I am an orderly and punctual kind of girl. One who revels in being in bed by 10:00, gets pleasure out of the neatly folded lines of sheets and towels in our linen closet, loves using up the last four turnips, two beets and half a rutabaga in the fridge for a lovely autumn soup that also results in a beautifully empty vegetable crisper, sweats unpleasantly when running even just five minutes late, thrills secretly when the neat piles of mail and magazine inserts and cardboard paper towel rolls all get placed in the recycling bin in the little closet next to our apartment, and exults when using up the last few shakes left in a bag of flour.
And yet. On weekday mornings, I somehow still end up running four minutes late far too often, throwing my scarf over my shoulder while I press the elevator button as the door bangs shut (rats!), remembering that my cell phone is still on the coffee table, running back inside to get it as I thread my belt into my belt loops while the door slams again (crap!), then hearing the elevator ping its arrival, managing to make it out just as the elevator door opens, but not smoothly enough so I don't keep the our apartment door from banging a third and final time (damn it!) and as I ride down to the ground floor, realizing I've forgotten to eat breakfast entirely.
If there's something I hate, it's missing breakfast at home. See, I have this little routine: I take my breakfast (a small pour of orange juice in a narrow glass, a little white bowl of Grape Nuts and milk) and sit in the big office chair that Ben brought with him when we moved to Queens. While I eat my breakfast swiveling around in the chair, looking out the window or listening to the radio, Ben stands next to me and irons. We don't talk much, but we start our day together there. It's calm and peaceful in that office, we can see the tree tops waving, and the big city feels pretty far away. Plus, this way the orderly me gets her morning fiber (check), her vitamins in pill and juice form (check), and one third of her daily calcium requirement (check). All this, too, warms my soul.
But let's get real: the number of mornings I'm able to have this dreamy little breakfast scenario has dwindled substantially of late and I've been spending far too much money on morning breakfasts in the city. (Close to $5.00? For a scone and a cup of tea? What is going on here?) I read Amy Scattergood's article on Kim Boyce's healthy muffins while I ate a Balthazar scone, delicious but crammed to the brim with butter and cream, at my desk for the (gulp) third time last week and vowed to change my ways.
The only problem is that Kim's muffins are far too good to be eaten, ascetically, one by one each day of the week. Trust me, you'll make a batch, envision it lasting you two weeks in the freezer, and by the end of the weekend - bam! - the muffins will be gone, baby, gone. Wholesome and grainy and full of autumnal flavor, they're simply delicious. Studded with juicy little bits of dates (dates, I swoon for you) and with the occasional bright orange pocket of sweet potato, they're the kind of muffin that make you feel practically virtuous whilst eating them, which as you probably know, is a very special kind of muffin indeed.
Whole-Wheat Sweet Potato Muffins
Vegetable oil spray for coating the tins
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 Medjool dates, pitted and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until they are tender when pierced with a fork and are caramelizing. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, peel, then lightly mash with a fork. Set aside.
2. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the muffin tin with vegetable oil.
3. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, whole-wheat flour, whole-grain pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, yogurt, egg and vanilla together.
5. Scrape down the sides of the butter bowl and alternately add the dry and wet ingredients; do not overmix. Gently fold in the sweet potatoes, then the dates.
6. Using an ice cream scoop (about one-half cup capacity), scoop the batter into each of 10 prepared muffin cups, about 1 scoop per muffin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The muffins will be dark golden brown on the bottom.