Make Ahead Tart Cherry Muffins for Busy Back-to-School Mornings

Recipe developer and healthy living blogger, Dara Michalski, of Cookin' Canuck shares her top three tips for busy back-to-school mornings, and a flavorful breakfast recipe both kids and parents will love!

It’s that time of year when I try to wrap my mind around the school morning routine. I figure if I can mentally practice each step before the first day of school arrives then there might actually be a chance of getting the kids to school without the usual sense of panic and multiple requests. "Please, for the love of all that is good, get your shoes on NOW!” Sound familiar?

There are always going to be last-minute hang-ups – missing shoes, last trip to the bathroom and so on. To balance things out and keep us on schedule, I take control of the things that can be done ahead. Today I’m sharing my 3 favorite tips for saving time on school morning.

  • Nighttime lunches: I learned a long time ago that packing lunches in the morning leads to mass panic. Several years ago, I started making lunches the night before. Sandwiches, cut up vegetables, snacks – every single part of it packed into lunch boxes and ready to go for the morning. My boys are now old enough to make their own lunches, so they have taken over that part of the routine. Happy dance!
  • Make-ahead breakfast: I’m a stickler about breakfast in the morning. If my kids are going to be able to concentrate at school, their bodies and brains need fuel. As easy as it is to prepare a bowl of cereal with fruit, sometimes a grab-and-go breakfast option is necessary. That’s where a recipe like this one for whole wheat Montmorency tart cherry and almond muffins comes in handy. The wonderful sweet tart flavor of the tart cherries, along with the plumped up texture when baked, makes the muffins irresistibly good. Since my kids tend to gobble these up quickly for breakfast and snacks, I usually make double or even triple batches so that I can freeze the extras. Take a couple of muffins out of the freezer the night before or even pop them into the microwave to defrost them before heading out the door. Check out the full recipe here!
  • School bags at the ready: Right after lunches are packed the night before, school bags are next on the list. Completed homework is placed into a special “turn in” folder for each boy, and notebooks, textbooks and pencils are placed in their proper places. Before bedtime, the boys place their backpacks by the door so they just need to grab and go in the morning.


  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup Montmorency tart cherries
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons slivered almonds


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together the applesauce, yogurt, maple syrup and egg.

Add the applesauce mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Do not overmix. Add the Montmorency tart cherries and 1/3 cup of the slivered almonds. Stir to combine.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups (about ¼ cup each). Using the remaining slivered almonds to top the muffins.Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins come out clean, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the pan and allow to cool. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of Dara Michalski,