New Year’s Eve was the fourth anniversary of our return to Seattle. In most ways it feels like we never left. We hang out with old friends, attend our previous church, frequent our favorite coffee shops and pub of the past thirteen years, and regularly run into neighbors, colleagues, clients and acquaintances from years past.
As heartwrenching of a decision as the return was, it was right. Harry and I remain head over heels in love with our city and relish our community, which evolves in surprising ways. There has been grief with aspects of that, but mostly the changes have been welcome. Public school has opened the door to new friends, some of whom are neighbors. I can’t quite express how much I love that we now have spontaneous after school play times. I invited a neighbor and her boys over this week, possibly luring them in with the promise of cooling muffins.
Another aspect of Seattle that continually amazes me is the quality and variety of food being produced on surrounding farms, at restaurants and by entrepreneurs finding niche markets for their products. Opportunities for a vibrant, delicious experience abound, whether you cook at home or let someone else cook for you. Visiting one of Seattle’s farmers markets is like walking through an aisle of Heaven. (Please?!) I never have enough money. Purchases always exceed my list. Even in the dead of winter, there is abundance. Freshly caught fish, freshly foraged mushrooms, apples, pears, squash, bread, pastured meat, clothing, wooden bowls, skillets, cheese, wine. We have it good, people.
A new addition to my favorite year-round market is Marge granola. The name might ring a bell because it’s been written up a lot, and the owner also just recently published a breakfast cookbook. I have followed Megan’s blog for years, so I noticed when she posted about a giveaway shortly after publication. I won! I was incredibly surprised, completely thrilled.
Knowing Megan would be at the market the next morning for her first time as a merchant, I headed there excitedly, both to meet her, sample her granola, and potentially get my copy. It was a freezing cold, sunny morning. Everyone seemed happy to be outside, soaking in the beautiful sights without getting soaked. After strolling slowly, booth by booth, filling bags with cabbage (to make this), squash (to make this, for the second time this season), bread and eggs, I came upon Megan. I wanted to hug her. That’s what giveaways do to me. She was funny and friendly, handling the market hustle and bustle like she’d been there for years.
Her book, Whole-Grain Mornings, feels like it was written for me. I am slightly in love. It’s organized by season, which is mostly how I cook these days, and within each season there’s a range from quicker, everyday type recipes to a set of more difficult brunch recipes. Granolas, oatmeals, porridges, egg dishes, greens & grains, muffins. Everything I want in a breakfast book, including the highly desirable whole-grain and lightly sweetened touch. I browsed through the entire book after the market and was immediately drawn to the kitchen. It’s a book that makes you want to bake.
The timing was perfect. Our morning routine of simple oatmeal- boiling thick rolled oats, adding cinnamon, maple syrup and raisins, and topping with milk-has become boring to me. The males in the family are still satisfied, but I’m ready for a broader repertoire. I’m finding myself making eggs or eating granola, even when they’re having (our lame version of) oatmeal. We really don’t need to be making more than one breakfast in the morning.
Her Pear Hazelnut Muffins (pictured above, also shared beautifully here by Sprouted Kitchen), made for a warm, fragrant afternoon snack and significant improvement in breakfast the next morning. These are very moist, fluffy, crunchy from the topped hazelnuts, and provide a gentle nod to nutmeg and cardamom along with the hint of pear. A definite keeper, particularly if you’re over the age of three and therefore not apt to completely lose your shit when there are nuts on your muffin.
I’ve also made the blueberry bars, which I am so pleased to share with you here. I let Charlie pick a recipe for me to make and the minute he saw the picture for these, he loudly proclaimed, “Those!” The bars are reminiscent of a classic crumble bar cookie, though not as sweet. The blueberry depth is brightened by the lemon. The almonds and rye make a warm, nutty base. I imagine they taste equally nice alongside coffee as they do vanilla ice cream. I have yet to try the latter, but I just might tonight.
While these would be lovely as a sweet aspect of a bigger brunch affair, we had them as a special breakfast all by themselves this morning. We also had a little square of them for dessert last night. They work well that way. Like donuts, I suppose.
Megan’s Blueberry Breakfast Bars
Makes 12-16, depending on how you slice ’em
3 cups / 720 ml fresh blueberries or 12-oz / 350 g unthawed frozen blueberries
1/4 cup / 45 g natural cane sugar (I used turbinado)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup / 50 g rolled oats
1 cup / 100 g rye flakes
1/4 cup / 60 g sliced raw almonds
1/4 cup / 30 g raw sesame seeds
1 cup / 120 g whole wheat flour
1/2 cup / 75 g packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
8 tablespoons / 115 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, plus more for greasing pan
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Butter an 8-inch square pan.
Prepare the filling by combining berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir over medium heat until it simmers. Continue stirring until the berries start to break down and the sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes, and remove from heat.
Prepare the crust by fitting a food processor with the metal blade. Pulse the rolled oats, rye flakes, almonds and sesame seeds about 30 seconds, just until they form a chunky, mealy texture. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Pulse a second or two to combine. Add the egg and butter and pulse, adding ice water tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture forms a large crumb-like consistency.
Press at least half of the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the greased pan. (I found that using slightly more than half of it worked well for my desired crust thickness. Maybe as much as 75%.) Pour the berry filling onto the crust, spread it evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture across the top so that it’s scattered somewhat evenly. Don’t press it down. It will bake into the bars.
Bake until the crumble is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let them cool completely in the pan before slicing them into bars. They will keep for 3 days at room temperature if tightly wrapped. (But only if you are crazy. These are not going to last that long.)