Packing muffins with a punch

retro muffin meme
If your house is anything like ours is right now, your cooking revolves around the very finicky tastebuds and moods of a mini-dictator. Yes, he has adorable wispy curls and his gap-toothed smile makes you find new corners in your heart for jack-o-lanterns, but, man, he is stubborn at meal time. So we have to get really creative, by which I mean crafty and manipulative.
Besides playing around with tastes and textures, I thought it could be fun to make some bite size treats. And, wonder upon wonder, I found a fantastic, heavy-duty non-stick mini-muffin pan at Sur la Table. Yes, I love SLT, but I don’t love having to pay $35 for a piece of kitchen equipment that’s, let’s face it, completely superfluous. It doesn’t help that it’s almost impossible not to feel like a pretentious ass just saying the store’s name. South Park gets it right:

South Park does Sur la Table

But that store is like crack to a cooking addict. And so imagine my delight when I found the perfect pan in the clearance section for just over $10!

mini muffin tin

Ben used it to make some banana-yogurt muffins this weekend, and they turned out predictably adorable and bite-sized. The recipe is inspired by Chobani’s greek yogurt recipe, but he just used regular whole milk yogurt since we have cartons of the stuff on hand for said picky child.


Banana-Yogurt Muffins

banana yogurt muffins


  • 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t salt
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 c packed light brown sugar
  • ½ c canola oil
  • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease your muffin tin, unless it’s amazing and non-stick like the one above. Whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, beat the rest of the ingredients with an electric mixer. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low until combined. Pour batter into the muffin cups and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


These fared well with our 21 pound boss for about a day, and then he figured out what we’d been up to. This morning we chased him around with some muffin bits in hand, until we finally called them “bread” and he about-turned, snatched them up, and stuffed them in his mouth. Your guess is as good as mine.


Are All New Mothers Endowed Equally?

(This piece was originally posted on August 27, 2013 on 

Are All New Mothers Endowed Equally?


There could be a lot of reasons I see everything through a race lens. I have a biracial son, for instance, and I know I’m going to get questions about why a whole lot of folks who look like his mother seem to live differently than the folks who look like his father. I’m also a political scientist who focuses on race politics, so it’s my basically my job to see race everywhere.

Or maybe I see race everywhere because it really is everywhere. In the world of public policy, practically any issue you can think of can be challenged to demonstrate racial equity: education, healthcare, employment, climate change, you name it.  Racial disparities are real and impact the opportunities that children of color, for instance, have compared to their white counterparts.

After having my first child last year, I started working on a book that looks at the politics of pregnancy. For the first time I thought I’d not have to apply the race lens. I’m completely consumed in the world of restrictions and regulations on women’s bodies: Can you choose whether you have a doctor or midwife? Can you try for a vaginal birth after having a cesarean section? Can you eat salami? Can you continue your anti-depressants? I thought, if anything, the world of epidurals, midwives, and soft cheese wouldn’t trigger questions about equity?

Turns out I was wrong. As I read debates, pored over legislative history, and talked to dozens of friends and acquaintances who have been pregnant themselves, my race lens has followed me. I quickly saw I couldn’t escape it because a pregnant woman’s race can play an important part of her pregnancy— different races have different access to prenatal treatment, quality hospitals, and safety, for instance.

Yes, some people concern themselves with whether they can eat deli meats during pregnancy while others worry about being victims of violence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ranking what I think to be valid concerns—trust me, as someone with cult-like affection for Potbelly’s, I am not judging and it most certainly was on my list of concerns. But what makes the latter group more troubling to me is that it is composed disproportionately of women of color.

Research on intimate partner violence (IPV), for instance, has shown that black women report higher rates during pregnancy (Hispanics report slightly lower rates, and enough research hasn’t been done on Asian or multiracial women).  It doesn’t seem to require a study to show that violence is decidedly bad on a pregnancy, but, yes, we have research on this too:  surprise, surprise, the majority of women who experience abuse experience it multiple times during pregnancy, and they are more likely not to receive prenatal care until the third trimester. There are odd details in there too, like most of the injuries occur to the head. And then race appears again—this time concerning white women, for whom the “frequency and severity of abuse and potential danger of homicide [is] appreciably worse.”

And then there were the rates of teen pregnancy that also differ by race and ethnicity. Here too, young women of color experience pregnancy at disproportionately high rates. See the chart below.

Pregnancy, Birth, Abortion, and Fetal Loss Rates Per 1,000 Women Aged 15–19 Years, by Race and Hispanic Ethnicity — United States, 2005


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.

Pregnancy at such a young age influences whether new mothers will stay in school and finish the education that will eventually offer better job opportunities at higher wages in the workforce. As any parent knows, being pregnant and then raising a child will certainly make finishing school at the same time feel impossible. And so we have the dropout rates that we have—when young women get pregnant, school supports are rare (though they are wonderful when they DO exist!) and new mothers end up dropping out. And this precipitates a cascade of negative effects: without a high school diploma, women become economically insecure members of the workforce.

I fortunately did not have to worry on either of these fronts during my pregnancy. I have the good fortune to be in a supportive, healthy relationship with my partner who believes that parenting is just as much a father’s responsibility (and joy!) as it is a mother’s. I am also, woefully, one of the overeducated—the ones who prove that the education-as-it-correlates-to-income curve is, in fact, curvilinear. At some point more education (like a Ph.D.) seems to reduce wages, as many of my underemployed friends will tell you.

But, particularly on the anniversary of the March on Washington, it is important for me as I reflect on the politics of pregnancy and parenthood to think about how all mothers are not endowed equally. When Dr. King described his ideal society, presumably he meant a world where women, of any race, were enabled to lead healthy pregnancies.

When my son asks us inevitable questions about race, my husband and I are going to be honest with him and talk about race and class and the continued segregation that makes these categories determine the level of opportunities available to children. It would be great if the rest of the country could try and do the same.

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Julie Ajinkya is working on a book about the politics of pregnancy. She used to work at the Center for American Progress on its Progress 2050 project, which looks at racial equity in public policy. To follow her work, please find her on twitter (@JulieAjinkya) or visit

Coconut milk for the win

This past weekend, as I enjoyed an outdoor concert in the area, a very pregnant lady handed me a little piece of heaven: the SO Delicious mini ice cream sandwich made with coconut milk. It was part of a promotion to share the merits of a vegan lifestyle and they handed out some literature with the treats.


Replacing what can often be pretty unexciting and stale vanilla ice cream with a creamy coconut milk-based faux ice cream is a thought conceived in heaven. I could easily imagine a similar dessert on one of Tom Collichio’s plates, but of course his dish’s slices of “bread” would be made with chocolate unicorn tears.


so sandwich
My father takes a bite out of his third sandwich 

As I skimmed the pamphlets that Prego McPrego handed me, I thought about how many times, in the process of working on this book, vegetarian and vegan women I know have mentioned that they are worrying about their diets during pregnancy. Sure enough, the literature in my hands addressed this.


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is cited three times saying “a well-planned vegan diet is safe for all stages of the life-cyle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence…” I want to be on board with this, because, again, I like the idea of women having enough information to make intelligent decisions about how they will handle their pregnancies.
But a vegetarian diet is decidedly different from a vegan diet.


Why I’m glad I’m not a panda

The district is elated over the birth of its newest panda resident, a cub born yesterday to the National Zoo’s female giant panda, Mei Xiang. This new cub reminds us of Mei Xiang’s loss back in September, when she gave birth to a four ounce cub that died only six days later, due to underdeveloped lungs that led to lung problems. But this baby is looking healthy, so let’s hope everything goes well.I’m not going to pretend that I’ve ever known much about the animal kingdom, except learning far too late in life from my friend Robyn that you should avoid (not seek, as I thought) eye contact with animals that seem hostile. But the more I read about Mei Xiang’s planned pregnancy, birth, and post-birth treatment, the horror grows.

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Leftovers for life

Do you ever make a dish specifically to enjoy its leftovers for the next few days? I find myself doing this with roast chicken, which makes a wicked curried chicken salad that is perfect in this summer heat (recipe coming soon!). Curries are also better the longer they sit, allowing the spices and flavors to really seep into the meats and vegetables. But one of my favorite repurposings of leftovers has to be the frankie.
The frankie is my favorite street food from my childhood summers in Bombay. Right next to the McDonald’s down the street from my grandparents’ flat, there was a frankie stand. You would pay a guy a few rupees and he would give you a small coin that signaled either chicken, mutton or veggie to the man you handed it to through a small hole in the wall. A moment later a hand would emerge and give you the most delectable snack– spicy (always mutton for me) filling wrapped up in a tawa-fried, egg-coated roti. My cousins and I would eat them on our walk back home along Linking Road, with juices running down our elbows, and quickly mop our faces before adults could figure out what we’d been up to.
I wasn’t really allowed to have frankies. One, I was of a weak Western constitution, and two, well, did you hear about the hole in the wall? But it didn’t really matter. I ate them so often that I figured after the first dozen or so, I’d beaten the odds.

We should all Expect Better, and then ask some more questions

Yes, I know about Emily Oster’s new book released today that questions conventional pregnancy wisdom.Yes, I think her work is quality and that a social scientist’s interpretation of the data around pregnancy restrictions and recommendations is much needed in our discourse about women’s health.

Yes, I agree with a number of her conclusions–namely, that moderation is key.  One of my favorite lines is “It isn’t that complicated: drink like a European adult, not a fraternity brother.”  I think the most important conclusion that I share in common with Oster is that neither of us is actually making recommendations for other women’s pregnancies–we both study, research and investigate common pregnancy do’s and don’ts to navigate our own pregnancies and make our own decisions. In the end, though, readers should be left to their own decision-making mechanisms. In the case of my work, at least, I just hope they’re armed with enough information to make a decision based on knowledge and not fear.

Yes, Joe Scarborough makes my head hurt:

Do I think Oster’s work scooped my own project on the politics of pregnancy? No.

After a couple of weeks of indigestion, I calmed down and realized that the major do’s and don’ts that Oster tackles in her work are typically about ingestion and exposure to a long list of substances traditionally banned from pregnant women’s diets and lifestyles: alcohol, caffeine, raw milk cheese, hair dye, exercise, etc. She applies an economist’s eyes to the randomized trials and peer-reviewed research out there on these topics and comes to her own conclusions about the restrictions that seem hysterical and those that seem reasonable and evidence-based. Applying reason to pregnancy? Kudos to her.

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Considering childcare

Alissa Quart has a piece in The New York Times today that looks at the financial burden, and often impossibility, of child care on American families. Given that one of my chapters tackles exactly this topic, it piqued my interest. Why would a book on the politics of pregnancy discuss post-birth child care? Because we put our son on a daycare waitlist five months into our pregnancy—twenty months later, our number (a pessimistic 35) has not budged.
If parents are lucky enough to gain admission for their children, Quart discusses the crushing costs. Citing research from University of Massachusetts at Amherst sociologist Joya Misra, she writes that the cost of center-based day care surpasses one year of tuition at a public college in thirty-five states, as well as DC. 

But it’s not only the price tag that has parents in despair. Despite resounding evidence that investing in young children’s care reaps huge social benefits, the United States is currently suffering from a severe scarcity of decent day care facilities.  A survey conducted by the National Institute Child Health Development deemed only ten percent of facilities to be “high-care” nationwide and a recent cover story for The New Republic by Jonathan Cohn described the overall quality of day care in our country as “wildly uneven and barely monitored, and, at the lower end, Dickensian.” 
An expose like this, on the dismal state of American child care, surfaces once every year or so. In general, comparisons are made to other industrialized nations, where states invest heavily in quality child care facilities and parents are even offered tax incentives if they stay home to take care of their own children, given that it is considered to save the state a huge sum of money. 
Pamela Druckerman also discusses the American day care dilemma in her comparison between parenting in France and the United States, Bringing Up Bebe. As an American expat in Paris, she compares the quality of care that her first daughter receives from state run crèches with day care back home in the States.