The Drawer

There was a drawer in my childhood kitchen. If it wasn’t made of actual walnut, it was definitely made of walnut-veneered wood, and sat beneath the silverware drawer, which sat beneath the mustard-colored formica countertop. The drawer had no heft and seemed to always be falling off its tracking likely due to the many dozens of times a day we’d open and close it.

My mom kept a strange array of items in the drawer — there was a basket where she stored her onions and garlic. In the corner, wrapped in the coil of its wire, was the electric hand-mixer that matched the countertop and that I still use every Thanksgiving to whip warm milk into mashed potatoes. (Unlike me, my mom does not update for the sake of updating. She uses something until it’s broken.) And on top of all these items were any number of boxes from Grand Union’s baked good aisle. Which shouldn’t be confused with the actual bakery, which would indicate that something fresh was involved — not that the term “fresh” meant anything to me in 1983. Entenmann’s was, of course, king of the drawer, with its sour cream chocolate chip nut loaf, buttery pound cake, thick, fudge-frosting-spackled sheet cake, and chocolate-frosted doughnuts that remained slightly crunchy in all the right places even after a generous dunk in milk. Nine times out of ten, if you opened The Drawer, you’d find one of these products. But, depending on who accompanied Mom to “The Grand,” as she called it, you might also find Freihofer’s cupcakes, glazed pop ’ems, a box of Drake’s Yodels or Ring Dings, Nabisco Nutter Butters and Fudge Stripes, Fudge Sticks, and Vanilla Cream wafers, or my favorite, Thomas’s Toast-R-Cakes in Blueberry or Corn. Still to this day, on the rare (read: glorious) occasion I find myself eating a Nutter Butter, I somehow taste an infusion of onion and old wood. There was never any talk of calories or trans fats or additives or chemicals or dieting. Why would there be? If it was USDA-approved it couldn’t be that bad, right? Plus my brother, sister, and I were all two- and three-sport athletes. I could eat anything I wanted and still barely hold down a movie theater flip seat with my own body weight.

The Drawer in my house today is not so much a drawer as it is a ceramic bread crock, and one look at its contents would be enough to measure how much times have changed since we were kids. Right now, inside the crock, there’s a single bag of Trader Joe’s mini-bagels. But this doesn’t mean we don’t give in to baked-good temptation every now and then. (Here is where I will also conveniently glaze over the chocolate-covered everything syndrome in our pantry.) Lately, I’ve been into making blueberry-corn muffins, which is not only a more wholesome update of those heavenly Toast-R-Cakes I loved so much as a kid, they also happen to be a hybrid of the two muffins my daughters love and gobble up for breakfast or after-school snack. And by adding a handful of fresh blueberries (right after the stick of butter and half cup of sugar) I have no problem whatsoever convincing myself that they’re healthy.

Blueberry-Corn Muffins
This is only just barely adapted from Ina Garten’s original Barefoot Contessa, a cookbook that no family kitchen should be withoutI halved her recipe and replaced raspberry preserves with fresh blueberries. I like it because I almost always have what I need to make a batch. (No newfangled ingredients like buttermilk.) This recipe makes about six muffins — a week’s worth of breakfasts and snacks.
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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
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Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 6-8 muffin cups with paper liners. To a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl combine the milk, melted butter, and egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until just blended. (You can also use a blender for this.) Mix in blueberries. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes until the tops are crisp and slightly golden brown.
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Cannot for the life of me remember how we ended up with bandana-patterned muffin papers, but if for some reason you are in the market for them, I found them here and also here (as part of a Cowboy-themed baking kit). And in case you were wondering: navy nail polish pictured in photo up top: Essie’s Midnight Cami.
Related: How to Read a Label, by Michael Moss and The Homemade Pantry Solution, featuring Alana Chernila.
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17 Comments

Caitlyn

Your comment about your Mom only replacing things when they are broken made me laugh. My Mom is the same way, but while I LOVE old vintage items in mustard yellow, avocado green, etc. she thinks they are hideous (but still uses them because they work). So whenever I am home and admire any of said items – she gleefully insists I have them – of course because she is a generous mom – but I know also because she is overjoyed at the idea of a legit excuse to go out and buy new items. We’ve worked out a compromise where I typically chip in for the new items in exchange for her lovely old ones and we are both quite pleased 🙂

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Tiffany Boyd

I’m confused, are these to be baked in muffin tins with liners or on baking sheets free form? the picture makes me think in muffin tins but the directions sound like baking sheets?

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Jenny

Sorry Tiffany — the recipe had been something else initially and I did a poor job of editing and proofreading! Should be more clear now. Thanks.

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Bea

Thanks for letting us know about your polish color. I noticed it right away. It looks great!
I am strictly an Essie “Mademoiselle” gal but I love navy and just might have to try it. BTW, I agree with you about Ina’s original cookbook. It’s the first cookbook that I ever read that made my think I might actually be able to cook a meal for my family after all.

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Awads

that third hand, with the same polish, is kinda freaking me out.

thanks for the “mini” recipe. i’m always at a loss of what to do with a dozen muffins! (my freezer already runneth over).

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Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks

My favorite bakery is featuring a blueberry corn muffin; I am so happy to have this recipe. I love the imagery of the drawer and its contents of onions and sweet treats. My favorite line? When you write about eating a “Nutter Butter, (you) somehow taste an infusion of onion and old wood.” Food memories are very powerful!

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Erin

Six muffins are a week’s worth of breakfasts and snacks? That’s some astounding self-control you all are practicing chez DALS.

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Jessica

My parents used to keep snacks and chips in the same cupboard where they kept bars of soap. I can still taste that tortilla chip/Irish Spring mixture.

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Row

Instead of a Drawer, we have the Pantry. My husband likes to fling open the doors and stare at the goodies before selecting a treat. I do the same. 🙂 This is a wonderful recipe and aside from the blueberries, I have all of the ingredients… yay! 🙂

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Allana

I made these one evening this week with raspberries and they are wonderful! I actually got about 18 muffins from it.
Could almond milk be substituted?

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Margo, Thrift at Home

These sound good, but in my vintage muffin tins, I’m sure I would get at least 12 muffins. And they would be mostly gone for one breakfast in our family of 4!

If you have plain yogurt in the house, you can fake buttermilk. Just mix milk and yogurt until it’s the right consistency (runny yogurt, thicker than milk). I never buy buttermilk.

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Celeste & Pearl

Wow! We didn’t know her but wish we did! Thank you for sharing her life and story! (And love your blog!)

Warmest,
Liz and Lo

{celesteandpearl.blogspot.com}

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Nicole

Excellent muffins! A question about yield though as I doubled it and got 34 decent sized muffins. Does your recipe perhaps yield 16-18?

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Nancy

Delicious muffins. A real winner! But I’d hardly call buttermilk a new fangled ingredient. It’s always in my frig to make pancakes, waffles, other baked goods- and used to marinate chicken, produces the most tender, juicy chicken Also great in smoothies 🙂 But yes, can’t go wrong with these.

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