Nothin’ Beats a Muffin!

In one of the go-to cookbooks in my collection, “Retro Diner,” authored by Brandy Garbin and Teri Dunn, the introduction reads: “The diner is a delicious slice of our American pie. During the 1950s these chrome and vinyl beauties were important social gathering places, a special treat for milkshake-guzzling kids, and a welcome late-night relief to road-weary travelers. Over the years many diner menu items became immortalized in the American memory.” 

I grew up in the 50s, attending high school and college. After graduating from Monrovia Arcadia Duarte High School (now just Monrovia) I attended UCSB. We had our share of diners in the areas of those schools, like Carpenters Drive In, The Blue Onion, Dupar’s, Sambos, Bob’s Big Boy, and of course, Denny’s. I can still taste the chocolate milk-shakes at Bob’s Big Boy. They were thick and creamy and we ate them with a spoon!

The diners’ menus were varied and each had a specialty-of-the-house, such as hamburgers, onion rings, pancakes, etc. I think Denny’s has had their “Grand-Slam” breakfast on the menu forever! 

Well, here we are in the month of August and thinking about “back-to-school” days, and what to feed the kids for breakfast, what to pack for their lunch, and quick-fix dinners when their extra-curricular activities begin. So I referred to my “Retro Diner” cookbook and zeroed-in on some of the muffin recipes from diners across the country. From my experience, I know kids love muffins — and adults do too! They are easy to make, bake, store or freeze, and serve. 


This first recipe is a base; you think up your own additions. At the Miss Adams Diner, where this recipe originated, they made rhubarb-oat bran, pineapple-corn, poppyseed-sour cream, butterscotch-pecan, peanut butter-chocolate chip, sunflower-raisin bran, plum-yogurt, raspberry-corn and more. It’s a chance to be creative.

Miss Adams Diner
Master Muffins


2/3 cup corn oil

¾ cup honey

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups white flour

1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

½ cup wheat germ or bran

1 ½ cups fruit (apple, pears, blueberries, peaches, or your choice), diced

¾ cup toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, or your choice), chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oil, honey, and egg together. Mix buttermilk, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract in separate bowl. Whisk flour and wheat germ together in another bowl to blend. Combine all mixtures until barely incorporated. Fold in choice of fruit or nuts or both. Spoon into muffin cups. Push batter down and mound above level of cup. Bake about 20 minutes, rotating baking tin or tins for even baking and bake 5-10 minutes more. Cool briefly and remove from tin/tins.
Makes 12 muffins.

Note: Paper muffin liners make it easier to clean the muffin tin/tins and easier to
serve the muffins.

Woody’s Sweet 

Potato Muffins


¾ pound (3 sticks) butter, softened

4 cups sugar

6 eggs

4 ¾ cups flour, divided

3 cups canned pureed sweet potatoes, drained and mashed

1 cup strong coffee

1 ½ cups walnuts, chopped

1 ½ tsps. salt

1 ½ tsps. ground cinnamon

2 ¼ tsps. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground allspice

3 tsps baking soda


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add one third of the flour; mix lightly. Stir in sweet potato. Add another third of the flour; mix lightly. Add coffee, walnuts, salt, spices, baking soda, and remaining third of flour. Mix until blended. Do not overmix or muffins will be tough. Fill muffin tins three-fourths full. Bake 25 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool briefly and remove from muffin tin.

Banana-Bran Muffins


3 ripe bananas, mashed

½ cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

¾ cup white flour

¾ cup wheat flour 

½ cup oat bran

2 tsps baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tin. Mash bananas in large bowl; add brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Add egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and oil, mix. Add dry ingredients and mix just to moisten. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve slightly cooled with butter. Good with apricot jam or honey! Makes 12 muffins.