K/1s take turns to fill the pan with their cornbread batter.

Rebellion of one sort was avoided last week with the baking of Cranberry Upside Down Corn Muffins. I felt triumphant as the week began: eggs cracked gracefully without a trace of shell, a student telling me of his new-found love of the tart ruby berry (that’s what this class is all about!), requests to copy the recipe so it can be made over Thanksgiving.

The call for sweets subsided with batter-caked hands patting full bellies. Students left happy, having their fill of a play on an easy favorite: cornbread.

I envision this recipe as a perfect way to use up that unfinished cranberry sauce post-holiday. Or use it up pre-holiday with this bread serving as a quick and delicious breakfast with a cup of tea (or glass of milk) before the feast. The recipe is easy: your favorite cornbread batter covers cranberry sauce, bake and flip. It can be made as a muffin or a whole “cake” in a cast iron skillet. Beautiful. Think crimson tarte tartin. No cranberry sauce? Use a favorite jam– blueberry, cherry, strawberry, raspberry…

The students were loving it. I forecasted them toasting holiday meals (in my honor, of course). Yet somehow, the week, along with that “teaching is rewarding” cliche, were hijacked.

A (slightly sinister) dare on my part to try the raw cranberry ended with seized fruit needing to be pried out of little fingers to provide enough for our jam making: “but they’re like Sour Patch Kids!” I didn’t expect them to enjoy the raw fruit. Never underestimate a first grader’s taste buds. Later in the week, a student looks up at me and smiles, “Hey! I remember you from last week.” I hope you remember me since we have had nine weeks of classes now. And then… As I’m collecting a K/1 class, I see a student that hasn’t been with us for a while, “We’ve missed you. Where have you been?” I inquire.

“When my mom picks me up from school on cooking day she says: ‘Do you want to go to McD’s, or cooking?'”

“What?”

“Yeah, so I tell her I want to go to McD’s.”

“Thanks. I’m so glad you told me that. It really makes me feel like you want to be here and there is a purpose to my work here.”

“Yeah, wanna know what else she says?”

“No. Get in line.”

I wished we were making another Thanksgiving classic: overly-boiled brussels sprout mush. I’d feed him the whole plate.

Cranberry Upside Down Corn Muffins
This muffin can be made in a cake, pie tin, or a cast iron skillet as a “cake” version.
Makes 16 mini-muffins (12 regular-sized muffins or 1 cast iron “cakes”), with sauce leftover

Cranberry Sauce:
2 cups (about 12 ounce bag) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup cane sugar

zest and juice of 1 orange
Cornbread:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk + 2 tablespoons vinegar)
1/3 cup hot water
4 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small pot over medium-high heat on the stove top, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced. While cooking, make batter.

Combine and stir dry ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add buttermilk, water and butter. Stir to combine until batter comes together.

Butter muffin tins and divide cranberry sauce to just cover muffin tin bottoms. Add batter over top. Bake 15-20 minutes, for mini-muffins, longer for larger sized muffins (25-30 minutes) or full cakes (35-40 minutes), until golden.

Invert immediately and serve warm.

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