We first read Little Women in our tween years. Far into adulthood, we re-read it every few years and watch the showing on TV:
The 1933 original with Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Jean Parker, Frances Dee et al.
The 1994 remake with Winona Ryder, Kristen Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Susan Sarandon et al.
The biographical novel takes place during the Civil War—although far away from it, in Concord, Massachusetts. As the novel opens, four teenage sisters, their mother and the family retainer are living in reduced circumstances, while the father is away ministering to the troops.
The family is struggling to make ends meet, and the sisters are about to sit down to a special Christmas breakfast, when their mother asks if they will give up their meal to a suffering immigrant family whose father [presumably] has passed away. They are living in a shack with no food or firewood, and a broken window to boot.
In the true spirit of Christmas charity, the girls pack up their breakfast and carry it to the desperate family.
The passage reminds us that, no matter how poor the Marches may seem, true poverty and suffering is vastly different.
OUR CHRISMAS MUFFIN INSPIRATION
We were inspired by the Christmas story and began to donate a week’s allowance to the Salvation Army. We also induced our mom to create the March Christmas breakfast for us.
The novel is scant on details, but mentions cream, muffins, buckwheat [probably porridge] and bread.* Mom made buckwheat blini with sour cream and salmon caviar, omelets and muffins with raisins and pecans. We had cream instead of the usual milk in our tea. It became an annual event until we grew up and moved away.
Fortunately, NIBBLE readers can afford a fine Christmas breakfast. If you’re not a big breakfast eater, you can still enjoy fresh-baked muffins, and cream in your tea or coffee.
Here are 12 recipes to consider—one for each of the 12 days of Christmas—beginning with gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating.
RECIPE #1: GINGERBREAD MUFFINS
Ingredients For 12 Muffins
2½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 cup milk low-fat ok
1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
Optional garnish: 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
Optional: fresh sweet butter† for serving
*A Victorian breakfast would have included eggs baked in cream, sausages, potatoes, biscuits, fruit and a Christmas pudding.
†For special occasions, we spring for Kerrygold, Plugrá or our favorite European-style cultured butter from Vermont Creamery.
 Cranberry streusel muffins from Eats Well With Others.  Gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating.  Ginger-fig muffins made with fig jam, from Dave Bakes.  Strawberry marzipan muffins from Sandra Lee.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease with cooking spray.
2. COMBINE the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl, combine. Set aside.
3. WHISK together the coconut oil and brown sugar in a separate large bowl. Whisk in the molasses, then whisk in the egg. Add the milk and yogurt and whisk until well-combined. Finally, add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
3. SCOOP the batter into muffin cups (the cups will be full). Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar (a.k.a. decorating sugar, coarse sugar). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
RECIPE #1: Apple Cider Muffins With Cinnamon Chips
RECIPE #2: Apple-Pecan Streusel Muffins
RECIPE #3: Cranberry Bliss Muffins With Cream Cheese Frosting
RECIPE #4: Cranberry Eggnog Muffins
RECIPE #5: Fruitcake Muffins (add an optional tablespoon of orange liqueur)
RECIPE #6: Ginger Fig Muffins
RECIPE #7: Meyer Lemon, Cranberry & Poppyseed Muffins
RECIPE #8: Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Morning Muffins
RECIPE #9: Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
RECIPE #10: Orange-Cranberry-Marzipan Muffins
RECIPE #11: Strawberry Marzipan Muffins
11 MORE CHRISTMAS MUFFIN IDEAS