Sunday, April 15, 2007

Home Sweet Home

oatmeal dplum muffin cl

I'm back from my vacation at the so-called happiest place on earth, Disneyland and the California Adventure. After almost a week of eating overpriced, deep-fried crap and a side of limp salad shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of other people, I'm so glad to be back home and back in my own kitchen.

I actually missed my kitchen, and more specifically my oven, while I was away! That's my late cat Diane staring at "the Wolf".

It's not that Orange County has nothing to offer. It's just that I didn't know where to find the good casual eats in the O.C. My internet research was fruitless and the local newspapers weren't much help since most of the recommended places were in the Los Angeles area. And I definitely didn't want to fight my way through traffic to get to L.A. I already sit in enough traffic during my daily commute.

But every meal wasn't terrible. The La Brea Bakery Express in Downtown Disney was okay. Although practically everything substantial like sandwiches, salads, breakfast cost nine dollars. At least the bread was decent (but definitely not up there with my beloved Acme Bread). But it makes me a bit sad that the most positive thing I can say about a place is that it was decent. But on the plus side, I did eat at a pretty good and surprisingly affordable sushi restaurant in nearby Tustin. (Thanks to O.C. food blogger elmomonster for the recommendation.) But aside from the food issues, the children had a great time. Each night we were exhausted but we still woke up at sunrise to begin the next day at the park. Even so I think I've had my fill of all things Disney for at least 5 years.

Upon my return, all I wanted was food that was the opposite of the food I had on vacation. I'm not even sure what opposite really means in this case but I didn't want hamburgers or fried anything. Courtesy of my parents, the first meal I had when I got back was a dinner of sautéed gai lan (Chinese broccoli), roast duck, tofu soup, and steamed rice. My first breakfast was jambon-gruyere and frangipane croissants from Tartine Bakery in the Mission District. Tartine has the best croissants in the area. And the first thing I baked was these simple, satisfying oatmeal muffins.

oatmeal dplum muffin cut

Oatmeal Dried Plum Muffins
(adapted from Gale Gand)

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
6 oz (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cups dried plums*, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 15 muffin wells (4 fl oz capacity) with paper liners or butter well.

Combine oats and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in another bowl. Set aside dry ingredients.

Add eggs to oatmeal/buttermilk mixture and mix. Mix in brown sugar and then mix in melted butter. Mix in vanilla extract.

Add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Batter should still be slightly lumpy. Gently fold in chopped dried plums.

Fill the muffin wells about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 F until muffin tops have risen and are lightly golden, and a tester comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 20-25 minutes.

oatmeal dplum muffin row

* Dried plums used to be called prunes until someone decided it was fancier (and less geriatric) to call them dried Italian plums. But a prune is still a prune.


Ellie said...

Oh my goodness! Congratulations for surviving the Disney experience!! I'm glad to hear that your kids enjoyed it, but it sounds like you could do with a holiday after that one :P

Great photo of the muffins. I never knew that prunes were just dried plums! You learn something new every day...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Disneyland really gives you a totally different understanding about adult vs kid energy levels, at least it did me.
Oatmeal in just about anything is great recovery food to me. I'd say these are perfect.

Brilynn said...

Prunes are my new favourite lately, these sound great!

Garrett said...

OMG that cat looks adorable.

Abby said...

Welcome back!

I covet your stove. (Red knobs!)

I can tell those muffins were baked perfectly and not dry at all. Of course. ;)

Elle said...

Do they sell t-shirts that say 'I survived the Magic Kingdom'? They should. I'm sure you made some great memories and will soon forget the icky food. Those muffins look wonderful...satisfying and healthy, too.

Ilva said...

I love the pic of the cat, it's brilliant! Just like these muffins!

Brian said...

I just got back from Disneyland and CA Adventure a couple weeks ago. It was so crowded. Too many Spring Breaks near Easter, I think. We've done Disney 3 years in a row, and are thinking of something different next year.

Love that wolf oven. We've always wanted one. To see they come in standard size/width gets me to thinking about tax refund....

Patricia Scarpin said...

Wow, back in grand style, Mary - these are delicious!

Pilar said...

Theese muffins look really nice ! Seems your trip to California has given you a good inspiration !

Best wishes from Spain

gilly said...

Hi Mary - I'm glad to hear you made it back in one piece! I know exactly what you mean about craving 'homemade' food once you get home from deep-fried travels.

I love the sounds of these muffins - oatmeal, cinnamon and prunes combined... why I love having that for breakfast! And I love the geriatric clarification... I guess they'll always just be prunes to me. (although 'stewed dried italian plums' has an interesting if not obscure ring to it :P)

Cheryl said...

First of all welcome back. I'm glad you had a good time on vacation. Sorry about the lousy food experience.

But these muffins look fantastic and will definitely bring you back into the world of good home baked treats.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Welcome home to your own Magic Kingdom - your kitchen!

Your muffins look fabulous! Just right for vacation recovery.

Mary said...

Ellie - I think all prunes are dried plums but not all dried plums are prunes.

Tanna - It really is amazing how much energy the little ones have. I feel sooo old and tired when I'm around them.

Bri - You just like the prunes cuz you soak them in armagnac! =)

Garrett - Yeah, my cat Diane was a really cutie.

Abby - I love the red knobs too! Wolf includes both the red and black knobs with the stove and we chose to use the red ones.

Elle - They should sell those shirts. But everything was so expensive that they would probably charge $50 for it!

Ilva - I call that photo "Cat staring at Wolf".

Brian - Disneyland was mad crazy crowded. I will never go during spring break again. Isn't it funny that a standard 30-inch stove is considered small in this day and age of super sized kitchen remodels?

Patricia and Pilar - Thanks!

Gilly - Prune plums pair exceptionally well with cinnamon.

Cheryl - Vacation isn't truly a vacation without good food.

CB Lynn - I guess that would make my oven the "Magic Wolf".

Helene said...

"magic wolf", hehehe! Glad to have you back...I was about to rally with your oven and start a petition! Those muffins look so good!

Anuhea said...

Sorry you didn't much enjoy Disneyland....but glad you're back! I used to hate prunes when I was a kid...but now I can't help eating these juicy delights straight outa the bag!

Peabody said...

I'm sure it is great to be back. Yes, it is pretty hard to find local places. A week of fried food is not the best.
Hopefully your lovely looking oatmeal muffins will cleanse it all away.

Spitzmaus said...

Yep, I recall when the California Prune Board (or perhaps it was the Sunsweet company) employed some very serious market research in an attempt to "sex up" (my words) their humble product. The stated goal was to improve the prune's image as the go-to fruit for, er, um, its "laxative effect" (my words again)/association with the geriatric crowd. Whatever one calls 'em, they'll always be prunes to me; growing up here in California I ate them frequently, and have always loved their plummy, chewy goodness.

Oh, and I'm all a-dither to make a batch of the muffins!

Lis said...

Glad you had a good time and glad you are back!

Those muffins look really REALLY good! I'm sending a friend of mine over to have a drool over the muffins, she loves anything with prunes.. err.. dried Italian plums. hee!


veron said...

muffins are a great homey recipe to welcome yourself back. I'm like you , I often miss my kitchen when I am on a vacation.

valentina said...

Welcome back !! Oh my God, you survived1; o) I love this recipe and it looks so appealing. ; o)

anita said...

Welcome back and glad you survived! The muffins look delicious!

Terry B said...

Glad the kids had fun--you are great parents. We told our kids if they wanted to go to Disneyland/world/whatever, they'd have to do it on their own as adults. I actually went to Epcot Center on a work-related trip. What a pre-packaged, homogenized experience.

Of course in my book, the happiest place on earth is New York City.

Anali said...

Welcome back! These muffins look great. I just printed out the recipe. When I was reading it though I kept thinking hmmmm dried plums. What are those? Do I have any? Then I thought wait a minute; aren't those just prunes?? I do have some. ; )

Angie said...

I will be making these soon, Mary! I love prunes. I've enjoyed your dried cherry oatmeal cake ~ the ingredient ratio looks similar to this recipe (the oats, buttermilk and such). I bet these muffins would be good with dried apricots as well. Thank you again...yum!