I don’t care what you believe, snow days are a gift of divine intervention. It’s been 2 years since the cosmic weather + traffic + school calendar stars aligned to give me a day off of work for weather. This morning the alarm went off to “the heaviest snow bands are moving over downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul right now.” I sat straight up and fumbled around in the dark to find my phone. Could it be? Could today be the day?Â I dialed up WCCO and started scrolling down the list. Anoka Hennepin cancelled. Eden Prairie cancelled. Both are big metro districts. That’s a good sign. Slowly, slowly paging down and then just like that–there it was. Rosemount Eagan Apple Valley: my ticket to pajamas and a hot cup of tea for the rest of the day.
The best part about snow days are how they always happen when I need them the most. I’ve struggled to balance homework, work-work, the household stuff, and my writing projects with an ever declining success rate. Too much on my plate, not enough time in the kitchen. Just like the snow gives the ground a fresh, white start, today’s snow day was an unexpected chance for a fresh start. The extra time at home to catch up on laundry, paired with the hours saved not battling traffic on I-94 are a luxury item I’m not often afforded.
As a kid, my snow days meant extra hours to build forts and hang out at Grandma’s. Today it means filling the house fresh cranberry muffins and my favorite Jack Johnson songs on shuffle. Given I still can’t leave the driveway, I had to bake with whatever I had on hand. Cranberries were the first thing to catch my eye on my trip to the freezer. Paired with walnuts and a tiny hint of citrus, the bright red berries are the perfect flavor to cozy up with on a snow day.
What was that about citrus on a local food blog during a Minnesota snow storm? Darn. Thought I could slide that one through. Normally, I skip out on oranges, grapefruit and lemons because there’s not one local thing about them. But this winter I’ve picked up a bag or two at the co-op. I’ll be the first to admit when the going gets tough (and busy. and frozen under 10″ of snow), my locavore diet starts to relax a little. Call it necessity, call it priorities, call it whatever. If I’m stuck between buying a fast food lunch between appointments or packing an organically grown orange in my lunchbox alongside my local entrÃ©e, I think we’d all agree on the orange. Maybe not though. Where do locavores shake out on this?
Today when I stirred up the muffins, they needed just the tiniest bit of orange zest. If you’d like a more local muffin, leave out the zest. No harm done.Â Besides, I’m sitting down to enjoy a warm muffin while watching the flakes come down. On a snow day. In the busy month of March. What could be the harm in than that?
Cranberry Walnut MuffinsÂ
Adapted from theÂ Betty Crocker Bridal Edition
For the topping
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. cold butter
For the batter
3/4 C. milk
1/4 C. sunflower oil
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel (zest)
2 cups flour (use whatever proportion of whole wheat to all-purpose flour you prefer in baking)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup cranberries, halved
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1. Mix together topping ingredients: flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or two forks, combine butter in mixture until it forms a crumble. Butter should be in pea-sized pieces or smaller. Set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400Â°F. Prep a muffin tin with 12 baking liner cups.
3. Mix together milk, oil, egg and orange zest until well blended. Add flour, brown sugar and baking powder until just moistened. Batter will have lumps, but don’t over beat it or muffins will be tough. Gently fold in cranberries and walnuts.
4. Pour batter into liners (filling until at least level with the tops of the muffin cups). Sprinkle the topping mixture evenly among the tops of the muffin cups, about 1 1/2 Tbsp. on each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of each muffin.
5. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the muffin pan for 5 minutes. Gently remove from the pan to a baking rack. These are best served warm with a little dollop of whipped butter.