“There is something special and sacred about mornings … when we slow down long enough to enjoy them,” Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky write in their latest cookbook, “Rise & Run: Recipes, Rituals, and Runs to Fuel Your Day.”
Former cross-country teammates — and my fellow alumni — from their days at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the pair knows all about morning routines and the importance of a nourishing breakfast. Flanagan is New York City Marathon champion, an Olympic silver medalist and one of the most accomplished American distance runners ever. And Kopecky is a food writer, nutrition coach and fellow marathoner.
“Rise & Run,” their fourth co-authored cookbook, is filled with breakfast and brunch recipes packed with whole grains, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit — plus training tips, meal planning guides and more.
The book is changing the way I approach weekday breakfasts. I’ve relied on my morning running routine more than ever during the pandemic, to get fresh air, move my body and feel restored before sitting down for long days of working from home. But rather than simply settling for a piece of toast or a mug of tea, I’m now trying to treat myself to a better breakfast by preparing the book’s apple butter oatmeal bake or one of two dozen Superhero Muffin variations — riffs on Flanagan and Kopecky’s most popular recipe from their debut book, “Run Fast. Eat Slow” — the night before or on the weekend.
These Apple Cheddar Muffins are a new favorite: fluffy and hearty, a little savory, a little sweet and packed with whole grains, sweet potato and apples. They make an ideal grab-and-go or post-workout breakfast option, and it’s easy to make (and bake) ahead.
Top them with an aged or extra-sharp cheddar cheese for a bonus pop of flavor. In our testing, a mix of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples helped the natural sweetness of the fruit stand up to the salty, savory flavors of the muffins.
Baked with hardy spelt flour, the muffins are a handy breakfast to fuel or refuel you for whatever the day may bring.
Apple Cheddar Muffins
The batter can be prepared the night before baking and refrigerated in a sealed container.
Makes 12 servings
2 cups (290 grams) spelt flour or whole-wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups (3 ½ ounces/100 grams) coarsely shredded aged or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup (about 33/4 ounces/106 grams) coarsely grated peeled sweet potato
½ cup (5 ounces/140 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt
1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
2 large firm, tart apples (14 ounces/400 grams) such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, peeled and cored
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or grease with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1 cup (2 ¼ ounces/65 grams) of the cheese, the sweet potato, yogurt and butter.
Use the large holes of a box grater to grate one of the apples. Chop the second apple into small pieces. Stir both apples into the wet ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.
Use a spoon to scoop the batter into each muffin cup, filling to the brim. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup (1 ¼ ounces/35 grams) of cheese on top of the muffins.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the muffins are nicely browned on top, the cheese is melted and crisped and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Transfer the muffins to a wire rack and let cool to the touch before unmolding. Eat warm or at room temperature.
Storage notes: Leftover muffins can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, microwave the muffins on LOW for about 30 seconds or reheat in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes.
Per serving: 225 calories, 12 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 77 mg cholesterol, 387 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrates, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar, 8 g protein
Adapted from “Rise & Run” by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.
Brooks is an editor for The Washington Post, where this story originally appeared.