Cherry Almond Muffins

Over the last year I've evolved into a morning person. An early bird, if you will. Waking up with the sunrise and falling asleep shortly after sunset has slowly become a way of life for me. I've grown to embrace it. Some days, I can't even imagine sleeping through the early morning hours I've learned to love.

It never used to be this way.

I suffered from insomnia for many years. I was a night owl by circumstance, not by choice. Growing up, the thought of going to bed was enough to instill a deep dread within me. During my teenage years, it would take me nearly two hours to fall asleep at night, every night. Two hours. I would lay there, staring at the ceiling, imagining far away places and wishing my dreams would take me there. I longed for rest. Reading books, staying away from the television, trying to turn off my mind—nothing seemed to help.

Sleep eluded me.

As a result, I would sleep very late into the morning hours. The idea of waking earlier than 10 am sent shivers down my spine. I became the typical teenager, hardly sleeping during the week and crashing on the weekends.

During university, my symptoms only worsened. I would be awake until the wee hours of the morning doing homework or spending time with friends. Unfortunately for me, my courses were always early in the day. Instead of lying awake in bed hoping the sandman would drop by for a visit, I simply didn't sleep. For an entire semester, I averaged between 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I had cured my insomnia, but replaced it with mental and physical exhaustion.

Was it healthy? Certainly not. But it prevented me from spending those long hours in the dark, dreaming of sleep. I've had enough of those hours to last me a lifetime.

Last summer, I was determined to find a healthy balance. Each morning, both weekdays and weekends, I would set my alarm for the same time. I started late and gradually set it earlier over the next few months. I wouldn't go to bed until I was tired. Whether my drowsiness set in at 11 o'clock at night or 2 o'clock in the morning, it didn't matter. When my alarm went off the next morning, it was time to get up. No snoozing. No just five more minutes.

I gave my body a schedule and it had learned to adjust.

Every now and then I still have trouble falling asleep, but my insomnia has essentially disappeared. Though I'm often awake at the crack of dawn, I've grown to love it. My mornings feel long and luxurious, like I'm living on stolen time. I use these new found hours to go to the gym or bake sweet treats for you.

Being an early bird also means I get to enjoy muffins when they are meant to be enjoyed—in the morning, with a cup of tea.

IMG_9854 copy.jpg

These Cherry Almond Muffins are filling, yet retain a lighter texture. The cherries bring a soft sweetness to each bite. Almonds are mixed into the batter as well as sprinkled on top. During baking, the sprinkled almonds become lightly toasted, adding another dimension of flavor to these simple but delicate muffins. These are best served warm with a small pat of butter.

One Year Ago: Mocha Frappuccino

Cherry Almond Muffins
Adapted from Keep It Simple Foods

Yields 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup sliced almonds, divided
Crystal or sanding sugar, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients, except the cherries and sliced almonds, until smooth. Fold in the halved cherries and 1/2 cup sliced almonds.

Spoon batter into a well-greased muffin tin, filling the cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle remaining sliced almonds and a pinch of sugar evenly over the muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before storing.

Best served warm with a small pat of butter.