I woke up this morning with a boy on either side of me. One had his chilly feet on my bare thighs; he leaned against a Winnie-the-Pooh as big as he is, wedged between himself and Alexi. The wind raged all night, no doubt working itself into dreams, leading the boys to our bed.
The three of them left for hockey practice before it was light. I worked at my computer. Some time later, while refilling my coffee, I saw a rainbow through the kitchen window, to the west.
We have a box of Christmas books we keep in an attic space in our garage, alongside the boxes of other holiday paraphernalia: ornaments, knick knacks, stockings and decorations. Our tangible objects that store experiences like genies in bottles: the nativity set from our trip to Peru; the life-saver Santa with the Styrofoam head made by my second grade self. The boxes labeled ‘Christmas’ are stowed behind our tent, sleeping bags, tarps, ski boots, tackle boxes, and fishing rods, so getting them down is always a production. Earlier this week, I asked Alexi to retrieve the books; heroically, he did. Last night, after reading Christmas in the Barn, a poetic account of the Christmas story, to Cal, I answered a multitude of questions about how a baby could be born outside a hospital; what they used for diapers; why Mary and Joseph were traveling to pay taxes.
This past week, the home of one of my cousins burned to the ground, and they lost everything. Furniture, dishes, computer, clothing, toys, linens, camera, books, photos, toothbrushes, stuffed animals. By some miracle, they weren't home when it happened. I had a grim conversation with my sister about it this morning, and after we hung up I remembered a question Jon Nelson once asked me. Or maybe it was a sermon he preached. In any case, he wondered what I would take with me if I had to flee my home suddenly, and could only bring what I could carry. I still don’t have a good answer.
Our countertops are full of ripening pears and leafy satsumas. Outside, seagulls are air surfing. Inside, it smells like toasted hazelnuts, and the boys are making music together.
slightly adapted from Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook by Leslie Mackie
I am typically not a muffin person; I usually find them too sugary and bread-y. I’d rather have a scone or a cookie if I want a sweet. These are perfect – incredibly delicious, hearty, and wholesome; barely sweet, except for the jam. You can make them without the jam topping – just serve it on the side.
¾ cup hazelnuts
¾ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats
3 medium carrots, grated
1 medium ripe banana, mashed or pureed
½ cup canola oil
½ cup molasses
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup raspberry preserves (or other favorite preserves)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the insides of a 12 capacity muffin tin with canola oil, or lightly coat with cooking spray.
Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then remove as much of the loose skins as possible by rubbing the nuts between the palms of your hands. Chop the nuts medium-fine and set them aside. Increase the oven temperature to 375F.
Sift the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the oats, chopped hazelnuts, and grated carrots. Toss with your hands until the ingredients are combined.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the banana, eggs, canola oil, molasses, and buttermilk. Mix fully with a whisk. Add mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir just until the batter comes together, taking care not to overmix. It will be very thick.
Scoop the batter into the oiled muffin tins, filling them to the top. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are deep brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then dent each muffin with a spoon and top with a dollop of raspberry preserves. Slide a fork down the side of each muffin and gently lift it from the pan.
Yield: 12 muffins