It is amazing how many expectations we set for ourselves based on past experience. Our minds seem to automatically assume that things will be as they once were, and yet this is almost never the case. January 2017, I had an incredible month. I woke up early each day, feeling inspired and upbeat, curious about trying my hand at new skills (literally- I dove in calligraphy for a brief period). I was excited and motivated to write, create, move and leap into the new year with radiance and maybe some jazz hands.
Somehow, my brain decided that of course this year would be the same and therefore I was anticipating this first month as a time that would be special and sparkling all over again. Surprise surprise, it most definitely is not. The rain, cold and humid fog of Tangier have embedded themselves in me as rainy, cold and humid brain fog, leaving me slightly scattered and trying to grasp at each item on a seemingly never-ending to do list. Even as I try to stick to an early schedule, I have to drag myself out of bed, do some deep breathing meditation and push myself to put in the work every day. It is not that I am giving in completely to laziness, but nothing is coming very easily at at the moment.
It would be much easier to let this scattered feeling take over and declare this month a wash, lacking in brilliant bursts of inspiration and driven productivity. Perhaps, though, there is another way of looking at it. Not in comparison to myself last year, who was at a totally different point in her life, but myself in the new year, embarking on many new and unknown things. Maybe January 2018 is a time for harvesting. Picking up pieces left laying around my brain in the residue of things built up in 2017 and seeking out and foraging for new kernels of knowledge. Recently, I am drawn more to reading multiple times a day, both books and articles, listening to informative and inspirational podcasts, seeking out new music and therefor new movement ideas and simply listening more in conversations with friends and family.
“We focus. We listen. We see and we hear. The unexpected emerges.”
-Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds
I chose rather large and powerful words for this year - Spine + Spirit - but failed to remember that both of these concepts do not suddenly appear in one’s being. Building a strong spine, a sturdy foundation, takes slow, steady and deliberate work. It takes knowledge of both your external surroundings and your interior landscape. Spirit, as well, can only radiate when the radiance comes from a source deep within oneself, a centered and fire-y place, like a flame that needs to be fanned from time to time. With all of that in mind, it makes sense that I would have high expectations for myself, but that they are taking time and steady progress to meet. I am seeking out and soaking in knowledge and fanning that spirited flame so that I grow steadily stronger instead of peaking and falling back down again. I am trying to manage expectations to meet the present and work with exactly what lies in front of me.
I have to be honest, I have no clue how to transition from this little inner dialogue to muffins.
Muffins are breakfast food for the spirit? Sure, we can go with that.
Truly though, there is something nostalgic and comforting for me about baking (and eating) muffins. I have always been a fan of the variety that have whole grains and pops of fruit and unusual flavors, which is why I became enamored of these instantly. As soon as I bought an unsuspecting orange from the market and cut it open to find that bright pink interior, the idea for these muffins came to mind. Hearty whole wheat, the play of citrus-y blood orange and that slight hint of fruity olive oil on the tongue make for the perfect treat alongside a cup of coffee. One of my favorite rainy-day activities as of late is to settle in with some afternoon tea, a new book and one of these fluffy treats on a plate balanced on my knee.
Whole Wheat Blood Orange + Olive Oil Muffins
Makes 10 medium muffins, dairy-free option
- 1 large blood orange
- 1/2 cup (125ml) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (112g) light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup (175g) whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup (35g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (for dairy-free option, use almond/non-dairy milk mixed with 1 tbsp vinegar)
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and butter + flour a muffin pan or fill it with paper liners.
Cut the blood orange in half. Take one of the halves, zest the skin + squeeze out all of the juice in a small bowl. Set aside. Peel the skin from the other half, slice into thin disks and then cut again in quarter wedges to be used later for topping the muffins.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, brown sugar + maple syrup. Add the vanilla extract, then each egg one at a time, mixing until frothy. Stir in the blood orange juice (should be roughly 1/4 cup) and zest from the half-orange you prepared earlier (roughly 1 heaping tbsp). In a separate small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet and 1/3 of the buttermilk. Stir until combined, then add another third of the dry mix and the milk, stirring again. Finally add the last of the dry mixture and finish off with the last bit of buttermilk. Mix only until completely combined, being careful not to over-stir.
Pour/spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tin, filling each cup 3/4 of the way up. Top each muffin with a wedge of blood orange and if you want, an extra sprinkling of sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm.