There’s something about the weather at last dipping below 70 degrees Fahrenheit that makes me want to run to the nearest couch, grab the nearest book, and cozy up with a blanket and a hot beverage so I can pretend that winter is real.
Those of you who have real winter are probably scratching your heads at my excitement (and at the notion that temperatures in the mid sixties would have anything to do with “winter” of any kind) but you have to understand. Here in Southern California the weather this time of year is indecisive at best. Our version of a change in the seasons is the weather shifting from blisteringly hot all the time to sometimes blisteringly hot and sometimes mildly tolerable. Sometimes high temperatures will fluctuate from 65 to 90 and back again in the space of a week. Sometimes it just hangs around the mid 90s for all of January and can’t be bothered to notice that the rest of the northern hemisphere got over that summer thing months ago. Some people love that about Los Angeles, but I am absolutely not one of them.
So the time for my celebration of almost cold weather has come, and one of my books of choice was Daphne Miller’s The Jungle Effect. It’s a pretty interesting read, especially if, like me, you are interested in a more anthropological approach to nutritional research. Miller examines the dietary habits of various “cold spots”; these are places with notably low rates of chronic disease.
Of all the places she travelled, there was a particular bit in the Iceland section that caught my eye. The traditional diet contains very few vegetables, and we all know that vegetables are a crucial component in a healthy diet. So how can the Icelandic population be so healthy? The answer, as Miller found, was multifaceted, but a crucial factor seemed to be the high rates at which people consumed bilberries, a cousin of the North American blueberry.
Blueberries, in all their glorious purple goodness. I’ve always known them to be excellent little nutritional gems, but that was far and above what I expected. Now, I’m not advocating giving up all other plant matter in favor of eating massive quantities of blueberries. (Miller doesn’t either, it should be noted, and nor, it seems does Icelandic tradition) But all this talk of antioxidants and frigid Icelandic weather gave me a hankering for a nice, cozy way to enjoy these tasty little berries while I continued to curl up on the couch with my reading. Thankfully, I had some stashed in my freezer for just such an emergency.
The result was this recipe. (If you can call it that.) Miller has a recipe for blueberries and cream in her book and I suppose you could say this was inspired by it, but my version is far lazier and the result, while it contains whole blueberries, makes use of the fact that blueberry infused milk/cream is a delicious beverage unto itself. As a result I have lovingly dubbed this a Blueberry Latté, because it satisfies all the requirements for a creamy, cozy beverage that’s perfect for enjoying while curled up on the couch with a good book. Sip this lovely purple drink while it’s warm and keep a spoon nearby to help you slurp up the berries.
Is it as healthy as Miller’s recipe? Probably not, given the higher ratio of milk to berries. On the plus side, I don’t find it needs any additional sweetener, and this is free form enough that it can be as healthy as you choose to make it. And this is a latté, after all. If you wanted a bowl of blueberries, well, you could just eat a bowl of blueberries now couldn’t you?
You will notice this recipe doesn’t really have measurements; that’s because it’s insanely flexible and you can easily vary the amounts to suit your preferences. A few berries will infuse the milk just fine if you’re looking for a latté like experience, and lot of blueberries with a little milk will give you something more like a traditional blueberries and cream. Either one is delicious.
- A handful or so frozen blueberries (You may use fresh, but you will need to stew them longer)
- A half cup or so of your favorite milk (or more or less; coconut milk would be good if you’re nondairy, organic half and half is also delicious if you’re feeling decadent)
- A couple drops of your favorite extract (optional) (I love cardamom, but vanilla would also be delicious. Or both, why not?)
In a small pot, heat the blueberries on low until warm and slightly juicy. Add the extract (if using) and the milk. Continue heating until the milk is warmed through and tinted purple. Pour into a cup and enjoy!