The maintenance of hearth and health is arguably experiencing a domestic boom. Well being has become a fashionable trend evidenced by the kale craze and its ubiquitous yoga pant uniform. The 2010s provide us advances like pressure sensor athletic clothing, jewelry that measure sleep and wake cycles, and fresh pre-made calorie controlled meals. Billions of dollars have been devoted to technology that helps manage nutrition, fitness, and overall well being, and the glut of options expands each year. But not a full generation ago Americans were running from these topics as though nothing was more suffocating to mind and spirit. Matters of the stove were traded for convenience based factory food, and fitness was silenced by the hum of the VCR and electric lawn mower.
It was during the Dawn of Aquarius that the educational pursuit of home economics became more than passé. A burgeoning generation of youth shunned the art of homemaking and ran in droves from the army of electric stoves tucked into florescent lit corners of local high schools. Housewifery be damned. The abandoned academic doyens of stove and sewing machine were forced to reinvent their curriculum, and many found happy homes within burgeoning Nutrition Science departments of regional universities. They traded aprons for lab coats as they turned the art of making dinner into a scientific examination of crust and crumb.
It was in one of these home economic kitchens come science labs that I, as a green college student, first considered the science of food. Through measurements of emulsion, turgor, viscosity, and disbursement I learned to deconstruct a biscuit, fry a perfect egg, and simmer green vegetables (with minimal water soluble vitamin loss). In short, I learned to cook simple food very well.
I simultaneously loved and hated the food I learned to cook in those labs. Debatably boiled broccoli, white rice, and Crisco biscuits are not man’s most healthy or desirable food choice, but armed with notebook and mass spectrometer these basic foods conversed a new language with me. Practicing a perfectly executed cheese muffin not only increased my grade point average, it also taught me to cook.
As a painter sees a blank canvas so does a cook see ingredients. And a cook with nutrition science training will see those ingredients not only for flavor potential but also health benefits. This is the legacy of home economics: use basic scientific technique to elevate the everydayness of life into something remarkable. No housewife required.
It is in this spirit that whole grain, turmeric, and flax have transformed Professor Harris’ Food Science 101 cheese muffin recipe. Besides the nutty taste and golden hue, turmeric contains a powerful chemical arsenal of curcumin, the biologically active component of this warm weather root. Ingested for centuries as an anti-inflammatory treatment in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric supplements have shown promise in the medical management of arthritis (Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2006). Various researchers have elicited the potential of turmeric as a potent antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic food.
In this muffin recipe the flavor of turmeric perches upright and forward, but the nuttiness of the flax seed mellows the yellow root’s outspoken call. Flax seeds play flavor yin to turmerics brazen yang, and they contain a heaping dose of fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and lignans to boot. In addition to reducing LDL (the bad) cholesterol (Nutr Metab, 2012), flax compounds work in concert to help prevent heart disease, bone disease, and possibly hormone related cancers.
You won’t notice any of that science as you reach for another one of these golden brown gems, but you may be calculating if you have enough ingredients left over to bake a second batch.
Cheddar Muffins with Turmeric and Flax
- whole wheat pastry flour, 1.25 cups
- golden flax seeds, whole or (preferably) ground, 1 tbsp
- turmeric, ground, 1/4 tsp
- salt, 1/2 tsp
- baking powder, 2 tsp
- butter, unsalted, 6 tbsp
- cheddar cheese, shredded, 8 oz
- milk, cold, 1/3 cup
- eggs, 3 large
- honey, 2 tbsp
- Parchment muffin wrappers (optional)
- (2)12 cup muffin tins
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and whisk to combine evenly.
- Melt butter and combine with cheese, cold milk, and honey.
- Beat eggs and add to wet mixture.
- Fold wet ingredients into dry and transfer to muffin pans (grease tins with additional butter if not using parchment wrappers.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes depending on your oven and size of muffins.