At about the 18-month mark, my first-born son, Michael seemed to have a non-verbal revelation that manifested like this: I’m no baby! Stop feeding me like one. (And by the way, Mom, I don’t need you. P.S. I hate baby spoons!) I was shocked (and shattered) when he pushed the baby food away for the first time.

Once I got over the initial rejection, I had my own kind of revelation: Get a grip, your little boy is growing up—you’ll have to adjust. With a knot in my stomach and banana mush in my hair, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was going to feed him.

As if that first declaration of independence wasn’t enough of a bombshell, one Tuesday morning, Michael woke up at 4:30 a.m. (with a huge grin). The next day, he did it again. I kept telling myself it was a phase, as I continued to scoop him out of his crib every day at that pre-dawn hour. I hate that time of day. Did I mention that I was already sleep deprived?

At the time, we were living in downtown Chicago in abnormally frigid temperatures. My husband drove our car to work every day, so my mode of transportation was the stroller. So, at 4:30 a.m., there we sat in our pajamas—Michael and I—trapped, in a pool of board books, foam letters, blocks, and maracas. There are only so many times you can read “Good Night Moon.”

And then I discovered something that worked. Baking muffins became our new game. We bonded. We shared. Michael delighted in watching the muffins grow, not to mention eating the finished product. And 4:30 a.m. became more fun for me, for my little alarm clock—for us.

Lesson learned. When given a lemon, make lemonade….or lemonade muffins.


Strawberry Lemonade Muffins (makes 12)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 2 large lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
1 cup strawberries, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with paper liners.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, mix butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk.
4. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ingredients. Stir.
5. Fold in the lemon juice and lemon zest.
6. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan, filling each muffin cup about 2/3 full.
7. Sprinkle tops of muffins with chopped strawberries. Prod into batter.
8. Bake for 4 minutes at 400 (this helps muffins to rise), then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
9. Allow muffins to cool in the muffin pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.


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