These days, we're all spending much more time at home and looking for ways to use up our new excess of free time. Muffins are a great quick-and-easy project, even for novice bakers just joining the quarantine baking wave (or parents looking to distract stuck-at-home kiddos for a few).

Muffins are the perfect transitional food: they work for breakfast, afternoon snacks or a treat after dinner.

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SOUR CREAM MAPLE-WALNUT MUFFINS

These are lovely and light, golden brown inside with a nice dry crumble, very reminiscent of a scone. If you're not a huge maple fan, don't be wary — the flavor is delicate and understated. If you have nut allergies in your house, feel free to leave out the walnuts. I did, and they are still a winner.

Courtesy of delish.com

INGREDIENTS: 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

6 tablespoons sour cream

6 tablespoons Vermont maple syrup

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well.

In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and maple syrup.

On low speed, add half the dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture. Pour in half the sour cream mixture. Add remaining dry ingredients in 2 batches, alternating with sour cream mixture. Beat until just blended.

In a small bowl, stir together walnuts, cinnamon and remaining 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.

Pour batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle top of each muffin with walnut mixture.

Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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SOURDOUGH CARROT MUFFINS

I came across this recipe for carrot cake a few weeks back when I was looking up new ways to use up my sourdough starter and decided to try to make them muffins. I was so pleased. Not only does it use up a lot of starter, but it's also moist and easy, and great on its own. But if you wanted to cover it with some cream cheese frosting and turn these muffins into cupcakes, I won't judge. Since this recipe is adapted from a full-sized cake recipe, be aware it makes a lot of muffins. Go to town, or freeze half the dough to bake next weekend.

Recipe from the King Arthur Flour recipe for Carrot Cake

INGREDIENTS: 

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup sourdough starter, unfed/discard

3 large eggs

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1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan, two 8-by-2-inch round pans or muffin tins if you're making muffins or cupcakes.

Combine the oil and sugar, and stir in the starter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, walnuts, coconut and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, and the sides are just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

COMBINE:

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 cup cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

2 to 4 tablespoons milk

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BISQUICK BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

This recipe is an oldie and a goodie. I think it was first given to me by my Family Consumer Science teacher in eighth grade (a class focused on simple cooking and nutrition). You can see why it's a recipe you'd give to kids — there isn't a simpler recipe under the sun, and given that it uses no flour, now is its time to shine. If you're home quarantine baking and worrying over your depleting stock of dry goods, this is a great recipe to have under your hat. It's also endlessly customizable. Use whatever frozen or fresh berries you have. Add a little zest. Make it how you like it.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Bisquick mix

1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg

3 /4 cup organic frozen blueberries

DIRECTIONS: 

Heat oven to 400 F. Grease or line a muffin tin.

Stir all ingredients except blueberries together, just until moistened. Fold in berries.

Divide batter evenly in nine muffin cups. Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.