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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: A mother-daughter food ritual. And carrot muffins.
Clara and I have established our first food ritual. At nearly 16 months, she can now sit in a hard restaurant high chair for more than five minutes without trying to wriggle herself free, so that means that most Saturday mornings we head to a local cafe -- I get a large coffee and buckle her into a high chair, and we share a pastry or two. We try to stake out a spot near the door, strategically positioned so that Clara can greet each and every customer with a loud "Hi!" in between mouthfuls of croissant or pain au chocolat.
I love this time together, which is different from our time at home playing in her room, or when I'm pushing her on the swings in the park. Many of my best childhood memories involve food and family, and I hope this is just the first of many food rituals Clara and I will share. We try different pastries together, and part of the fun is seeing her reaction to each one. (There haven't been many unpopular items.)
Recently we got a blueberry muffin for the first time. A week later we sampled a lemon muffin. Both were met with great enthusiasm (not surprising, since they're basically cake), so I decided to make muffins at home. Using Ina Garten's delicious carrot cake cupcakes as a jumping off point, I reduced the sugar, used a mix of white and whole wheat flour and subbed in olive oil in place of some of the vegetable oil. This is a tender, flavorful carrot muffin that's not just for weekends. And it might even be the start of a brand new food ritual.
Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 22 Muffins
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
Photos by James Ransom