WE INTERRUPT YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING…
What a month it has been. I take a break from regularly scheduled programming – telling the tales of my week vacation out East, the recounting of fabulous, mouthwatering meals, of my falling in love with France all over again – in order just to catch up a bit, catch my blogging breath so to speak, and bake a little. I’ve been busy, so busy, and see that my kitchen has slowed down as has my blog. But where have I been?
My son, my baby boy, has flown the nest. Early morning on the last day of March we watched him walk away from us, through the metal detectors, watched the plane take off into the blue and carry him off to the other side of the world. He is now in New Orleans, volunteering, rebuilding, giving to others as he slides into adulthood, discovers who he is. He has dreamed of “becoming an American” for so many years and now he is living that dream. I hear the pleasure and pride in his voice when we speak on the phone, the surprise and thrill of doing a good job and being recognized and appreciated for what he, what they are doing for the community. He tells of neighborhood women and church groups bringing them hot meals and home-baked cakes, of local residents leaving them cold drinks and snacks at their work sites, of people recognizing them as lowernine.org on the street and in restaurants and saying hello, shaking their hands, thanking them for the effort they are doing. And my son is proud. As are his parents.
And my brother’s birthday has come and gone, this first birthday not followed up with a phone call, my sons and I singing “Happy Birthday to you, you belong in the zoo” loudly, joyously across the miles to him; no e-mails from him describing the birthday cake he baked for himself this year, the dinner he enjoyed with his friends, the concert they heard or jazz club visited. And so many thoughts flitted through my mind all day long of all the great meals he’ll never eat, wines he’ll never taste, films he’ll never see, moments in my sons’ lives he’ll no longer share with us. Tickets have been purchased, our places reserved, for that summer trip to Florida where we will be going through and dividing up his belongings and I know how many memories will slide through my mind as each object slips through my fingers, as I sit and think “is this all that is left? Is this all that it comes down to?” Yet know that his memory will live on with each cake I bake in one of his pans, each cream I turn out of one of those old copper jello molds, each pot of chili and red velvet cake made from his recipes, each time I slide one of his cookbooks off of my shelf. He loved great food and wine, was a fantastic, creative, passionate cook and baker and that, I will make sure, will live on in my kitchen.
And vacation. We took one week off and got in the car and drove off into the distance, east towards adventure and romance. We headed up into the mountains leaving computers, phones, work, worries and Boston behind and laced on our walking shoes, shrugged into our padded coats and headed even further up into the mountains, getting lost, caught in barbed wire, stared at by insolent cows. We stomped in snow and threw a real snowball or two at each other, ate soft, chewy baguette stuffed with thick slices of local cheese, laughed, chatted and felt the weight of the world slide right off of our shoulders. The evenings were spent savoring gourmet delights while candlelight flickered in our eyes and we planned the next day’s pleasures. Then off to Lyon and Annecy and some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten, one gorgeous city and a trip back in time to ancient Gaul.
And my huge success. I am so proud. Thanks to a dear twitter friend reaching out to me, I am now a proud contributor to the Huffington Post Food section and my first article has been published. I invite each and everyone of you to hop over there, read my article and please leave a comment if you are so inspired. And all Retweets and Facebook shares are greatly appreciated! I am bursting with pride and excitement and feel appreciated as a writer, knowing now just how far and how high I can go.
All it takes is a little determination, a lot of self-confidence, patience and friends (thank you, lovely ladies, dear friends!) and slowly but surely things work out in the end. They really do.
And I will be speaking this June at Food Blogger Connect in London about, what else, Writing Style & Voice alongside the very talented Jeanne of Cook Sister! and Kerrin of My Kugelhopf. Snap up one of the last remaining tickets for this fantastic conference specially designed for the food blogger, filled with information and “secrets” from the best, networking, great food and great company!
And Clem. Lost little boy, so multi-talented, energetic (when he has something that he’s passionate about), creative and did I say talented? After a few years of sleeping, thinking and sleeping some more, he has found his passion, his calling, his thing (for lack of a better word). He is winding up his first year of architecture school top of his class, works on the side free-lancing for architects, works day in and day out all day and all night churning out project after stunning project. And on top of it all, he is as happy as a bug in a rug. What pleasure to see someone so content with what he is doing, where he is and where he is going. The world is his oyster and the pearls are his for the grabbing and will one day be tumbling from his fingertips.
I made these moist, delicate muffins for Clem. Muffins more tender than our favorite Cranberry Muffins, muffins bursting with blueberry flavor and just a hint of fresh lemon tang. Muffins so light and tender they melt in the mouth, barely sweet, just enough, topped with a gorgeous, crunchy streusel topping with the depth and warmth of dark brown sugar and cinnamon. I used blueberries left over from my Rhubarb Berry Crumbles and my beautiful Mixed Berry Pie and a new recipe for muffins from my wonderful Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook.
BLUEBERRY STREUSEL MUFFINS
1 ¾ cups (220 g) flour
1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
2 tsps baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup (200 ml) milk
¼ cup (50 ml) vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon (optional)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
1 recipe Streusel Topping (below), optional but fabulous
* I used frozen blueberries which I simply tossed (still frozen) with a large pinch of flour
3 Tbs flour
3 Tbs packed brown sugar, light or dark but well packed
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbs (30 g) butter, preferably unsalted, cold or just slightly softened
Place the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss to combine. Add the butter, cut into cubes, and, using only your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients quickly until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with no large chunks of butter left. Set aside while you prepare the muffin batter.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly grease twelve muffin cups or line with paper muffin/cupcake cups. **
In a small bowl, toss the frozen blueberries with a large pinch of flour if using frozen berries.
In a medium bowl, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt (as well as the lemon zest if adding) and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl or large glass mixing cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla and whisk together with a fork until well blended.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and everything is well blended. Do not overmix muffin batter or the muffins will be tough rather than light and tender. Fold in the blueberries just until the berries are evenly distributed. If using frozen berries, the batter may turn blue!
Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Divide the Streusel Topping evenly between the muffins, sprinkly on the topping generously over the top of each muffin.
Bake the muffins in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes ** or until the muffins are puffed up, the Streusel Topping is a deep golden brown and a tester stuck all the way in the center of one muffin comes out clean or with only a crumb, no liquid batter.
Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow to cool just slightly before carefully lifting out the muffins out of the tin using a sharp knife to pull the muffins up so as not to burn yourself.
** You can use pretty much any size muffin tin for this recipe, mini, regular or large. Simply divide the batter evenly between the lined or greased cups not filling each cup more than 2/3 (two thirds) full and adjust baking time accordingly, simply keeping an eye on the muffins. Mini muffins can take as little as 10 minutes, medium 18 – 20, jumbo as much as 30 minutes.