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…)
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.
Sometimes you just need to re-fuel. Sometimes you need to tune in to tune out. Sometimes you just need a boost. (more…)
Let’s face it: breakfast can be a battle. Unfortunately, coffee just isn’t enough.
On the weekend it’s easy, there’s time and more resources. Be it a leisurely dunking of bread in egg for French toast or a quick trip to the nearest brunch hot spot, the weekend makes breakfast feel more, well, possible. Sadly, the work or school day is the day that we need the most fuel, and we need it the fastest. Light, nutritious, easy, convenient, we ask a lot of breakfast, and in turn, if we can get it right, we’re rewarded with better physical and cognitive function throughout the morning without pangs of hunger or fatigue.
To ensure a great breakfast we have to do two things: make time and make good choices. (more…)
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.
If we are Twitter pals, you may recall that a couple weeks ago I tweeted a smattering of frantic SOS-like questions pertaining to the exact whereabouts of a particular lemon and blueberry loaf that I was so sure I had seen and read, then forgotten, then remembered, and ultimately misplaced. I still haven’t found it. It is somewhere, out in the blog-osphere, taunting me. One day I will find it.
The reason for the panic was that I had been talking food (what else?) with my dear friend, Janna, who is a real delight and understands that all cannot be right with the world when one is on the hunt for a recipe. See, I had promised to forward it to her, but then I’d forgotten where I had seen it, and I was trying to appear organized, resourceful and master of my baking domain. Instead, I failed and flailed, but being the excellent friend that she is, Janna sent me a recipe instead. Her mother’s cinnamon loaf recipe, to be exact.
I read it through. It seemed simple enough. It called for soured milk (nothing a spritz of lemon wouldn’t solve) but I happened to have buttermilk. The cinnamon and brown sugar promised an intoxicating aroma, and as Janna put it, “Your whole house will smell sweet. It just takes over!”. Sold.
But there I was, still with the lemon blueberry loaf on my mind, and then it hit me … blueberries and cinnamon. Oh yes. Oh. Yes. So I whipped up the batter (shockingly runny!) and layered it with the cinnamon sugar, then deftly thwacked the heavy, dark berries into the surface. Into the oven it went. As if by magic, or the delicious psychic-ism of old friends, the phone rang. Who else but Janna?
“I’m making your mom’s cinnamon loaf. ”
“Oooooooh I bet your house smells like my childhood right now!”
“I added blueberries and used buttermilk.”
“Oh. Well, it will still be really good.”
An hour later, the phone call over, the cake emerged, golden, spiced and berries bubbling. I was glad I had baked it in a heart shaped dish — it made me smile. Cooled and cut, dusted with powdered sugar, it was fantastic; simple and homey. It was a far cry from lemon but somehow, thanks to the thoughtfulness of a friend and a dependable recipe, all was right with the world.
Cinnamon Blueberry Tea Cake
adapted from a family recipe
preheat your oven to 350°
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 C butter
1 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C buttermilk
1 C blueberries (fresh or frozen. if frozen, do not thaw)
Grease and flour a standard loaf pan or 8×8 square pan, set aside.
Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat until pale, fluffy and well incorporated.
In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
Pour approximately one 3rd of the dry mixture into the wet mixture, incorporate swiftly without over mixing. Add 1/2 the buttermilk, again, incorporating swiftly. Repeat, alternating with the remaining 2/3 of the dry ingredients and the second 1/2 of the buttermilk. The batter will be quite wet, similar to pancake batter.
Pour a thin layer of the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle over some of cinnamon sugar mixture. Alternate, making layers until both the batter and the cinnamon sugar are used. Swirl the layers with a knife, chopstick, skewer, etc.
Drop the blueberries, in a single layer all over the surface. Push some of them down into the batter and let others remain on top.
Bake for 1 hour – 1 hour 15 mins. The cake will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in its center comes out clean.
Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then turn the cake out to cool completely. Once cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.