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oh, the great thrill of the oatmeal bar. i love you. that lovely combination of crunch, of soft, of oaty chew, and of jammy goo.
this week has been craziness. delightful, social, warm. i feel like spring has sprung, for real this time, leaving me barely a moment to stop and admire the beauty of the outside transitions. i feel like the bees: scattered, busy as ever, eager, humming along.
somehow, i managed to make some oatmeal bars in the midst of current crazy. these bars, dear friends, took me to the stars. how calming and basic! jam bars have been on my “to-do” list for quite some time. with lots of jams in our fridge, i wanted a fun way to work them out into the world more creatively than on a piece of toast. so these bars came in three varieties: strawberry (made at nanny and poppy’s last summer, with the crimson jewels we picked together which also debuted in these muffins… i wanted to finish the jam before strawberry picking 2010!), pink banana squash marmalade, and apricot jam. my favorite? the pink banana squash, for sure. that giant squash appeared in so many culinary creations, how i’ll miss it! good thing we’re growing some on the farm this year…
tomorrow, we check the bees at earthworks. and, we’re making splits on the hives! i believe those oats and jam will give me some grace, sustenance, and calm as ms. malasky and i do our thing.
oatmeal bars for the stars
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 grates of fresh nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups oats
zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups your favorite jam
1. heat oven to 350. butter a 9×13″ pan (i don’t have one! so i did an 8×8″ and a bread making pan…)
2. pulse first seven ingredients (through butter) in a food processor, or combine with a pastry mixer, and dough is crumbly.
3. add the oats and lemon, pulse twice (or mix a few times) to combine
4. press 2/3 of the dough in the bottom of greased pan. spread jam over top, evenly. sprinkle remaining dough on top, and press down lightly.
5. bake until golden, about 20 minutes. then let cool fully before cutting, about 2 hours. enjoy!
there is nothing like muffins on mondays. in fact, i’d go so far to institute muffin mondays. small, snack-sized portions. so moist, so satisfying. and so very flexible. they are the yoga masters of baking flexibility, happily welcoming the most bizarre and seemingly disjointed of ingredients and transforming them into the perfect anytime treat. they clean out the fridge and freezer and pantry like few other things can.
dairy fermentation class. is there a better way to enjoy a blustery friday evening in mid-april? i think not. my excitement for this class had been growing for some time, and now i imagine myself in a sun-shiney kitchen, apron on, milk culturing on the table top to become butter or quark while more milk heats up on the stove, waiting to embrace a yogurt culture. and the food, oh, those dishes! the taste! the creamy. the sour. the smooth. the flexibility of this medium: savory, sweet, salty. oh, the possibility!
as i sat in the class, taught by my friend blair, of great fermentation fame, i couldn’t help but think of my nanny. the discussion clearly focused upon milk. raw milk. un-homogenized, unpasteurized milk. and, as blair shared her wisdom on how to most effectively pour off the cream, i could hear nanny telling me about how she, as a kid, helped her dad process milk on their farm. she was in charge of the filter that caught any dirt or hairs as the milk traveled into it’s jug. my great grandma, queen of the matson kitchen, took charge of that milk. she instructed my nanny to “dip the milk” for meals, where my nanny literally used a large dipper to collect the milk from the jug. my great grandma separated her cream from the milk, too, saving it to enrich soups, dishes, desserts, even to make butter. and i can only happily imagine the dishes she made with that fresh milk. MMM! my nanny still asks us to “dip the milk” for meals to this day. fantastic.
for this fancy and dair-i-licious occasion, i made bread. with great dairy comes great bread. how else can you really enjoy fresh quark (essentially cream cheese) whipped with lemon zest and honey? don’t leave that dairy lonely–savor it with a hunk o’ pink banana with flax and pumpkin seeds bread! or a slice summer squash, rhubarb, walnut, poppy and lemon zest bread!
peanut butter and chocolate. really, what can possibly get better? this combination’s worked magic in my life as long as i can remember. i think i have taste buds specifically designed for delighting in, salivating over, savoring my grandma meyer’s peanut butter bars: so densely peanuty, blanketed in a crisp, substantial layer of bittersweet chocolate. her cookies are infamous in my dad’s family. i know the lore of old, of when he and my uncle kevin ate an entire pan of these cookies in one sitting on a visit to blair, nebraska many years ago. i don’t think i can have peanut butter bars without a blossoming feeling of lovely nostalgia. the smell, the memories, and the taste!
today, i have been in snack-mode gwen-mode. this is a dangerous state, no question about it. there’s been ice cream (a small dip, i knew what was coming…), frozen yogurt (tangy, have you tried this? the un-sweetened stuff?! SO EXCITING, this is what i knew was coming…), fruit, nuts, granola bars, carrots, salsa, eggs, popcorn, fig cookies, strawberries, cereal… this is just a taste of my ridiculous list, dear friends.
but, what was i really craving? you guessed it. grandma meyer’s peanut butter bars. but, i didn’t know that was what i was craving. i didn’t have the recipe. fortunately, after a two-day hiatus from greenhouse and farm work that involved a lovely trip to my nanny and poppy’s, i checked up on my oh-so-favorite blogs. and the kitchen sink recipes gave me access to the inspiration i really needed. not only did ms. kitchen sink inspire me, her recipe is adopted from another of my favorite blogs, 101 cookbooks. clearly, the peanut butter and chocolate gods were conspiring for peanut butter and chocolate somethings to come out of the oven at la grande.
i give you my own rendition. thanks to the inspired baking of my grandma meyer and two of my favorite blogs. pb&c. oh, how exquisite. the result: lighter than grandma meyer’s, rich, satisfying, and basically fantastic.
*delightful to make while listening to sara watson or a bluegrass mix. makes the baking knee-slapping and danceable!
pb&c: peanut butter & chocolate bars
adapted from the kitchen sink recipes’ chocolate-covered peanut butter bars
1 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup graham flour
3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup natural, smooth peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup (i was a little short, so compensated approximately 2 tablespoons pure cane syrup that’s been in my fridge since a friend brought it from florida last year)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
less than 8 ounces combination semi and bitter sweet chocolate bars, chopped
1. preheat oven to 350. grease an 8 inch square pan, line with parchment paper with overhanging flaps, and grease paper. (i actually did this because of the memory of crumbly peanut butter bars per grandma meyer. crumbles still = deliciousness, but thought i’d try with the parchment paper).
2. in a mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and sea salt.
3. in a larger mixing bowl, whisk together peanut butter, syrup, oil, and vanilla extract.
4. pour flour on top of peanut butter mix, stir until barely combined, even a bit dusty looking. then let sit for five minutes, give another stir through.
5. press batter into greased and parchment-ed pan, place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until bars begin to brown and edges are set.
6. as soon as pan’s removed from oven, set on a cooling rack and sprinkle chocolate shavings over bars. as they melt, spread with a butter knife or small spatula. i didn’t use all eight ounces i chopped.
7. allow to cool completely. then, using parchment flaps, pull bars out and slice with a sharp knife.
enjoy your pb&c!
spring has sprung. the buds in this fine motor city have popped. the ground around the magnolia trees is littered with the fuzzy, green dresses their boisterous, gorgeous blooms stripped off. the greenhouse at earthworks is BURSTING. quite literally. i have never seen such creative packing of transplants in a small place. it reminds me of my dad repacking the christmas ornaments– very methodical, very precise. each box fitting so snugly against it’s sibling boxes. well, we could use some of that duane lee meyer methodology and creative space management there now.
since march, i have been tirelessly worked to clean out our fridge. anxiously awaiting the fresh greens, rhubarb, asparagus, and the like that come with the spring sun (and rain), it has been fun, but stressful, getting all the frozen goods processed and OUT!
and, in the honor of the springtime fairies, april rains, and bawdy magnolia blooms, last night i made a blueberry rhubarb crisp. local? yes! fresh from the freezer: michigan blueberries (the ones that actually inspired this blog!) and detroit rhubarb. a lovely almond meal and spelt flour crust. bubbly, sweet, gooey magic.
enjoy, good friends, and happy springtime tidings to you!
blueberry rhubarb crisp
adapted from gourmet
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons spelt flour
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup almond meal
3/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
sprinkling of cinnamon and a grating of fresh nutmeg
1. preheat oven to 375 and butter a shallow baking dish.
2. mix sugar and flour, then add rhubarb and blueberries. mix till coated. put in baking dish.
3. make the topping! whisk together meal, flour, sugars, spices. cut in butter in 1/2 in cubes, using a pastry blender.
if you want to know the way to my heart, look no farther than wisconsin. am i a product of the state, a die hard badgers fan, lover of the packers and all things wisconsin? not especially. do i love cows, rolling hills with cute farms, frozen custard, amazing cheer, a crisp beer? YES, my friends, i LOVE these things! and because my parents live there. wisconsin is a great state.
this past weekend, i retreated in mount calvary, wi with fellow volunteers and capuchin brothers. the weather, lush and sunshiney, albeit windy like WOAH, reflected the happy spirits gathered there.
after lunch on friday, our first day on site, i (surprise, surprise) had the grand idea that we find a local custard joint. i maybe made it a priority. in fact, i think i made it a requirement. thanks to the tip from the kitchen’s head cook, esther, i rounded up three others for the adventure in the bustling town of fond du lac for some gilles (pronounced with a hard g, like gill – eee). and we were NOT lead astray.