I'm not comfortable around cars. Let me clarify. I'm very comfortable driving them, putting the kids in them, and getting from place to place, but ask me to do things to them from a mechanical standpoint and I begin to freak out a little. But I'm getting better. I've learned how to jump start a car because there was a period where the car wouldn't start every single morning UNLESS it was jumped and I've learned how to turn down the dealer's "recommended" service add-ons by saying "NO, I don't need them." But even with all of that, I still get nervous at times.
Fortunately for me, I have Brother #2, who is a bonafide car expert. He doesn't work with them, fix them, or sell them, but he understands them and knows how to prevent one from getting ripped off. He is the person I turn to and he is the one who teaches me what I need to do for my car. My most recent conversation with him had to do with the state of my tires, which were sadly BALD. I avoided dealing with them, mostly because I was freaked out about all the logistics, but once again, Brother #2 came to my assistance. He called me and told me to get tires from here.
He helped me choose the correct tire for what I needed and then advised me to have them sent directly to an authorized tire installer. And the whole thing took 5 minutes online. Then today, I called my authorized dealer to confirm that my tires had arrived, and they said yes. I showed up at 1:00 PM to get the tires installed and by 2:00 PM I was on my way, on brand new unbald tires. And it felt great. And I took care of it mostly on my own. It made me feel powerful, liberated and able to handle the next round of bald tires on my car. I will not need Brother #2 for the next time my tires are bald, but I'm sure something else car related will come eventually and I'll turn to him for a bit more learning.
Cooking is like that. It can be liberating, and empowering and wonderful when you understand and know how to do something in the kitchen. Not knowing, being unsure and and uncomfortable can stymie one in the kitchen. I want to break that. I want people to take a moment, learn a bit about the cooking and overcome those very same trepidations and fears that I have about cars. A little knowledge, and little learning, and a little effort can produce something really wonderful and delicious and it will make you feel powerful, liberated and wonderful.
These muffins - they aren't the simplest thing to turn out (two step process with a crumb topping and a muffins batter) but they DO taste so good that the little extra effort and stress you spend tinkering around the kitchen will make them well worth your time. They are moist, tangy sweet and a great way to use up those leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving. (Mine, ahem, are leftover cranberries from LAST Thanksgiving and have been sitting in my freezer driving me nuts.) Daughters #1 and #2 gobbled them up and begged to have more and more and more and more...Son unfortunately was hands off due to all the fantastically delicious dairy inside, but was satisfied with a bowl of kimchee fried rice for breakfast instead.
Sour Cream Orange Cranberry Crumb Muffins
(adapted from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book)
Makes 15 muffins
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until well blended. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the butter is absorbed and the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened. Set aside.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or un-thawed frozen cranberries, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of 9 inch square or round pan OR line muffin tins with liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended. Add cranberries and toss.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and granulated sugar and medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at time, beating well after each addition and scarping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add sour cream and beat in. Mix in orange zest and vanilla.
Remove bowl from mixer, and carefully fold in cranberry flour mixture. Mix, using a light hand until just blended.
Scrape batter into prepared pan or muffin tins. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the batter, breaking up any large lumps with your fingers.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes for muffins. Place muffins in the pan on a wire rack and let cool. Serve.
With a little practice, making these will be easier than getting new tires on your car.