in search of the brain-building muffin

by bam

we are inept most of the time.

unable, really, to leapfrog into the lives of the ones we love, make things right, stop that boy in the next desk from kicking under the table. stop the teachers from piling on 200 pages of reading. per class. on a wednesday night, due thursday.

and so, we–the ones left behind when the school bus rumbles away, when the car door slams and the tall man-boy lopes down the sidewalk, back into the gaping mouth of the high school, where we sometimes fear it could swallow him whole–we take in deep breaths, and we get to work where we can.

in the kitchen, often as not.

heck, it’s the one room in the house where when you mix and you pour, and you blend and you play like a chemist, it’s the one laboratory where maybe, as you yank open the hot metal door, step clear of the 400-fahrenheit cloud, pull out a pan or a tin, you’ve something to show for all of your worry and stirring.

so it was, as this school year, this ominous school year in our house where the tall one is buried under the weight of AP this and AP that, and the prospect of college is not too far away, so it was that i got down to the science of shaving off seconds from the pre-dawn rush out the door, while calculating maximum protein-load per bite.

this year, i sighed, the soggy bowl of cornflakes will not suffice.

i imagined those brain cells, the ones that once upon a time i’d studied so breathlessly just after an ultrasound when all i saw was cavernous black in the space where i thought a brain ought to be, and thus by the end of the weekend i’d convinced myself that maybe the brain–or surely a lobe of it–had somehow gone missing.

yes, i imagined those brain cells, all right. thought hard about all the late nights they’d be putting in, the teeny-tiny letters on the thousands and thousands of pages they’d have to make sense of, the never-ending calculus equations that just might drive those brain cells to send up red flags, call for the coast guard.

i imagined those cells and i got to cookin’.

which at my house begins on the bookshelf. and often gets stuck there for long days on end.

i had decided, in that way that mothers and other crazed caretakers do, that if i could come up with a particular formula, i could bulk up those brain cells, make ‘em smoke all through the morning, and late, late into the night.

why, i imagined my quixotic muffins might hold the holy grail of what every hard-driving junior in high school longs for, minus the steroids.

i invested prestidigitous powers in whatever i’d sift, blend and stir into that cheery red mixing bowl. i pictured popeye, ‘cept i’d swapped out the spinach for super-pro muffins.

i tell you if i could have poured whole cans of straight-up protein and brain-stoking elixirs into that batter, i woulda done so.

in a jiffy.

as it was, i stumbled over page after washed-out page of what amounted to little more than starter muffins. brain food for dummies, heaped deeply in sugar. not nearly what was needed to get a 6-foot-2 bleary-eyed boy up and out the door, 50-pound book sack in tow.

so i futzed and i figured. subbed out a half cup of this, for a big scoop of that. in the end, we believe–my subject and i–we’ve arrived upon something quite fine, a muffin worth sharing with you.

along with the muffins, which i’ve vowed to bake every sunday, to store in the fridge, for two or three at a 6:50 gulp, smeared deeply in almond butter, i hard-boiled eggs.

learned a trick there, too, from my old friend mark bittman, he who teaches me “how to cook everything.” (psst, that’s the name of his bible, all 944 pages, many of which are splatted and smeared at my house.)

take a pin, sterilize (which means light a match to the pin and let burn till the tip turns red). poke into the rounded, not the pointy, end of the egg. slowly–lowered down on a spoon, as if a queen going for a swan ride, with that much dignity, please–immerse into a pot of gently boiling water. all this poking and tenderness results in an egg that boils perfectly (10 to 15 minutes’ll do it) and sheds its shell with nary a tussle (dunk in a cold bath for a minute or two, just after lifting from the boiling swirls).

so there you have it: brain-stoking muffins, hard-boiled eggs, a banana if needed. washed down with a big swig of milk. all you need do is open your mouth, dash out the door, and mama’s hard labor takes care of the rest.

here’s the recipe, should you too have a brain that needs building.

brain-building muffins
adapted from quite a few places
yield: 12 muffins
5.4 grams protein per muffin, only 92 calories apiece
• 1 1/2 cups oat bran (swap out 1/3 cup whey powder–meaning subtract 1/3 cup of the oat bran and replace with equal amount whey powder–if you are inclined to super-bulk the protein)
• 1 cup egg whites (from container) or 6 egg whites
• 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/2 cup applesauce w/ cinnamon
• 2 Tbs. almond or peanut butter (all-natural is best)
• extra dash of cinnamon & nutmeg
• 3 tablespoons (or 2 long squeezes) of honey
• 1 banana, mashed
• 1 cup frozen blueberries
• extra almond or peanut butter (to spread on top before eating)
1. preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. mix all ingredients together until well blended. add the blueberries at the very end so they don’t get too mashed up.
3. bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
4. let muffins cool on rack. slather with nut butter, if so inclined, before eating. store in fridge.

run out the door, brain cells hummin’ along.

so there’s my breakfast homework for the week. what’s your secret-formula high-potency mind-builder? what are the ways you boost the ones you love?

see you below.