Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Emergency Substitutions

One morning in the early fall, my dear friend from Ohio and I were chatting on Facebook. One of her comments was how exhausting it must be for those who teach full time in the school system these days. Since I had been a substitute for ten years, I could totally agree with her statement. Recently, I had substituted two days back to back which I have rarely done since my retirement nearly a decade ago. I have grown to love my more reflective, quiet lifestyle.

As we continued to chat, I shared with her the next day was National Teacher Appreciation Day. When I think back to the days I was in the classroom full time, I remember the incredible blessing it was for someone to recognize my responsibilities and commitment to children. Since I'd been thinking for days of stirring up a batch of Harvest Muffins, our conversation served to motivate me to get in the kitchen and get started. Last year I'd baked a batch and tied them up in pretty plastic baggies complete with fall stickers and set off to the nursing home and other shut in folks I had been visiting. It was such a blessing for me personally, I looked forward to a similar experience. This year the recipients would be a different group, a group of people who daily give of themselves to improve the lives of children. There was only one problem. I'd realized the night before I was missing some ingredients for this recipe.

Baking is like therapy for me and so I learned a long time ago to adjust measurements and ingredients without ruining the end result. I discovered in my first cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOKBOOK, a table of emergency substitutions that came in handy for a busy teacher coming home at the end of the day to the same problem. No buttermilk for corn bread... never fear... a tablespoon of vinegar added to my regular milk would bring quite similar results. It is much the same when substituting in classrooms that are not your own. Many times you feel you just don't have all the ingredients necessary to make things happen in the same way as the teacher in absentia. It can be quite frustrating when a book or teaching tool needed for the lesson cannot be found and ten children agree to go find it, leaving their seats all at once without permission. I often find myself saying, “I'm not going to do things 'just like your teacher' but if I follow your teacher's plan and you follow me, we'll get the job done and we'll enjoy our time together.

I quickly came up with an alternate plan as I often have to do when substituting. I laid my recipe for Harvest Muffins alongside my recipe for Power Muffins. The ingredients were similar, especially in the ratios of dry to wet ingredients. I decided to combine the two recipes to come up with an original that certainly sounded as if it might work. The differences were subtle. One included a fourth cup more milk, while the other used all whole wheat flour instead of a mixture of white and wheat. Both included healthy ingredients of fruit and nuts and a hint of cinnamon to bring the flavor of fall alive in the finished product.

One striking difference remains in that the Harvest Muffin includes a scrumptious topping that includes brown sugar. This topping gives it more eye appeal when sealed in the decorative bag for delivery and possibly a few added calories as well. Not enough change to quibble over if you ask me. My decision was finalized. I would make Power Muffins. Certainly, teachers need some power in their mornings these days. Who would know they weren't my original idea of Harvest Muffins? They shared some of the same ingredients. It seemed something like my experience as a substitute as opposed to my experiences as a full time teacher. The years I spent as a dedicated professional, I was more fully equipped and informed to bring the lesson presentation to the end result that is needed in today's classroom. I know my efforts as a substitute might be a “less than the usual” experience for the students, but I pray the missing ingredients of a full knowledge of  the current curriculum , will be supplemented by the love I feel for the children.

I added two spices, nutmeg and just a dash of cloves, to my Power Muffins for variety. I guess you could say my recipe has turned into my own flavorful creation. It was in my classroom teaching experience, I learned first to adjust to change and adapt to sometimes unfavorable circumstances. Some days were very difficult and required great flexibility, but at the end of most days there was the blessing of seeing the finished result of something quite amazing come together.


As I reflect back on my conversation with my friend, my prayer for teachers today is that God will be with them as He was with me for nearly three decades, helping them adapt to the difficulties of the profession He has called them to and giving them the power to overcome the obstacles facing both students and teachers today. Most of all, I pray that in times of great stress and need of physical strength, they would exchange His strength for their own. His power is available in emergency situations! It is not a substitute, but the REAL power to overcome. Blessings on all who accept the call to teach! You are special to the One who called you every day!


1 ½ cups whole wheat or all purpose flour

¾ ups ground flax seed

¾ cup oat bran

¾ cup honey

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

¾ cup milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 TBS oil

2 cups shredded carrots

2 apples peeled and shredded

½ cup raisins

½ cup chopped nuts

Combine dry ingredients, then add liquids.. apples, carrots

I added a small container of pears and a little of the juice

as well as 1 tsp. nutmeg and a dash of ground cloves

Bake at 350 degrees in muffin pan sprayed with Pam for about 20 to 25 minutes

Makes 2 dozen... freeze well


1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 TBS baking powder

1 tsp. Ground cinnamon

½ tsp. Salt

1 cup Special K Redberry cereal

1 cup fat free milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

½ cup chunky applesauce

¼ cup brown sugar

1 large banana

2 TBS butter melted

½ cup chopped pecans


½ cup Special K Redberry cereal (crushed0

½ sup sweetened dried cranberries and chopped apricots

½ cup sliced almonds

2 TBS brown sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Line or grease muffin tins

Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt

In separate bowl combine cereal and milk. Let stand for 3 minutes

Add egg, applesauce, sugar, banana and butter...Mix

Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and blend

Stir in pecans... batter will be lumpy.. do not overmix

Fill each cup ½ to ¾ full.

For topping combine cereal, cranberries, apricots and almonds and brown sugar

Sprinkle over top of each muffin

Bake 22 to 25minutes. Makes one dozen

5 g. Protein

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