Renegade Muffins

How to Put Just About Anything Into Muffins—and Like it

by by Tarah Knaresboro

illustration by by Becca Levinson

Few specimens have achieved the adoration and ubiquity of the breakfast muffin. They’re universally understood and beloved: “Oh, what’s that you’re having for breakfast? Cool, a muffin, nice.” Better yet, making muffins from scratch takes minimal effort and really makes you look like you’ve got your shit together. Muffins are delicious, muffins are ridiculously easy. But we’ve gotten into a rut.

Here’s the secret. You can really put anything you want into muffins. It’s easy. As long as you throw it in a tin with flour and sugar and give it that characteristic shape, no one will think twice about your wacky breakfast choices. Chocolate for breakfast is now commendable. Vegetables are first-rate. So are pretzels, or copious amounts of sugar. With muffins, anything goes, and you can sneak whatever you want in there. Which is why we all need to get much more creative. Let’s stop thinking about muffins as flour, sugar, and some cutesy fruit (blueberries! boysenberries!) and start thinking about them as opportunities to get crazy and do whatever the hell we want. It’s time to make your first renegade muffin.

Disclaimer: Yes, all of my muffins are vegan. You can handle it. But if you really, really can’t, obviously milk = almond milk, 1 egg = 1 T egg replacer, and butter = margarine. And throw in chicken nuggets wherever it says to use chocolate chips, or just whenever you feel like it. Now stop asking me how I get my protein and get in the kitchen.

Muffin magic
The bottom line is that you can basically muffin-ize any random thing you have in your cupboard by adding flour (for shape), sugar (for moisture), egg replacer (for fluffiness), some sort of liquid (for consistency), baking powder and baking soda (for leavening), and a pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness. The muffin is your oyster (unless you put an oyster in your muffin, in which case your creative privileges have been revoked).
But seriously, as long as the batter tastes good at the end, you win.

Additional suggestions:
Cereal (even slightly stale cereal) tastes great in muffins. Leftover pasta (even without sauce) and leftover brown rice do not. I have tried all three.

Vanilla extract and cinnamon tend to make everything taste awesome.

Vegetable oil is in most muffin recipes, but it’s actually unnecessary. A crutch for muffins of a lesser caliber. Only warning: excluding oil can sometimes make it hard to peel muffins away from their liners, but muffin liners are pretty unnecessary too.

If you need inspiration, watch that “Put it in the Pizza” video with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Be brave and be bold, but let your courage be inversely correlated with the size of your batches.

Squashed Chocolate Muffins
This recipe was inspired by a butternut squash pie recipe I invented, which was in turn inspired by a pumpkin pie recipe I saw. It tastes like bravery and two degrees of separation. You are ready for it.

- 3 shots of tequila
- 2 c butternut squash, peeled and boiled
- 2/3 c almond milk
- 1T vanilla extract
- 2T egg replacer
- ½ t salt
- 2t baking powder
- 1t baking soda
- ½ t allspice
- 1t cinnamon
- ½ t ginger
- ½ t nutmeg
- 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
- 1 c sugar
- ¾ c dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350, then pound down the three tequila shots. You want to decrease your inhibition significantly, but not so much so that you burn the house down.

Mash the cooked squash or put it in a food processor. If your food processor sucks, add some of the almond milk to whet its whistle.

Mix everything together. Some people separate wet and dry ingredients (the point is to minimize over-mixing and keep the muffins fluffy), but some people are too lazy to wash two bowls.

Sample the batter (there are no raw eggs, so cool your jets), and adjust texture/sweetness. Too runny or too sweet? Add more flour. Too thick? Add almond milk or more pureed squash. Not sweet enough? More sugar, or maybe some agave nectar if you keep stuff like that around.

Spray the muffin tin, fill with batter mostly to the top (it won’t rise all that much). No need for muffin liners. Cook until they look cooked, probably between 10 and 15 minutes. A good trick is to lightly shake the tin (with your oven mitt on)—if they jiggle, they’re too goopy, so hold on.

Fun tip: Almost every recipe with chocolate chips makes you “fold them in” at the end and I have no idea why. Adding chocolate chips to the freshly boiled-and-pureed squash mixture made the chips melty and nice, and my muffins ended up looking sort of marbly and cool.

Other fun tip: This recipe also works well with pureed so-ripe-they’re-almost-black plantains, or bananas if you’re a wimp. But plantains are weirdly cheap, so go ahead and capitalize.

Choco-cado Muffins
Okay, now it’s time to put some avocado in your muffins. It really is. This one is fun because you can blend up the avocado really well and have it be your creamy little secret, or you can leave it a little chunky and make everyone wonder why there are bitty green things in your breakfast.

- 1/3 c margarine
- 1 T vanilla
-½ 1 c sugar
- 1 c brown sugar
- 3T egg replacer
- 1 ½ mashed-up avocado
- 1 c wheat flour
- ¾1 c white flour
- ¼1 c cocoa powder
- 2t baking powder
- 1t baking soda
- ½ t salt
- dark chocolate chips
- some pine nuts, if you want
- almond milk, for thinning

Stop worrying about the avocadoes and preheat the oven to 350.

Cream the margarine, vanilla, and sugar together. Add avocados and egg replacer. Then put in everything else.

Cook until cooked, using the jiggle method if you don’t have an eye for it yet.
There are avocadoes in your muffins. You better be feeling like a boss.

This is a little ditty I thought up for people who can’t decide between eating oatmeal or muffins for breakfast. Or for people who feel that waiting forty minutes to cook steel cut oats is such a time commitment, it mandates making about sixteen servings at once and having more oatmeal in your kitchen than is permissible under Rhode Island fire codes.

- 2 c cooked steel cut oats
- ½1 c sugar
- ¼1 c maple syrup
- ¼1 c golden raisins
- 1 c whole wheat flour
- 1 T cinnamon
- ½ t salt
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- ¼1 c crunched up walnuts
- almond milk, for thinning

Just calm down and mix everything together like before. Add flour, sugar, or almond milk to doctor it up if it looks or tastes weird.
Cook at 350 degrees—remember to utilize the aforementioned “tin jiggle” trick. Don’t cook it ’til it’s overcooked because they taste nice when they’re sort of squishy.

Are you wringing your hands because you have a bunch of random ingredients lying around?

Email [email protected] describing the ingredients you’d like to rid yourself of, and a muffin recipe will promptly be mailed back to you!

Upon her passing, TARAH KNARESBORO B’11 requests to be made into muffins.