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Apple Blueberry Pie

I was born in a small town in rural southern British Columbia. We had 10 acres of land and to a small child, it was enormous; a wondrous, magical place full of nature and adventure. The property sported a small orchard of beautifully twisted and gnarled apple trees and if you have seen an apple tree you may understand how magical they appear.

They have a particular grayish bark that makes them look ancient and wise and during the spring they burst with soft pink blossoms that later in the summer and fall become perfect fruit. Many a sunny summer day was spent amongst those ancient beauties, climbing, conversing with bees and picking apples, then watching my mother’s hands peel them, slice and spice them, and bake them into perfect pies in our farmhouse’s wood burning oven.

Now I live a long way away from that pastoral life, I’m decades beyond those hazy summer apple-picking days. I can easily stop by a grocery store or bakery and buy a pie, and it would be good, it might even be great. It might remind me vaguely that I once upon a time plucked sun-warmed apples in the shade of hundred year old trees. Or maybe not. Despite time and distance, nostalgia is a potent force and despite it being a seemingly insignificant goal to pick apples and make a pie from them, the action, for me, was soul satisfying. Sometimes simple things can transport us, take us back in time and place and let us re-live a moment, or re-connect with someplace or some one we have lost or moved on from.

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Blueberry Pancakes

Some foods are classics for a reason, because everytime you reach for them you get just what you’re needing and expecting from the experience. Blueberry pancakes on a slow weekend morning are pretty much my definition of the perfect indulgent breakfast. Through the week it’s spinach and frozen fruit wazzed up into smoothies that get the day started but sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday I like to slow things down, get a bit more nostalgic and bring some smiles to the table with these old school treats. And if it happens to be blueberry season, like it is right now, then all the better! Unless I have to pick them myself, you know how I feel about picking fruit! (more…)

Blueberry Beet Smoothie

 

I’ve been laying on the floor of my studio for forty minutes or so listening to The Doors and then some old school jazz.

Cliche? Maybe.

Necessary? Definitely.

Sometimes you just need to re-fuel. Sometimes you need to tune in to tune out. Sometimes you just need a boost. (more…)

Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

 

Breakfast.

Super important, right?

Right.

We know it’s true. But sometimes it’s just not … fun. Or easy. Or quick. Or satisfying.

Sometimes you want to skip it all together. Sometimes you just want cookies for breakfast. I know I certainly do from time to time.

This little recipe was borne of one of those mornings. It was a drizzly Saturday and while by espresso brewed, I stood with the refrigerator door agape and looked at my options. Eggs? No. Yogurt? No. Leftovers? No. Uninspired by the fridge I turned to the pantry. The usual cereal suspects caught my eye but nothing leapt out. Then I spied some cookies, which we almost never have in the house. No! Bad idea. Unless … What if I made a health(ier), breakfast inspired cookie that actually had some nutritional value? Hmm…

 A little of this, a little of that, and they come together in no time at all. Make them big (1/4 C of dough!) so they feel like a meal, but with the added bonus that you do less scooping (I hate scooping cookies. Too tedious.) They’re packed with goodness and really tasty thanks to the unexpected perfection of cinnamon and blueberries. I don’t know about you, but that’s everyting I want my breakfast to be.

 

Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

preheat oven to 350°

¼ C butter or margarine, softened

¼ C apple sauce

¾ C brown sugar or coconut sugar*

1 egg

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

¼ C plain yogurt

1 C whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ C raw quinoa

2 Tbsp flax seeds

½ C rolled oats (not instant)

1 Tbsp cinnamon

1 C fresh blueberries

Combine the first 6 (wet) ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix well until fully incorporated.

In a second bowl, combine all the remaining (dry) ingredients, including the berries. Stir gently to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix carefully so as not to burst the berries.

Scoop into generous ¼ C cookies and place on a parchment lined baking tray. This recipe will make 10 large cookies, and they do spread slightly so be sure not to crowd your baking sheet — I find that 2 batches of 5 works best.

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350° until puffed and brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

*I used coconut sugar, which doesn’t taste of coconut and is almost as sweet in taste but is glycemically low.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I can recall many a bygone summer punctuated by berry picking. Just a stone’s throw from the edge of Vancouver proper unfolds seemingly endless opportunities to pick your own fruit. Nearly any berry you could want, you can pick, if the time is right. As the thermometer rises, and the sun does its magic, the region swells with fruit, ripened and ready to be plucked by the adventurous, the frugal and sometimes the unwilling. (The unwilling being myself and my niece Justine, who is only 5 years younger than me.)

As kids, we hated it, dreaded it.

The car ride: too hot with bare legs sticking to the seats, and seat belt buckle burns. The farms themselves: there was always a dodgy looking old guy or a ferocious seeming dog. The blazing sun: high sun, sweltering down on us, shoulders and backs peeling despite the slick of sunscreen and the embarrassingly wide brimmed hats. The bugs: at every turn there were spider webs to get ensnared in, sometimes with spiders. Or grasshoppers whizzing and clicking and zipping up the leg of your shorts. Or snakes. The reach: we were kids so we were short (we still are) so leaning into brambles, bushes and rows upon rows of shrubbery to reach up-high clusters of berries meant falling into them, crushing your plastic ice cream pail, losing your hat, likely swallowing a spider and getting leapt upon by any manner of creature. The work: this was hard labour, man. Minutes dragged by, hours felt like days and had we not been so creeped out by the flying, biting stinging things we would have just laid down under the bushes and waited for it to be done.

However did we make it through?

In reality it was never as bad as we remembered.Those car rides were filled with games of 20 questions, rock paper scissors and singing along to the radio. The farms were a change of pace from our city homes and the dogs, although full of bark, were never filled with bite. And the sun? We lived for midday sun. Justine would turn an impressive deep caramel and I would freckle — peeling sunburns and comparing tan lines was all part of the fun. The bugs were bad, the snakes were thrilling and while the grown ups were rows away from us, chatting, steadily filling their pails, we could be rambunctious, squealing at the sight of a wasp, chasing a snake, or poking spiders’ webs with sticks, only to shriek and recoil if they moved. Was it work? Not at all, it was a day outside with all the berries we could possibly eat.

As an adult, I now appreciate the work of picking berries, whether it’s me who picks them, or whether I just pick them up at the market. Either way, I have a better perspective on what it takes for local farmers to grow, produce, harvest, and sell their fruit. I’m also no longer “unwilling” to stop by a u-pick and fill an old ice cream pail or two on a sunny weekend afternoon. What changed? Well, now I get to do things with the pickings. Jams, tarts, cereal toppers, or muffins. The culinary options abound with fresh, seasonal fruit. It’s a short season, we may as well get all of it that we can – even if that means battling the grasshoppers, sidestepping snakes or even feeling like a kid again.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Since these little gems are not made by the “muffin method” they have a more classically cake-like crumb to them and they transform into loaf very well. Make this recipe as 2 loaves, 24 muffins or 1 loaf and 12 muffins.

preheat oven to 350°

1-3/4 C all purpose flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

a scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg (just a little pinch)

1/4 tsp salt

1 C yoghurt

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp vanilla

zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

1/2 C butter or margarine

1 C sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 -1/2 C fresh blueberries

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and vanilla together. Set aside. Cream together the butter, lemon zest and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs one at a time. Once the eggs are incorporated, mix in one third of the flour mixture then one half of the yoghurt. Repeat, alternating until all the flour and yoghurt mixtures are blended. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Scrape the batter into prepared (greased and floured) loaf tins or into muffin pans.

For loaves, bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. For muffins, bake 20-22 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes before turning out onto wire cooling rack.