I received a phone call from the room mom the other day, asking me to send in a bag of chips for the kids' class party before the Thanksgiving break. The teacher will allow her fifth grade students to watch a movie and have a special snack. I laughed when my room mom friend asked me for chips. I said that if she wanted something homebaked, I'd be happy to oblige. To myself, I was thinking, "please, if you care at all for me, don't force me to make a third trip in three days to the supermarket!"
Fifth grade certainly is different from kindergarten and first grade, when daylong Thanksgiving feasts were celebrated and the children wore pilgrim hats and collars. Of course, the children always preferred to be Indians, with pasta beads around their necks, brown felt dresses and feathers in their hair. I treasure those years and probably still have at least one cardboard native headdress in the closet.
Back to fifth grade and my all-purpose home-baked goodie: morning glory muffins. Sort of a carrot cake muffin, these are loaded with fruit and love. They are a bit time-consuming to make, mainly due to assembling all the fruit. But they keep well and most children like them. You will get more praise from the teacher, however, because they have an aura of healthiness about them probably due to the fact that they're not covered in blue frosting like so many other sent-in treats.
My go-to recipe began with one in Susan Purdy's The Family Baker, which is probably my favorite baking book. Her recipes are true blue and never fail to please. Here is my adaptation of the recipe.
1 cup packed Craisins (sweetened, dried cranberries)
1 cup crushed fresh or canned pineapple, drained
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
4 large carrots, peeled and grated to yield 2 cups
3 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
demerara or sparkling sugar for topping
1. Preheat oven to 350 and coat muffin tins with baking spray or use paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the fruits, coconut and carrots. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Place the sifter over this bowl, measure into it the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then all at once sift these ingredients directly onto the wet mixture. Stir everything together until just blended; do not overbeat. Stir in the fruit mixture.
3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Sprinkle the topping sugar on each muffin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the muffins rise, are crusty brown on top, and the top of the muffin springs back when touched. Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes or so, then remove to a wire rack. Try to keep your mitts off the muffins for at least another 10 minutes - hot fruit can burn your mouth (voice of experience). Totally optional, yet heavenly: a dab of softened cream cheese on a warm muffin half.