28 preschoolers + 5 days = 140 snacks. My first “snack week” began yesterday with the presentation of Blueberry Swirl Muffins.

This week is my first stint as the preschool “snack mom.” With a $40 budget, I need to bring 28 servings of a peanut-free snack to school each day. Per usual, I never like to take the easy route, so my initial plans involved some very elaborate recipes. I underestimated the amount of work in preparing 28 snacks for five days in a row while managing Mini Whipped, taking care of a kamikaze, danger-seeking 9-month old, and maintaining my normal work duties.

I also have a bit of learning to do about how picky many children are. We have the good fortune of having two good eaters. Baby Whipped recently put her hand straight into my bowl of chili and gobbled up the beans and ground turkey, which signaled the end of me preparing any special meals for her.  When Mini Whipped and I brainstormed snack week ideas together, I had to delicately shoot down her plans for cup of cold black beans or her favorite molasses bran muffins. Not only was I quite sure that many kids would not like her selections but I figured that the teachers wouldn’t appreciate the extra doses of fiber.

Blueberry muffins seemed like a strong start to win over the tough 28 customers. I didn’t have a standby recipe so I turned to my new favorite cookbook, The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. I chose the Blueberry Swirl Muffin recipe as I knew that Mini Whipped would have a grand time serving as my “swirl expert.

The muffins were pretty and though a bit more dense than I anticipated, the crumb was good and the flavor heightened by the swirl. On Monday, I stayed at school until mid morning when the debut snack was served. Many children were thrilled to spy the muffins on the tables exclaiming, “muffins are my favorite!” As I approached the 3-year old table, where Mini Whipped had confidently taken the head seat, reviews were mixed. A few boys had pushed it away and one had exclaimed that he wanted pretzels instead.

The teacher thoughtfully brought out ziplock bags for the kids who couldn’t finish their entire muffin so that they could bring them home. I think they were being respectful of my homemade creation.

As I prepared to leave and gave Mini Whipped a kiss goodbye, she hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “You made a really good snack mom.”


Blueberry Swirl Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.

Lemon-Sugar Topping:
1/3 cup (21/3 ounces) sugar
1½ teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon

2 cups (about 10 ounces) fresh blueberries, picked over
1 1/8 cups (8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (12½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (see note)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 11/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

4. Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

5. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.