Three adults and four children left the North for the Mason-Dixon Line. As the only adult female in the group, I made sure we had plenty of healthy food to nibble on towards our destination. As mentioned before, eating healthy on the road is easy, if well planned. For this trip, I packed toasted pumpkins seeds with dried apricots (try purchasing dried fruit without sulfur dioxide, a chemical preservative retaining color and flavor), Beet Leaf Pesto Tuna Wraps (I swear it’s good, for two out of the four kids love it!), and Blueberry Muffins with Almond Granola Topping. If you haven’t noticed, prices for berries have dropped significantly. This is the time of the year, in which berries are in season. In addition, they’re sugary sweet, tart and plump.
Once we made it to the destination, the kids were organized into teams to play a rough and tumble touch football game as the chicken was placed on the grill. When dinner was served, we ate a traditional Southern meal of barbecue chicken, my mac and cheese*, candied yams, Southern-Style Collard Greens, cabbage, green beans, rice and peas, turkey burgers, and hot dogs. When presented with good Southern food, my careful eating habits stay in New York. True Southern food is not scared of seasoning.
Early the next morning, one of the kids had horseback riding lessons. The last two blueberry muffins were gently warmed for his quick breakfast. He left the house with a cousin around the same time I started making a breakfast of Green Pepper, Onion, and Cheese Omelets, warm collard greens from the night before, turkey bacon, toast, and cinnamon rolls. Luckily, two adorable, attentive, little helpers helped me cook breakfast for eight people. These girls are amazing. They expertly flipped the bacon, whisked the eggs, sauteed the green peppers and onions, and placed icing on the cinnamon rolls. Never once did they get bored or loose interest. After all, all four kids have extremely excellent grades.
After breakfast, we went to the horse ranch to pick up the other two kids. The visit brought back memories of begging my parents for horseback riding lessons, but they were too expensive. Sometimes, I wonder if I had the courage as a young child to learn horseback riding. When I was a young kid, I remember visiting older cousins with a gigantic cow near the front entrance to their house. At the sight of the cow, my poor little feet were frozen scared-stiff to the ground. My parents begged me to come to the front door, for the cow was harmless. My younger cousins loudly laughed at me. Eventually, Dad carried me to the front door. Perhaps, it wasn’t a money issue about my request for horseback riding lessons. My parents knew my scary heart. Even today, as I walked through the horse stalls, with every movement, a whine, and a wail, my heart froze solid from fear. Still, these enormous creatures beckoned me to softly touch their nose.
On our way back from the horse ranch, we made a u-turn for a watermelon stand. My boyfriend’s Father is a musician who complains during his performances about so-called organic watermelons without black seeds. There’s a deeper meaning to his observation, for these sweet watermelons justifies his poetic complaint against the neutered varieties in New York.
Less than 24 hours since our arrival, we started our return trip back to New York City. It was a mini-vacation truly meant for the kids. Hopefully, they will remember their trip fondly.
*Mac and Cheese was frozen solid in a sealed container the day before the trip. We allowed it to defrost on ice while traveling five hours. Once at the destination, the mac and cheese was placed into a buttered dish and breadcrumbs were sprinkled on top. We completed the dish by baking it for at least 15 minutes.
Blueberry Muffins with Almond Granola Topping
2 cups flour
1/4-cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
The zest of one lemon
3/4-cup organic buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg
1-1/2-cup fresh/frozen blueberries tossed with 1 to 2 tbsp. flour
Almond Granola Topping (See recipe below)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly butter a muffin pan with 12 compartments.
2. Lightly mix flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl for the liquid ingredients.
3. Whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, and egg in a separate bowl. Pour liquids in the center of the large bowl with the flour ingredients. Stir until mixture is just moist to form the batter, but DO NOT OVER MIX.
4. Lightly mix the blueberries into batter. DO NOT OVER MIX THE BATTER.
5. Fill muffin pan with blueberry batter until two-thirds full.
6. Sprinkle Almond Granola Topping (see recipe below) over the blueberry muffin batter.
7. Bake muffins for 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove muffins immediately from the pan onto a wire rack (use extra Almond Granola Topping for ice cream or yogurt).
8. Enjoy warm or refrigerate extra muffins.
Almond Granola Topping
1/4-cup whole, raw almonds
1/4-cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. cold butter; cut into pieces
1/2-cup old-fashioned regular or multigrain oatmeal
1. In a food processor, pulse almonds five times until roughly chopped.
2. Add brown sugar and flour to the almonds and process for five seconds.
3. Add butter pieces to the almond mixture and pulse for six times or until crumbly.
4. Add oats and pulse for three times.
5. Place aside for the blueberry muffin batter.
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