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Chase the winter blues with warm sweet muffins

Often, when I’m suffering the winter blues, I take to the kitchen to bake something sweet and comforting but not too complicated and time-consuming. Muffins fill that bill. They go together in a snap — a few dry ingredients in one bowl and liquids in another, combine the two, mix just until blended, place batter in prepared muffin pans (or use paper liners, if desired) bake and eat.

A cross between bread and cake, sweet muffins taste great anytime for breakfast, lunch, snacks or after dinner with a steaming cup of coffee or tea.

To ensure tender muffins, don’t over-mix the batter. Grease muffin cups generously, even around the outside rim of the cup so that they will release easily when inverted. And always let the baked muffins stand briefly before removing them from the pan unless instructed to turn out immediately. This will allow them to fully set up.

To store muffins place in a storage container with loose-fitting lid. Most muffins also freeze well. Simply wrap individually in waxed paper then place in zip-top freezer bags.

Happy baking!

Rise and Shine Maple Muffins

(A pancake breakfast in a muffin. How clever! Great for those on the go.)

Muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsps. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Topping:

3 T. all-purpose flour

3 T. sugar

2 T. chopped nuts

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 T. cold butter

Directions: In large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine milk, butter, syrup, sour cream, egg and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just till moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Prepare topping. In small bowl, combine flour, sugar, nuts and cinnamon. Cut in cold butter till mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake muffins in preheated 400-degree F. oven 16 to 20 minutes or till wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before removing muffins from pans to wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 16 muffins.

Peach Cobbler Muffins

Muffins:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 T. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup butter, diced

1 3/4 cup milk

Canned peaches (16-ounce), drained and chopped

Topping:

4 T. butter, diced

4 T. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or fork till crumbly. Add milk and peaches and stir just till moistened.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Prepare topping in small bowl by combining all ingredients with pastry blender or fork till crumbly. Spoon topping onto each muffin.

Bake in preheated 400-degree F. oven about 20 minutes till golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Turn out of pans onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold. Makes 2 dozen.

Pumpkin Sticky Bun Muffins

(Are these pumpkin bread or sticky buns? They’re both, and oh so delicious!)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 T. light corn syrup

2 cups toasted pecan pieces

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

1 T. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin

1 cup canola or vegetable oil

4 large eggs

2/3 cup water

Directions: Stir together melted butter, brown sugar and corn syrup. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into 24 lightly greased muffin cups (do not use paper-liners.) Top each with a tablespoon of pecans. Set aside.

In large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, spice, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center of the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, oil, eggs and water. Pour into the well in the dry ingredients and stir just till moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

Prior to baking, place a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack of oven to catch any overflow. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of preheated 350-degree F. oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or till a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and immediately invert muffins onto wire racks, nut-side-up. Spoon any nut topping left in muffin cups over the muffins. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

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