It's early Sunday morning. I'm in that hazy place where sleep is fading with the morning dawn when I hear her slipper-clad feet shuffling down the hall. She pushes my bedroom door open. It creaks on its hinges...
"Mommy?" she says softly, barely a whisper. I can feel her breath on my ear.
Relishing the warmth of the bed, I don't open my eyes. The disheveled blankets envelope me like a cloud, the sheets are cool when I move my feet. She persists.
"Mommy," she says again, brushing my cheek tenderly, the very same way I stroke hers when checking for a fever when she's feeling unwell. "Mommy, I'm hungry."
I open my eyes just a bit. Her face is three inches from mine. Her hair smells like strawberry shortcake from the shampoo we used in the bath last night. Even her little fingernails are painted strawberry to match mine. The paint is chipped and peeling, but she still thinks they look beautiful, and so do I. In one hand she clutches the leg of a pink, rubber monster - a prize from Halloween. In the crook of her elbow she cradles a worn pink bunny the way all children tuck away their most loved objects when they need to use both hands. It's her Velveteen Rabbit.
"Can we have strawberry muffins for breakfast?"
It's her second request for strawberries in as many days. I've told her countless times that strawberries aren't in season this time of year. Anywhere. And that makes them all the more desirable. Which is why I always keep bags of organic strawberries stashed away in the freezer. You never know when the cravings will strike.
Yesterday it was strawberry ice cream made with organic cream and milk, smooth Madagascar vanilla, and frozen strawberries. Because she's allergic to peanuts, nearly all brands of ice cream are out. So I make it at home. If ever I were to have a love affair with a kitchen appliance it would be with my ice cream maker. Life would be dreadfully dull without it! But I'm drifting off again . . .
"Come on, Mommy!" She uses both hands to shake my shoulders, an attempt to draw me from the blissful warmth of my bed. The rubber monster flaps between us. The Velveteen Rabbit rattles. "Let's go make muffins!" she insists.
And so, in the quiet house, as the rosy light of morning just peeks through the windows, we both shuffle back down the hall to the kitchen - she in her pink bunny slippers, I barefoot. Because even though strawberry season doesn't last forever, muffin season does.
Simple Strawberry Muffins
If I have any criteria for my muffin recipes, it's this: They must be absolutely simple to make. They mustn't use too many mixing bowls or kitchen appliances. I don't want to cream butter first thing in the morning, or separate eggs. I want to pour all the ingredients into one big bowl, stir and pop in the oven. These muffins are just about as simple as they get.
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
5 oz frozen strawberries
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Butter or spray a 12-cup muffin tin and line with paper liners.
Set the strawberries out to thaw while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients.
Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Whisk in the melted butter until just combined.
Finely chop the strawberries. It's much easier to do this if they've thawed just a little, but aren't mushy. Fold them into the batter.
Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 20 - 22 minutes.
Strawberry Ice Cream
1 1/4 cups organic whole milk
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 3/4 cups organic heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
5 oz frozen organic strawberries
Whisk together the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cream, vanilla, and salt. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for about 1 hour - so that the flavours can combine and the sugar can fully dissolve.
Churn for approximately 20 minutes in a 1.5 qt ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.
Meanwhile, blitz the frozen strawberries in a food processor until very finely chopped. Add them to the ice cream just as it's beginning to thicken (usually about 8-10 minutes into the churning). Let the mixture churn for another 10 - 12 minutes.
Place the ice cream in a freezer safe bowl (it will be very soft). Place in the freezer until firm. About 20 - 30 minutes.