Sunday, September 11, 2011

For the Hostess Who Wants To Be The Most-ess

Let me start this post by saying that I certainly do not consider myself to be "The Hostess with the Most-ess." In fact, quite the opposite.

About four months ago my mom and three of her sisters came to stay with me and Mr. C for a night before we all headed to a conference. I was SO excited to have them all come stay!  I always have grand ideas of being the perfect hostess offering the most comfortable beds, delicious warm cookies for snacks, and a breakfast that makes my guests feel as if they are on vacation at a resort. Then reality clubs me on the head--HARD!  The reality of my accommodations is that I can't offer overly comfortable beds. In fact, my mom and one of her sisters had to sleep on air mattresses in my craft room. I didn't serve warm cookies as a snack either since we'd eaten ourselves silly at a family party that day.  Breakfast, however, I had a little more control over. I don't really have the funds, nor did we all have the time, for a resort style breakfast, but I did get up early to make fresh muffins to serve alongside some fresh fruit. That, my friends, is where this post takes muffinland.  But first, a little flashback.

Eight or so years ago my good friend Cheryl bought a muffin cookbook with cover art that matched her kitchen decor perfectly.  Year after year I looked at that book sitting happily on it's little kitchen display shelf hoping someday I'd find a copy to add to my (ever growing) collection.  It must have been meant to be!  About a year ago I was wandering around a local thrift store perusing the cookbook shelves of the book area--my most favorite thing to do there.  As my eyes went back and forth along the shelves looking at all the titles (wondering how so many copies of Cooking the Costco Way could possibly be donated to one store), there it was in all it's glory!  The muffin book I had been wanting for YEARS was just waiting for someone to take it home.  It was in perfect condition.  In fact, I could have sworn it was a brand new book that had never even been cracked open.  Want to know what the best part was?  The 2.00 price tag on the front!  You can bet that book went home with me that day and is living happily ever after on one of my cookbook shelves.

Now, back to the present...or the recent past.  You know what I mean.
When I knew that I wanted to make my visiting family members a nice breakfast to help them start their day off right (shoppers need good nourishment in the mornings!), I turned to my muffin book.  I wanted something hearty...breakfast in a muffin.  I also wanted flavors that were different than something my guests could have found at a local bakery or convenience store.  As I flipped through the pages of my thrift store treasure, I decided "Ham and Cheese" muffins fit the bill perfectly.  Just to make sure the recipe was going to suit my guests, I made a test pan a few days before their arrival and subjected Mr. C to a taste test.

Want to know how good they were?  Let me just say that the one dozen muffins I made were gone by the end of the day.  (I'd like to say Mr. C ate most of them, but I'd be lying.  I'd be thinner, but I'd be lying.)

So, just in case you haven't come across this book at your local thrift store, here is the recipe to tide you over until you do.  (Incidentally, as I type this blog, Amazon currently has used copies as cheap as 3 cents.  GO BUY IT!  It has chapters like "For Chocolate Lovers," "Variations on a Cake," and "Garden Variety."  There is even a recipe for Peanut Butter Bacon Muffins!)  As usual, on the flip side I'll tell you about two changes I've made to the recipe and something I have discovered after making this recipe a few times.   

Ham and Cheese Muffins (makes 12)
1 egg
2 T sugar
1 c sour cream
1 T oil
1 t prepared mustard (see my note below)
1 1/3 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c diced cooked ham
1/2 c shredded Swiss cheese (see my note below)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Add the sugar, sour cream, oil, and mustard.  Mix well.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Gently stir in the ham and cheese.  Fill greased muffin tins.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until muffins are brown.

OK, now for my changes.  They aren't big ones, but they've made a big difference in the taste of the muffins at our house.  First, the mustard.  One teaspoon just isn't enough in my opinion.  The first time I made the recipe for Mr. C to taste test, we couldn't even tell the mustard was in there.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not so in love with mustard that I need to feel like I'm eating a hot dog or a pretzel, but the flavor is a nice compliment to the ham and cheese so I like having a hint of it.  To remedy that, I put in a full tablespoon (and sometimes even a bit more) rather than a teaspoon.  If you do that, I don't think you'll be disappointed...or even be assaulted my mustard flavor.  My second change is the cheese.  I don't use Swiss and I don't use half a cup.  For me, Swiss does not have a strong enough flavor to use in this recipe.  I ALWAYS use cheddar cheese (mild, not sharp, but use sharp of you like it). Also, half a cup isn't enough to taste either.  I ALWAYS use a full cup.

Remember when I said I have discovered something after making these muffins a few times?  Well, this is it: these muffins do not stay fresh for a super long time.  In fact, not even for a little bit of a long time.  Mr. C and I have found that we prefer these muffins when they are still warm out of the oven.  If you can't have them that way (which we sometimes cannot), I would suggest not making them more than a day in advance of when you are going to eat them.  By day two, they are on the fast track to stale-ville.  If you have to make them more than a day, pop them in your freezer and keep them fresh that way.  That's what I do when I make them for Mr. C to take to work for breakfast.

When all was said and done I didn't end up feeling like the "Hostess with the Most-ess." Although, one of my aunts asked for the muffin recipe and another said, "I'm coming back to this hotel!"  I hope that means they enjoyed themselves.  I was delighted to have them here and it gave me a great excuse to try out a new recipe.  We'll see if they want to check back in to Hotel C again next year!


Shayna Manuel said...

How did you reheat after freezing? I am looking for options to add to my kids' lunchboxes, and wondering if these will thaw and be edible by lunch time if just taken from the freezer at 5:30 and served around 11:00.

Jackie said...

Yes indeed, they would be ready. My hubby just ate them at room temperature.