Something new for 2009

What better way to kick off the new year than with a new ingredient?

Millet refers to the small, round seeds produced by a variety of grasses. It's a hardy annual crop that thrives in intense heat and poor soil—conditions that would kill most other grains and cereals. All those little polka dots are not only hardy and cute, they're gluten-free and contain a high concentration of protein.

I first tasted these muffins several years ago while slaving over a project at work one weekend. A thoughtful colleague took pity on those of us in the office and brought these in as a treat. They make an excellent breakfast muffin, with or without spread. I personally enjoy a thin drizzle of honey.

Polka Dot Pumpkin Muffins
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup millet
1/4 cup pepitas
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk and sugar. Blend in the vanilla and pumpkin. Stir in the oatmeal.

In a small dry skillet, toast the millet over high heat for about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of pepitas and toast for 1 minute more. Cool slightly before adding to the egg mixture above.

In a medium bowl, mix the 2 flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Avoid overmixing or muffins will be dry and tough.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of pepitas. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

Yields 12 muffins.

Source: Originally from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook by Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz, 2001.