Venturing into any unknown territory is always frightening to some degree. Whether it's worrying about decoding language or wondering if a recipe you have in mind will really work, it's a constant reminder that life is about taking chances. Think of it as the eternal search for the unknown—then hit rewind because after we crack one code, we inevitably move on to another quest.
But the muffins. What is so special about these blueberry muffins. You may also be asking why am I making blueberry muffins when berry season is long off. I went crazy buying them up at the farmers' market last year, and thankfully have a stash left in the freezer. I also bought a big bag of Wyman's frozen wild blueberries. And if you live in NYC, check your local Greenmarket. I've seen a few farmers selling some frozen ones from last year's harvest.
But I'm misleading you. After all, frozen blueberries are not that special to warrant this long-winded lesson on patience, learning and open-mindedness. I'm talking about the flour I used to make them. I came across it at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. It's local organic "half-white" from Farmer Ground Flour. The label describes it as a medium protein bread flour, commonly referred to as brown flour in Europe, that "retains some of the bran and germ for nutrition and flavor".
Oh, one more thing. I should probably tell you I don't like whole wheat flour. It's too earthy for my palate. I love mushrooms, and that fresh dirt smell they impart when you get them fresh picked from the farmers' market, but please keep it out my baked goods. So, it was with a little apprehension that I bought a sack of this expensive flour—$6 for a two pound bag. Still, I was intrigued at the idea of tasting a locally milled flour. When I got home, a google search pointed me to this website for a Croatian product that looked similar, but that was about it. It seems to be relatively unknown, otherwise.
On first inspection, this flour looked and felt beautiful. It was quite soft in texture, almost like cake flour, and didn't have that strong scent of regular whole wheat flour. My mother-in-law was coming that evening for her 79th birthday celebration, so I decided to use it in a lemon-glazed raspberry cake. A risky, if not insane decision considering I'd never worked with this flour before and I was developing a new recipe.
I like to live life on the edge I suppose, and thankfully it was amazing. A tender, light crumb, and the nuttiness of the whole grain complimented the bursts of sweet raspberries—thanks to those frozen berries from the farmers' market.
Since that was such a success, I decided to swap in this new friend in my recipe for lemon blueberry muffins (there's a very cute video attached to this link of Isabella and I making them together). I changed the technique to adjust for the heavier density whole grains tend to give baked goods, so instead of making as I would a normal quick bread with melted butter, I creamed the butter and sugar. I also made the muffins smaller, so the tops barely peek over the liners. Yes, the top of the muffin is treat, but frankly once I'm done with that golden crust, I'm too full to finish the rest. A big part in combating childhood obesity is teaching our kids about acceptable portion sizes, and these are a delicious example.
And, so, after 30+ years on this earth, I continue to learn new lessons. In my personal life, professional life and even in the kitchen. To forge into the unknown and take risks with confidence, however small they may be, is the best example I can set for my daughters.
Whole Grain Lemon Blueberry Muffins
Makes 18 standard size muffins
Aside from the wonderful flavor this flour imparts, every purchase also helps support local agriculture in the Finger Lakes region. Besides these muffins, I've made baguettes and even gnocchi—all have gotten the thumbs up from the Mr. and the kids.
2 cups plus 1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter, softened
freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries
Preheat oven to 350º. Line one 12-cup and 6-cup muffin tin with recycled paper liner, or coat with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together, 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and beat on low speed until just mixed. Stir in the buttermilk until just mixed.
Toss the frozen blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour. Fold blueberries into batter using a rubber spatula. Divide batter equally among muffin cups and bake until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm or let cool completely and store in a airtight container for up to two days.
March is America Reads month. This post was partly inspired by the Yahoo Mother Board, and this month we're sharing real-life stories on the role reading plays in our own families.