I can take a lot of things. Like, Nicole going to a Toy Story birthday party and bringing home an unexpected party favor, namely the flu and all the resulting complications. Hopefully, not of the medical nature. No. I am not complaining. I am fully aware that it comes with having kids. I guess you might want to expect stray pets, bad grades, and harmful germs at some point. Fine. I made my choice and I’ll live with it. Gladly.
I can take it even if it happens to be in the middle of the summer and the worst of it falls on the 4th of July, my favorite holiday, and the week that I traditionally take off from work every year to enjoy the season’s most pleasurable activities that I plan months . . . years . . . ahead. I knew we would be coming back to Mark’s Blueberry Farm in Clermont, FL the minute we left its premises last June.
A piece of open, hilly space surrounded by grand pine trees reminded me of Russia, its vastness, its wilderness. The exhilarating smell of fresh air infused with pine tree sap and honey from a nearby honey stand and the intoxicating sweet and earthy taste of fresh, plum blueberries clouded my senses like a glass of good tequila-based margarita, rousing all kinds of blueberry-inspired desserts in my mind. One in particular stood out. A bowl of just-picked wild blueberries, mashed with a fork and sprinkled with caster sugar to steep their juices, that’s asking to dunk in it a tear of freshly baked country bread that’s still warm and balmy and to wash it all down with a cup of steamy milk that just came from under the cow. Simple. Realistic. And insanely fresh. Oh, so fresh. Fresh does it. It turns the simplest ingredients into the most exquisite dishes with impacts to last through years.
Needless to say, very little crop made it home (it’s a three-hour drive from where we live, by the way). Maybe because very little went into the baskets during the picking stage. Mostly into the mouths, I am honest to say. But again, my senses were clouded, remember?
I can take letting this go until next year since the blueberry season is drawing to a close and I am looking at traveling much shorter distances to maximize the qualities of time-sensitive ingredients. Looks like I’ll be blueberry picking in Publix right round the corner.
I can take a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit for a few nights since if Motrin fails to bring it down, I can always resort to an old wives’ remedy and wipe myself with a cloth soaked in a solution of vodka and water mixed together in equal parts. I especially sleep well on those nights.
I can take fireworks on a smaller scale. Single lights, flashing up the distant skies eerily tuned in to the popping sound of the popcorn being microwaved for dinner as the three of us lie in bed with various degrees of fever, taking turns coughing, sneezing, and blowing, would probably be the most memorable show for the years to come.
Yes, I can forgo a lot of things but I absolutely refuse to lose my appetite to the flu or any cold for that matter. It starts pretty simple. You lose your sense of smell to a runny nose, your sense of taste to a sore throat, your kitchen to medicinal pills, syrups, and powders. Muffled senses. Suppressed appetite. Abandoned kitchen. Vicious cycle.
So I couldn’t cook much for a few weeks but I did a lot of cookbook leafing, planning my grand return to the kitchen with something along the lines of . . . But then Nicole pitched in. She saw a picture of blueberry muffins in the July 2012 issue of Parents and said very matter-of-factly, “Mama, we are making these.”
I guess, I’ll have to take this decision infringement, too . . .
“Okay, honey, but not these. Similar, but not these. Let’s see what we’ve got in our fridge and pantry first.”
Publix fresh blueberries! Whoo hoo! Blueberry kefir. Interesting . . . How about some lemon? Juice and zest of one lemon? Intriguing combo—blueberry and lemon, huh? Steel cut oats. Possible to incorporate? I think I have an idea. Let’s toast them to release their nutty flavor first and then pulverize them into a fine but very nutrient-rich powder. We will need a lot of nutrients to make a full and speedy recovery. And sugar. Of course, sugar, kitten. Isn’t it the secret ingredient of all the sweet dishes? But not a lot. Eggs? Yes, we have a couple left. Flour? Needless to ask. Indispensable and on call 24/7.
Let’s see what we can make from these. Roll up your sleeves, Nicole!
Recipe for Olga’s Original Blueberry, Lemon, and Oatmeal Muffins:
1. 1 ¼ cups all-purpose unbleached 30% ultragrain flour
2. ¾ cup steel cut oats, toasted and ground
3. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
4. ½ teaspoon baking soda
5. ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
6. 2 eggs
7. ¼ cup plus1 tablespoon lemon juice
8. 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
9. 1 cup blueberry-flavored kefir, available in Publix as well as many health and ethnic food stores
10. 1/3 cup plus1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
11. 1/3 cup canola oil
12. 1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread about 2/3 cup steel cut oats on an ungreased cookie sheet and toast them for 10-12 minutes or until fragrant and golden brown. Let cool. In a food processor, grind the oats into a powder. You should have about ¾ cup.
2. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Line 16 2 ¾ -inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour, ground oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.
4. In another bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add kefir, lemon juice and peel, oil, and sugar. Stir well until sugar dissolves.
5. Add kefir mixture all at once to flour mixture and stir just until moistened.
6. Fold in blueberries.
7. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full.
8. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
9. Serve warm.
Makes 16 muffins.