MY FRIEND A tells me that age 28 is a turning point in one’s life — a chance to make new decisions, find new directions, and explore new territories (both emotional and physical). Astrologically, this is known as Saturn Return, a dimensional shift “when Saturn returns by transit to the place in the zodiac he occupied when you were born.” This isn’t to say it’s a return to infancy, but instead is a chance to reevaluate, reconsider, and move forwards in new and potentially unexpected ways.
Certainly, I’m finding this year to be exactly that. 2012 has, in many ways, been a return to a very basic and humane part of myself, a part of me that has felt buried beneath the demands and expectations of graduate school. This spring, the 6th graders I taught in Morocco graduated high school, the undergraduates I worked to admit to my alma mater graduated with their BA’s (some with their BS’s), and I earned my MA. Not only have I seen two classes through these important milestones on their educational journeys, but I saw myself through something I wasn’t sure was going to finish — or was going to finish the way I wanted it to. Indeed, this is the year I decided to stop halfway through a journey — something that is uncharacteristic for me, but feels completely right. Graduate school, or at least the program I was in, wasn’t right for me. And instead of suffering through another four to five years of disillusionment and disappointment, I stepped back and am reevaluating what my next steps will be.
It’s very Whitney, I hope, this refusal to settle for anything less than the best: the best for me and the best of me.
So now, tucked into my parents’ Texas house while my mother prepares for minor surgery, I’ve taken over the kitchen. And one of the first things I wanted to make was a sassy muffin with a surprising secret: a broccoli center. This muffin makes you rethink muffins. You’ll give it the fish-eye at first, but then you’ll sit back and just enjoy. Because the surprise of it is that, despite first glance, this muffin is a miracle.
The original recipe is here, but I’ve tweaked it to be a bit healthier and a bit coarser. Instead of a butter base, here’s a cornmeal base that provides an interesting contrast to the smoothness of the broccoli heads while giving the cayenne some interesting pockets in which to hide. It’ll surprise you, delight you, and demand your focus. And, while you’re at it, these are great muffins to talk major life decisions over. Just saying.
Sassy Savory Broccoli Muffins
- 1 cup cornmeal (I used white cornmeal, so the turmeric would have more of a visual effect)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup milk
- 12 broccoli florets, trimmed to fit in a muffin cup with room to spare
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease your muffin tin (this recipe makes 12 regular-sized muffins, so plan accordingly).
Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the broccoli for about 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, mix your dry ingredients. Add the eggs, canola oil, and milk; mix well to form a dough.
Place one heaping spoonful of batter in each muffin cup; press down with your fingers to fill the base of the cup. In each, stand a single broccoli floret. Top with the remaining batter, dividing it evenly between the muffin cups (or else be ready for one HUGE muffin and a series of flat ones). It doesn’t need to look perfect, but each muffin needs to have a base as well as a top.
Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and a little stiff to the touch. Allow them to cool before eating — it’ll be hard, trust me! — but give yourself leave to eat them all in one day.