Baking TM_BK_MUFFIN_FI_001

Everyone has a pet peeve. Some people are sticklers for grammar, while others can’t bear their food touching. These minor aggravations seem silly, but we all know how infuriating a pet peeve can be. I, too, have a pet peeve, but mine is serious. I’m confronted by it so often — almost on a daily basis — that I’m close to my breaking point. From my neighborhood coffee shop to the supermarket, I can’t escape it: the muffcake. Like when someone uses the wrong “there” or slurps their soup, my blood boils when I see a cupcake being advertised as a muffin.

Allow me to fill you in on a little secret: the muffin at your coffee spot is probably a cupcake. The dozen you can buy at the grocery store? Yeah, those are cupcakes, too. In my opinion, there are probably few muffins in this world that aren’t actually cupcakes.

Kitchen Hacks TM_KH_MUFFIN_FI_001

I hope the giddiness I get from not following the rules anymore never fades as I go further into adulthood.

For example, I slept perpendicular-ly on the bed last night. Why? (Well, partially because I’m pretty short). BECAUSE I CAN. Deal with it.

This may be most exciting with food choices. Want to have Nutella for (not with) lunch? You’re allowed. And even if your idiosyncratic cravings don’t flout nutritional wisdom, it’s liberating just to know that nobody’s watching what you do anymore. (Things I have eaten as meals in the past month include: a chicken finger wrapped in a slice of plastic American cheese; a tub of hummus; a batch of miniature donuts; a carrot; wine; a jar of sun-dried tomatoes I got free from work; and a bag of popcorn drizzled with hot sauce.) Again, deal with it. MORE

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The great American sweet potato. We all recognize it as a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, and see sweet potato fries now offered as a healthier alternative to white potato ones at almost every restaurant. They’re even showing up more often as a substitute in traditional potato salad recipes. But though the orange-fleshed vegetable is an occasional visitor for lunch and dinner, we almost never see it on our plates before noon.


Whereas fresh bagels are coveted and home-baked bread approaches a spiritual experience for many, it’s rare in America to come across a fresh-from-scratch English muffin. In fact, I’d venture that there isn’t another bread product we’re as willing to buy pre-packaged (except for maybe the pocket pita). We simply don’t have respect for the English muffin. Take the breakfast sandwich, for example. A staple everywhere from the McDonald’s drive-thru to high-end restaurants, the breakfast sandwich puts the focus on the egg, cheese, and meat that’s tucked in the middle on the sandwich, forcing the English muffin that holds it all together to play second-fiddle (or is it griddle?). Of course, a breakfast sandwich doesn’t have to be made with an English muffin. But let’s not lie to ourselves: A bagel or bread couldn’t handle the breakfast sandwich the way an English muffin does. The bagel has too much dough, and bread falls apart. Only the English muffin has the right size and sheer tenacity to properly rein in the wily breakfast sandwich. Yet we rarely give it the attention
it deserves.

The Larder TM_TL_CRNBRD_FI_001

Much like with birthday cakes, skillet suppers and onion soup, home cooks have been led to believe that cornbread is so hard to make that one should employ a boxed mix instead of doing it from scratch. Truly though, to do it entirely from raw ingredients takes no more than 30 minutes from start to finish (and that includes the baking time).

Homemade cornbread is a highly versatile thing to have in your culinary repertory. A basic loaf baked in a square pan makes a meal of soup and salad fit for a cozy dinner party. When you’re planning brunch for a crowd, brown a few strips of diced bacon, stir those crumbles into a batch of prepared cornbread batter and bake the bread right in the same skillet. It makes the most delicious accompaniment to eggs. MORE