I find spring to be distracting (too much sunshine, too many outdoor festivals, too many excuses not to sit in my bed and write!) and full of pollen (to which I’m allergic). Spring is a lot of pressure, and it’s a whole new set of rules after the ease of winter. Not that I like winter, mind you. I’m a warm-weather girl. I really hate being cold, and the winter, for me, is really just about cold management. What to drink, eat, wear, or cover up with to beat the blasted cold.
But spring. Oh yes. Spring, with its beautiful sunshine, its warm (but not yet hot) days, its breezes – spring is another matter entirely. I love the warmth, the sunshine. I want to bask in it for hours at a time, stretched out like a cat. If someone would scratch behind my ears, I’d probably be content to stay like that all day. Except for one thing: I burn. Twice now, I’ve gone on some excursion outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, and despite my wearing of hats and my applications of sunblock – bam – sunburn. Currently, I have a farmer’s tan, which is probably a karmic eventuality that I brought on myself for dancing on a dock at the Wine Festival last weekend, wine glass raised in the air, belting out all the words to Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Luckily for me, my girl is also kind of crazy about (or at least tolerant of) my farmer’s tan.
Spring is a lot like a snow day in the south. When we get our first warm day or so, we pull out shorts and flip flops. This is likely because we know that the spring is oh-so-brief. What follows is summer. Hot, sticky, humid, exhausting summer. Summer days that break 100 degrees regularly. Humidity that you could squish through your fingers like the warmest Jell-O you’ve ever experienced. Heat that seems dusty, even when there’s no dust (this is a coastal town, after all, but I half expect a tumbleweed to blow by on some days). So we put pressure on ourselves to go out and enjoy it, to play in it, before it gets too hot for us to be outside.
You see what I mean? The pressure! The rules! The farmer tan! What is there to save us from the madness of this feverish pursuit of fun in the sun?
Strawberries. Lots and lots of ripe, juicy, sweet, jewel-like strawberries. People can pick them by the bucket-full in Virginia Beach, and farm stands are loaded down with overflowing pints of this beautiful harbinger of the southern spring time.
And once you’ve filled your belly with strawberries by themselves, in yogurt, on salads, heaped with fresh whipped cream, over ice cream, etc. – what do you do? Particularly when the strawberries get a little sad, a little less vibrant, a little soft? You make muffins.
We stopped at a farm stand in North Carolina on our way back from the Outer Banks last week. This farm stand had gorgeous tomatoes, zucchini still dusty from the vine, and tons of strawberries. Those strawberries lasted about two days before they went a little sad. The great thing about fruit, especially berries, is that you can save them from the fateful dump in the trash can by baking them into breads, muffins, scones – whatever!
I like muffins that are reasonable in size. Just like the cupcake movement, it seems that baking took its cues from factory farming and injected muffins with growth hormones to make them as big as your face. Who needs that much pastry? I like mine regular sized, and I set out to find a recipe.
The recipe I used for Strawberry Muffins is from Confections of a Foodie Bride, a gorgeous blog managed by a sort of newly-wed couple that loves food. Like me, the Foodie Bride had leftover strawberries and nothing to do with them as they went from ripe to disgusting, so she made a lightened version of cream cheese muffins, swapping out cream cheese for nonfat Greek yogurt. That yogurt is a genius move. It provides a really nice tang that, as my roommate pointed out, keeps you from thinking you’re eating a cupcake that’s wearing a muffin name tag. I wanted a bit more punch from the recipe, so next time, I’ll likely add either lemon or orange zest to push the tang a little further in the direction of a tangible flavor. Also, I’ll make sure I have raw sugar to sprinkle on top as the Bride suggests. These muffins are delicious heated and spread with a little bit of butter.