As a kid, mom had a cookbook that was a sacred part of our kitchen, a slim circa-1983 spiral-bound volume by Jean Paré called Company’s Coming: Muffins & More. This book was dogeared and batter-splatted and thumbed through unconsciously by our entire family; a centrepiece of the kitchen bookshelf.
It produced our favourite treats — lemon loaf with a craggy tart-sour icing top, crumbly coffee cake, Holy Grail banana bread… and especially muffins that featured vegetables. Mom loved these — she tasked Eleni and me with grating zucchini and carrot and parsnip and their contemporaries for any and every quick bread and muffin and loaf.
A few years back, I happened upon a copy at a used bookshop, and made Muffins & More my own. My volume isn’t quite as well loved as mom’s, but all the same inspires simple, wholesome baking from my kitchen. This cookbook was and is brilliant for its adaptable recipes, a reminder that baking can be an uncomplicated and generous home pursuit.
In mom’s honour (and in true Jean Paré fashion), these winter harvest muffins are packed with every last bit of our farmshare — grated carrot, parsnip, apple — and jewelled with dried apricot, raisins, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. They are a hybrid of a few recipes perfected through the years — and importantly, adaptable. The root vegetables can be subbed at will, the sweetener forgivingly interchanged, the mix-ins optional and rotating, depending upon what’s on hand.
Making this type of muffin inevitably ends in a call to mom — to wax nostalgia about stained cookbook pages, and muffin tins with a loving patina, and little girls perched high on countertops grating carrots and wielding wooden spoons. Sure enough, she’s probably just made some of Jean’s banana bread.
Winter Harvest Muffins
This recipe is based loosely on a few recipes collected and melded over time; mostly adapted from techniques in Muffins & More, with the smart additions of olive oil and honey borrowed from Melissa Clark’s Lunchbox Harvest Muffins.
As I note above, this is recipe forgiving, as muffins should be. Be sure to approximate the same quantities of wet ingredients (1.5 cups assorted grated wet/root vegetables) and mix-ins (1 cup assorted dried nuts/fruits), and everything should turn out okay!
Makes one-dozen midsize muffins
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 cup bran
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 1 small apple, grated (~1/2 cup)
- 1 small carrot, grated (~1/2 cup)
- 1 small parsnip, grated (~1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup assortment (I like walnuts, pepitas and chopped dried apricots)
- demerara sugar, to top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with parchment or liners, if desired.
In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flours, bran, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, honey, apple, parsnip and carrot.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Add mix-ins: raisins, coconut and nuts, reserving a handful to decorate the muffins, if desired.
Fill each cup 3/4 full. If desired, top with mix-ins and a sprinkle of Demerara sugar, for crunch. Bake on middle rack for about 25 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack. Serve immediately or wrap in saran and foil for lunches or to freeze for later snacking.