As I write this, my boy is somewhere on the road between our home and the Southeastern USA, traveling across four states with his student leadership group from our church for a week-long missions trip to an impoverished area in the southern part of West Virginia. The road trip will take two days before they arrive at their destination.
My boy has been away before, so this is nothing new, this being gone for a week at a time. He’s been spending part of the past 8 summers away, and he always enjoys it. He has to; he was never given the luxury of having a choice in the matter. Being an only child, he was pushed away from my side by necessity. I couldn’t hover, I couldn’t at all. He had to learn to play by himself, read by himself, entertain himself and sleep by himself. And he didn’t have the advantage of siblings to soften any landing that occurred in his life. He was the baby bird on the limb, Mama coaxing him out of the nest at a tender young age and for the most part, he’s done well with those landings. He’s comfortable being away from me, and this is a good thing. Because I know that when he’s ready to fly and really spreads his wings, that he will soar mightily. And I am thrilled and excited to see where this missions trip will take him, in his walk with his Faith, and in his life. He’s had it good, this boy of mine. A dose of reality that life isn’t always kind, that homes aren’t always luxurious and comfortable and that a meager way of life happens to even the kindest people. We all need that perspective shift sometimes to keep us grounded and real.
When I dropped him off with his group and drove off, I expected some jubilation. I expected a slight sigh of relief for a quiet house and no chauffeur duties in the week ahead, meals planned for Mike and I and no one texting me to bring home ice cream as I am getting off work. What I got was something completely unexpected. I was wracked with worry. Because for now, until the team lands at their final destination, I have no clue what’s happening and I have to put an enormous amount of faith in the process. He is in good hands, the team leaders are amazing adults, with soft hearts and strong spirits. He will be safe with them. But there is a long, long and open road that they are on, one that isn’t always so friendly. Or protective. Two vans, one large trailer, and a laughing, wonderful group of incredible young men and women all in high spirits for the adventure that awaits. The thought of anything disastrous happening to them haunts me. And surprises me too. I didn’t expect this feeling, but I don’t doubt it’s validity. That’s my boy. It’s a piece of my heart on that road between here and the South. If I wasn’t worried just a little, that in itself would be worrisome. So I trust, and I remember to breathe. And to pray for them all. Especially those behind the wheel.
And so the expected excitement of sending him off and a week with my spouse has been replaced with this Mama’s heart, and a need to comfort myself. With an abundance of fresh blueberries on hand, a warm muffin seemed perfect. But like this unexpected shift in my day, my favorite recipe was lacking in one very important ingredient and for a moment I actually felt like I had no energy to punt and see what happened. Most of my recipes are sort of like Hail Mary passes, or the punt that will win the game. I close my eyes, do what needs to get done and hope for the best. It’s like craving lemonade when faced with oranges, or planning the trip of a lifetime only to get diverted to a different destination.
Or like this particular morning, wanting bran muffins with fresh blueberries, and ending up with something more like oatmeal. It’s reaching for dried cherries to add some flavor, and dumping what was left of some crushed almonds into the batter to use them up. It meant adding some yogurt to regular milk to create a buttermilk-like tang. More importantly, it meant drowning out the recurring voice in my head that left me lost and empty. The task of making a simple muffin, with necessary improvising, took away the worry. And the result was both peace of mind, with a side of oh-so-very-delicious.
Kate’s Blueberry Bran Muffins
Heat oven to 425°. Prepare muffins tins with cooking spray, or liners.
Mix together in a large bowl:
1-1/2 c. All Bran Cereal
1/2 c. whole rolled oats
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
Allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes, until softened.
In a separate bowl, whisk together:
3/4 c. unbleached AP flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. ground flaxseed
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
When bran mixture is soft, gently stir in the flour mixture only until just incorporated. At this point, add a cup of frozen blueberries and gently fold them in. Scoop into prepared muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to wire cooling rack.
KATE’S NOTES: If you don’t have All Bran cereal on hand, you can use all oatmeal in the first step. Another option to use would be a commercial multi-grain hot cereal mix like Bobs Red Mill 7-Grain or 10-Grain for the All-Bran. I’ve done this both ways and the results are always delicious. The ground flaxseed is my addition. Leave it out if you don’t have it on hand. And you can use all white flour, or all wheat flour for these if you wish.
To sub for buttermilk, you can use the lemon juice/vinegar option (1 t. either juice or vinegar per 1 c. liquid, stir together then allow to sit for 10 minutes to curdle) or you can mix about 1/3 c. of plain or vanilla yogurt into 1-1/2 c. of plain milk, or even soy milk. I use soy milk, and love how the added yogurt gives it some extra moisture.
Some dried fruit is a nice addition to these; you can use apricots, cherries, figs, dates or prunes. Mince about a 1/2 c. of your preferred fruit and add it to the cereal mixture in the first step. The soaking in buttermilk softens it greatly, and it almost melts in the oven leaving tiny, tangy sweet pockets in your muffins. And adding in 1/3 to 1/2 c. of your choice of chopped nuts also makes for a fine addition.