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Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins: My Lifelong Breakfast Story

February 22nd, 2012

When my parents and I moved from Russia first to Israel, and then to the United States, our relatives said goodbye to us knowing there was a very real possibility they’d never see us again. At the time, technologies like Skype didn’t exist and Russia had a strict “get out and don’t come back” policy. I didn’t realize the grandness of my parents’ sacrifice. Taking their little girl of seven across the world, to a country they had never been before, where the language spoken was written ‘backwards’ and dry, hot, dessert winds called ‘hamsin’ were more common than temperate days and birch trees. I still wonder what life would have been like growing up in Moscow.

In his father of the bride speech at my wedding several years ago, my dad joked that he and my mom made sure to move me around every time I’d get comfortable in a place to ensure I wouldn’t get bored. Funny thing is, there was something to this approach. Moving to a new place, each time, was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Finding my footing, my balance, was a challenge I welcomed. One of my favorite parts of moving was always learning a completely new set of rules and traditions, and adopting them as my own.

When we migrated, once again, from our home in Israel to a town in New Jersey, I can recall fiercely embracing Dunkin Donuts. We bought Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. I brought boxes of donut holes to school events. And (my favorite) we would eat them on snow days, when the power would be out in the whole neighborhood, and the only thing left to do was walk to the nearest donut shop and hope that they had power — and heat.

I’ve moved a lot since those days, but one tradition that I’ve carried with me is the tradition of breakfast. Perhaps that’s why I talk about it so frequently. Breakfast is, above all, the knowledge of knowing that you have the power to start your day. Frankly, I’m not much for going out to brunch or breakfast for that reason. I like knowing that I’ll be brewing my own coffee and I’ll pace my day based on whatever speed I start at. If it’s the weekend, that means early, but slowly. If it’s the weekday, that means early, but efficiently.

We don’t get snow days anymore, and Dunkin Donuts is a far cry from the kinds of breakfasts I eat these days, but I know that those early years, living out East, learning English as a third grader, and fighting to be American through and through, have solidified in me a resolve to appreciate the beauty of a tradition that isn’t associated with a time, place, age group, or a home, for that matter.

These blueberry muffins haven’t become a tradition yet, but they’re part of my lifelong breakfast story. Warm, fluffy, and bursting with pockets of succulent, juicy blueberries, they’re just the right way to start your day.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
adapted from Joy of Baking
*makes 6-8 muffins

1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of spelt flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
Freshly grated zest of half an orange
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of fresh blueberries

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.
2. Combine the egg, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk to mix.
3. Add the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest to a separate bowl. Then, stir in the blueberries.
4. Fold the wet mix into the dry mix and stir until the batter is just combined. Do not overmix (this will ensure the tenderest muffins).
5. Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup until it’s 3/4 full.
6. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan midway through, until they’re rounded and golden.
7. Cool before removing the muffins from the baking pan and transferring them to a serving platter.

Musical Pairings: Blu & Exile – Below The Heavens + Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

More on the turntable.


    Amazing pictures. On breakfasts: when I moved to England I was disgusted at the idea of eating baked beans for breakfast. Turns out that Brits are disgusted by my offerings of doughnuts and muffins! Thankfully (though a bit blandly) cereal unites us all :)

  • Anonymous

    I like both, your story and muffins.

  • Kasey

    “Thankfully (though a bit blandly) cereal unites us all :) ” – now that is quotable! And so true. For my part, I can’t really imagine eating baked beans for breakfast, either ;)

  • Melissa @ thefauxmartha

    Yum! Adding these to the to-make list. I grew up moving around a lot too. Only in the states though. Maybe that explains why I like food so much. It was my constant companion.

  • Nicole

    Love this story Kasey! What an amazing journey to where you are now. I haven’t always been on the breakfast bandwagon, but I’m really starting to enjoy having something more substantial in the mornings, for the very reason you stated, “knowing that you have the power to start your day.” Just lovely.

  • Stacy

    I love these reflections on adapting, adopting and the stabilizing power of breakfast. These muffins look much like the ones that my mom made throughout my childhood…reflective of my own lifelong breakfast story. Thanks, Kasey!

  • Kasey

    Thank you!

  • Kasey

    It’s always so interesting to learn about how others came to know and love food, and the role that it played in making them who they are. Glad that after all this traveling, our paths have finally crossed :)

  • Kasey

    Thank you, Nicole! I’ve always loved breakfast, and I think the routine of eating it every day was a constant…there’s something so comforting about that. And poetic, I suppose :)

  • Kasey

    Thank you, Stacy! It’s fun to see how, even though so many of us come from different places, there are those foods that intersect ages, cities, races and times!

  • NicoleD

    Beautiful, Kasey! I like your thoughts on breakfast and it setting the pace for your day. That’s a lovely way of looking at things :)

  • Anonymous

    Great Post Kasey! I always feel off balance if I don’t eat breakfast because I usually use that time as reflection (and enjoying the peace and quiet the morning always brings.)

  • Anonymous

    Great Post Kasey! I always feel off balance if I don’t eat breakfast because I usually use that time as reflection (and enjoying the peace and quiet the morning always brings.)

  • noelle

    I’m with you on having breakfast (at least the 1st one) at home. It really does set the tone for the day.

    Also, what if the coffee is bad!

  • noelle

    p.s. Don’t tell the satsumas, but I’m so happy to be seeing blueberries at the market

  • Rachel

    Your childhood sounds like quite an adventure! Breakfast is a wonderful tradition to take with you. I know what you mean about treasuring breakfast so much that you don’t want to eat it out. I’m that way too, except when it comes to breakfast out with my mom. That’s our tradition.

  • Kasey

    Thanks, Nicole! I think this kind of perspective makes breakfast feel a lot more empowering!

  • Kasey

    Thank you, Erin! I, too, feel that breakfast is my time to collect my thoughts, reflect, and prepare for a new day. Mornings are the best!

  • Kasey

    Oh, good point about the coffee! Matt is the major coffee buff in our household and he definitely gets upset when he doesn’t get the good stuff ;)

  • Kasey

    I agree with you…to an extent. Have you tried the Sumo mandarin??? I’ve been only seeing them at Whole Foods, but they taste like candy! That said, I am always ready for the return of summer fruits.

  • Kasey

    I love that you have a breakfast tradition with your mom! I think it’s so important to keep these little rituals going.

  • Mary Wang

    What an awesome post! As an immigrant from China I feel you on the “fighting to be American.” And I understand how simple food traditions give you a sense of stability while your whole world is changing.

  • noelle

    omg, yes! My favorite fruit guy had them last year and I’ve been impatiently waiting for them to show up at his stand. Makes my mouth water just thinking about them.

  • Sweet Road

    I LOVE Blu & Exile! And I’m sure these muffins are just as awesome! The whole concept of your blog is way cool, I’m really into it. Not only is it exciting to find new recipes to try but, at least for me, it’s always exciting to find that others have similar tastes in music… and it’s fun to find new music too!

  • Denise

    I totaly recognize your feelings about breakfast, I’m exactly the same! And these muffins are such a gorgeous way to start te day!

  • Cookie and Kate

    Lovely post, Kasey. I wondered if you were perhaps Russian because I have a Russian friend named Ksenya. Your childhood sounds much more interesting than mine was, but I do share a love for breakfast. I can’t go without it, and I like knowing that so many others around the world feel the same way.

  • Kimberley

    Hip hip for breakfasts, slow and fast. I love my breakfast ritual, no matter whether it’s peanut butter on toast or some fancy affair. These muffins look so lovely!

  • Molly

    My best friend growing up was originally from Latvia, and they went the Italy to America route rather than the Israel one. (Although the Israel/America route was also very popular for the other Soviet students in our small Jewish day school.)

    Her dad also had a breakfast tradition: The thinnest of crepes that he would somehow have made seemingly endless piles of before we woke up from our sleepovers. We’d spread them with a berry jam and relax into our mornings.

    I’ll never forget those breakfasts.

  • Kasey

    Molly, I know exactly what you’re talking about with the thin stack of crepes! My grandma used to make those for me anytime I would come over to her house. I could easily eat 8 or 10 and always with a pat of butter and a hearty sprinkling of sugar.

  • Kasey

    Rituals are great and breakfast is one that shouldn’t be missed…even if all you have time for is a piece of toast :) xo

  • Kasey

    Hey Kate! That’s so funny you have a friend named Ksenya! When I first moved to the States, my teachers asked my mom if I wanted to be called Xenia or Ksenya and my mom thought having my name start with an X was weird. By the time I was 14, I was so tired of people butchering my name that I decided it was time to adopt a more approachable nickname, and people have been calling me Kasey ever since…I’ve always wanted people to know that it’s only a nickname though..and I’m still pretty proud of my unique full name :)

  • Kasey

    Glad we’re on the same page, Denise! I agree…a pretty breakfast is a gorgeous start to the day.

  • Kasey

    Thanks so much! Glad that it speaks to you and happy to have you here with us.

  • Kasey

    Hi Mary! Growing up in Northern California (after moving…yet again…from the East Coast), a number of my friends and neighbors were immigrants. It was funny to see how similar our experiences were, despite our very different cultural backgrounds.

  • Snippets of Thyme (Sarah)

    I love your story here. We moved our kids to Japan at that young age. Since then, we’ve moved on average every 3 years. I am beginning to see glimpses of how my children feel about the locations where we have lived as they are getting older. I am so happy that they see them as unique experiences. Even when another move come on the horizon, my daughter frowns because she will be in college!!

  • Kasey

    Hi, Sarah! Oh…Japan. I have been dying to visit. It’s funny how much you appreciate things like moving around all the time once you’re older. I’m a firm believer that I’m a more confident, independent, and strong-willed person partly because of the fact that we moved so much. What an awesome experience you are giving your children!

  • Kate

    You should be proud of it! Ksenya is such a pretty name. The letters remind me of my name, Kathryne. I decided to go by Kate when I started a blog because no one ever spells my name correctly. It still feels weird!

  • Kasey

    How funny! The reason I actually started going by Kasey is because is because it was a rearrangement of the letters of my name (minus the ‘n’)! I think Kathryne is such a gorgeous name, but I can see how people constantly misspelling it gets annoying. Also, I feel like as with Kasey > Ksenya, Kate > Kathryne is this totally different side to your personality, and I love that about nicknames :)

  • Kasey

    How funny! The reason I actually started going by Kasey is because is because it was a rearrangement of the letters of my name (minus the ‘n’)! I think Kathryne is such a gorgeous name, but I can see how people constantly misspelling it gets annoying. Also, I feel like as with Kasey > Ksenya, Kate > Kathryne is this totally different side to your personality, and I love that about nicknames :)

  • Laurel J. Smith

    This recipe sounds very yummm. Thank you.

  • Viola Mahr

    I’ve been feeling sooo tired/sleepy at work the last few days, and reading this post just kind of rejuvenated me. I think I need more breakfast… :)

    Thanks for sharing! Happy I found your blog.

  • Kasey

    That’s wonderful, Viola! I’m happy you found it, too!

  • Faina Shpiler

    I did not know that you immigrated from Russia. So have we back when I was a teenager – how old were you? Glad to know there other food bloggers such as myself out there :) ) Cucee

  • Jessica

    Great recipe. I doubled it and subbed coconut oil for canola and coconut palm sugar for reg sugar. I love spelt flour! Thanks this keeper.