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I make corn muffins because they make me think of my mom.

Mom wasn’t a great cook, and definitely not a baker. She baked exclusively from mixes, with the exception of chocolate chip cookies, which she began baking when she was an empty nester. (She followed the Toll House recipe. Her cookies were great, actually, but that’s another story.)

I don’t remember her making corn muffins that often, but when she did, she used the Jiffy mix. As she got older, she began slowly losing her memory. When she’d hit the grocery store, she would buy another box of Jiffy, even though she had it at home. She just couldn’t remember. She needed to be sure.

Why corn muffin mix? It was the only thing she kept buying regardless of need. Even though she wouldn’t bake the muffins anymore, having the mix on hand gave her comfort. At one point she had an entire shelf of Jiffy mix in her pantry.

Eventually, my mom descended into Alzheimer’s, and her trips to the store came to an end. She passed away about ten years ago. I have been experimenting with various cornbread and muffin recipes in her honor ever since.

I was searching through recipes from various Lake Isle Press books when I came across Sandra Lawrence’s recipe for Twan’s Jalapeño Corn Muffins from her book, “Harlem Really Cooks: The Nouvelle Soul Food of Harlem.” I knew I had to try it. Sandra’s book is dedicated to her mother, Lossie “Doll” Lawrence, who inspired her to write the book and was, as Sandra writes, “the best cook ever.” Here was a recipe from one daughter to another.

It’s a simple recipe, not quite as easy as a mix, but pretty close. The only aspect that takes any time at all is prepping the jalapeños. I did have to try it twice, though, because the first time around I made a mistake and, without thinking, used skim milk. Don’t do that. Baked goods need fat! I tried the recipe again with whole milk. Success.

I know my oven, and it runs hot, so I baked at 375 degrees instead of 400 degrees and took them out early both times. The texture was great. The jalapeños didn’t overpower and added a nice hint of flavor.

It’s not a recipe my mom would have made. In addition to not baking from scratch, she didn’t cook with a lot of spice, heat, or variety.

And yet I was still such a finicky eater, I wouldn’t eat half of what my mom put on the table. But I would eat her corn muffins. And even though I truly enjoy baking from scratch and mastering new tastes and techniques, some day soon I may just whip up a batch of Jiffy.

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Twan’s Jalapeño Corn Muffins
Click here to print recipe

1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 fresh or pickled jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400º. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a medium 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

In another bowl mix together the remaining butter, the eggs, milk, and jalapeños. Add to the cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Do not overbeat.

Spoon the batter into the greased muffin pan, leaving 1/4 inch unfilled at the top. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes

Reprinted from Harlem Really Cooks, The Nouvelle Soul Food of Harlem, by Sandra Lawrence. Lake Isle Press, 2006

Originally published at on June 3, 2020.

Written by

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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