Guest Feature: California Carrot Cake Muffins
There’s no turning back now. What’s done is done. The seeds have been planted! After much discussion about the ideal time to plant carrot seeds last winter, Make and Taste Founder Nicole and I agreed upon March 2017 to launch our gardening experiment.
There is an old, but fitting French idiom that sums up these expressions into one, “les carottes sont cuites,” the carrots are cooked. It implies that the die is cast, after which the outcome cannot be changed. March seemed like the perfect month to “cook” our carrot seeds. The winter was pleasant and mild, not even a dusting of snow. And, at the end of February, the air was California dry, sunny and 73. So, we bought the planters, the soil, and the seeds, for one batch of carrots in Virginia and the other in Connecticut. Carrot seeds withstand temperatures as cold as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And after a few months, they render sweet, bright, multihued root veggies, ready to harvest in late summer/ early fall. All we needed now was sunshine, water, and patience.
Eleven days later, it snowed. And that snowstorm was followed by weeks of unseasonably freezing temperatures. Needless to say, we never saw a single carrot. So along with our condo gardening dreams, our carrot project went up in smoke. Nicole and I both felt disappointed. We had already included our children in the process, and invested time, money, and hope. When I knew that our seeds were beyond repair, I began to think of ways I could shield my daughter from the failure. Maybe I’ll just sneak a few store bought carrots into our frozen soil before I throw everything out! But that would just insult my 3 year old’s intelligence. Instead we looked our failure in the face, and arrived at three conclusions.
- In spite of our frozen seeds, we plan to always go ALL IN on a challenge. We’ll never let the fear of “over-cooking” or freezing future carrots deter us from trying something new. Life would be boring without rolling the dice every now and then.
- I’ll allow my daughter to watch me fail, and I’ll let her fail too. What’s as important as setting her up for success, is teaching her how to bounce back from disappointment. Really, “failure” is just hands-on research that informs the next challenge.
- Finally, never trust the weather.
Before letting go of our gardening experiment entirely, there was one thing left to do. We went to the grocery store, where my little girl picked out the best, brightest carrots she could find…”product of California, 91016.” Not surprisingly, the produce section did not have one single bag of carrots that said, product of Virginia…or Connecticut. Instead of dwelling on the outcome of our homegrown carrot fail (research!), we baked our fresh California carrots into muffins, and never looked back. This time, we only had to muster 40 minutes of patience before we could enjoy them.
Modified from Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery Classic Carrot Cake
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Cup - Packed Light Brown Sugar
- 3/4 Cup - Canola Oil
- 3 Tablespoons - Nonfat Buttermilk (or whole buttermilk)
- 1 Teaspoon - Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons - All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon - Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon - Baking Soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon - Fine Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon - Cinnamon
- 1/4 Teaspoon - Ginger
- 1/4 Teaspoon - Nutmeg
- 2 Cups - Shredded Carrots
- 1/4 Cup - Raisins (soaked in water overnight) Optional Ingredient
- 1/4 Cup - Chopped Walnuts (Optional Ingredient)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 muffin tin with paper liners
- Using a hand mixer, beat eggs and sugar on high speed for 5-8 minutes until light and fluffy
- In a small bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, and vanilla
- Reduce the mixer to low speed, and slowly add in the oil mixture into the egg mixture
- In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
- Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until combined
- Fold in shredded carrots (Tip: Be sure to shred them yourself. Pre-shredded carrots from the store will be too dry)
- Using a cookie scoop, fill 6 muffin cups to the top
- If adding nuts and raisins, pat the raisins dry, then fold in raisins and walnuts to the second half of the batter
- Fill remaining muffin cups
- Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean
- Cool on a wire rack
Leigh is a Middle School Teacher of French and a Mom to a busy three year old. She loves to entertain family and friends, and prepare daily dishes for her husband and daughter. Leigh’s meals are often influenced by her mom’s love of cooking. Leigh also creates recipes based on her experiences of living and working in the south of France. She often uses food to provide authentic experiences for her students as well. On Fridays, it’s not uncommon to see her students making crèpes and sampling French “fromage,” as part of their lesson. Always inspired by fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, Leigh’s dishes are simple, tasty, and always made with her family in mind. Her daughter, now three, is an enthusiastic helper in the kitchen. A lover of mealtime with family and warm summer nights, Leigh is excited to share some of her favorite recipes.