Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Berries and Busyness

Well, you haven't heard from me in about 2 weeks.  That's because life here has been ridiculously busy.  My family has been off to several livestock shows and in the meantime, there are lawns to be mowed, a garden to be weeded and protect from the beetles, the various usual house chores, Zumba classes, and, as if we didn't have enough going on, it's berry season.

Because everything was so crazy with my grandmother, and then the weather was so wet and miserable, we missed the strawberries.  You can't pick wet berries because they'll mold, but it rained pretty much the majority of their short, two-week season this year.  Then came the blackcaps.  For those of you that don't know what a blackcap is, it's like a hybrid between a blackberry and a raspberry.  It's the color of a blackberry, the shape of a raspberry, and much sweeter than both.  They also grow on equally thorny branches, so you must cover yourself from head to toe to protect your skin while picking them.

We normally make jam out of blackcaps since they tend to lose their flavor if you freeze them.  By the time we'd picked enough blackcaps to make jam, it was also raspberry time, so we picked those and made both jams around the same time.

Raspberry Freezer Jam
Blackberry season is coming up soon, and we still have a few bags of last season's berries in the freezer, so I thought I'd use them up.  I made a batch of blackberry muffins for my cousin to take to one of the cow shows with him, but unfortunately left my camera at home.  Lucky for us though, it's now time for blueberries.  My mom picked a bucket-full and I decided to make blueberry muffins for everyone, following the same recipe for the blackberry ones.  Unfortunately, I can't follow a recipe to save my life, so I made a few mistakes changes.  My grandparents having also been having a few "regularity problems", so I decided to add some bran flakes and apple sauce to give them a little more fiber.  Here's what I did: 

Blueberry Muffins (with added fiber)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup bran flakes + 1/4 cup applesauce (definitely optional)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Fresh-picked blueberries!  Be sure to check for stems and bugs.
Mix together bran flakes and applesauce.  Set aside.
Sift together dry ingredients
Add all other ingredients, adding the blueberries at the end.  DO NOT over-mix.
Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into a well-greased muffin tin.  Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes.  (I somehow never end up with a full dozen of anything when I bake...)
Remove from oven, sprinkle granulated sugar on top, and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack.

Blueberry Pudding
Another favorite recipe during blueberry season is what we affectionately refer to as "Blueberry Pudding," a layered dessert with a graham cracker crust, a cream cheese base, fresh blueberries, vanilla pudding, and topped with cool whip and chopped walnuts.  I'm not exactly sure where this recipe came from, but it definitely seems like it came out of a Kraft foods magazine.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 8oz package cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups and 3 Tbs milk
3 cups THAWED Cool Whip (1 regular size tub)
2 (4 serving size) packages INSTANT vanilla pudding mix
walnuts (optional)

Mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Press into the bottom of a 9x13in pan.  Chill for 10 minutes.
Beat together 3 Tbs milk, softened cream cheese, and sugar until smooth.  Fold in 1/2 container (1 1/2 cups) cool whip.  Set aside.
Beat together pudding mix and 1 1/2 cups milk until thick.  Chill for 5 minutes.
Carefully spread cream cheese mixture over crust.
Generously sprinkle blueberries, watching out for stems and bugs if freshly picked.
Carefully spread pudding over top of blueberries.
Spread remaining cool whip over top.

If desired, add chopped walnuts.  Refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving.

Well, that's all the time I've had for baking and blogging this week.  Maybe once it isn't a bazillion degrees out, I will make it to the berry patch and make a pie.  Stay tuned for more berry recipes, and stay cool.

Love and cookies,

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