Planning a trip abroad with a toddler is enough to convince most parents, including me, that we have a screw loose. Day-to-day life, with all its routines, at least affords a modicum of order. I may be exhausted by the evening after managing to keep another human alive that day, but the environment is confined, with less variables to consider. Taking a 20 month old on a plane, let alone a plane that’s traveling internationally, involves a willingness to accept that the last thing life will do is go according to plan.
Still, we decided to take our first international trip as a family to Iceland a few weeks ago. With affordable nonstop flights from Denver to Reykjavik, we could be gate to gate in a little over 6 hours. Delayed departure notwithstanding, we made it to Reykjavik, bleary-eyed but in one piece, and spent a few days acclimating to the endless summer sunlight before meeting with friends to travel first to West Iceland and then to the Westfjords, the westernmost region of the country comprised of craggy fjords that jut down to the sea, steep mountains often shrouded in fog and mist, plenty of sheep and arctic tern, and minimal tourism.
“Fewer tourists” was high on our list when planning a trip abroad to an island nation with only one major road circling its perimeter. Denver has become a mess of a city because of its increasingly terrible traffic. When nailing down our travel itinerary, I wanted to ensure Cameron wasn’t stuck behind the wheel on a two-lane road in a foreign country without escape from stop-and-go traffic, a recipe for a cranky, i.e. whiny, toddler.
West Iceland and Westfjords fulfilled its promise of “few people, many sheep”.
Even during the busiest tourist month for Iceland, this region of the country is all about the open road and incredible landscapes and wildlife.
On a different trip, I’d like to check out south and east Iceland (the geologically younger area of the island) for its iconic “fire and ice” volcanic and glacial activity. Alice will be old enough then to appreciate these opposing forces in such close proximity to each other. Until then, I’ll hold close my memory of a bundled toddler galloping along the empty gravel paths of one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the good fortune to visit.
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland and want suggestions on lodging, food, car rental, and/or family-friendly activities in Reykjavik, West Iceland, or the Westfjords, feel free to reach out. Our Air BnB lodgings were spectacular, and I’d be happy to recommend them if you’re interested.
Now, on to the reason most folks stumble onto the Crafty Cook Nook.
Today’s post features a muffin recipe I recently found through Smitten Kitchen’s Instagram account. Sugar-crusted blueberry muffins are delicious any time of year but are particularly special right now during the height of fresh blueberry season. If you live in the Denver metro area, stop by your local Sprouts for a deal on small flats of blueberries. You’ll end up with more berries than you’ll need for this recipe, which means more fresh berry gorging when you aren’t stuffing your gullet with muffins.
Smitten Kitchen swears by an ample sprinkling of sugar to the tops of the muffins before baking to get a crusty top. I do like a crusty muffin lid, but after a trial run I prefer the simplicity of a muffin sans crusty top. I’m also the person who prefers yellow cake and chocolate frosting to most cake recipes, though, so don’t let me sway you from sugar-crusted muffins. If you’re not sure of your preference, you can do as I did. While constantly fending off a toddler trying to crawl up my leg and jam blocks in my shorts pockets, I forgot to add the sugar sprinkle on a muffin before baking. Toddler, the constant variable in all my near-future Crafty Cook Nook recipes.
One last note, if you use Bloglovin, please follow the Crafty Cook Nook there.
Makes 9 muffins
– 5 TBS unsalted butter, cold is fine
– 1/2 cup sugar
– Finely grated zest from 1/2 a lemon (previously: 1/2 tsp zest)
– 3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt or sour cream
– 1 large egg
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/4 tsp fine sea or table salt
– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
– 3 TBS turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a large bowl, and then whisk in sugar, zest, yogurt, and egg until smooth. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, and salt until fully combined and then gently fold in flour and berries.
3. Divide thick batter between prepared muffin cups, and sprinkle each with 1 tsp turbinado sugar (or skip if you like).
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out free of uncooked batter.
5. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then move to a cooling rack to cool completely (or if you’re like me, break a still hot muffin in half, slip a pat of butter between the halves until the butter starts to melt, and chow down.)
Baking note: The trick to great muffins is minimum mixing when you add your flour to the wet ingredients. The more you mix, the more you’re working the gluten in flour. A well-kneaded yeast bread is a chewy treat, but the best muffins are those that are fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth creamy. A light hand, i.e. folding in the flour, will result in a well-made muffin.