Blueberries and Herbs
The past few weeks have been crazy busy and not allowed me enough time to post all of the delicious things that we have been making. This summer has given me a chance to totally change the way I think about food and what to make for dinner. For some, making dinner is quite a challenge when it comes to thinking about what to make every night. Now since we have been making bi-weekly trips to the “farm,” aka Rob’s parents garden, we let the fresh produce control what we are going to make for our meals. Usually each week there is an overabundance of one particular thing and for many weeks that particular vegetable has been zucchini. Some of these things are the size of Louisville sluggers! Now we are onto tomatoes which are being picked by the dozen several times a day. Having so many fresh ingredients that need to be used quickly, not so much because they will go bad, but because the taste is affected and we know that we will get another basket of produce in a few days so we need to eat as much as possible. Now most of the time this is not possible, so I have been preserving a ton of stuff and hiding produce in things that otherwise might be vegetable free. Anyone who knows me well knows that I spend a lot of time researching new ways to use food… I mean a lot of time. Some people are addicted to watching tv and some people are addicted to food and I am one of them. To make a long story short, today’s blog will focus on a few of the recipes I have made centering on a feature produce item.
We are nearing the end of blueberry season, but we were able to get one good pick at a nearby farm, West Moira Orchards. We waited for a nice sunny day, grabbed our berry basket, picked up Rob’s sister and took a drive to the u-pick operation located minutes from our house. The u-pick operation is enclosed with netting to prevent stray birds from coming in and eating all of the berries. But luckily for the birds, they are clever enough to make their way into the area to enjoy the delicious berries as well. This was my first time blueberry picking and I instantly became satisfied. My mind kept filling up with all of the wonderful things I could make with the berries when I returned home. I have to admit that it took me a very long time to fill my basket because I think I may have eaten more than I actually put into my 4L basket. After we were finished picking we went across the street to have our basket weighed and we were charged accordingly. I am convinced now that buying berries at the supermarket is a no no because you have no idea where they come from. Farm to plate is what I am talking about.
So once we got home we dove into the berries and had a few handfuls each. I washed them all and started to organize my recipes. But I didn’t want to use all of them because I wanted to freeze some as well to have on hand for the winter. The first thing I made was Blueberry Lime Muffins. The combination of blueberry and lime was something that I just tried. I had a bunch of limes in the fridge and needed to use them up. I got out my dusty zesting tool, gave it a rinse and made pretty little lime curls with the zest. I made my eggless muffin batter and folded in the lime zest and blueberries at the end. I just had a feeling that these were going to be good. Within seconds of being in the oven the house smelled of fresh blueberries with a hint of citrus…what a perfect Saturday morning breakfast.
Blueberry Lime Muffins
Recipe From: ???
Makes: 12 muffins
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Zest from 2 limes
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp lemon extract
1 TBS white vinegar
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Combine flour, soda, salt, and zest.
3. In a bowl mix the sugar, milk, oil, extract, and vinegar. Mix.
4. Add dry ingredients. Fold in berries. Top with cinnamon and sugar.
5. Bake for about 22 minutes or until done.
Every Sunday we have a family dinner and often it includes Rob’s parents, sister, and his grandparents. Last Sunday it was “Surprise Me Sunday.” This meant that everyone was going to bring a surprise potluck item. Our dish was classified top secret information until we arrived at the dinner. Obviously since we had just picked over 20 cups of fresh blueberries, we were going to make something with blueberries. A few months ago, I found a recipe for Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I have been putting it in my to try soon pile of recipes, but really I was waiting until we could go and pick the blueberries ourselves. With that being said, I knew exactly what I was going to make. This recipe is technically supposed to be a breakfast cake, but since I don’t do technical very well I ignored that. I followed the recipe, but lately I have been cutting back on the sugar in sweets because it is just way too much. So I only used about 1/2 cup sugar, and it was plenty sweet enough with the berries. This cake was very easy to make and was definitely a crowd pleaser and eggless too! Enjoy!
Blueberry Coffee Cake
Recipe From: Chefinyou.com
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 cup low fat sour cream
• 1 cup fresh/frozen blueberries ( dont thaw if frozen)
• 3-4 tbsp cinnamon sugar ( add sugar + cinnamon powder) for topping
1. Cream the sugar and butter together.
2. Add the applesauce and vanilla and blend some more.
3. Combine the dry ingredients except for the blueberries in a bowl, mix well.
4. Add these slowly to the wet ingredients alternating with Sour cream and blend. Fold in the blueberries.
5. Grease a Cake tin and spoon half the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and then spoon the remaining batter. Top it off with some more of the topping.
6. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40-45 min or until the skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Last week we had company over and the weather was supposed to be nice but instead it down poured all day. My plans for grilled pork tenderloin quickly turned into pork tenderloin in the crock pot. The highlight of the dish was going to be the blueberry balsamic barbeque sauce that was going to glaze the pork. I couldn’t let go of this idea so I served it on the side of the sliced pork. It was still fabulous and the flavors in the sauce blended together so nicely. I didn’t have garlic powder so I used one garlic clove minced. I have made this before a long time ago but I had never made it with fresh berries from the farm and boy do they make all of the difference. I am still awed at how much better food tastes when it comes right from the field to your plate. I have yet to buy produce at the supermarket this summer and hope that I won’t have to. This recipe also goes nicely with grilled chicken breasts.
Blueberry Balsamic Barbeque Sauce
Recipe From: Cooking Light
Servings: 1/2 cup of sauce
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; cool.
2. Place blueberry mixture in a blender; process until smooth.
I tried to grow my own mint and basil this summer and they were doing so beautifully on my patio. And then all of a sudden they looked really sick, but they are still hanging in there. I was not born with a green thumb as my success rate with plants in the past has been similar to that of my mother’s in which plants don’t make it for very long. But in the past few years I have taken such an interest to plants and have done very well with many kinds of indoor and outdoor plants. I kind of have a feeling that I over picked them at the beginning of the season when I was so excited to use the herbs that we grew in our cooking. But anyway to make a long story short, luckily my mother in law also grows fresh mint and basil so I visit her garden frequently to get my pick since she doesn’t use them herself making for a ton of the stuff! I have adopted the philosophy, once you start cooking with fresh herbs it is hard to go back to using dried herbs or even worse cooking with no added herbs. So I will share a few recipes that I have made using basil and mint.
I frequent the library often and check out a new cookbook almost every time. I go through phases of cuisine I cook or techniques for my recipes. Lately I have been on a preserving kick due to the enormous amounts of veggies and fresh herbs that we have been getting. I found the recipe below in the book Classic Preserves which has so many classic recipes with a unique twist. This recipe is fantastic if you have access to tons of fresh mint like I do. The more mint the better. I was seconds into the recipe and my kitchen was overtaken by the aroma of fresh spearmint as the mint was steeping. The sauce itself is very fresh tasting and is the perfect accompaniment to grilled meat or even as a salad dressing for a salad with a fruit accent. It also would make a lovely gift. I went to the local thrift store and found a decent selection of beautiful blue glass bottles. I took them home and sterilized them, bought a cork for them and filled them with the sauce, and voila!
Recipe From: Classic Preserves
Makes: 1 cup
1 large bunch of mint
7 TBS boiling water
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 TBS sugar
1. Wash and chop the mint very finely. Put into a cup or bowl, one with a spout preferably, to make for easy pouring later.
2. Pour the boiling water over the mint. Let this mixture infuse for 10 minutes.
3. When the mint infusion is at room temperature, stir in the wine vinegar.
4. Add the sugar, and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
5. Transfer the mixture to a sterilized bottle or jar. Seal the jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Best used within 3 weeks.
This spring, I had the opportunity to work on an Asparagus Farm and met some wonderful people while doing so. Two of my coworkers had particular food allergies and were on strict gluten free diets, so eating was sometimes a challenge for them. They kept ranting and raving about a member of the grain family called quinoa. I had never heard of this before so I did some research and learned that it is only found in the Andes Mountains and grows at an extremely high elevation. It was one of the original staples in the diet along with corn. The best part is that it is rich in protein, higher than almost any other grain. So I went on a search for it, but before I could find it, I tried it at a restaurant in Maine while we were there this summer. The recipe that follows is my attempt to recreate the dish that I had at the Lakewood Restaurant in Maine, however I added beans and used basil instead of cilantro. I wouldn’t normally ever take cilantro out of a recipe because it is one of my all time favorite flavors, however I couldn’t bring myself to buying grocery store cilantro when we have so many herbs growing at the garden. But this salad would work nicely with cilantro as well.
Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil
Recipe Created by: Gretchen Brown
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
2 TBS olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Splash of vinegar
Lemon juice, adjust to taste
Salt and pepper
1. Soak quinoa for about 5 minutes. Rinse and drain.
2. Put the water and quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
3. Prepare dressing of with olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Adjust to your liking.
4. Toss quinoa with tomatoes, onions, beans, and dressing. Add basil right before serving.
Note: Keeps well in the fridge for a few days and best enjoyed cold. When I make this again, I would add feta to give it a bite of saltiness.
When I made my quinoa salad, I needed a main dish and I have been craving barbequed chicken. I found a recipe for Honey Lime Chicken on Taste Spotting which an online potluck of recipes which is amazing… thanks to Chera for showing this to me many months ago. What I particularly liked about the ingredients in this recipe is that it includes some of my favorite flavors, garlic, lime, chilies, honey, and the list goes on. I knew when I was preparing this marinade that we were going to be in for a special treat. I let the chicken marinate for a few hours in the fridge, rotating it in the middle of its stay in the fridge. Then we heated up the grill and slowly cooked our chicken legs on the grill. The recipe noted to remove any skin, but I couldn’t be bothered and left it on which worked out beautifully because it got all crispy on the outside and burst with juices inside. I rotated the chicken often but made sure to let the chicken guide me. When cooking meats it is best to only turn when they are ready. If something is sticking to the grill, then leave it alone. Give it some time to cook and turn when it no longer sticks to the grill. After about a beer and a half, the chicken was done.
After taking one bite, I was taken back to the islands of Thailand with the flavors. We have spent a lot of time in Thailand and were in one particular place called Cham. Everyday a little old husband and wife team would bicycle along on their rickshaw. They attached a grilling apparatus to it and would park alongside of the road and set up shop. They sold four things: barbequed chicken, sticky rice, sweet Thai tea, and spicy papaya salad. Every day we were in Cham, we would wait for the duo to arrive to the corner nearby our beach hangout and get our fill. This was hands down the most delicious street food ever and the steady line up proved that the locals agreed with this statement as well!
Honey Lime Chicken
Recipe From: foodiesathome.com
4-5 chicken drumsticks
2 Tbs canola oil
6 Tbs soy sauce
7 Tbs honey
The juice of 3 limes
The zest of 1 lime
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs chili garlic sauce
1. In a large bowl whisk all of the ingredients together and marinade the drumsticks for about 1 hour or more.
2. Once you are ready to cook, remove the chicken and pour the marinade into a small sauce pot and simmer, reduce into a nice glaze and set aside.
3. Grill on medium heat, making sure not to burn the skins, brush the drumsticks on every side multiple times so the chicken has a nice thick glaze. Cook thoroughly and serve with a few lime wedges.