Shhh…It’s Top Secret – The Julia Cooks Infinitely Adaptable Basic Muffin Formula

Shhh…It’s Top Secret – The Julia Cooks Infinitely Adaptable Basic Muffin Formula

Right, so, obviously Meal Plans By JuliaCooks has you covered for dinner, but I am assuming you and yours eat breakfast, too.

When I was a kid, breakfast was simple – eat the bowl of cereal and be on your way. And from the open box, only. Do NOT open a new box before one was emptied.  Forbidden.

Things are different these days, and folks want more out of breakfast. I know my kids do, and I want to give it to them. They are especially happy when they wake up to fresh muffins that I threw together that morning.  Now, I know what you are thinking – who is going to lookup/pull out a recipe and who knows if I will have all the ingredients and I can’t plan ahead for that and even if I have a regular recipe memorized, no one wants the same old same old every time.  Ok, yes, but I have the perfect solution: Infinitely Adaptable Basic Muffin Formula. It’s brilliance lies in the fact that as long as you know the general ingredients and amounts, you can craft it anyway you like and adapt it to whatever you have on hand.

First, the general recipe:

½ c fat

¾ c sweetener

2 cups flour and flour-like things

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp vanilla or other flavoring

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup liquid and liquid-like things

1 cup add ins (more or less)


Now, how does this look in real life?  

One morning recently I got up early and decided to make muffins for the kids. But then I realized the cupboards and fridge were kind of bare.  I trudged forth, regardless. My preferred flour for morning muffins is whole wheat. I had less than a cup. Ok, fine, I just mixed it with white.  For the fat I usually use butter but, honestly, I was just too lazy to work the butter in the mixer or go through the effort of melting, so I took out the avocado oil.  Out of vanilla – just left it out. Sweetener of choice was brown sugar. Out of baking powder?! Expletive! Ok, no problem, heaping ¼ tsp baking soda and a squeeze of lemon juice from the half lemon in the fridge.  I had eggs, yay. For the liquid I like to use some yogurt and milk – out of both. I did, however, have some Blueberry Lavender Almond milk. In it goes. Also, 3 small overripe bananas were sitting in the fruit bowl on the counter. Score.

The result? I kid you not,  the children were nuts for them. Direct quote, “these are the muffins you should sell to everyone.” Well, ok then (if you like you can buy these delectable muffins on the other side of this link). In other words, you don’t always have to have an exact recipe. As long as you have the framework, change and embellish as you like.

Here are lists of possible choices for each ingredient category:

Fat: butter, creamed or melted; vegetable oil; avocado oil; coconut oil; olive oil (yes, even in a sweet!)

Sweetener: white sugar; brown sugar; honey; maple syrup (you will need less other liquid if you use a lot of liquid sweetener); agave; brown rice syrup; coconut sugar

Flour and flour-like: white flour; whole wheat flour; sprouted wheat; corn meal; buckwheat; almond flour; flax meal; wheat germ

Other flavoring: almond; lemon; mint; bourbon (really – great sub if you are out of vanilla); orange

Liquids and similar: milk; soy milk; almond milk; cashew milk; rice milk; oat milk; juice; yogurt; sour cream; kefir; apple sauce

Mix-ins: mashed bananas; chopped apples; raisins; nuts of any sort; dried fruits; pepitas; sunflower seeds; chia seeds; flax seeds; chocolate chips; citrus zest; blueberries; raspberries


Here are some of my favorite combos:


Honey whole wheat

Banana buckwheat

Blueberry cornmeal

Raspberry almond


Endless possibilities, rarely necessary to say, “sorry, I can’t because I don’t have…”


Get in there, bake fearlessly.


Clean Out The Fridge – It’s Deliciousness Waiting To Happen

Clean Out The Fridge – It’s Deliciousness Waiting To Happen

Arugula Pesto PastaHow much do you hate wasted food?  It totally makes me nuts! And it happened waaaay too often in my house.  

You know the drill – you see that lovely bunch of greens or the sausages are on super sale or you just make too much dinner and then no one will remember to look for the leftovers at lunchtime the next day.  The food comes in and then gets lost in Refrigerator Neverland.

Gah. I know you feel me.

For us, the contributing issues are many: very busy family of 7; one member who cooks and works with food, so there is a need for lots of it around all the time; a refrigerator that is meant, basically, for a small mouse family (really need a new fridge – oh, hey, by the way, have you thought about subscribing to MealPlans by Julia Cooks? Get a free sample, or just go ahead and sign up – it will help with the new fridge ;-)).  

Even for me, a relatively well organized person who thinks about food all the time, it can creep up. Here are my three best strategies to keep it at bay:

  1. Always have a plan.  This cuts down on the chance that you will be dazzled by the pretty produce aisle or that super dreamy looking new farm stand.  If it is not on the list for the meals you are planning, don’t buy it. Of course, I am always a fan of taking advantage of a good sale, but be sure you are actually going to use the tasties that beckon.
  2. Prep produce right when you get home from the store.  This one can be difficult – I often find it is – but it can have a big impact on whether food gets found or forgotten.  When I buy some snacking veg like carrots or cucumbers, they are much more likely to be eaten if I cut them up and have them ready to go in a sealed container then if I toss them in the refrigerator to be cut just before eating.  If I buy radishes for sandwiches (we are big fans of radish sandwiches here), I slice them and store them in a little water until I am ready to use them. This makes it much less likely that they die at the bottom of the produce drawer.
  3. Embrace the “clean out the fridge” meal.  This one, I love.  It is satisfying, productive, and gets my creativity rolling.  And it’s not hard to do! I know it can seem daunting to think of whipping up a meal with 4 or 5 seemingly random things but a great strategy for framing your thinking is to keep some go to blank canvases in mind.  Soups, pastas, stir frys, pestos – these are all great places to plug in your random bits. For example, I had half a bag of arugula, some parsley, and a chunk of parmesan. I also had some pignoles and pasta in the pantry and half a bag of sliced salami.  Arugula pesto pasta with chopped up salami – the whole family was happy. I saved the chunk of parm and I am going to add it to broth for soup that I am putting all the random bits of veggies and a few leftover sausages into. Suddenly those disparate pieces that couldn’t be used for a meal on their own have turned into two great dinners!  Go me!


I do still need the bigger refrigerator, though, so you should sign up for MealPlansByJuliaCooks, and tell all your friends (I know, sales-y, right? But when one is in love with a new fridge, one does what one must…)  This is the one I dream about: (Yes, I admit, I am kind of nutty for the Real Housewives, total guilty pleasure that I previously would never admit to!)  But mostly check out the meal plans because you want to get a handle on this food thing and I am here to help.

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