Bio: To this day I can still remember the scents from the hallways in my Grandmother’s apartment building. The aroma was full of cookies, roasts and soups. I was only a little girl, but the fragrance enticed me enough, that today I continue to treasure those scents and try my best to reproduce them.
I was raised in Philadelphia and began my adventures in baking at the tender age of 4. I used to climb up onto my Grandmother’s counter and watch her toss these magical treats together. I always got to taste and instantly developed a taste for baked goods right out of the oven. I learned how to measure, how to add extra spoonfuls of this and that, and most importantly, I learned the incredible power that sharing good fresh baked treats can have.
I never played with dolls while growing up; I played with an Easy Bake Oven. I actually began altering recipes way back then. My mother used to tell me that I changed many of Easy Bake Oven recipes by adding different flavors to them. Just a few years later, when I would get home from grade school and the Ladies (Mom’s friends) would be there, I was always summoned to bake up a batch of my Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was only 8-9 years old.
At the age of 17, I moved to Colorado to go to college. Upon moving out of the dorms, and into a house where my brother lived, I was given the privilege of living in the basement; my rent was Chocolate Chip Cookies. The first 2 batches were horridly flat and had little chocolate mountains sticking up from the mass. So what’s a girl to do, I called my Grandmother for advice. She instructed me to add some more flour, so I did.
During the following years, I acquired 2 Graduate Degrees in Education and Psychology; and worked as a Special Education Teacher and Counselor for at-risk and mentally ill adolescents. My passion for baking never stopped for I would always bribe my students with treats, and I continued to bake and create different foods for friends and family in my spare time.
Several years passed, life was good, and then it came to a sudden and immediate change. In April of 1991, thinking I was pregnant, I went to a Doctor. The diagnosis was that I was not pregnant, but that I had a rare disease, a large brain tumor and that my body was rapidly shutting down. Surgery was scheduled, and performed to no avail; the mass was still there. The facilities where I was working, informed me that I had to leave due to liability issues. At this point, I had already gone through radiation treatments, surgery and nothing worked to remove that mass from my head. However, I made a decision, I was not going to become an invalid and live my life as a patient. I had too much life ahead of me to live, with or without that tumor. The only problem was that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do for work, until the second surgery months later.
While in the hospital, a neighbor watched my pets for me. She refused to accept any monetary compensation, so I baked her up a batch of cookies. She informed me that they were so good that I should market them. Having nothing else to do, I found some recipes in my Grandmother’s tin recipe box, made the appropriate adjustments for high altitude and began filling up a basket of fresh treats and delivering them around my town of Evergreen, Colorado. This became my daily route, the customers became my ‘Guinea Pigs’ for different recipes and they also became my friends. It was one morning during these deliveries that the Local Postal Service Employees began calling me The Muffin Lady. I went legal with this name a short time after, added a commercial kitchen to my home and began to distribute my goods to the city of Denver as well. It was during this period that I acquired knowledge for baking for those with special dietary needs. One of my customers was Wild Oats Natural Marketplace. In order to meet their customer’s needs, I played around with different ingredients and taught myself how to bake low fat/cholesterol, diabetic friendly and wheat free treats. Although that mass was still in my head, working 16-20 hours per day did not leave me much time to dwell on it. I had treats and deliveries to make.
Several years later, I went to the Doctor for my regular check up and was told that the mass was GONE! I celebrated that evening, and the next morning was back to baking and delivering treats.
Many customers requested recipes or instructions relative to how to bake at high altitude, the necessary adjustments and how to bake for those on special diets. I was typing up some of my own recipes one day, when a friend called. He suggested that I write a cookbook and that he had a client who has been editing cookbooks for a very long time. So the 3 of us met a few days later and I put my heart to work and began to write a cookbook, literally having no idea what I was doing. However, I knew that if I wrote from my heart, it couldn’t be bad. I joined CIPA, Colorado Independent Publishers Association, and entered my book into their contest. I was awarded a First Place EVVY Award. So I searched for cookbook contests, found one and with a prayer in the wind, entered my book.
It is amazing what your heart can do when you put it to work. In November 2004, I received a wonderful e-mail informing me that I was invited to the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Orebro, Sweden. My cookbook: Baking at High Altitude/The Muffin Lady’s Old Fashioned Recipes, had won Best First Cookbook in English USA and would be competing for Best First Cookbook in the World. So I went to Sweden with my heart in hand. On February 11th, 2005, Edouard Cointreau, President of these awards announced my book, the winner of Best First Cookbook in the World 2004.
Today, I continue to play with new recipes, sell my book and have begun to write a second cookbook.
Randi L. Levin
The Muffin Lady inc.
1532 Yankee Creek Road
Evergreen, Colorado 80439