muffintopI found this vintage photo on ebay.   It brings new meaning to the phrase “buttoned up.”  Honestly, though, after the recent holidays, I can’t talk.  But —  I’m sure as heck not buttoning up my sweater.

That mighty muffin top inspires me to make — you guessed it — muffins!  Which also gives me the perfect reason to use the thoughtful gift I received from my daughter for Christmas — a beautiful ceramic muffin pan, with a matching tea towel and oven mitt from Anthropologie (I pretty  much covet everything in their kitchen section):


Almost too pretty to use

She even picked out a recipe for me to try.  And she picked a good one.  These muffins make good use of the bounty of apples available right now.  They’re very dense and moist, and were especially good warm (like most muffins).

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ butter, melted
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • For the topping:
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners (12 muffin cups).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Place egg and brown sugar in a large bowl, and beat together using an electric mixer, until well blended. Gradually beat in the butter and sour cream. Stir in half of the flour mixture, add the milk, and then add the remaining flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in the diced apples.
  3. Divide batter between muffin cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pans briefly, then remove to a rack.
  4. When muffins are cool enough to handle, pour melted butter into a small bowl. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in another small bowl. Dip the top of each muffin in butter and then press it into the cinnamon sugar mixture until generously coated. (Because I used very tall muffin liners, I didn't dip the muffins, but instead, brushed the tops with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.)


Ready for the oven


Lightly golden, and smelling wonderful


Dressed with butter and cinnamon sugar


An apple muffin a day keeps the doctor away (girl can dream, can’t she?)


Cranberries!  Big, bouncy, bright red cranberries!

cranberry harvest

Harvested between mid-September until around mid-November, cranberries are at their peak for color and flavor.  Their ruby red color makes them a favorite for holiday decorating, cooking, and baking.

A cranberry wreath looks stunning anywhere you hang it.  I originally saw the idea about 20 years ago in a Martha Stewart publication, and you can see her making one here.  (Spoiler alert:  the video is really boring, and her wreath turns out beautifully.  Doh.).  Mindy at Our Humble Abode declares making a cranberry wreath “the dumbest idea ever,” but I think her wreath is gorgeous and entirely worth the 1-1/2 hours she spent making it:

cranberry wreathIn a similar vein (i.e., styrofoam and cranberries), you could also create striking cranberry topiaries:

Adding cranberries to floral arrangements and glass candleholders adds a brilliant splash of holiday color at very little cost:

Kids will love stringing cranberries to create gorgeous garlands (use waxed dental floss to make stringing easy):

It takes no time to sugar cranberries, and they make a beautiful garnish for holiday dishes.


 Find directions for making them at

Look at some of the elegant ways you can use sugared cranberries:

This year I’m baking loaves of cranberry orange bread to share.  The recipe has both fresh and dried cranberries, orange juice and zest, and pecans.  It’s just sweet enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries, and the buttermilk keeps it moist.  The recipe makes 6 mini loaves or 2 regular loaves, which makes it a great recipe for sharing.

Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped
  • ⅔ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 regular loaf pans, or 1 bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, zest, and melted butter. Whisk in eggs until thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Gently fold in cranberries and nuts.
  5. Divide batter among prepared pans, filling each approximately ¾ full.
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the bread will be golden, and the bread will have risen and the edges will be just pulling away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic and let sit at room temperature several hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and serving.

cranberry bread

Hot out of the oven, and they smell so good!


Delicious giving