A sign my daughter made for last year’s Ragnar Relay team.
EDIT: I wrote this post early in the week, then spent the morning before Ragnar monitoring weather reports. As of this update, our team is still a go, but the muffins didn’t get made. So let’s call these muffins Hurricane Joaquin muffins instead.
It’s Ragnar Relay week here in the nation’s capital, and as this post goes live, our team, the Steeple Chasers, is somewhere in Maryland, making the long and hilarious 200-mile running trek from Cumberland to DC. You can read about last year’s Steeple Chasers adventure here.
Despite my injury, I’m staying on as driver and general merry-maker. And muffin provider. This week I went with something simple, with no weird ingredients that might be tough on runners’ tummies. I also made mini-muffins so people can pop a little one in their mouth if they need a quick burst of energy.
It has one of the highest impacts of anything we do as families… and it becomes harder and harder the older the kids get.
It’s dinner as a family.
Study after study talks about the benefits of a family dinner. It’s important physically, emotionally, spiritually, even mentally–according to this article, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. As someone whose job used to involve a lot of evening meetings, and now involves travel a couple of times a month, family dinner is a challenge. But it’s also a cherished value for us. It may not be leisurely or gourmet quality, but I’d say we pull it off four or five times a week.
That average just got a lot harder. On Mondays, our kids have choir rehearsals. It’s a single program, but they’re in three different choirs that all start and end at different times. It’s not close enough to our house to drop off and pick up, so we’ve been MacGyvering our way through it with sack dinners, the occasional GoPicnic, and bringing homework along while we wait in what is thankfully a very comfortable space to hang out for three hours.
Wednesday is our other challenge–piano night. We were able to keep all of the kids with the same beloved piano teacher we had before we moved, but the lessons are one after the other during the dinner hour. So again we’re doing the sack dinner thing. I drop the kids off and go somewhere nearby to do some writing, then pick them up when they’re done.
For the last two weeks we’ve tried a new practice. If we can’t have dinner together, we can at least have dessert together. Monday is too hectic to do anything and we get home too late. So on Wednesdays when the kids and I get home, Robert has the table set for something simple: last week it was ice cream, this week it was these pumpkin gingerbread muffins with whipped cream and Trader Joe’s lemon curd.
We use the fancy dessert plates (because it’s no extra effort) and do our customary dinnertime check-in of most favorite and least favorite parts of the day. It’s been a great way to end our day.
…Ok, this week someone had a meltdown and left the table in a huff. That happens too.
What do you do to make family meals or other special times happen in the midst of your busy life?
1 Tbsp finely minced candied or fresh ginger (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp water
1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 12 muffin cups or a loaf pan with cooking spray.
2 In a medium bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3 In another bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the pumpkin purée, melted butter, sugar, molasses, fresh or candied ginger, eggs, and water.
4 Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir only until incorporated.
5 Place the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes (loaf) or 15-20 minutes (muffins), until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then gently run a knife around the edge and remove from pan(s). Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes or longer.
Here in NoVA, the weather is cool and sunny, perfect for running. Meanwhile I have 51 days left before I can run again, thanks to my stress fracture.
It’s killing me.
I’ve been trying to make the best of it by connecting myself with my sole sisters in Moms RUN This Town–Springfield. Two weekends ago I offered up our house as a halfway point during some friends’ 20-mile run (see picture). I actually didn’t bake for that one–I provided what the runners suggested, which was oranges, potato chips and (brilliantly) Nutter Butters.
But this weekend I did bake. A group has been doing the Cross County Trail, a 40-mile trail across Fairfax County they’ve been doing in segments for a couple months. I made it through three segments with them before I got injured. Saturday’s run brought them within 10 minutes of the new house, so I invited them to come over afterwards. They came bearing a housewarming card and a hilarious (and cuddly) throw pillow in cheetah fabric. Perfect.
I wanted to prepare stuff they could take with them if they needed to eat and run. I’ve been wanting to try those egg muffin things I’ve been seeing all over Pinterest, and they could not be easier. Lots of versions out there, but here’s what I did.
Grease your muffin pans. (I found the silicone worked great for this.)
Crack an egg in each cup. Add whatever you want. I added torn spinach leaves, grated cheese, salt and pepper. I pressed the spinach into the raw egg so it wouldn’t scorch on top, though that was a pain and next time I might take my chances. Maybe the oven is humid enough that they’d just wilt.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until egg is set to your liking.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat: microwave for 20 seconds or so, and serve atop toast or between two halves of an English muffin. Love it.
I also made these Lemon Blueberry Scones. They were delicious but quite tart, perhaps because the blueberries I used were pretty tart. I think if I made them again I’d use milk instead of lemon juice in the glaze. I also needed to add more flour than the recipe called for because the dough was sticky. That could be because my daughter and I doubled the recipe and got something wrong, but in any case, be aware of that. Delicious though.
A year ago in early August, I joined Moms Run This Town for my first group run. It was at 5 a.m. and was affectionately called the Muffin Run, because the host would bake muffins for everyone as an enticement for them to come out so ungodly early.
On my one-year anniversary of that first MRTT run, I was running on a tibial stress fracture without knowing it. So yeah, it doesn’t always work out nice and neat. But that’s running for you.
The host of the muffin run host still bakes every week, which is amazing considering we can get upwards of 30-40 people. And while the snacks are nice, folks don’t need the enticement anymore. There are 5 a.m. runs (and earlier) almost every day of the week.
Our family moves on Friday, so today was my last muffin run as a Springfield resident. I’ll still run with these ladies often, but it’ll mostly be long weekend runs. Although, I’ve already told the group that my first run post-injury will be with the 5 a.m. track babes. Yes, I will drive down for that triumphant (I hope) half mile.
This week I asked to be the muffin-maker. Since I can’t run, I biked around the neighborhood, which may be a first for the group. I brought these decadent beauties, adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything. These are fun and easy. Enjoy!
½ cup butter, melted
1½ cups brown sugar
24 maraschino cherries
1 20 ounce can crushed pineapple–reserve the juice
1 package yellow cake mix (and oil and eggs called for on the package)
1⅓ cups pineapple juice (you just need as much pineapple juice as water called for on the cake mix package – see note)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 24 muffin cups with cooking spray.
Line a work surface with parchment or waxed paper.
Spoon 1 teaspoon melted butter into the bottom of each sprayed muffin cup.
Spoon 1 tablespoon brown sugar in each muffin cup.
Press a maraschino cherry into the center of the brown sugar in each muffin cup.
Spoon a heaping tablespoon of crushed pineapple over the cherry and compact it with the back of a spoon into an even layer.
Mix cake mix according to the package directions, replacing the water with pineapple juice. This may vary according to which cake mix you use. In large bowl with electric mixer on low speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Turn mixer speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes.
Pour pineapple cake batter into the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.
Bake in the preheated oven on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Allow cupcakes to cool at least 10 minutes before inverting muffin cups onto the waxed paper to release. (Unfortunately some of the topping stuck to the muffin pans, and I needed to spoon it back on. Still looked and tasted fine though.) Serve with pineapple and cherry sides up.
OK, the recipe isn’t really called that—I added the Empty Nest thing because Robert and I are sans kiddoes this week. It is so quiet… and this batch of 18 muffins is lasting the two of us a loooong time. If you’re in a similar boat, best to refrigerate these and refresh them in the toaster oven or microwave.
Recipe comes from the wonderful site Six O’Clock Scramble. We’ve been subscribers for a long time and we love their healthy, kid-friendly and (mostly) simple dishes. The cornmeal adds a hearty texture to these muffins, along with the whole wheat flour. These aren’t too sweet, really, and work well as a breakfast food, snack, or as a side dish (which is how the Scramble suggests serving them).
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
15 oz. canned pumpkin (I love recipes that use the entire can, yay!)
1/2 cup nonfat or low fat milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat 18 muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.
Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the chocolate chips and beat just until smooth.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
Fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full with the batter, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Let cool and serve immediately, or store tightly covered for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.