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Simple Sides: Blueberry-Kumquat Muffins

Image of Blueberry-Kumquat Muffins
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where can adult attention might be especially needed.
Image of Recurring Kids
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a” week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

My first childhood memories in the kitchen were on rainy days helping my mom bake. No doubt, a diversion used to keep me and my siblings occupied and her sane when the weather was not conducive to playing outside. (This was back during the Analog Ages, B.C., Before Computers.) Be it cookies, a cake or something for a school bake sale, didn’t matter—as long as I got the bowl or the spoon used to mix that tasty raw dough or frosting to “clean” kid-style. First with a spatula, then finishing off with a traditional lick-the-bowl-clean methodology. Looking back on those days fondly—so much sugar, so little time!

February still brings the worst weather of the winter, and while there are many digital diversions these days to entertain young minds, a baking lesson is still timeless and will last much longer than a gamepad. Who knows, your young assistants might even be faced with a crew of rainy-day helpers in their own kitchens one day! If so, this basic muffin formula, which features two readily available (and flexible) fruits of the season, may prove handy. Not to mention that there is also a spoon and bowl at the end of this recipe flavored with citrus and bits of blueberries that will need “cleaning”!

This beginner recipe has a simple two-step process that will help your sous chefs understand the baking process that is a part of most all baked goods. That is, mixing together a group of “dry” ingredients and separately a group of “wet” ingredients, before combining the two, which forms a batter or dough that is then baked for a time. In fact, as the dry ingredients are being mixed would be a good time to explain how and why baking powder as a rising agent is necessary, i.e., fluffy muffins vs. bricks. For muffins, a very thick batter gets poured into the cups of a baking tray, then handed off to the supervising adult for the final bake.

Winter citrus is one of the few fresh fruit categories available at this time of year in abundance and variety. What the tiny kumquat lacks in size compared to all the other larger choices in the citrus aisle, it makes up for in wholly edible flavor. Instead of having “notes” of citrus, the kumquat contains a complete orchestra of citrusy goodness! The skin has a sweet and strong tangerine-orange peel flavor, while the fruit is slightly tart with little juice, but total orange-ness. An older child can be tasked with fine-chopping these full-bodied orange droplets. No precision is required beyond the eventual use of this fruit as an ingredient in a muffin; that is, small chop, not chunky style. The baked blueberries will provide a very luscious “chunky” texture, indeed!

This is also a great recipe for a younger child to practice their fractions, as the bulk of the prep consists of measuring all the ingredients into their respective bowls. A child of almost any age can also lightly beat the eggs with a hand beater. Remember that every task, no matter how small, builds a child’s confidence in the kitchen. If you have perked an interest in the culinary arts, there may come a day when your kids will want to make the whole meal while you are made to sit in another room impatiently cringing at the clang of every pot! But that’s many stovetops away! Today it’s just muffins on a rainy day that, trust me, will be remembered forever.

Blueberry-Kumquat Muffins
Yield: 6 large muffins
Image of Ingredients for Blueberry-Kumquat Muffins

Dry ingredients:
1 cup chopped fresh kumquats, small dice, remove large seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
3 tablespoons Melissa’s Organic Agave
½ cup vegetable spread, melted and cooled
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1 cup fresh blueberries
½ cup extra blueberries

What the supervising adult should do:
Closely oversee the chopping of the kumquats. To speed the process along, melt the vegetable spread so it is ready to add to the wet mix. Once the muffins are ready for the oven, take over handling the oven and hot tray. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick has no wet batter on it. Your helpers can perform the toothpick test after the adult has removed them from the oven.

What the kids can do:
Image of chopped kumquats mixed with dry ingredients
Carefully chop up the kumquats, then combine in a mixing bowl with the other “dry” ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.
Image of stirred wet ingredients
In a separate bowl, stir together the “wet” ingredients: agave, melted vegetable spread, buttermilk, orange juice, and vanilla eggs.
Image of adding blueberries to muffin mixture
Combine the contents of the two bowls until it’s a thick batter, but do not overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries.
Image of batter divided into muffin cups
Divide batter among greased muffin cups and sprinkle with extra blueberries. Then hand off to the supervising adult for the final bake.
Image of baked blueberry-kumquat muffins
Once baked, cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then turn out and continue to cool on a wire rack.

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