Megan Gordon's Whole-Grain Mornings
Bombino's Timiditine

Cooking for Hugo: Healthy Muffins


Our mornings go a little something like this: Either Max's alarm goes off first or Hugo wakes up chirping like the recently-returned bird who perches in the chestnut tree outside his window at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am and starts singing only to stop an hour later, the jerk, after our child has awoken and will not return to sleep come hell or high water.

We all file into the living room in various stages of waking (bleary-eyed, in the case of your loyal narrator, bushy-tailed in the case of her son) and play for a bit while Max gets ready for work and I make a cup of tea for myself and a cup of milk for Hugo. Max leaves around the time that Hugo and I are getting started on his breakfast, his first breakfast, I should say. (Right now, he's obsessed with the Cheerios my father brought over on a recent trip.) And then Hugo and I have another hour or so to play and read books until it's time for us to leave for daycare, where he eats his second breakfast of the day with his little friends, all of them seated on little wooden chairs around a little wooden table.

Banana rye muffins

Though the daycare provides lunch for the children, we're expected to bring their breakfast and ooh, do I ever love packing Hugo's daycare breakfast in his little blue tupperware. It fills me with this lovely, low-down feeling of joy.

I try to vary what goes in there, so that he's not eating the same thing at first breakfast as he is at second. This morning he got apple slices and a peanut butter and elderberry jelly sandwich cut into four little triangles. (Elderberry jelly sounds fancy, but it's jam-making for dummies if you live in Germany. Just buy Holundersaft (aka Fliedersaft) - I found mine at Aldi last month - and mix one liter with a 500 gram package of 2:1 Gelierzucker and cook for the time stated on the sugar package. Then pour into jam jars, screw the lids tight and turn upside down until fully cooled. Hey presto, elderberry jelly!) Other days, I'll make him a cheese sandwich on buttered dark rye bread and slices of banana or some seedless grapes or clementine sections, depending on what's in season. Day-old blueberry buckwheat pancakes with a pot of plain yogurt are a big hit, but he also loves a mix of dry cereal and raisins (a boon for me on busy mornings) and his daycare teachers then just pour milk into his tupperware when he gets there.

But because Hugo loves oatmeal best of all and I often find myself with leftovers after breakfast, lately I've been having a love affair with healthy muffins that use cooked oatmeal (or other hot grain cereals) as a base. Not-too-sweet, packed full of good things like fresh blueberries or bananas and spices and just the right size for a toddler's hands, they're the loveliest breakfast around. I bake a whole batch and then freeze the ones we don't eat right away. Throughout the week, when we get up in the morning, I'll pull a muffin from the freezer so that it defrosts by the time Hugo's at daycare.


Our favorites are Kim Boyce's sweet potato muffins with whole-wheat flour (though I cut down on the sugar a little - the dates have plenty), Kim's banana rye flour muffins, and blueberry-coconut muffins based on the oatmeal muffins in the Fannie Farmer cookbook (Molly wrote about them here). To the plain oatmeal base, I add a handful of shredded coconut and a handful of frozen blueberries, which are Hugo's reason for living. (The combo is inspired, I have to add, by the tarts that City Bakery used to make - remember those?)

All of these recipes produce real, old-fashioned muffins, that is to say, baked goods that couldn't ever be mistaken for cake. They're not sweet or greasy or big and they're just right for a child. Hugo thinks he's getting a treat and I feel good about what he's eating. It's a win-win.


In other news, I'm delighted to announce that I'm the new food columnist for Harper's Bazaar Germany. This is old news if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, but I realized today I had yet to actually mention it here! The column is in German. Most of Bazaar's German content is not available online, but their profile of me from the February issue is. Click here to read!

Blueberry-Coconut Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 large egg
1 cup cooked oatmeal
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Heat the oven to 400°F and butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and coconut in a large bowl.

2. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg, milk and butter together, then add the oatmeal, stirring with a fork to break up the clumps.

3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and then add the blueberries, stirring briefly to just combine. Fill the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Cool slightly and serve warm or cool completely and then freeze.