July 24, 2007

"...tastes like summer, and death."

On her blog, "Lo" recently wrote about summers on the lake and making artichoke-stuffed French bread, which she says "tastes like summer, and death."

And that got me thinking.

Every year, I am so excited for summer break. This summer, though, I taught Writing Camp (creative writing for middle school & high school kids) all day for 4 weeks, taught college classes 4 nights a week for 8 weeks, and worked at the winery every weekend. Not much of a break.

Like every year, I get nostalgic right after July 4th about how the summer is almost over, how I didn't get to do all that I had planned for the "break." Last summer, I wrote: "And now that July is here, I can glimpse the summer's end and feel my dreams of Summer Fun fading. I already mourn the sun. [...] The Fourth of July always signifies the midsummer mark for me...the beginning of the end, so to speak."

So, I can understand Lo's comparison of summer and death.

I remember visiting my uncle's farm during summer break. It was a quiet place, named the Blue Goose Farm, tucked into the hills of Alderson, West Virginia. He had cattle, chickens, and horses. I spent the days lounging, reading, walking around the property, enjoying lazy meals. Everything was handmade. I remember watching my British aunt making chicken and spicy peanut sauce. I had never eaten like this before. She sauteed chopped garlic until it browned, then added peanut butter and spices. I was amazed. I couldn't, however, bring myself to enjoy the meal, because I was convinced that they had slaughtered one of their chickens for it...one of the chickens I had fed that afternoon. (I didn't realize then that those were chickens for eggs, not for meat.)

One night I stirred a scoop of thick vanilla ice cream, one spoonful at a time, into a huge mug of hot coffee. I drank it once all the ice cream had melted. THAT'S the kind of lazy eating I am talking about.

More than anything, though, I remember picking wild blueberries in their backyard. There was always a big colander full in the sink . I ate blueberries all day long...in cereal at breakfast, handfuls for an afternoon snack, with ice cream for dessert.

When I think of summer, I think of those bittersweet berries. Bittersweet...in so many ways...like summer, and death.

My aunt & uncle no longer live on that farm. They are no longer married. I don't get to spend a lazy summer week with either of them. I've never eaten blueberries fresh off the bush since then.

In honor of those lazy summer vacations, I made blueberry muffins this weekend...during a lazy Sunday morning.

Blueberry Almond Muffins
slightly adapted from Cooking Light

makes about 30 muffins

For the muffins:

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour, divided
1  cup whole wheat flour
1  cup quick-cooking oats
1  cup sugar
1  tablespoon baking powder
1  teaspoon baking soda
1/4  teaspoon salt
2  cups vanilla yogurt
1/2  cup milk
3  tablespoons canola oil
2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1  large egg
1 1/2  cups fresh blueberries

For the topping:

1/4  cup all-purpose flour
1/4  cup slivered almond
1  tablespoon light brown sugar
1  tablespoon butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • To make the muffins, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. 
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla, and egg. 
  • Add the yogurt mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist. 
  • Fold in the blueberries. 
  • Spoon 2 rounded tablespoons batter into muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
  • To make the topping, combine 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, almonds, brown sugar, and butter. Sprinkle evenly over batter. 
  • Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. 
  • Cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack; then remove the muffins from the pans.

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Digital pics coming soon!

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