finding my mojo {apple allspice muffins}

I wish I could tell you I baked that muffin up above. I did some time ago, two years to be precise. That's when I first developed the recipe. It's a good muffin, that much I promise you. I think it even has the power to break me from this malaise I feel every time I glance around the kitchen these days.

I wouldn't exactly call what I've been doing cooking lately. It's more surviving, making the same few things I can practically prepare with my eyes closed. It's all homemade stuff—marinara sauce and mac n' cheese have been staples. We've also been ordering-in once a week, which is huge considering before Mikey died, we barely had takeout once a month.

Right now it feels like I'm in limbo. The house is littered with moving boxes, each room a little done, but not quite complete. The first box was the hardest—it was our cds. Music was as vital to Mikey as oxygen, and knowing he wouldn't be listening to them anymore, or taking his guitar off the wall to play for us had me in tears almost instantly.

All these boxes piling up has me antsy, and are a reminder of the greatest gift Mikey ever gave me—a sense of home. A real home, one I could grow some roots in. I didn't have this as a kid. My parents moved every year or two, and by time I met Michael, at 21 years old, I'd already moved a dozen times.

This little nest we created here in Brooklyn, is the only place that ever felt like home.

And now it doesn't.

The surroundings look familiar, but the essence is gone. So as I pack, and wonder how I'm supposed to move forward, how I'm supposed to do this without him, I fight the lump that wells up in my throat. I try to stifle back the hot tears in the corner of my eyes. The hardest part of grief, for me at least, is the inexplicable pain and feeling that this hole in my heart will never heal. I'm a realist, and don't spend a lot of time on the "why".

I accepted a long time ago that certain things just are, but this one has me stumped. I know it's only Day 79, and honestly when people tell me to go easy on myself, it's drives me crazy. Unless you've experienced a loss like this you can't understand that missing someone so immensely is not being hard on yourself—it's simply grief, and going through it is not easy. My best advice for anyone trying to comfort someone grieving is just be there with a smile and shoulder, but wait for a cue.

Don't try to fix what is out of your control. It will only push the person further away.

But I'm here right now to talk about muffins, so let tell you what made me think of them. I went to the farmers' market for the first time in 17 days. Yes, 17 days folks. I couldn't believe it myself when I did the math.

I was on my way to the train station in Brooklyn Heights, and before I popped down into the subway, I remembered it was Tuesday and there was the market at Borough Hall. I wasn't going to visit at first. With the move in just nine days, I know there won't be a lot of cooking right now. Still, I was curious to see the fall bounty.


As I walked towards the Red Jacket Orchards stand, I felt the tears begin to trickle. The first apple season without Mikey. I almost turned and walked away. The thought of seeing all those apples was too overwhelming, a reminder of what used to be.

What will never be again.

Such emotion, over an apple. And that's when it hit me. Those apples could still bring me joy. Baking the recipes he loved eating and breathing in the warm spice scent as it fills the house could keep me connected to him. The memories are reminders of good times we shared together. So, as I prepare to celebrate our first Halloween without Mikey, I'm going to share a homemade treat he loved at Isabella and Virginia's class parties this week. I even scored some cute holiday muffin liners and toothpicks on sale at Sur La Table.


I'm not going to be afraid of any ghosts this year, In fact, I wouldn't mind if one of them came for a special visit.

Apple Allspice Muffins

makes 12

The original post gives some back story about this recipe. If you're curious why I choose to grate the apples, then it's definitely worth a read.

For the crumb topping:

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour

For the muffins:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 cups peeled, shredded apples

Preheat oven to 375º.  Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.  For the topping, mix all the ingredients together in small bowl with a fork  until it forms a wet, sandy mixture; set aside.

For the muffins, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all pice in a medium bowl; set aside. In a separate medium-sized bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

Beat in one third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the sour cream. Alternating between dry ingredients and sour cream, repeat until all ingredients have been incorporated.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the apples. 

Evenly spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.  Sprinkle each muffin even with en equal amount of the crumb topping.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean—it's okay if there are a few dry crumbs.


  • _Maluhia_

    One of my favorites, to this day, is the feeling of my father who passed on “visiting” when I hear a particular song on the radio. With Mikey’s love of music your children may have the same feeling someday, you too of course.

  • Angela

    Hi Jennie
    Like others who’s comments I have read lately, I am commenting here for the first time. I have been following your story since shortly after that life changing day you experienced. You have inspired me to reflect on my life with my own husband and the past 21 years we have shared as we met when we were 19. And you have made me wonder how I would react to such a sudden and horrible tragedy. And you have made me realize that each chance I have to hug him or tell him ‘I love you’ is a chance to be taken and used and not thrown away. This is your gift to us all. I wish you nothing but the best. Thank you for all of your wisdom through your words.
    My sincere best wishes,

  • Genell

    I don’t know the reason for you moving so soon after your husband passed but if you can stay do stay. They say you should not move for at least a year so you can grieve and remember and be in the place that you shared together. Right now I am helping my dad with this journey. He lost his wife, my mom, four months ago. Truly the love of his life . . almost 64 years of marriage. It is a difficult journey and like you said all a person can do is to just be there . to listen, talk, love and just hug. I wish you better days. They do come. I miss my mom more than words can express. Do what is best for you and your darling little girls.
    JP’s note: Thank you so much for your thoughts, but as your Dad can probably tell you, there is no one way to grieve. I believe it’s possible to savor the memories without living amidst the sadness of what should’ve been, so the girls and I are all really looking forward to this new beginning.

  • Joyce

    I’m loving the muffin tops on these muffins, but then I love anything with apples! Thank you for the well written words. 🙂 xo

  • Terry

    “In fact, I wouldn’t mind if one of them came for a special visit.” This brought the biggest smile to my face. You are something special Jennie Perillo–that’s why he loved you so. I can just smell those muffins baking!

  • Elizabeth A. Summers

    Oh, that muffin looks wonderful!
    For me, any signifigant loss, along with the grief for whoever/whatever – there is that loss of a sense of “normalness”. The world feels like it fell off its axis. It makes everything seem like a slog through deep, sticky mud. And it is often exhausting fending off others advice, no matter how well meant.
    As you said, there is no one way for everyone or even for each of us…
    Best wishes for a smooth move!

  • Stephanie

    Best of luck with your move. Mikey will always be with you no matter where you are and a new environment gives a fresh start without feeling bogged down in the sadness and what ifs. This is a new phase in all your lives and it is helpful for many folks to start in a fresh, new place. Moving forward does not mean forgetting the past.

  • Paige (The Last Doughnut)

    I am going through a type of considerable grief myself, and doing the normal everyday things are what pull me out of a slump and help me keep going. Congrats to you for pushing through those difficult moments and moving forward.

  • nithya

    Just caught up on reading your blog. I’m happy to hear that you’re holding things together and getting by on your own terms. You continue to amaze me. Where are you moving to?!

  • Tara

    I really must stop reading your posts in public – people look at me oddly when I start to cry.
    Here’s hoping your ghost comes a calling come Halloween 😉

  • Kathy M.

    Hugs to you and your girls!! That’s about all I can do for you. No one truly understands the grief until you experience it and it is different for everyone. It is a long hard journey. Both of my parents died when I was a teenager and my sibling were all older and our of the house. Suddenly, the only home/house that I had ever lived in and loved was no longer home. I had to get out because it was too much. The people make the home and now you need a home for your family as it is. You will take the things that mean the most and that will spark a memory that brings laughter or tears or sometime both. Don’t point pressure on yourself. Take care of yourself and your girls both emotionally and physically. Grief is exhausting and sleep, food and exercise really do help. I know you are being overwhelmed with “good advice” so take this for what it’s worth.
    I am now in my mid-forties and a smell or song can still send me back in my mom’s kitchen laughing…..

  • April

    I think it’s awesome to honour his memory and stay connected with him by enjoying the things he used to enjoy. Wonderful! P.S. Those muffins look amazing.

  • Dot

    My sister still (almost always) makes pineapple upside down cake for my father’s birthday – he died in 1985! It’s good to carry on with traditions – and the smells of baking something that someone we loved loved so much always brings us happy memories. AND it’s a chance to remember and TALK.
    Grief sucks, death sucks, but unfortunately it’s a fact of life. I can’t imagine being in your shoes… I’m grateful that you’re sharing your journey and confident that, partly as a result of your posts, I am noticing more of the LIFE in my life.
    And, on a happier note, I have lived next to Red Jacket Orchards for my entire life and was quite surprised to see them mentioned! I just printed your muffin recipe and will fill my house with that beautiful aroma this weekend. I’ll send you happy thoughts, too.
    P.S. I hope your girls are doing well. It must be heartbreaking when they are sad.

  • Diane

    I can smell those Amazing muffins already!
    The best of luck to you and your girls on your new beginning!
    I’m sure Mikey will be there with you.

  • Sandy Webb

    I moved shortly after TJ died too. I had to financially, but now I think it was one of the better things I did. New home to make new memories. I am so sorry you and your girls are on this grief journey. It is a long and difficult journey with many ups and downs.

  • Mary Kay

    Once again you take my breath away with you’re writing. I hope you know how much you have inspired others. I know this is the most painful thing you’ve gone through. It doesn’t make sense and it’s certainly wrong in so many aspects. I can tell you, however, that although your life is forever changed, because you are you, it will get better again….I promise.
    If you’re ever up for a visit to Chicago, you and your girls have a place to stay!

  • Cassie

    Best of luck with the move & many hugs sent your way. From the blog posts I have read sense this terrible tragedy, I can tell you are a very strong woman. You have made me cherish every moment with my husband and I didn’t always do that before. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  • Charli

    My husband of 18 years passed away one month after your Mikey. Reading your posts has been comforting as I feel that I am not on this emotional roller coaster alone. I thought I was crazy for bursting out in tears when I saw a parking place we used to use. A parking space? Really? Then I laughed at the absurdity of it. Then I realized people were staring at me, which made me laugh even more. I call things like this grief bubbles that are making their way to the surface and popping. I hope they let up soon as I am tired of crying, especially in public. All my best to you and your healing heart.

  • Kath

    Your beautiful writing gives me a much deeper understanding of what dear friends and family members are going through when they lose someone. I hope I always remember to just be there “with a smile and a shoulder”.

  • Denese

    I woke up this morning to my boyfriend’s guitar playing with an urge to make muffins… but, got caught up in the day and then read this. I’m going to slow down, make some muffins and cherish the sweet music with you and Mikey in mind. (and I’ll take your “smile and a shoulder” advice” to heart.)

  • Maria

    A house does not make a home, the people do…good luck on your move…that is the nice thing about memories, they can follow you anywhere…
    Jennie I’m making your chocolate chip cookie recipe this afternoon and I’m going to chill the dough and do the pull-apart thingy…wish me luck
    Maria aka Mimi

  • deanna

    “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” – Henri Nouwen

  • Glenda

    I want one of those muffins now… yum… looks delicious.
    Best to you and the girls in this new journey / new chapter of your life.
    Peace & strength

  • Skye @ Neathering Our Fest

    Hi Jenni,
    I read the post about your husband’s passing almost immediately after you posted it. I saw it on twitter and clicked over not knowing what to expect what I would see when I got here. Little did I know I would be reading a story that I went through almost exactly.
    My mom died on May 17, 2010 of a massive heart attack that killed her before she hit the floor in her bathroom. My dad discovered her after his work day and since the moment my husband sat me down to tell my my life has not been the same.
    My experience was much like yours. The Saturday and Sunday before her death were spent laughing and celebrating my husband’s graduation from seminary. I never dreamed when I walked out the door Sunday headed home it would be the last time I ever saw my mom living.
    I live constantly with a big black hole chasing me around, begging me to crawl in to be safe and sound, away from people who want to talk about her and remind me that she is gone forever. It is only with the strength that God gives me that I have been able to turn away from that dark place and go forward.
    It is hard to think about my mom and the fact that I will never see her again in this life. It is bittersweet to realize all the things I will never get to share with her. It is heartbreaking to hear that someone else goes through the same feelings that I do.
    Know that you are not alone and it is more than ok to grieve. You don’t need an excuse or permission to break down and be sad, lonely, angry, left behind or mistreated. It is part of the healthy process that will allow you to grow into a stronger individual. I have been and will continue to pray for you. Sending hugs to you and your girls.

  • Juliana

    This apple muffin is so interesting with allspice…looks beautiful…
    I am glad that you are holding in there…my thought are with you Jennie.

  • Elizabeth @Mango_Queen

    Thanks for the muffin recipe. It’s a terrific one and I will try it soon. Thank you for thinking of us, your readers by doing what you do best…sharing your recipes, your stories, your strength. Sending you smiles to warm your day, Jennie!

  • Sue

    Hugs, Jennie! Good luck with the move. Is it far? Wishing you and the girls strength, love and peace. BTW, these look wonderful. They’re on my list for this weekend.

  • Amanda

    Jennie, I never really appreciate when someone says something like “I know where you’re coming from” or “It’s going to be alright” because, truth be told, they don’t and they don’t know. Nobody knows how you feel, or how you are dealing with such a loss, but you and those dearest to you. I lost my daddy just after I turned 21 and a good friend gave me some really great advice, that now six years later I have really grown to appreciate. And perhaps someone has already shared it with you, but I thought I’d tell you again. You’ll never get over losing someone as dear to you as your husband (or in my case, my daddy). And that’s alright. Because that hole is something of an honor to their existence and to the bond you shared. However, over time, you get used to the hole’s existence. You’ll find yourself having more days between breakdowns and you’ll start to genuinely enjoy things you once did more. But every now and then, you’ll completely lose it. And I think that’s okay. If losing someone was easy, then it wouldn’t speak much about the relationship you had before the loss. Wishing you and your family a time of healing, love and eventual peace.

  • Eileen

    Your posts are so inspiring. It’s wonderful to know mikey through you and i hope that special ghost comes visitng often. Mom used to tell me about dreams where she was dancing with dad and i always wondered uf they were “just” dreams! Good luck in your move

  • Kim Strine

    Jennie, I feel your pain. My husband died unexpectedly last December. 38 years old. We have 2 boys, and he was our whole world. Every single thing that people say sounds cliche. Even at hospice, it was me and the 80 year olds. One thing that’s true is that there’s no way to get around it or to escape it, or to put it off. It will always be waiting there for you (and me) to deal with it. It’s been almost a year, and I’ve stopped counting the days and weeks…we are on to counting the months. It is getting easier in many ways. Thank you for your words. They remind me that I’m not alone.

  • Erin Patterson

    Lots of tears. Lots more love to you. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your old memories in your new place AND making new ones with you and the girls. Love you. I’m always here for you.

  • afouf

    two things i learned from my own tragedy:
    first, cry as much as you can.
    second, donot make my mistake and move right away, it will prolong your grieving process….
    but again, that is from my own experience…
    all best of luck, dear.

  • Nina

    Packing up all of your husband’s cherished possessions is a heart-wrenching journey. I’ve done it before when my dad died and it felt as if I had to relive that tragedy with every single box that was packed away. Just remember that moving forward does not mean that you are leaving Mikey behind. He will always live in your heart.
    Wishing you all the very best in your new home where you can start a new beginning with new possibilities and new memories with your darling little girls. Je vous embrasse toujours.

  • Sarah

    You are an inspiration to me. Each step you take helps and strengthens me as I face a personal crisis with my own Mikey. Love & prayers!

  • amelia from z tasty life

    Jenny: I have a friend who just lost a husband (and has 2 young kids), just like you. I never know how to help or what to say (other than bring a meal, and let her know I am there), but reading your words (and the way you feel) was inspiring.

  • Rianne Meehan

    Dear Jennie,
    I have stumbled upon your blog by accident, but have been reading for a while now. Since my best friend is also going through grieve and she participated in an online book about the subject, I would like to share the link. Maybe it’s not for you, or maybe it’s not the right time, but hey, I thought sharing can’t hurt… Its stories about grieve and how it’s different for everyone who deals with it. Good luck on your journey, greetings from Amsterdam, (the Netherlands) Rianne

  • Jane

    First let me say that I hate that I became acquainted with you, your blog, your recipes, your daughters, and, of course, your beautiful relationship with Mikey because of his death.
    This is the first time I’ve commented, though I have been reading your blog since the peanut butter pie post. I’m a hot mess in the kitchen so I didn’t make the recipe, but that post, and so many others you’ve written, have given me that little push to go out of my way to do something for someone I love, even if it wasn’t *exactly* what I wanted to do at that moment.
    Your grace, your courage, your strength in these last weeks is just beyond words. You are an amazingly talented writer, and even through your grief, your beauty and goodness and light shines through.
    I’m glad you know that it’s no one’s right to tell you how long or how to grieve.
    I just wanted to come here to offer you peace and love, from a stranger who holds you and your family in her heart.

  • Tristen

    You seriously rock. In so many ways. Great post, if I commented on all of the things I loved about it I might take all of your precious time (a move!! CRAZY!!). But I’m just terribly impressed at how you are facing these hard things, moving on, standing up to the grief and just letting it be as horrible as it really is. From my seat, nothing that anyone says is going to take it from you but I just think your strength is so evident from the way that you stand up even in the face of all of this ridiculous pain. And move. And admit your fears. And treat Mikey’s memories with love and tenderness and respect. Good luck with the move, I believe that you are going to find a strength you didn’t know you had and I TRULY think you are going to come out of this as such a strong woman. Wish we could be face-to-face friends! Could be if your move is to California… ha ha.

  • Lynne

    My sister died suddenly just 5 years ago. She was 27. Her husband told me once that he doesn’t even remember the first 6 months. You are remarkable and never far from my thoughts and prayers.
    I’m definitely making these muffins. 🙂

  • Holly Dobberpuhl

    I usually don’t do these things…comment on a blog type of thing. I have not suffered the loss of my husband but I have lost a child. I wanted you to know that the path you are on is your own, people try their best to help and ,often, the ones doing the most harm are those closest to you. They just don’t know what to say so they try to “fix” things. Things can’t be fixed, though they can be mended…the scar will always be there, but the intensity will fade over the years. And wouldn’t you hate to NOT have that scar, that tattooed remembrance of the depth of your love for that person! I found that some days reminding myself to breath in and breath out was the best I could do, others I could smile, laugh and even engage with other people. Today, many years later, I still remember the thickness of the days, weeks and months but only feel now a quick catch in my heart, like a new crush, when I think of my son.

  • Jessie B. @ Possible Baker

    Thinking of you, Jennie. Thank you for opening up yourself and truly expressing through writing how you are feeling. And through cooking. Homemade marinara and mac n’ cheese at a time when you need to feel a sense of home the most…you are a true chef. You are right to give yourself time and allow grief. Sending you a smile and a shoulder to use when needed.

  • Britta

    I remember that immense pain. I never thought it would end. Sometimes it still comes back when I least expect it. It has been 2.5 years for me, and I am still angered when people tell me to see past my grief. Grief really doesn’t have a timeline. Let your tears flow…
    Two and a half years ago my best friend, soulmate, other half went missing in an abduction. A month later he was found in the Mississippi River. Although we suffered different losses, we all share the heartbreak of losing our future memories to still be made.
    Sending you my love…

  • danielle

    Awww Jenny. Your posts are something I look forward to. Is that weird? Maybe. I can’t wait to read what you are thinking every time you (finally) post something new. I don’t know you and very probably will never know you, but I have to tell you that I look forward to each and every post you put up. You are going through something that all of us, if we’re being honest, fear every day of our lives. The strength, the emotion, the honesty that you give us is amazing. I appreciate and thank you for it. There is no explaining this event. You can talk about it until you’re blue in the face but the fact remains that it sucks major ass. Bottom line. It sucks. I wish more than anything that there might be something I could do to help. I wrack my brain…what could I do? But in the end, there’s nothing. Because that’s the problem, right? There’s nothing without him. I don’t pretend to understand, because my husband is here. But I know when I force myself to imagine…it’s unimaginable. I hurt for you. I’m so sorry and so angry for you. Do what you have to do for you and for your girls. Don’t listen to what others say that doesn’t fit into your plan. YOU have to do what YOU have to do. But, I know you know this. I am so in awe of you, of your strength, of your heart. Thank you for giving this of yourself.

  • von

    Hi Jenny, just checking in to let you know I’m checking in on you to see how you are doing. Hope your move goes well and the girls have fun Halloween. Take care.

  • Jennifer

    I have this vague sense that as you continue this process of grief, joy will be most available to you in those places that right now hold the most loss, apples, in this case, or music, or… It is good that you’re able to sit and simply be with the hole in your heart, as crappy as it feels. I do not know you, but consider the intention behind my comment a virtual smile and a shoulder.

  • Sarah

    Greetings on this, the last Sunday in October. Thinking of you as I always do on Sundays. Here’s to the power of muffins . . . Take good care of yourself this week.

  • Maria

    Jennie just want you to know I have been thinking about you and the girls…I hope they had a fun time last night trick and treating…
    since you write so eloquently I am assuming that you are a reader as well…I am reading Joan Didion’s, The Year of Magical Thinking…I’m wondering if you might find it helpful. Please know you are not alone, there are many who are thinking of you… ps I hope the move went smoothly

  • Adriana

    Hi Jennie,
    This is the first post of yours that I’ve read and I’d like to say first off- I’m sorry for your loss. You write so beautifully and just from this one post, I’m intrigued and I’m going to continue to read your blog and hopefully, make some of your recipes! (I’m an unpublished author, I have my own food blog and I live in NY!) Thanks!

  • Abbie

    Dear Jennie,
    I just found your blog yesterday, and your story really touched my heart. I’ve never been through something like that before, (I am only 19) but I wanted to share something that I hope and pray will be an encouragement to you.
    In the midst of this tragedy, God wants to give you hope Jennie, HE can be the anchor of your soul. (Hebrews 6:18-19) God loves you so much, that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, that if you believe in Him you should not perish, but have everlasting life. I just encourage you to turn to God and seek Him, He can give you peace, no matter how bad the storm in your life.
    You are loved.

  • pink

    Jennie i am soo moved away by the situation you have now…Although mickey is nt with you…the movements u had vth each other will cherish for life time..All the best for u and kids..Be strong enough to tackle the situations around you..

  • Cheryl Arkison

    Man, grief sucks. The loss is bad enough, but living with grief is hard, exhausting, and necessary.
    I didn’t even like my Dad but I feel like only just now, almost 7 months later I’m seeing some things again. I barely noted the passing of the seasons on food and can’t remember the asparagus, let alone the tomatoes.
    I hope all went well with the move and you find some peace as you girls settle in a new home. Let me know when I can send some tomatoes.

  • SamCyn

    Your words make me appreciate the moments with my husband as well as my family. By the way, the muffins look and sound great…gonna have to try them 🙂