When my husband and I got married several years ago, Ray Charles’ daughter, Sheila Raye Charles, made a surprise guest appearance at our wedding. Neither of us had any connection to her, but the band that played at our reception knew her well and thought we would enjoy it if she sang a few familiar songs. I can’t remember everything she sang, but I do remember her belting “America the Beautiful”, and I remember $170 of wedding make-up streaming down my face as I wept. It was incredible.
Over the past couple of days, I was again overcome with emotion by America, the beautiful. This time it wasn’t the song lyrics that got me, but rather the unadulterated physical beauty of this country.
Earlier in the week my husband suggested we take our daughters (ages 1 and almost 3) on their first real camping trip at Yellowstone National Park, so on Thursday we packed up our tent and enough supplies to last us through the winter and headed south.
When we arrived at our campsite Evelyn, 1, and I pitched the tent while Tim and Annabelle headed toward the woods with a hatchet and a can of bear spray to collect fire wood.
After returning with one stick and demonstrating her ‘hatcheting’ skills for me, Annabelle made quick friends with an older girl from the next campsite over. They spent hours riding their bikes, climbing anything that could be climbed, and dashing through the woods. The way the two girls played together despite age, ability, and language differences was beautiful.
It rained all night (and snowed in the mountains!), but we managed to stay completely dry in our $69.95 off-brand tent. In the morning Annabelle and Evelyn peacefully shared a bowl of cereal in the dry tent while Tim and I broke camp. That too was beautiful.
We spent Friday touring Yellowstone without an agenda. We drove slow. We stopped to see sites we’ve neglected on previous trips. We loaded and unloaded the girls dozens of times so they too could experience the overwhelming beauty that was afoot. We watched in awe as herds of wild buffalo grazed the expansive land. We left the main road to seek out a petrified tree. We hiked Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon with a weary toddler and a fussy baby. We all took a dip in the Boiling River, a real hot spring heated by the Yellowstone Supervolcano. We stood shoulder to shoulder with people visiting from all around the world as a black bear feasted upon a carcass in the river; it didn’t matter where the person standing next to me was from, the beauty was universal and unifying. We drove, we hiked, we admired, and I cried.
I’m not so naïve to think that this is how the world is, but for 24 hours, it’s how our world was.
These everything muffins were supposed to accompany us on our adventure. They make the perfect on-the-go snack. They’re nutritious and satisfying and have a high portability factor. I didn’t get around to making them before we left so we enjoyed them together, as a family, this morning when my little cubs awoke. We recounted our experiences and I tried not to cry. It was beautiful.
- 1 cup Chopped nuts and/or seeds (I usually use walnuts and pepitas)
- 1 cup Old fashioned oats
- ¾ cup Whole wheat flour
- ¾ cup Bran cereal, crushed
- 1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons Baking soda
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ cup Buttermilk, OR liquid whey*, OR faux buttermilk (see vegan note below)
- ¼ cup Honey OR real maple syrup
- ¼ cup Unsweetened applesauce
- 3 Medium bananas, mashed
- 1 Large carrot, grated
- 1 Large egg OR Flax egg (see vegan note below)
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line the tin with papers. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add all of the wet ingredients. Mix just until moistened. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with additional nuts or seeds if desired.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean. These muffins keep very well in a sealed container for up to 3 days. They also freeze nicely for several weeks; just allow them to come to room temperature before eating.
To make faux buttermilk, measure 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup and then add enough nut milk to make ½ cup liquid. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients.
To make a flax egg, combine 1 tablespoon flax seed meal with 2 tablespoons water. Allow mixture to rest for 5 minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients.
*Liquid whey is a byproduct of homemade yogurt. If you have an excess of whey in your refrigerator, don't throw it out! It's delicious in baked goods, especially muffins and bread.