Post-Grad Lessons in Morning Management

It’s funny how twenty one years of night owl-ism can dissipate, quite literally, overnight.

As a child, I could be found admiring the funny ladies in Nick @ Nite’s classic lineup (back when it was at its finest – Lucy, Ethel, Laverne, Shirley, Mrs. Cunningham, the list goes on) into the wee small hours. In high school, it was nights spent yakking on the flip phone for hours, making drama out of everything and nothing, and sleepless sleepovers. Saturdays were for sleeping until 11:30 and nothing more.

College wasn’t really dotted with studious all-nighters, but rather countless late night group trips and delivery calls to the campus-adjacent eatery for thin crust pizzas or fries or (I can practically taste it) the best peanut butter chocolate milkshakes to ever pass through post-adolescent lips. At 19 and 20, I could still stay wide eyed for the 1 a.m. newspaper production nights, the last regional rail train back from a concert downtown, or the endless dorm room antics.

But then graduation happens. 9 to 5 happens. Everything changes.

Whereas my younger days were spent dreaming about the late night Domino’s pasta bowl order (for shame, such shame) or stroll down the street for ice cream, now I am typically passed out before 11 o’clock at night, with my mouth already watering for black coffee and a granola-based cereal.

Earlier rising also means developing a new kind of meal time, one perhaps even more sacred than the late night IMGP4916snack: Second breakfast.

When you’re waking up at 6:30 a.m. and in the office by 8, a measly bowl of Rice Chex is not going to carry you until noon. Hunger strikes religiously by 10. All etiquette, desk-based productivity and conference call participation can swirl down the drain at that point unless you’ve premeditated some mid-morning sustenance.

Second breakfasts are all about choices. Yes, 7-11 is right around the corner and, yes, they have two-pack cherry Pop-Tarts and those sinful General Mills “frosting milk and cereal” bars. And sure, a new French bakery also opened up just steps away and what better to help melt away a.m. agony than with a buttery croissant?

There are desperate days that will warrant both alternatives. Morphing from a night owl to a morning person is easy, said no one in the history of forever.

With slightly more effort (than it would take to walk to 7-11) and a little bit of planning though, there can be more to look forward to in the morning than just a bowl of grains.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Makes 12-14 muffins. Adapted from Shutterbean.

1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons (if you don’t have a pro grater, use a peeler and finely chop up the flakes)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 c sour cream or plain yogurt
1 c whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tbsp poppy seeds (a ridiculous investment perhaps, but there will be future uses, promise)

Preheat the oven to 375º (with the rack at mid-level) and grease the cups of your muffin tin. No paper cup linings required (unless you find/have adorable ones that beg to be used.)

You’ll need 3 Goldilocks bowls (S, M, L.) In the small bowl, mix together the sugar and lemon zest (this will look beautiful). In the medium-sized bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, yogurt/sour cream, milk and vanilla until well incorporated. In the largest bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder, then mix in the salt and lemon/sugar beauties with a wooden spoon.

Next, add the butter cubes and “cut”them into the dry mixture until the butter pieces are the size of peas. There are fancy pastry cutter gizmos available out there, or you could continuously run two knives through the bowl in opposite directions (and get a couple steps closer to Michelle Obama arms) instead. Once the butter is sized appropriately, mix in the poppy seeds.

Spread all the dry ingredients up around the sides of the bowl, creating a well in the center, then pour in the wet ingredients. Gently fold everything together without over-mixing.

Using the all-time favorite ice cream scoop, fill each muffin cup until the batter peeks slightly over the top of the pan. Bake for 24-30 minutes or until a perfect shade of light golden brown.

As difficult as it will be, let the muffins cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before popping them out and shoving three in your mouth.

To store for more than a day, arrange any excess muffins in an air-tight container with paper towels lining the bottom, and each layer between stacked muffins.

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