orange poppy olive oil muffins

Years ago, when Isabella was a wee little one, we had a neighbor who insisted on counting her son’s age in months up until he was three. Mikey and I laughed so hard at the idea of that. Imagine someone asking how old your kid is, and replying 32 months. It just sounds odd, right? I’m guessing that mom’s rationale was wanting to hold onto her son being a baby as long as possible. I get it. Oh man, do I get it, especially these days. In just two weeks, my babies will turn five and ten. I feel like I blinked and life tapped me on the shoulder, then screamed SURPRISE!

This whole way of counting has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. People often refer to Mikey having died a year and a half ago, or almost two years ago. Me? I refer to it as what it is—20 months ago. Unlike my old neighbor who wanted to cherish her babies early years, I’m trying to stay close to Mikey. The more time that passes since his death signifies the growing distance between my old life and my new one.

dream big

The counting game really plays with my mind. Often times I feel like I should be used to this new life. The one where I’m a single mother, and go to bed alone every night. The one where when I laugh at something silly the kids did, I have no one to call and share it with (at least not the person I want to share it with). When I look at his passing in days, though, it somehow makes it easier to be more gentle with myself.

Today is day 627.

Over the 17 years we spent together, we racked up more than 6,000 days. No wonder I still find myself struggling. Some days it feels like it’s getting easier, which makes the emotional set backs harder to navigate. May is an especially tough month. The girls both have their birthdays on May 11th, there’s Mother’s Day, and to top it off—May is the month we met. It’s when Mikey asked our friend Pat back in 1995 “who’s the girl with the pretty green eyes behind the reception desk”.

Instead of running from the downs, I’m going to face them head on. Choosing happiness means you have to confront the sadness, jump over it like a hurdle on an obstacle course. When all else fails, I know I can always find my way in the kitchen. I sometimes wonder if I’ve used it as a coping mechanism. We all have our vices, I suppose. At least mine isn’t hurting anything but my waistline!

I’ve been having a lot of fun testing new recipes using my All-Purpose Baking Mix from Homemade with Love. Seriously, this mix has gotten me out many a jam so far since my schedule is all over the place these days—literally, I leave for San Francisco on Monday morning! I hope everyone has fun weekend plans. Take time to put down the devices and enjoy spring. Walk in the park with your honey. Play tag with the kids. Whatever you do, stop and smell the tulips (the roses aren’t ready yet). Life is too short to be tethered to a phone, iPad and what not. Live life like a participant, not a spectator.


Orange Poppy Olive Oil Muffins

makes one dozen

Music Pairing: Love is Here to Stay by Louis Armstrong with Ella Fitzgerald

You can swap in almond, soy or coconut milk to make these muffins dairy-free.

1 3/4 cups (254 grams) All-Purpose Baking Mix (on page 20 in Homemade with Love)

1 tablespoon (9 grams) poppy seeds

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

Freshly grated zest of 1 orange
(1 gram)

1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil

3/4 cup (187 ml) milk

1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the baking mix, poppy seeds, granulated sugar, and orange zest to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat the olive oil, milk and egg together with a fork. Pour over the flour mixture and, using the same fork, stir until the batter is just combined, and there are no visible traces of flour.

Fill each muffin cup with a generous 1/4 cup of the batter. Bake until the edges are golden, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, about 25 minutes.


  • Delora

    oooh ooh ooh! I’m totally making these soon. I bought fresh poppy seeds on a whim last month, and haven’t used them yet. With a kiddo with a dairy allergy, I have to sub butter substitutes and shortening for butter in most recipes, and can sometimes get weird results, so appreciate recipes that use oil as the fat.

  • Amy

    Jennie, your post is so beautiful, tears were running down my cheeks when I read it. I have no words to tell you what a unbelievable strong woman you are… You are a true inspiration…
    And your muffins look absolutely delicious! I love the freshness of citrus flavors in baked goods.
    xox Amy

  • Maria in NJ

    Both the girls have the same birthday, how cool is that! Our oldest was born on my birthday, it is very special…enjoy San Fran…like the song says….I left my….m

  • Tracey A

    Morning Jennie,
    My head spins when I try to think of my age in months! Lets see, get out the calculator.4,416. That makes me tired…I don’t want to say old either.
    Food is Love, your kitchen is Love and your book is Love. Wishing you rainbows, spring flowers and love. Memories and love.
    May your growth bring you some sunshiny days, your book continue to prosper, and your heart continue to mend.
    You will never lose him, you know.
    With hugs and a bit of sugar sprinklings,

  • Tina

    I just got your cookbook and found our blog. You are doing amazing things…your girls have a very strong Mom leading the way. God Bless.

  • Laura

    The muffins look amazing! I am excited to see you on Tuesday! We are having beautiful weather here. I can’t begin to know how you feel, but your writing gives me a good sense of it. Love you!

  • Paula

    You touch my heart with your gorgeous words & stunning recipes. My dad used to tell me “you don’t have to be better than anyone else. Just be the best YOU can be.” He was a simple, uneducated but brilliant man. He would have adored you. Jennie you do that with every breath.

  • Lenny

    Bummer! I’m in San Francisco Friday – Sunday. I so want to have my copy signed by you. Hopefully I can catch up with you at a NYC signing. Enjoy your trip!

  • Jennifer Perillo

    That is a bummer, so sorry! I don’t have anymore NYC signings scheduled so far, but you never know.

  • Jennifer Perillo

    p.s. one thought—if you want to buy a signed copy, you can call Omnivore and request one to have it mailed to you, or pick up while you’re in SF. Just let them know who you want it written out to. 🙂

  • Laura Kingston

    Thank you for posting about choosing happiness. I’ve been trying to focus on that lately (it’s been 18 months for my family’s anniversary of huge. life. change).

    Bought your book (congratulations!); it was lovely to watch the video you posted recently, too. It’s helpful to see others moving forward. Thank you!! Your honestly, vulnerability and strength are inspiring.

  • Lindsey C.

    I have been thinking about you, remembered about you since I first heard about you when GFG&TC wrote about your pie.

    I hope you continue to find your strength in the love of your daughters.

    I have so much love to send you. I hope you receive it. Ever since I learned of you and Mikey, I have held my dear ones a little closer, and a little tighter. And I wish you all the best in your new, different life.

  • Allie Watfotd

    I was just introduced to your blog after our local paper (in Fairbanks, AK) printed your recipe for cumin-cilantro chicken patties, which were delish! I was so surprised and moved by your entries. I lost my fiance to cancer when I was in my early 20’s. No comparison to the loss of a husband and father, but I could relate to your entries. I am now 41 and have been married to an amazing man for 9 years. For years after my loss, I wandered in darkness, which makes your uplifting and honest entries even more powerful to me. I wish I could have read them during my greif. Time does not heal all wounds, but it does ease the all-encompassing pain and allows the happy memories to prevail. If not for my fiance’s recounts of his time in Alaska, I may have never found my way here. In a way, I feel he led me not just to a land I love but also to the man who gave me love I never thought I would find again. Mikey will continue to give to you for the rest of your life, and in ways you can’t even imagine now. Sorry so wordy. I just wanted to thank you for your beautiful honesty. I look forward to following your journey.

  • Leslie Taylor

    My boys are also 5 years apart! They’re 9 and 14. I’m a single mom as well, but unlike you, it’s by divorce. My ex and both sets of grandparents are amazing, so I often have alone-time, which I relish with abandon! Anyway, I just want to tell you it gets easier, as far as the kids are concerned, as they get older. The older can look out for the younger if you have to make a quick run to the grocery or something. Take care of yourself. 🙂

  • Claire Smoker

    Hi Jennie – I just bought your book and I’ve been pouring over it all weekend! I’ve already made the All Purpose Baking Mix and I have lots of other pages flagged. Your recipes, and your life, have captured me and I’m so thankful to find another busy working mom that inspires me in the things I already love: farmer’s markets, homemade cooking and eating at home with my family (I also have two daughters). Thank you for a wonderful book!