This is a cooking blog with a back story. It focuses on food, family, fiber arts, pets, friends, and fibromyalgia. It's about life at a certain age, the joys, the sorrows, the backaches, the mental confusion. There's a lot of kvetching, complaining, occasional profanity, righteous indignation, political incorrectness, knitting exhortations, and really good, original recipes.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
I Found My Thrill, Part Deux - Anawana Orange and Blueberry Muffins
Yesterday was an okay day, productive even. But here is the curse of fibromyalgia: today already sucks. August 28th will always be a sucky day, but this particular August 28th even more so because it hurts to stand up and my brain, she is foggy.
Today is my Pop's birthday, and if had lived - oh, if only he had lived! - he would be 107 years old, not an impossible number these days. Today is also my first Ira's birthday, and he would have been 39, which is sort of an impossible age for a cat. But still, birthdays are happy occasions, and so the memories are bittersweet. Next to me, Pop was the first Ira's favorite human in the whole world, so it is sweet that they shared the day.
We Jews have something called a yahrzeit, the remembrance of the anniversary of a loved one's death. As it happens, tomorrow will be my mother Joyce's yahrzeit (August 24th would have been her 84th birthday) but today is the first anniversary of my second Ira's passing. There is no reason why a Jewish cat should not have a yahrzeit, and this is his. Yahrzeits are never happy nor even bittersweet. They bring sad memories and they hurt, damn it.
August 20th was the yahrzeit for my father Mike, but that's not one that affects me in any way, save a feeling of mild regret. Oh, my scattered and shattered family ties, what grief you have brought me!
Yes it's true, I have a great deal more feeling for Ira than the father I barely remember. Ira's death, and the night and day that preceded it, are stuck in my head. So many of my pets had crossed the Rainbow Bridge in a short period of time; I had lost my little girl Athene less than a year before, and before that my poor Zebbie, my orange twins Dora and Deety, my precious Emeril, and the list goes on. Too many in too short a period of time. That stress, and the monumental blow from losing my oldest and dearest friend Bethe in February 2013, had fractured my personal infrastructure. Those last days with Ira, the seismic seizures, the cancer diagnosis, the massive doses of phenobarbital I had to administer to him, the look on my vet's face and the look on Ira's face, at the end ... well. I was telling you why August 28th sucks, and now you know.
Oh ha! here's a good one - now my right arm, which daily bears the brunt of being a cane-holder, is protesting the assignment. Crap. Look, I gotta use a cane. I gotta hold the cane. I am an unrepentant rightie, no ambidexterous talents in this decrepit little body. And now, because fibromyalgia is a harsh mistress, my upper right appendage, from fingertip to shoulder, hurts like hell.
Let's talk about my childhood. Not the bad parts, you get enough of that when I'm in drama queen mode. No, there were good parts, irregular like certain verbs, but good nonethless. My favorite memories - besides eating, shopping for food with my grandmother in Waldbaums, going to restaurants to do more eating, and spending time with my cousin Cary and brother Elliot - were the summers I went to the ubiquitous sleepaway camps of upstate New York (everything north of the Bronx is upstate, by the way), and the best of those were the three years I went to Camp Anawana in Monticello. The reason I bring this up is to segue into today's recipe for Anawana Orange and Blueberry Muffins, a first cousin of my Monticello Blueberry Muffins from a few months ago.
Apparently everything is on the internet these days, including a picture of me from 1961. I was scrolling through some sites dedicated to Anawana alumni and nearly jumped out of my skin because even from a small thumbnail on the screen knew who a certain chubby kid was. I remember the picture, and probably have it tucked away with others my parents collected from those summers, but this one, with the bright orange and blue banner, is positively iconic. I have good memories - this was pre-adolescence, before the Dark Times, before I became a moody teenager.
Anyway, I always associate blueberries with my summers in Monticello, and when I had a brainstorm regarding the use of the orange cake mix and dried blueberries in my pantry, Anawana came to mind. Our camp colors were orange and blue (no kidding) which made it practically impossible to conform to the dress code, so to speak, because orange is an odd color and solid orange clothing difficult to find. Fortunately blue and white was an acceptable substitute.
Orange is my second least favorite color, but it is my favorite fruit. I am crazy for citrus in general, and orange in particular and I kept trying to come up with a recipe to incorporate the orange cake mix for at least a week. Even if you never went to summer sleepaway camp, you will love these muffins.
1 box Duncan Hines Orange Supreme cake mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1-3.5 oz. bag Mariani wild blueberries (these are in the dried fruit section)
1 cup Kellogg's Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal, crushed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wipe the top of the muffin pan with a paper towel sprayed with Pam. Place a paper liner into each muffin cup.
In a large bowl, combine the dry cake mix, baking powder, flour, sour cream, oil, and eggs, and stir together with a wooden spoon; don't worry if there are some lumps left. Fold in the blueberries very gently with a spatula. Let the batter sit for five or six minutes, then use the spatula to fold a few more times.
Scoop into the lined muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly between the cups. Sprinkle some of the crushed cereal on top of each muffin, gently pressing in to the batter. Bake for 21 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool a few minutes, then remove the muffins to a metal rack to cool completely.