For JuliaOmalleyMedia: A Spenardian grandma’s blueberry crumble

Alaska, food, Online, Spenard, Uncategorized

Originally published on Julia O’Malley Media.

My grandmother, Sylvia Butcher, a true Spenardian and Alaskan in her own right, has been living in Alaska since the early 1960s. She met my grandfather, who grew up in Anchorage after his parents homesteaded here in 1943, in California and they started a life together in the city of Anchorage.

One of my grandmother’s favorite Alaskan pastimes is blueberry picking. She knows all the spots, from the shores of Seward to the mountainsides of Broad Pass. Of course, she would never permit to say where her favorite spot is, as that’s a heavily guarded family secret. She claims that the peninsula is the way to go. She notes that Girdwood blueberries are wormy and that Seward and Whittier are good places to explore, claiming that coastal blueberries are better in taste and easier to pick than their alpine cousins.

Don’t even think about buying blueberries for this recipe. Grandma scoffs at the mere thought of store bought blueberries, lacking in taste and authenticity.

After my grandma agreed to teach me how to make her special blueberry crumble, I visited her in her kitchen. She pulled out of a bag of frozen blueberries that was thawing in the fridge.“They have to be Alaskan blueberries, not store bought. There’s no comparison,” she said. Grandma held the bag in the air and examined it, as if checking to see if a nugget of gold was actually just pyrite. The bag, with the date “8/15″ written in sharpie on the side, was gently poured out into the baking dish. As I spread the blueberries evenly in the dish, Grandma told me about picking those berries with my mom last summer while they were in Seward.

“We picked them until we couldn’t pick anymore, brought them back to the cabin, and went out and did it all again the next day,” she said.

The recipe for blueberry crumble was given to my grandmother in a cookbook published by the women’s club of Anchorage in the late ‘50s. Today, the recipe book is near shreds, the stack of papers are held together by an old rubber band. My grandma received the cookbook from my great-grandmother, her mother-in-law, as a wedding gift. My great-grandmother was part of the women’s club and had her own recipes published in the book as well. My grandma tried the Blueberry Crunch recipe, as it’s called in the recipe book, and has been in love with it ever since.

The recipe is relatively simple, despite the delicious and crowd pleasing results it receives. Make sure to let the dessert completely cool before serving, as it’s too runny and messy if served right after it’s taken out of the oven. The perfect way to serve it — the way it’s been served to me my entire life — according to Grandma is to “warm it up and serve it with vanilla ice cream.”

Grandma’s Alaskan Blueberry Crumble

Ingredients: 

4 cups Alaskan blueberries

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter, melted

1 cup rolled oats

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Place the blueberries into a baking dish. Pour in the sugar and flour, and stir with a spatula until the blueberries are covered. Distribute evenly across the bottom of the baking dish.

3. For the topping: in a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, flour and oats. Mix until evenly combined, then spread across the top of the blueberry mixture with a spatula.

4. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

5. Let the dessert cool completely. Serve warm and with vanilla ice cream.

College Cookbook: Aphrodisiac Alaskana

Alaska, college cookbook, food, Print, Uncategorized

Originally published in The Northern Light.

 It seems like the last thing college kids need is a list of foods that will make them horny. Aren’t our hormones rampant enough already? The desire for sex is evident across all cultures spanning over thousands of years; as has the desire to find the perfect potion to get anyone in the mood.

An aphrodisiac is considered to be any substance that’s consumed to increase libido. Popular aphrodisiacs you may have heard of before include oysters, dark chocolate and red wine. With little research on the effect of aphrodisiacs, most evidence is subjective. Whether it’s a placebo effect or the real deal, a delicious aphrodisiac inspired meal this Valentine’s Day is sure to please any date, in or out of the bedroom.

From the dangerously delicious to the down-right disgusting, aphrodisiacs vary and may even be counter-intuitive. Balut, the Filipino delicacy that is fertilized duck egg, is famous for its aphrodisiac qualities. In my travels to the Philippines, I tried Balut, and the only desire I had afterwards was to vomit. If you’re curious, or desperate, you can find Balut at the New Sagaya Midtown Market.

For an Alaskan themed Valentine’s dinner, focus on fresh seafood, especially oysters. Make your way over to the Bubbly Mermaid in downtown Anchorage where they have a monopoly on the best oysters and champagne in town, creating the perfect recipe for a romantic evening. Legend has it that Aphrodite arose from the sea in an oyster shell as the Goddess of love and fertility. Salmon is said to have aphrodisiac elements as well. For the adventurous eater, crushed up caribou antler and bear claw are sought out by the Far East as a powerful aphrodisiac. I do not recommend trying to get your hands on it, but the oosik bone — the baculum or penal bone of walruses, seals, sea lions and polar bears — is sold on the black market by Native Alaskan’s to buyers in Asia who prize the bone as an aphrodisiac, according to Jeremy Sacks, author of “Culture, Cash or Calories: Interpreting Alaska Native Subsistence Rights.”

Champagne and red wine is a Valentine’s Day classic, but don’t totally rule out the power of beer. Before beer was made with hops it was produced using gruit, a collection of herbs used to bitter and flavor beer. The use of gruit was left to the wayside when the puritan and protestant brewers wanted to phase out the, apparently, aphrodisiac qualities that gruit supposedly possess. Using hops grew in popularity and has been the norm in beer ever since. However, modern brewers are looking to this old fashioned way of making beer as a unique way of flavoring their ales. Breweries in Alaska, in fact, are venturing into the gruit world. Alaska Brewing Company’s Alaska Winter Ale, is made with a combination of gruit and hops, as is the Baranof Island Brewing Company’s Sitka Spruce Tip Ale. The aphrodisiac qualities of these specific beers are unknown, but it’s worth a shot.

Whether fact or fiction many of the above mentioned foods will make for a great dinner, snack or even conversation starter.

Inspired by a recipe I found on Pinterest, this recipe was posted on the food blog “With food+love” and was titled Pomegranate brownies with cacao nibs and sea salt. I decided to give it the college student spin and make it for myself. I used a box brownie mix and dark chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs and bought pomegranate seeds already harvested from the fruit, which made the process much simpler. I also opted out of the sea salt as I felt there was already so much going on with the brownie as is. Don’t forget to account for the ingredients needed as part of the box brownie mix. This usually includes one or two eggs and oil.

Red wine and dark chocolate brownies with pomegranates.

Ingredients:

One box of brownie mix and ingredients that correspond with the mix (I used a dark chocolate brownie mix)

1 and 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips

1 cup of red wine (I used a red blend)

1 pomegranate or 1 package of pomegranate seeds

Directions:

1. Spray the baking pan with cooking oil and preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on the box.

2. Prepare the brownie mix as indicated on the box.

3. Pour one cup of the chocolate chips into the brownie batter and stir them in until mixed well.

4. Pour the entire bowl of batter into the oiled baking pan until all the batter is evenly distributed into the bowl.

5. When the oven is preheated cook the brownies for the time indicated on the box.

6. Check the brownies periodically by putting a fork in the brownies and seeing if the fork comes out clean.

7. When the brownies are done immediately sprinkle the 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips over the brownies.

8. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the brownies.

9. Let brownies cool for about 15 minutes and serve to the one you love.