Saturday, January 11, 2014

Corn meal muffins with chilies: easy comfort food

Brought to you with warm affection by Victoria Abbott aka Victoria and Mary Jane Maffini


Up here in beautiful Manotick and Kars, Ontario, it's cold and snowy. That makes it the perfect season for comfort food. We put cornmeal muffins high on that list. 

Years ago MJ dug through many cookbooks looking for a cornmeal muffin recipe and finally found one that she really liked. She did not grow up with corn meal muffins and found them exotic and irresistible. The recipe was a hit with family and friends. That recipe called for buttermilk and it continues to be a bit of a staple. However, MJ had planned to make corn meal muffins for an event with friends last week and apparently, there was a run on buttermilk in our local stores. Huh.

Lucky she had sour cream in the house and found it a good alternative to rejig the recipe.
We've now made this new version three times and may now wipe out the sour cream supply. We'll head out for more because we are planning a big family lunch next week. We will have folks from one to ninety-one as the song goes and they'll have a mountain of these as part of the fun.

Savory Sour Cream Cornmeal Muffins

1/4 cup butter (softened)
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons canned green chilies (we use Old El Paso – they are mild)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine butter and sugar in a bowl of a standing mixer.  Beat at medium speed, scraping down side of bowl often, until creamy.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in sour cream and milk. 


Slowly add all remaining ingredients.  Reduce speed to low; beat just until mixed. 


Add green chilies at the end and blend evenly.


Decision time: if you want smaller muffins, use a quarter cup measure to fill your muffin tins. You should end up with a dozen.  


 However, we found we liked them better if we used 1/3 cup measure and got nine of the larger version.  I suppose I should mention that we doubled the recipe anyway and could afford this largesse. 

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes (depending on size etc)

Remove and cool just a bit.   


These are best served warm with a dab of butter and they’re especially good if you then add a good-sized bite of sharp Cheddar. 



They freeze very well in zippered plastic bags and reheat well too. 

We're building our collection of frozen corn meal muffins for a big family lunch this month. We’re planning to pass on the rest of the recipes too.

 Here's a little bit more about Victoria Abbott, author of the book collector mysteries. 

Victoria is an artist and photographer and MJ is the author of 13 books in three other series, as Mary Jane Maffini.  They really really like dogs.

They also really love their book collector mysteries (contain dogs!) and are happily at work on The Wolfe Widow, third in the series.   They're very excited about the The Sayers Swindle which is out now!

The Sayers Swindle, the second in the book collector mysteries is now available.

You can click here to order The Sayers Swindle!

Or here for the Kindle version!

Or order through your favorite bookstore - in person or online.

And don't forget to ....

Watch the trailer for The Sayers Swindle!


The Christie Curse, the first book collector mystery, launched in March 2013 to great reviews.

The Christie Curse is also available in Large Print! Tell your local librarian!

 Walter, the pug in the series is a dead ringer for Peachy, Victoria's new best friend. 

 Come over and friend Victoria on Facebook

Tell  her  you love the pug!


  1. We love cornbread in all forms here. I'm going to have to find a gluten-free version of this recipe! It sounds so good with the chiles.

    By the way, there's a powdered buttermilk that works very well, and keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator. Buttermilk used to be so easy to find; my mother liked to drink it, with a sprinkle of pepper, when we were kids. But I have not seen it in stores in eons. The powdered stuff is great, especially for the buttermilk pancakes my husband makes when the (grownup) kids are here.

    1. Thanks, Karen! It is easy to find buttermilk in the stores here, but it only comes in litre containers (a little more than a quart), so it's hard to use up. I will hunt down the powdered version as it will solve a few problems. I figure either the health food store or Bulk Barn should have it.

      Buttermilk pancakes? Mmmm.



  2. These look irresistible! One thing I discovered this year when needing to make my grandmother's chocolate cake without any buttermilk--if you add a tablespoon of white or apple cider vinegar to a coup of milk, presto, it becomes buttermilk substitute!

    1. What a great tip, Lucy/Roberta! I am making a note of it. I have several recipes that call for buttermilk and every other ingredient in them is something you would always have in the house. This tip would save a winter trip to the store (not that you need to worry in Key West!)



  3. Lucy/Roberta - That's right and (in a pinch, or a snowstorm :)) you can also use lemon.

    Victoria/MJ - Those corn muffins look amazingly fluffy and delicious! Here in NYC, the corn muffin--split and toasted and slathered with butter--was nearly as common as a bagel with a "schmear" of cream cheese. It's not as popular these days, but (for my own taste) I never gave up on loving sweet corn muffins--and, yes, I know, if you're south of the M&D line, that's culinary sacrilege, but it's also fun to discover the hundreds of ways people tinker with a classic recipe to make it their own.

    Have a great weekend, stay warm up there!

    1. Lemon! We always have that. Thanks for the tip. I do love tinkering and I know you do too, Cleo. You always have amazing results.

      BTW, cornmeal muffins are virtually unknown in restaurants up here. Cream cheese in now my list.



  4. Aaand here comes the Southerner to continue the age-old debate: Cornbread (or muffins): sweet or not sweet? Any Southerner worth her salt will tell you that cake is sweet, cornbread is decidedly NOT. Or not supposed to be. Then I moved to Illinois, where Jiffy cornbread mix is king. There's a recipe on that box for how to make blueberry muffins with that - and you don't need to add any sugar. Sacrilege! (as Cleo put it above) My own recipe is the one off the Quaker yellow cornmeal box, except I reduce the sugar to about a tablespoon. How, I ask you, can you eat cornbread with beans and ham, if it's sweet enough to make a blueberry muffin with?
    (above comments typed with my tongue firmly in my cheek - the recipe sounds great, MJ!)

  5. Don't you just love regional food politics? These can be made with this a bit of sugar (even less than a tablespoon) and they are more savory, but a bit less muffiny in texture.

    Thanks for info, Shel!




  6. These would be perfect right now -- it's cold, damp, and cold. Throw in gloomy, too. Thanks for sharing. Love the pouch pic!

  7. Adding an acid--vinegar or lemon juice--makes soured milk, and buttermilk is slightly different. They are often used interchangeably, but buttermilk gives the finished product a different texture. I have a recipe from the 50's for Sour Milk Hungarian Coffeecake that I used to make every Christmas morning, and I always made it be adding an acid to sweet (regular) milk.

    Here's what Answers @ yahoo says:

    Traditionally, buttermilk is the liquid left over after producing butter from full-cream milk by the churning process. What you find the grocery store today is usually cultured buttermilk, that is milk to which Streptococci bacteria (a souring agent) have been added to simulate the cream. Even though buttermilk has a slightly sour taste, it is NOT sour mil and I would not recommend substituting Sour milk for Butter Milk. Sorry! The way to tell if Buttermilk is bad is usually the expiration date on the carton or, if the butter milk curdles, in other words, has lumps in it.

    Soured milk is a food product, distinguished from spoiled milk, and is a general term for milk that has acquired a tart taste, either through the addition of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, or through bacterial fermentation. The acid causes milk to coagulate and form a thicker consistency.

    While sour milk is ordinary milk gone bad.

  8. Thanks, Erika!

    We'll have to share some on of these days.



  9. Just the thing to eat in the apartment at the top of the mansion in The Sayer's Swindle!
    What about taking those lovely chunks of sharp cheddar and poking one down into the batter of each muffin before baking? A tasty surprise. Those canned chilies add a nice flavor without adding heat.

    1. I love the idea of poking a bit of cheddar into the muffins, Libby! I'll be trying that for sure. Then I'll take them upstairs to the garret and eat them on the flowered quilt. Of wait, that's not real, is it.