blueberry breakfast bars

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This week is an exact replica of the one that came before, with one, rather monstrous, exception: Sophie is gone. Nights I come home and expect that she’s going to bolt out of the room like some black star, and I wake thinking I can hear her familiar foot falls. It’s been a week and every single part of me hurts in some degree, and I don’t imagine that this will change anytime soon — although many, much to my chagrin, wish it would. There was one evening, in particular, where I had so much pain I didn’t know where to put it. Where do you put pain? Is their a proper container for it? And it’s then that I decided to write it out, and I penned a last letter of sorts to the great love of my life, my beloved SOPHIE. I read it daily to remind me of our great love, and to also remind myself that I have to put one foot in front of the other.

Focus on small, manageable tasks. Focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Welcome work distractions. Seek out quiet. Excise those who invite you to forget about, or bury, your pain, rather than properly living through it. Remember the very best moments of your time together instead of the darkest hours, which has been so easy to do.

So I bake. I measure ingredients. I sift flour, and cut butter. I diagram an outline of my present life and try to follow it. I’ll confess that Sophie really loved herself a crumble, especially blueberries, and I’d often find her sneaking onto countertops to dip her nose into my latest baked good. She was rare that way, and I keep thinking she’s me, in miniature.

So on the week that marks your passing, I hold up a bar and paw to you, sweet girl. I know you’re probably paw-swatting me from wherever it is that you are. And if you’re not, maybe the photos I took of you on your last day might just set you into a blind rage — I did manage to capture some candids, even if you are very Greta Garbo about having your picture taken.

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INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Megan Gordon’s Whole Grain Mornings, one of the finest breakfast cookbooks I’ve encountered in a while. Look out for my review on Medium.
For the blueberry filling
3 cups fresh blueberries (approximately 1 1/2 pints) or 1 (12 oz) package of frozen blueberries, unthawed
1/4 cup cane sugar
2 tbsp unbleached, all purpose flour
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp water

For the whole-grain crust
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup rye flakes*
3/4 cup sliced raw almonds*
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
8 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, plus more for the pan
3-4 tbsp ice cold water

*Notes in the Margin: If you don’t have rye flakes (this is not a typical ingredient in my pantry, and I’ve got a sophisticated larder), feel free to simply add in the same amount of rolled oats. However, don’t think you can use quick or instant oats for this recipe. Your bars will resemble sawdust and you will wail in grief over the packages of perfect blueberries you’ve ruined. I use oats A LOT, so they’re worth stockpiling.

In terms of the nut situation, I would even venture that pecans and pistachios are worthy substitutes. Imagine the flecks of green set against the blistering blue? {SWOON!}

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch square pan.

For the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, zest and water. Over medium heat, stir the mixture to a simmer, and keep stirrig until the berries are about to blister and burst. The whole process takes about five minutes. You don’t want your berries completely broken, but you want them on the verge of departure. Remove from the heat.

For the whole-grain crust: Although it’s simplest to do all of this in a food processor, a part of me wanted to get involved and get tactile. I did first blitz the oats, almonds and sesame seeds, as you’ll want a chunky, mealy texture. If you want to keep it simple, add in the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder, pulsing to combine. Then add the egg, water and butter cubes and pulse into you get the consistency of large crumbs.

Instead, once my oat and almond mixture was mealy, I transfered the mixture to a large bowl, added in the ingredients in the same order, but used a pastry cutter (you can use two forks) to incorporate the butter and water.

Once you have (from either method) large crumbs, divide 1/2 the mixture and add a layer to the bottom of your pan. Spread the slightly cooled blueberry mixture evenly on top of the layer, and then crumble the remaining crumbs on top. Bake until the top of the crumble is golden brown, about 30 minutes, turning the pan half-way through the process.

Let cool completely in the pan. Slice into bars (I love little squares). I actually put these in the fridge, as it reminded me of a slightly more virtuous blueberry crumble.

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5 thoughts on “blueberry breakfast bars

  1. That letter was a tribute. And it was beautiful and beautifully written. Once again, thank you for sharing that. (G-d, your writing is flourishing).

    And feel your grief. Cry, hate, be cold and cruel. Go through it. Take as long as you need. And fuck everybody and anybody who thinks you should get over it quickly. Fuck them. Because as much as it hurts, you are feeling. That’s what Sophie gave you — the power to feel. She is looking down at you and she is proud of YOU.

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  2. I had a friend named Kitty once and he was my champion and I, grateful to be his. We went through many things together and after 19 years, he had to leave. I can’t think of him without missing him. His ashes are in a box that I will one day take someplace beautiful and let loose. But for now, for the past four years, I keep him with me.

    This is not to say that I know how you feel, or to soften the edge of what you feel. This is just to say I feel similar things and they are not that soft, yet. I have hope.

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  3. Felicia, I love the rhythm of your words, your honest and heartwrenching words broken by the cold, soulless cliches of the things that are said so mindlessly after a death, especially the death of a beastie-bestie.
    When our baby cat died, this poem from Rumi found me:
    Things are such, that someone lifting a cup, or watching the rain, petting a dog, or singing, just singing – could be doing as much for this universe as anyone.
    How much these tiny fluffy angels do in this world, simply by being. And how much of that is about opening our hearts. I wish I could hand you a cup of something warm and nourishing and comforting, brave one! X Katrina

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  4. I cried as I read your letter. I lost my beloved dog to cancer almost two years ago, and you put into words much of what I felt and still feel. Let yourself grieve, and let yourself remember .. it will be the balm that heals you eventually. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

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  5. Your post made me cry instantly… I became my beloved tomcat when I was ten and seventeen years later (2 years ago now) his kindeys were failing and we had to bring him to the vet. I still miss him so much and I still cry sometimes when I think of him. I don’t know if this pain will ever go away. I totally understand you and I wish I could give you a hug…
    xox Amy

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