Stuff and Nonsense: fruits and berries

Showing posts with label fruits and berries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fruits and berries. Show all posts


Roasted Butternut Squash With Apples & Cranberries

Unsurprisingly, now that it is fall, my CSA share includes many winter squash. Ordinarily, this would be fine. Lovely, even. Who wouldn't want a kitchen full of winter squash? A person who is trying to empty her freezer and cupboards while also winnowing down all her other possessions to get to only the things that have meaning (or, like the toilet brush, are useful), that's who.

As we all know, roasting is my go-to method for reducing the surplus vegetable population. Today, I chose to roast a butternut squash with a bunch of mealy apples and half a bag of (slightly freezer-burnt) frozen cranberries with a generous sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. The end results were delicious -- very reminiscent of apple-cranberry pie filling -- and made for a delicious breakfast with a bit of granola sprinkled over.

It is only now I realize I created what is, essentially, a deconstructed crumble.

Roasted Butternut Squash With Apples & Cranberries

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 4 apples
  • ½ lb frozen cranberries
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter cut into pea-sized cubes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F;. Oil or butter a 13x9 baker.
  2. Peel, seed, and chop the butternut squash into similarly sized pieces.
  3. Peel, core, and chop the apples.
  4. Put the squash, apples, and frozen cranberries in your greased baker. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and brown sugar. Dot with butter.
  5. Roast at 425°F for 30 minutes, stirring halfway, or until squash is at the desired level of tenderness.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Eat with a sprinkling of granola.

Right. That just leaves one acorn, three delicata, and three mashed potato.


Around Connecticut: Raspberry Picking at Lyman Orchards

Early last Saturday morning, before the sun burned off the clouds and the temperatures hit stayintheairconditioning numbers, I went raspberry picking. At Lyman Orchards, again, because I couldn't find another farm with raspberries ready to pick. The spring was, for the most part, rainy and cool which slowed the growth of some crops. In some ways this is a boon -- while Lyman's strawberries have come and gone, my CSA which is 40-ish miles north, has just begun picking. But if you want to go raspberry picking right now, there isn't much choice in farms.

While Lyman Orchards is a large farm -- 1,100 acres -- staff does a great job with directional signage and I've had no problem finding the fields I needed. The strawberry fields were quite close to the entrance to South Road, but the raspberries were a bit further afield on Powder Hill Road and that was fine as it was a beautiful morning, I was in no rush, and the additional distance gave me more things to look at -- many fruit trees, netted bushes that might have been blueberry, a pond, etc.

Parking is available in a dirt lot located to the left of the raspberry fields and visitors can pick up containers or trays at the little red shed located between the parking lot and the field. For the 2019 season, Lyman Orchards' raspberries are $5.65 per pound. The small green containers are free and the large trays are $1.75, but (as with the strawberries), the tray is free if you pick 10 pounds or more. Visitors are welcome to bring their own containers and I brought a duct tape reinforced box lid which the staff member at the shack weighed and noted before I began picking.

The rows were well groomed and orderly with lots of straw thrown down on the ground between them, which turned out to be a godsend as I spent most of my picking time on the ground, looking up through the raspberries leaves at all the beautiful deep-red clusters of berries waiting to be picked. Many people around me were going along, picking whatever they could see at the top, but I just found it a lot faster and easier to pick from the middle and bottom.

I picked five pounds in just over an hour, by which time the sun had come out and begun baking my brain. I paid up, drove home, and made jam.

More about jam later.


Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

After I'd made two batches of jam and two loaves of strawberry nut bread, I still had four pounds of perfectly ripe strawberries left. I turned some into strawberry vinegar and then decided the rest should be eaten with cake. I mean, cake is always a good solution to the "problem" of too much fruit.

I admit I used a white cake mix as my basis for this cake, preparing it as directed on the box except I used sparkling wine in place of the water/milk. Why sparkling wine? I wanted to be fancy? Also, I thought the carbonation might help the cake bake up light and fluffy. I couldn't taste or smell the wine after the cake had baked and, while it was light and fluffy, cakes from mixes generally are.

Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

Yield: 6 generous servings


  • white cake layers, prepared from mix
  • really good strawberry jam
  • extremely fresh, ripe strawberries
  • freshly whipped cream


  1. After cake has cooled, stack layers and cut into six wedges for a total of 12 pieces of cake.
  2. Whenever you are ready to eat the cake, spread a cake piece with strawberry jam, then top jam with chopped strawberries, and spread with freshly whipped cream.
  3. Top with another piece of cake, add more whipped cream, and garnish with additional chopped strawberries.
  4. Repeat as necessary until everyone has had enough cake.

I would pick more strawberries just to make this cake again.


Strawberry Picking, Memories Old & New

My Dad and I used to go strawberry picking every June, returning home with large baskets full of strawberries Mom would turn into jam, shortcake, and bread. I had a love-hate relationship with strawberry picking. I loved strawberries and all the things my mother would make from them, but I hated being out in the fields at the crack of dawn when they were still a bit misty and the mosquitoes were waiting. However, there was usually a sweet spot when the mist and mosquitoes left, but it had not gotten so warm my sweat attracted the horseflies. Then I loved picking and raced to see it I could fill my basket faster than Dad could fill his.

Once I went away to college I wasn't home for strawberry picking and it was all up to Dad. My parents found other things to do on June weekends and, eventually, strawberry picking stopped altogether. My mother put up fewer and fewer preserves and pickles and, while she still had all her canning accoutrements when she died, aside from a batch of pickled green tomatoes, she hadn't put up anything in a decade or more.

And yet when I think about my mom lately, my heart is full of memories of preserving and pickling. The humid kitchen heavy with the scent of hot jam which no amount of window-opening or fan use would shift. The kitchen counter covered with towels and quilted glass canning jars glowing like gems. The taste of still-warm strawberry jam on a slice of buttered white bread. And much later, in the autumn, the top shelf of the fridge door lined with a row of half-pint jam jars and quarts of pickles.

As I can't seem to stop thinking about jam making, I visited Lyman Orchards last week and, after an hour or so, picked almost thirteen pounds of strawberries. I could have picked faster, but the field was full of excited young families and adorable elderly ladies and it was pleasant to pick slowly among them.

Thirteen pounds of berries is quite a lot of berries and, as I'd picked the reddest, ripest fruit I could see, I was quite anxious to get them home once I filled cardboard flat. I was quite concerned about jam making, because it had always struck me as such a huge production that could so easily run amok. The jam might not set. The lids might not seal. I could bollocks the whole thing up.

But I didn't. I made two batches of strawberry jam -- one a traditional high sugar recipe and the other a reduced-sugar vanilla bean infused one -- from the instruction materials that came with the Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System I'd purchased on clearance from BJ's Wholesale Club back in January at a delightful discount. Everything came together flawlessly with minimal fuss. The jam set. The lids sealed. I am now filled with confidence and want to jam all the things.

I used Mom's half pint jars and when I look at my jams, glowing ruby in the light from the kitchen window, I feel pride of accomplishment as well as a sense of continuity and permanence. While these are not my mother's jams, I imagine her twenties teaching herself to can and preserve, worrying about whether her jam would set or the lids would seal, and I think we share this.


#ImprovCooking: Red, White, & Blue

June's Improv Cooking Challenge theme was red, white, and blue. This would have been the perfect opportunity to trot out a patriotic Battenberg cake, but I just didn't have that kind of time. (Do you know how many years a Battenberg has sat at the top of my "to bake" list? Too. Darn. Many. Someday, Battenberg, someday.) So here's a bright, seasonal salad full of fresh berries and all the right colors. It is simply dressed to taste with a mixture of olive oil and lemon-infused white balsamic vinegar, as I didn't want to overwhelm the berries.

Red: Strawberries
Reddish: Red Onions
White: Jicama
Whitish: Chicken
Blue: Blueberries
Blueish: Blue Cheese

I used canapé cutters to stamp out blossom-shaped pieces of jicama for the "white" in this salad, because I was trying for maximum pretty. Small cubes would work, too, and a Granny Smith apple or Asian pear would be fine substitute if you can't find jicama at your local market. My local grocery stores keeps jicama in two places -- either (already peeled and chopped) next to diced cantaloupe and watermelon or (whole) next to the plantains and coconut.

But what is jicama, you ask? Jicama is as squat roundish root vegetable covered in a rough, bark-like brown skin which should be peeled before eating or cooking. The flesh is white and crunchy with a slightly sweet flavor -- it's kind-of like eating water chestnut or an under ripe pear.

Red, White, & Blue Spinach Salad

Yield: 2


  • 4 oz sliced strawberries
  • 3 oz blueberries
  • 1 oz thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 oz jicama cut into blossoms or small cubes
  • 4 oz chopped cooked chicken
  • 3 oz baby spinach
  • 3 Tbsp lemon-infused white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese
  • Salt and pepper, as desired


  1. For the salad: in a large bowl, toss together strawberries, blueberries, onion, jicama, chicken, and spinach. Set aside.
  2. For the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and cheese. Season, as desired, with salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and gently toss until well distributed.
  3. To serve: Arrange salad on a large serving platter. Garnish with extra cheese, if desired.

The #ImprovCookingChallenge is a monthly blogging event where two ingredients are assigned to a month. Bloggers can make any recipe they like as long as it features the two ingredients. If you are a blogger and would like to join us, please visit our Facebook page.You can also read more about the event on our our home page.

If you’d like to see previous creations, check out our Pinterest board.


The Scents (& Flavors) of Autumn: Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Now that autumn is properly here, it seemed a good time wrap myself in the wonderful smells of apples and cinnamon. Also, my most recent CSA share included five pounds of absurdly large MacIntosh apples and, while I like apples, grapefruit-sized apples seemed too big for a quick snack. I thought about stuffing and baking them, but that seemed like too much work. Then I thought about slow cooker applesauce -- it's always worked out well in the past -- but that did not excite me. And then I thought ... well, what about apple butter? My mom used to can her own apple butter and it was fabulous stuff. While I doubted I could make anything as good as hers, I could certainly try.

I used a friend's spiralizer to process the apples, because I thought the thinner ribbons would cook down more quickly than chunks might, but it probably didn't matter as I left it to cook all day while I was at work. When I came home, the whole house smelled like apple pie and the apples had reduced to a dark brown sludge -- sludge sounds decidedly ewww, I know, but it's the texture I was looking for.

I whizzed everything 'round with a stick blender and then let it cook for another hour while I futzed around on the internet. Afterwords, I decanted the apple butter into my prettiest jars (which was not a good idea as the jars are blue which means the apple butter looks greenish and that's just not super appetizing) and let it cool before storing it in the fridge.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Yield: 1½ pints


  • 5 lbs of apples
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Using the straight blade, spiralize the apples, leaving the skin on.
  2. Add apples and all other ingredients to slow cooker insert and stir to mix.
  3. Cover and cook apples on low for 10 hours on low or until apples are dark brown, completely soft, and very reduced in volume.
  4. Puree the apples with an immersion blender until smooth.
  5. Continue cooking, partially covered, on low for 1 hour more or until the apple butter has reduced to your desired thickness. (It will continue to thicken as it cools, fyi).
  6. Refrigerate apple butter in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks or freeze until needed.
What to do with apple butter? Other than the obvious straight-from-the-jar-with-a-spoon? Spread it on muffins, toast, or bagels. Pair it with chopped walnuts and stir it into your breakfast yogurt or oatmeal. Whizz it with vanilla ice cream and bourbon for a boozy shake. Bake it into a bundt!


Improv Cooking Challenge: Apples & Honey

September's Improv Challenge Cooking ingredients were apples and honey. Classic fall flavors, they'd usually inspire me to bake some variety of yumptious bundt cake, but ... it's still in the 80s here and very humid, making baking very much a NOPE.

So here's a simple, yet tasty, autumnal-ish salad. Featuring lots of whole grains, protein, healthy fats, and whatnot, it's rather healthy and you can feel righteous while you eat it (if that's your thing).

This salad is delicious as written, but I can see that it would also make a very good base for all sorts of variations, depending on what's in the pantry and fridge. For example, I think a combination of dried cranberries, hazelnuts, and chopped kale could be quite tasty!

Quinoa Apple Salad

Yield: 2


  • 4 oz cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 2 oz baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 oz walnuts, chopped
  • 1 oz dried tart cherries, chopped
  • 3 oz cored, chopped Granny Smith apple
  • ½ oz shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp runny apple blossom honey [or your favorite variety]
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Combine cooked quinoa, spinach, walnuts, cherries, apple, and shallot in a large serving bowl.
  2. Whisk together oil, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour dressing mixture over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  4. Best if allowed to rest for 20 minutes before serving. (If refrigerating, allow to come to room temperature before serving.)

While this makes a lovely light vegetarian lunch all on its own, feel free to add crumbled feta cheese (and/or sliced grilled chicken breast if you do meat) to make it more filling for larger appetites. One serving on its own at lunch kept me going until supper, but then I found I did need to add a little chicken to keep me going through the evening shift.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.


Brie & Green Apple Flatbread

I had leftover brie and naan after making the "Berry & Balsamic Flabread" for July's Improv Cooking Challenge, so I thought I'd try another fruity flatbread, but this time I'd use apples. I happened to have an excess of green apples on hand -- bought them on a whim and have completely failed to eat them -- and I thought apples and brie would pair well together.

Despite becoming distracted by Kate Quinn's The Alice Network and over-baking the crust a bit, I thought this flatbread a worthwhile endeavor. It really is a great combination of textures and flavors and it goes together lickety-split, thus avoiding the impatient lunchtime hangries. (You also get the impatient lunchtime hangries, right? When you're so HUNGRY that if you don't eat lunch ASAP you're going to go all Tasmanian Devil on people??)

Brie & Green Apple Flatbread

Yield: 1 small pizza


  • 1 small naan
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 oz brie, sliced thinly
  • 2 oz sliced cored green apple
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ oz baby arugula
  • Cider vinegar, as desired
  • Runny honey, as desired
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Put your pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Brush the naan with olive oil. Layer naan with brie and apples. Sprinkle w/ cinnamon.
  3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the apple slices have softened.
  4. In a salad bowl, toss arugula with vinegar and honey.
  5. Scatter dressed arugula over the naan pizza and sprinkle with black pepper. Serve.


Improv Cooking Challenge: Berries & Balsamic

July's Improv Challenge Cooking ingredients are the bright sweet-tart flavors of berries and balsamic. I decided to keep my dish simple and combined those with fresh herbs and cheese to make decidedly nontraditional pizza. I know warm cheese and berries might sound a little nope (The Husband would not eat this if it were the last thing left to eat on Earth), but it is a tasty savory-sweet combination I cannot get enough of.

A flatbread pizza requires cheese and I wanted to push the boat out, experience wise, and cook with something different. Generally, I'm a goat cheese or cheddar girl, with brief forays into the blues, so I thought I'd try Brie this time around. I'd eaten Brie before -- part of a cold mixed cheese platter with fruits and nuts -- and been underwhelmed by it, but I've read Brie is the "queen of cheeses" so maybe I should give it another try? Maybe, it would taste better warm?

And it did. Warm Brie, imho, is good. Cold Brie -- at least the unknown Brie I'd eaten before and the one I used in this flatbread -- are just kind of mushroomy and blech. But warm Brie ... warm Brie is soft, creamy yumminess. Especially paired with balsamic vinegar and sweet berries.

In short, this flatbread, with its great mix of flavors and textures, is absolutely delicious and so dead easy to put together that you could eat one every day.

Berry & Balsamic Flatbread

Yield: 1 small pizza


  • 1 small naan
  • 1 tsp garlic olive oil
  • ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 oz Brie, sliced
  • 3 oz mixed blueberries and blackberries
  • ½ oz baby arugula
  • ½ Tbsp blackberry balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Put your pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Brush the naan with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Layer naan with Brie and berries. Scatter with thyme.
  3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the berries have softened.
  4. Scatter arugula over the naan pizza, drizzle balsamic vinegar over all, and sprinkle with black pepper. Serve.

If you don't have pizza stone, then just preheat your oven and prep and bake your flatbread on a baking sheet. For the longest time, I thought pizza stones were just pretentious tomfoolery for home cooks, but then I inherited one from my mom and ... homemade pizza is better on a pizza stone. And anything you might usually wrap in foil or parchment and bake on a sheet pan can be baked on a pizza stone. Also, a pizza stone bakes up beautifully crusty "artisanal" loaves. So it's multipurpose. And, since you can just leave it on the bottom rack of your oven all the time, don't worry about storage space ...

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.


Refreshing Mint & Melon Salad

The weather may have turned bitterly cold and windy, but there are tiny irises blooming in my back garden and my whole being sings out for spring. Thus, an unseasonable fruit salad is born!

The melon and strawberries are actually leftover from a party tray ... after three days, the melon was just on the edge of overripeness and the strawberries, a bit watery and blah to begin with, were now decidedly meh. Combine them with lime, mint, and a little agave, and suddenly they're splendid!

Hooray! No wasted fruit and I can cuddle up under my fleecy blanket with a big bowl of this and pretend it is spring.

Refreshing Mint & Melon Salad

Yield: 1-3, depending on greed


  • 2 cups quartered strawberries
  • 2 cups diced honeydew melon
  • 1 Tbsp chiffonade of mint leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Zest of ½ a lime
  • 1 tsp light agave or runny honey


  1. Add strawberries, melon, mint to a medium serving bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, zest, and agave.
  3. Pour lime mixture over fruit and gently toss to combine.


Easy Roasted Figs

Figs aren't a fruit I think about often. And I buy them so infrequently there's always a brief moment of panic when I get them home -- what am I going to do with these (ruinously expensive) dusky fruits? Frequently, I take the easy way out and throw them on a bed of baby greens with fig balsamic vinegar, olive oil, walnuts, and goat cheese for an elegant work lunch.

However, grocery shopping the other day, I was struck with a sudden, intense need for roasted figs. Warm, rich, luscious figs dripping juices. And that crunch of seed amongst the softness ... ohhh. And it turns out it's so flippin' easy to roast figs. Fancy as they may seem, they are seriously easy-peasy.

Easy Roasted Figs

Yield: 6 figs (approx. 3 servings)


  • 6 ripe figs
  • Honey, as desired
  • Cinnamon, as desired


  1. Preheat the oven to 350&degF.
  2. Wash and dry the figs. Cut a cross into each fig going most, but not all, of the way through the fig. Give each fig a little squeeze so they open up like a tulip.
  3. Place the figs on a baking tray lined with foil or parchment for easy cleanup.
  4. Drizzle the figs with honey and sprinkle with honey.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft.
  6. Either eat immediately or allow to cool, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

I've been using these roasted figs to top my morning bowl of Nature's Path Organic "Flax Plus" instant hot oatmeal and it's really yummy. Just warm them gently in the microwave and plop them on top of the oatmeal. Also good warmed and then smashed onto a piece of spelt toast.

In addition to tasting nice, fresh figs are quite good for you by being a good source of potassium and dietary fiber, as well as low in calorie ... which is a great excuse to buy more of them!


Sweet Cherry Syrup; or, Liquid Summer

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy

The Husband surprised me with a big bag of cherries. He doesn't even like cherries, but he knows I do and he is a kind person, so cherries. So. Many. Cherries. I ate them every day, but the bag never seemed to empty and the cherries would not stay at peak edibleness (edibility?) forever ... what to do? Pie was out of the question, as I was not up to baking one and who would I share it with, if I could? I can't probably shouldn't eat a whole cherry pie on my own.

And then I stumbled across Arlene Mobley's recipe for "Cherry Simple Syrup" on Community Table and it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. Four ingredients. A few simple steps. An amount of syrup that wouldn't overwhelm me.

The syrup is delightful. It was easy to make, minus the boil over that made a sticky mess on my stove top and was entirely my own fault for not keeping an eye on things. Beautifully red, it tastes like unadulterated summer in a jar and the heady aroma of it! One whiff of it brings me back to my Grandma G's kitchen, where she always seemed to have a cherry pie waiting.

I did end up cooking my syrup just a wee bit longer than Mobley's recipe directs, because my syrup seemed too thin. An extra five minutes on the stove gave me what I was looking for -- a syrup that coated the back of my wooden spoon. Chilled, the syrup now has the constancy of, say, an undiluted squash or fruit cordial.

Simply tossing out the drained stewed cherries seemed wasteful so I ate them, warmed, over plain Greek yogurt for breakfast and, ohhhh, DYNAMITE. Probably also fab on vanilla ice cream or ricotta toast, but they didn't last long enough for me to find out.

What can you do with this syrup? Well, I've been adding it to lemonade as well as unsweetened green and black iced teas. I've also tried it in Sprite Zero with a bit of lime -- a kind of bastardization of the Shirley Temple or Sonic's Cherry Limeaid, I guess -- and it was surprisingly bright and refreshing. (I mean, I'd certainly expected it to be good, but not so good I'd want a pitcher of it).

Have you tried pitting cherries with a straw? I see that trick mentioned a lot, but I've had not luck with it. I just used a knife to pit these cherries -- ran my knife around each cherry and split it in half, then popped the pit out with my thumb. It was a little messy, yes, but cooking usually is.


Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

I'd bought a mixed bag of lemons and limes, because the price was very nice and thought I would use far more of them in cooking and baking then I actually did, so I ended up with a bowl of wonky looking citrus giving me the side-eye every time I went into the kitchen. Obviously, something needed to be done.

Well, when life gives you wonky lemons (and limes), make lemonade. I used Imperial Sugar's "Old Fashioned Lemonade" recipe as my guide, but reduced the sugar to one cup. The lemonade had a very bright, sweet-tart flavor that kept us coming back for more.

My lemon has a heart!

And then that was it. No more home-made lemonade. Back to the Farmer's Cow, I thought. The Farmer's Cow makes perfectly yummy lemonade -- The Husband is partial to strawberry, but I totally ❤ watermelon -- and buying it supports local agriculture and business. Meaning, I get to feel extra virtuous while being a lazy cook.

Except. While The Husband, who functions as The Shopper of Groceries & Carrier of All That Is Heavy since my surgery, has been buying Farmer's Cow lemonades he also keeps bring home bags of lemons. Because he wants more lemonade. Oh, sweet lemonade.

So I keep making lemonade. It's actually the perfect cooking activity for me, right now, as lemonade don't care how long it takes you to make it. Need a little sit down after juicing the lemons? That's fine.

Luscious blackberries from Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market

Because I can't leave well enough alone, I had to fancy up this recipe and make blackberry lemonade. (Also, the blackberries were in danger of going off).

Blackberry Lemonade

Yield: 2 quarts


  • 2 small containers blackberries (makes about 1¾ cups puree w/ sugar)
  • 1-1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ cup lemon juice (about 9 juicy lemons)
  • 4 cups cold water


  • Blitz sugar and blackberries in a food processor or blender until a smooth puree forms. Press puree through a sieve into a large pitcher. Add lemon juice and water, stir well, and taste. Add additional water or sugar, if needed.

The ripeness and relative size of your fruit will determine how much juice you get, which will effect the amount of sugar you'll want to use. One cup usually works just fine, but sometimes the blackberries aren't so sweet and need a little boost.


Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

I was going to post this during Choctoberfest, but decided the nibbles were too similar to the chocolate bark recipe I shared and stuffed it back in my drafts folder at the last minute. However, now that I've eaten almost all of these little chocolate nibbles, I feel they're too good not to share ... even if they're not fancy!

Basically, instead of making a sheet of bark, I made little circular splodges of melted chocolate and decorated them with dried fruits and nuts. They taste a treat, are perfectly portioned, and (imho) present a little nicer than the bark.

Berry & Chocolate Nibbles

Yield: Depends on how much you like chocolate!


  • 4 oz good quality dark chocolate morsels
  • Dried fruit and nuts, as desired


  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Use a spoon to make bite-sized chocolate circular splodges on the paper. Then scatter a few dried berries across each circle.
  3. Place in the fridge to harden, about 20 minutes.

If using freeze-dried fruit, these are best eaten within a day or two as the freeze-dried fruit will "plump up" and become less crispy. Nibbles made with "regular" dried fruit keep at least a week in the fridge.


Choctoberfest: Chocolate & Berry Bark

Choctoberfest and a household divided. Shall I throw down the olive branch cocoa nibs of peace and work with more milk chocolate for my last #Choctoberfest post? The Husband prefers milk chocolate, you see, and I very much prefer dark (and the darker the better, baby). As I am the baker and cook in this house, I tend to bake with a lot of dark chocolate and then take my creations off to work with me, because I can't (shouldn't?) eat a whole pan of cookies or whatnot on my own and my coworkers are verrrry enthusiastic eaters. The Husband clearly feels left out and tends to get a bit ... complainy. If I loved him, really properly loved him, then surely I would bake chocolatey things he liked?

So I withheld snarky comments about unsophisticated palates and made this chocolate bark with The Husband's preferred flavors in mind -- milk chocolate, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, and hazelnuts. Because I love him. Or I'm trying to give him diabetes. It might amount to the same thing.


Anyway, this was my first attempt at chocolate bark and it would probably never have happened were it not for #Choctoberfest! It turns out it's dead easy to make, albeit a bit time consuming, and I really wish I'd tried it sooner. My imagination is afire with possible flavor combinations and I suspect this is something I'm going make quite often through the fall and winter. At the very least, it's a delicious way to use up those dribs and drabs of dried fruit and nuts lurking in the back of the baking cupboard!

I'd read a little bit more about chocolate -- my library has some really helpful books, including The Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook -- by the time I decided to make this bark, so I was reasonably sure decent-quality milk chocolate morsels could be used instead of the "fancy" melting chips I used when I made the chocolate dipped glacé apricots.

Chocolate & Berry Bark


  • 11.5 oz package milk chocolate baking chips [Ghiradelli]
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried strawberry slices
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried blackcurrants
  • ⅓ cup freeze-dried raspberries
  • ⅓ cup crushed salted roasted hazelnuts


  1. Line a 13x9" rimmed baking sheet (quarter sheet pan) with parchment paper.
  2. Place milk chocolate morsels in a large microwave-safe bowl; microwave on High 30 seconds; stir well and repeat until wafers are smooth.
  3. Pour chocolate out onto parchment paper and, using an offset spatula, spread to form a rectangle of even thickness.
  4. Artistically arrange berries and nuts across the melted chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes. Break or cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container in fridge.
This bark is best eaten within a day or two of making as the dehydrated berries will soften and become more chewy as they are exposed to the moisture from the chocolate.

Don't forget today is THE LAST DAY to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


Choctoberfest: Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

The generous folks at Imperial Sugar sent me a case of their extra fine granulated pure cane sugar for #Choctoberfest. In case you're not impressed by that, let me point out that a case of Imperial Sugar is forty pounds of sugar. Think of all the things I can create with that amount of sugar! Think of all the cups of tea The Husband can sweeten with the bits he "borrows!" Seriously though, The Husband likes his black tea sweet and too often I have gone to bake something only to find the bottom of the sugar canister coated with the merest scraping of sugar as "someone" has drunk up the rest. That's not going to happen now. Even he can't use that much sugar in his tea!

Astounded by Imperial Sugar's generosity, I decided to bake meringue cookies with their sugar as it's such a simple recipe -- not much more than eggs and sugar -- and I thought it would give the sugar a chance to shine. Sugar doesn't just make these meringue cookies sweetly delicious, but it binds with the egg proteins, increasing their strength and elasticity, creating the fluffiest meringue. Science!

While I've made meringue with regular ol' granulated sugar, it can give the meringue a grainy texture which is not terrible in something like Eton Mess, where the meringue is smashed up and mixed with many other ingredients, but I didn't want gritty cookies. Imperial Sugar doesn't seem to make a superfine sugar, so I just whirred the Imperial Sugar granulated white around in my food processor until it resembled fine beach sand. This doesn't take long to do and allows me to feel even more smug about my kitchen skills.

These cookies are a trifle on the large size -- I like a generous cookie -- so you might want to use teaspoonfuls instead of tablespoons if you prefer a more delicate and ladylike cookie. Also, you could mix some cocoa powder in with the chips and raspberries for a more chocolaty meringue.

Also, feel free to use semisweet or bittersweet (yessss) chocolate in these cookies. The Husband does not enjoy dark chocolate and I love The Husband and want him to be happy, so I stuck with milk.

Chocolate-Raspberry Meringue Cookies

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies


  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 4 oz white granulated sugar [Imperial Sugar]
  • 1 oz freeze-dried raspberries
  • 5 oz milk chocolate morsels


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Using your fingers, gently break the raspberries so none remain whole, being careful not to crush them into dust. Set aside.
  3. Pour white sugar into your food processor and whir around until it resembles fine beach sand. Set aside.
  4. In the scrupulously clean and dry bowl of your stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment to whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla until the whites form soft peaks.
  5. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and mixture becomes very white and glossy.
  6. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries and chocolate chips, taking care not to deflate the batter.
  7. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls on to the parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 1½ hours, rotating the pans from top-to-bottom and front-to-back halfway through baking.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the meringues cool completely in oven, about 2 hours.

If the cookies stick to the paper when you try to remove them then they are not baked properly. Reheat the oven to 200°F, put the cookies back in, and then turn off oven. Leave for about 2 hours and they should be fine.

These cookies will keep well in an airtight container on your kitchen counter for several weeks ... if they last that long!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


Choctoberfest: Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

My first recipe post for #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar and I'm telling you how to make blondies when you're probably all expecting some decadent ooey-gooey chocolate explosion of a brownie. Well. Here's the thing -- I prefer blondies to brownies. Yes. I know. WEIRD. But, seriously, these blondies are vastly superior to your standard brownie, don't take any more time to make, and are just so fine! They're the perfect combination of a sugar cookie and a brownie -- dense and fudgy like a brownie, but the flavor is pure sugar cookie. The addition of almonds and raspberries make them seem extra fancy -- rich and decadent -- but they really are so easy to make and go down a treat with a cold glass of milk. Or big mug of sugary tea. Or tiny glass of dessert wine ...

Baking chips. Some for the blondies, some for my belly.

While I love blondies, I don't like them too sweet so when I threw this recipe together one afternoon I opted for bittersweet chocolate morsels instead of white (which is what I usually find in blondies) to try to balance the sweetness of the brown sugar and berries. I think I was successful, but these bars are still very rich, so feel free to cut them smaller than I did!

These are most delicious served warm so the chocolate is a bit gooey.

I used King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat in this recipe, but the same amount of all-purpose would work just as well. White whole wheat adds an air of virtuousness to these blondies, legitimatizing my tendency to scarf them down like nobody's business! Also, if you want to play around with it, I'm betting blackberries and pecans would make a tasty variation.

I did not line the pan with parchment the first time & it was pretty much impossible to remove the baked bars.

Bittersweet Raspberry Blondies

Yield: 16 bars (cut 4x4)


  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour]
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking spice mix [Penzeys]
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]
  • ¾ cup bittersweet chocolate baking chips [Ghirardelli]
  • 4 oz fresh raspberries
  • ⅓ cup flaked almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 8x8 baking dish and line with parchment paper so that there is a bit of overhang -- this will make it MUCH easier to get the baked blondies out later.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in large bowl with hand-held mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  4. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Scatter raspberries and almonds evenly over batter. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is set, about 35 minutes.
  7. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Remove blondies from pan, cut into 16 pieces (4 rows by 4 rows) and serve.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for fabulous Choctoberfest prizes!


Improv Challenge: Apples & Oats

For September's Improv Challenge -- apples and oats -- I decided to try my hand at cranachan. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert usually made with toasted oats, whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries. Obviously, mine is a bit different as I used apples, cinnamon, and apple brandy. And Greek yoghurt ...

Thinking about it, I now realize I've actually made an extra posh version of apple cinnamon Chobani Oats!

Whether it's cranachan or a Chobani-clone, it tastes pretty fine! The toasted oats and almonds give the dish a really satisfying texture, the apples are sweet-tart, and the creamy, cinnamon-y yoghurt binds it all together. Admittedly, whipped cream would definitely be more fun, but the yoghurt is a flavorful and healthful substitution. If you omit the brandy, this dish is appropriate for breakfast. If you leave the brandy in, it makes a delightful companion when marathoning The Crimson Field.

Apple Cranachan

Yield: Serves 1 generously


  • 1 oz old-fashioned oats
  • ½ oz flaked almonds
  • 5½ oz container Greek-style vanilla yoghurt [Chobani]
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2 Tbsp apple brandy, divided [Josiah Bartlett]
  • ½ Tbsp butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped small


  1. Warm a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oats and cook, carefully stirring to avoid burning, until they smell nutty and are lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove oats from pan and set aside to cool.
  2. Repeat oat-toasting method with almonds, being careful to keep a close eye of them as it will take much less time to toast them. Remove nuts from pan and set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk together the vanilla yoghurt, honey, and half the cinnamon and brandy. Set aside.
  4. Heat a nonstick saucepan over high heat, add the butter, and sauté the apple for 2-3 minutes. When the apple begins to soften, add remaining tablespoon of brandy and cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  5. Combine the cooled oatmeal, nuts, and remaining half teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Layer the yoghurt mixture, oat mixture, and apples in a bowl and serve. (You could also skip the layering and simply mix everything together, but it may not look as nice).


Berries and Cream, You Fool

I've been browsing a lot of "old-timey" British cookbooks (blame The Great British Bake-Off) and have become quite smitten with puddings (which are generally quite different from American pudding). A fool seemed a good place to start as fools are fairly straight forward since they are, in their most basic form, little more than whipped cream folded into pureed fruit. Cream. Fruit. What's not to like?

And, if you're concerned with the amount of fat in the heavy cream, do what I did -- clean out the garage, cutting up piles of cardboard and cursing at the gigantic (and extra-creepy) spiders! A few hours of that leaves me so itchy, sweaty, and dirt-encrusted that I am completely certain I deserve heavy cream.

I used my Kitchen Aid Professional to make this fool as it really speeds things along. If you don't have a stand mixer or hand mixer or stick blender, a chilled metal bowl and hand whisk will work just fine, obviously, but it will take a bit longer to whip the cream.

The amount of sugar you use in the fool is dependent on the sweetness of your berries. My blackberries were almost overripe and bursting with sweetness so I mashed them with a single teaspoon of sugar. Less ripe/tarter berries may require more sugar, depending on your taste preferences.

Obviously, any berry (or mix of berries) would work well in this recipe so get experimenting!

Summer Blackberry Fool

Yield: 2 generous servings


  • 6 oz blackberries
  • 4 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 8 oz heavy (whipping) cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste [Nielsen-Massey]


  1. Put the bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer in the freezer.
  2. Mash most of the blackberries (reserve a few for garnish) with the mint, lemon juice, and one teaspoon of sugar. Set aside for about 20 minutes so the flavors mingle and everything gets a bit juicy.
  3. Using the chilled bowl and whisk, whip the cream with the remaining sugar and vanilla crush. Gently fold the whipped cream and blackberry mix together to make a purple-colored cream.
  4. Garnish with additional mint and remaining blackberries. Nom!


Improv Challenge: Apples & Cinnamon

November's Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients are apples and cinnamon. While I considered pie and bundt cake and cookies, I knew my greedy little heart wanted something savory. And simple, because I'm also feeling lazy. It should be a one pot dish, preferably, with minimal washing up or ingredients to be prepped!

Well, I don't think it gets much simpler than this -- apples and sweet potatoes mashed with cinnamon and maple syrup! While the cooked apples dissolve into the mashed potato, the slightly tart Granny Smith flavor is still there balancing out the sweetness of the potato and syrup and the cinnamon makes everything sing. The butter is just gilding the lily, adding a touch of richness to a mixture that could stand just fine without it. (But I'm not going to leave it out, am I? Of course not).

This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and would be fine for vegans if you swap the butter out for something like Earth Balance.

Apple-Cinnamon Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 2-4
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 15 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Put sweet potatoes and apple in large saucepan, cover with water, and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife (about 15 minutes). Drain water.
  2. Add butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Mash until your preferred texture is reached (I like mine a little lumpy). Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Mashed Sweets & Apple

Goes really well with maple-glazed roast pork tenderloin and nutty roasted broccoli. Or, you know, it's great just by itself!