On Being Single, and Blueberry Nectarine Crumb Bars

“You need a hug,” a friend said to me the other day.

I resisted. “No I don’t, go away.”

“You do. Come here.”

Even as I awkwardly let my friend pat my back, deep down, I knew he was right. I needed a hug. I needed to have a person’s arms around me while my body relaxed and gave up its weight. To be enveloped, to curl into the shape of another’s body is the most comforting feeling I know. It’s an excuse to let go and allow someone else to take care of me. It’s something that I haven’t done in a long while.

It’s strange to be single after a lasting relationship. You realize you are finally alone and your life is no longer shared with another person. There is no longer a need to talk, to communicate, to say goodnight before sleeping. It’s even stranger after a lasting long-distance relationship. The invisible person far away you’ve always thought about disappears, this time for good. Before being alone didn’t really mean alone. Now, it does.

When I sleep at night my bed feels empty. I delay closing my eyes to the point of exhaustion and nausea because I don’t want to go to sleep by myself. It feels like something’s missing, something utterly important. It should be there and I yearn for it but it never comes.

So I see my desire for companionship leak into my friendships. The same cravings and little joys slowly transfer to my relationships with other people. And I don’t mind.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been alone, and it feels good to just be with myself and only myself.

Now if you’ve made it this far, I give you props for listening to me blather on. As thanks, I give you this recipe: blueberry and nectarine crumb bars. Buttery, fruity, crumbly, and chewy – this crumb bar is the epitome of easy homemade. These fruity treats make from the simplest of steps. You essentially mix things together and layer them. So yeah, it seriously can’t get any easier. Make them, it’s an hour of your time that you won’t regret.

Blueberry Nectarine Crumb Bars (Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

This dessert is really forgiving. You can variate with so many different fruits. Blueberries, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, raspberries – just use what you have at home. I actually did put some strawberries in mine and I loved that surprise pop of bright strawberry in each bite.

Total Servings: 9-12 bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided (see directions)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick of salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes (stick them in the freezer until ready to use, then cube – see directions)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fresh fruit, at room temperature (I used blueberries, nectarines and strawberries – the latter two I cut into small cubes, proportional to the blueberries)

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a large bowl whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.

3) In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla.

4) Take out your chilled butter and butter a baking dish, set aside. How big the dish is will determine how thick the crumb bars and their layers will be. Then cube the butter.

5) Add the egg mixture and cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and use a fork or pastry cutter (I used my fingers) to mash everything together until it resembles coarse crumbs.

6) Gently press 2/3 of the mixture evenly into the prepared dish.

7) In a separate bowl (big enough for the fruit), whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 tsp cornstarch.

8) Stir in lemon juice then add the fruit. Toss the mixture for an even coat, then pour and spread the fruit evenly over the crust in the baking dish.

9) Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture over the fruit (I pressed some of the mixture together in my hands to make larger crumbs).

10) Bake in the oven for more or less 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and you see the fruit bubbling underneath.

11) Serve it hot with vanilla ice cream. Or allow to cool for about 20 – 30 minutes and cut into squares.

* For leftovers I like to microwave them before munching away. I find the crumb bars are best when the fruit is bubbling and warm, almost like a fresh, chunky jam.

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