I learned a lot about myself today… and it wasn’t all good.
I was getting ingredients out of my cupboards to bake this afternoon when I realized how disorganized they were. Multiple bags of flour were strewn amongst three or four cupboards, the onion powder was hidden behind cupcake sprinkles and the balsamic vinegar was hanging out with the tea. Total kitchen carnage.
The tipping point was when I spotted my cat’s claw caps (these strange sheath-type things I glued over top of her claws when we lived in a carpeted apartment) and dried tuna treats next to my daily vitamins. That was it – something had to be done. So, after stuffing the muffin batter in the warmth of my preheated oven, I went about the task, hauling everything I could reach out of the cupboards, piling it all on my counter in one big heap.
It wasn’t until I started organizing the contents of my cupboards that I realized I might have a problem. Because when things are spread out, they don’t look too bad. But when you start lining up 12 cartons of chicken broth and a half dozen cans of diced tomatoes, it starts to look a little insane.
To truly understand how heavy this hit me, it’s important to know my grandmother. She was, in its most unadulterated form, a pack-rat. Her entire basement was filled – and I mean filled – with war-era pantries of non-perishable items: canned soup, tomatoes, broth, jam, shortening, anything she could possible stuff in there that wouldn’t start to smell after a couple of years.
My family always gave her a hard time about it, myself included. We accused her of prepping herself for World War 3 or some kind of apocalypse in which canned corn would become the new currency. In fact, at one point, we went through her pantry, determined to donate the goods to a food bank, only to find most of it expired in the late 80s.
So as I slid the dozenth carton of chicken broth into its place in my now-designated “broth cupboard,” I realized that I didn’t just inherit my grandmother’s innate love of cooking. I also inherited her instinctual need to hoard.
Perhaps the most ironic part is that after all those years of teasing my grandmother, I totally get why she did it. There’s something oddly comforting about opening that cupboard of broth and simply knowing it’s there.
It’s amazing how much we absorb from the people we love, without wanting to or even acknowledging it, until one day you realize you’ve got enough chicken broth and canned tomatoes to last you the next five months. And maybe it’s not so bad, because in a small way, it makes you feel like they’re still there.
This recipe is actually adapted from a cookie recipe a friend gave me. The cookies are now a staple in my repertoire, but all it took was a bit of tweaking, some additional key ingredients and a bit more baking powder to turn them into these amazing muffins.
Oatmeal Chocolate Cranberry Muffins
Makes about 14 muffins
Small, medium and large mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Paper muffin liners
Wire cooling rack
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup large flake rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
4 oz baking chocolate, chopped (I prefer dark or white chocolate, or a combination of both)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with paper muffin liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a small bowl, cream butter with a rubber spatula until smooth. Transfer butter to a large bowl and mix in sugars, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir in oats, cranberries and chocolate. Drop batter by rounded tablespoons into muffin liners. Bake for 15 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Let muffins cool in tin for 10 minutes, then remove from tin and cool directly on a wire cooling rack.