Well, tomorrow is the big day. A few months ago, I mentioned that my husband, Eric, was planning to run in this year's Las Vegas Marathon. I also mentioned that when he ran the marathon five years ago, he didn't spend very much time training, which came back to haunt him at about mile 22. He comes from a family of natural athletes, which is why he was able to even complete a marathon without training (annoying, isn't it?), but he was in significant pain for the next few days.
This year, Eric has taken a different approach to his marathon training--he decided to do some. I have been so impressed and proud of his perseverance and dedication, often running 15-20 miles in the blazing desert heat. The funniest thing to me (I am strictly a 5-mile per day girl--no more, no less) is when he would say something like: "I did O.K. today. I only ran 17 miles though, so I'm a little unhappy." And he was dead serious.
I have the utmost respect for anyone that runs marathons, as long-distance running has never been my thing. Tomorrow morning, about 6 a.m., Eric will compete alongside thousands of people from all over the world, some aspiring for the large cash prize, but most aspiring to simply cross the finish line in one piece. The race route heads straight past the mega-casinos lining Las Vegas Boulevard, and I'm trying to convince Eric to wear something like a hot pink shirt so that I can pick him out, but so far he's not going for it. His parents even came for a visit from Vermont in honor of the big event. To them, our 50-degree temps are practically tropical, while I'm wearing my winter coat.
In preparation for the race, Eric has been doing a bunch of carbo-loading, eating lots of pasta, breads, and grains. One perk of training for a marathon is that you can pretty much eat whatever you want without any fear of weight gain (maybe I should rethink that whole long-distance running thing....). Since he has never been much of big sit-down breakfast eater, and since we have company, I decided to make a batch of carbo-licious muffins for people to graze on throughout the morning. I also thought that his parents could take a few muffins with them as they watch from the sidelines. Everyone loves a good blueberry muffin, and this is a recipe that took much trial and error for me to perfect. The addition of the pecan oil lends extra nutty flavor and keeps the muffins moist, but canola or safflower oil will also do the trick. The streusel topping adds some sweet texture, and the pecans bring a toasty crunch. I'm sure that they'd be even better with some fresh Vermont blueberries, but they're still pretty spectacular with my frozen variety. I made a batch yesterday, and they are almost all gone. Luckily, the batter comes together in minutes if I need to make more. Go Eric!!! Here are my extra tips for making magnificent and moist muffins:
- The baked muffins can be stored at room temperature, covered for 2-3 days.
- The muffin batter can be prepared 1 day in advance and then refrigerated, covered. The streusel can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and then refrigerated, covered.
- The pecan oil and pecans can be replaced with walnut oil and walnuts, hazelnut oil and hazelnuts, or any other nut combination. These specialty oils can usually be found in the baking section or natural foods section of your grocery store. If your general grocery store does not carry them, stores like Whole Foods stock them.
- Specialty nut oils can be expensive compared to canola, safflower, or vegetable oil. Feel free to substitute one of these other varieties for the nut oil, or you can use a smaller amount of the nut oil in conjunction with a less expensive variety. I try to make mine last as long as possible!
- After opening, store the nut oil in the refrigerator so that it does not spoil and go rancid.
- Frozen blueberries may be substituted for fresh, but be especially careful when folding them into the batter, so that they do not turn the batter blue!
Streusel Topped Blueberry-Pecan Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup pecan oil
1 egg yolk
½ cup whole milk
1 ⅓ cups fresh blueberries
⅔ cup lightly toasted chopped pecans
For the streusel topping
¾ cup sugar
½ cup flour
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Place the oil in a glass measuring cup. Add the egg, egg yolk, and enough of the milk to yield 1 ⅓ cups of liquid ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the center of the well; mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries and pecans. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling to the top.
Prepare the streusel: In a small bowl, mix together all of the streusel ingredients, using your fingers to form a coarse meal. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the muffins, pressing gently to adhere.
Bake the muffins for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.