Tag Archives: berries

simple pleasures

27 Dec

Things that make me happy:

The Pear Cinnamon Cider from Trader Joe’s is off-the-hook amazing. I’m afraid it will disappear right after the holidays, as many of the goodies they have this time of year do, so I’ve stockpiled several containers of it. SO FREAKING GOOD.

What makes it better? Drinking it with a nice lil’ Blueberry Gas Station Pie. Nom.

Blueberry Gas Station Pie

1/2 recipe Basic Pie Crust
1/4 cup organic granulated sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
2 tbsp. water
1 teas. vanilla

Prepare pie crust per directions and let chill in fridge for at least 45 minutes before using.

To prepare the blueberry filling, in a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Mix until combined and no clumps exist in the cornstarch. Add the blueberries and water and cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until mixture becomes bubbly and berries begin to release their juices, about 10 minutes. Once bubbling, add the vanilla and lower heat to medium-low and continue stirring until mixture begins to thicken and can coat the back of a spoon well. Transfer blueberry mixture to a separate bowl and let cool, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove crust from fridge and divide into 6 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a round disc, approximately 5-6 inches in diameter. Evenly divide the filling between the dough discs, scooping it onto one side of the dough. Fold dough over and pinch to seal (you may need to moisten the edges of the dough slightly to ensure a good seal). Using the tip of a knife, make a small air vent on the top of each pie. Carefully transfer the pies to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake pies for 18-23 minutes, or until they look lightly golden and slightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool before brushing on a light glaze, made from a mixture of powdered sugar and a splash of your milk of choice, combined to your desired thickness.

Makes: 6 pies


rainy day cheer

18 Nov

I am a big fan of daylight savings so when we go off of it for the winter, it’s hard not to get a little sad. Here in the PacNW, it’s literally pitch black by 5 p.m. We’re in our rainy season, which means that even when it’s not raining we are in for primarily overcast days for several months to come. This isn’t a major complaint, so much as I’m setting the scene.

My dark commute home from work yesterday was accompanied by a torrential downpour. As I barreled alongside the other commuters, whose only goal was to get home in one piece, I began to daydream of a little bite of sunshine. Something bright and cheery to offset all of the heavy, pumpkin-laden treats we’ve been enjoying as of late. When I got home, I started pulling out ingredients only to discover that I had a scant amount of flour lingering in the bottom of the canister. I was in no mood to venture back out into the madness.

Time to improvise! Light and bright and requiring little flour… My mind wandered and landed on the deliciously simple clafoutis. In 100 Best, I have a clafoutis recipe that I love to whip up on a whim, as I always have silken tofu in my fridge and cherries in my freezer. Jim normally hates custardy things, but even he enjoys a slice. I decided to go with some little, single serving clafoutis with some frozen mixed berries.

If you haven’t had clafoutis before, you’re in for a real treat. These little morsels hold up well (great for noshing with one hand and typing with the other!), but remain tender and custard-like. If you’re afraid of baking with tofu, get over it already! You’re missing out! Also, you can make this with brown rice flour instead of the all-purpose and you’ve got clafoutis, gluten-free.

Une Bouchée de Clafoutis*

1 (12.3 oz.) container of firm silken tofu
1/2 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk of choice
1 1/2 teas. baking powder
1 teas. vanilla
sprinkle salt
1 cup berries, thawed and drained
powdered sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

In the bowl of a food processor combine the tofu and sugar and blend until mixed. Add the flour, milk, baking powder, vanilla and salt and mix until creamy and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Fill each cup 2/3 of the way with batter. Sprinkle berries on top of each cup; do not mix.

Bake for 20 minutes, until clafoutis are puffy and lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely before loosening with a butter knife and serving. Clafoutis is delicious warm, but will fall apart if you try to take them out too soon, so feel free to reheat in the microwave or toaster oven. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Store leftovers covered, in the fridge.

Makes 12 servings.

*(Josiane, I’m relying on you to tell me if I butchered the title, I haven’t studied French in over 12 years!)

from the teaches of peaches…

10 Aug

Summer fruit is at its peak and I am here to give you a reason to fire up your oven and make your house toasty- because this cake is amazing. This is the first recipe I’m sharing from my upcoming cake book.

Inspired by my BFF Amy’s love of summer fruit and inappropriate taste in music, along with the flavors of the famous Peach Melba, this cake is incredibly impressive for minimal effort. The peach cake is tender and delicious and becomes intoxicating when paired with the raspberry creme topping.

Amy’s “Huh What” Peach Cake

Raspberry Creme:
1 12 oz. package firm aseptic tofu
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teas. vanilla

Peach Cake:
3-4 ripe but firm peaches, pitted and sliced into 3/4-1 inch segments
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cold margarine
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teas. baking powder
1/4 teas. salt
1/4 cup applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 teas. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease well and flour an 8 inch cake round and line the bottom with parchment. If you do not use parchment, be sure to grease the bottom really well or use a springform pan to ensure the peaches will release.

To make the Raspberry Creme: In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, raspberries, sugar and vanilla. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a separate container and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

In the bottom of the prepared baking pan, sprinkle the 2 tbsp of sugar and chop and scatter the 2 tbsp of margarine. Arrange the peach slices in a single solid circle, covering the bottom of the pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, cream together the applesauce and brown sugar. Add the oil, milk and vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just incorporated.

Spread the batter over the peach mixture, being careful not to disturb the peaches. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cake is browned and a toothpick comes out cleanish (because of the peaches, it will not be completely clean).

Remove cake from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before loosening edge and inverting onto serving platter. Let sit for a few moments as peaches release and carefully remove the cake pan. Serve cake warm with Raspberry Cream. Store leftover cake covered in the fridge.

Ranger Peach

cherry delight

9 Nov

If you’re from the US, you’ve probably never heard of clafoutis, but I can assure you that you’ll be happy to be in the know.


Cherry clafoutis is a traditional French dessert that is basically a baked custard/cake/crustless pie thing served warm and creamy with bursts of sweet cherry goodness. Not only is it an incredibly sophisticated and classy dessert, it comes together quickly and is light enough to be eaten after a big meal, making it a great ending to a large holiday meal.

While traditionally made with some serious egg action, this vegan version is a fantastic alternative that eliminates the animal products while delivering heaven to the taste buds. If you are skeptical of baking tofu into desserts (as I once was), I can personally assure you that this tastes fantastic. Don’t let your fears keep you from this fabulous treat!


Cherry Clafoutis
from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes
Prep time before baking: 10 minutes
Skill level: 2 whisks

1/2 package firm aseptic silken tofu
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teas. baking powder
1/4 teas. salt
1 cup milk (I’ve used soy, almond and Trader Joe’s new grain milk, all with success)
1 teas. vanilla
1 1/2 cups cherries (can use pitted fresh cherries, thawed and drained frozen cherries or canned cherries which have been drained and rinsed from their syrup. You can opt to make it traditionally with unpitted cherries, but you can’t hold me accountable for chipped teeth)

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie tin.

In a food processor, process silken tofu and sugar until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, salt and half of the milk. Process until smooth. Add second half of the milk and the vanilla and process until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle cherries evenly across pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then lower temperature to 350 and back for an additional 20-25 until edges are set and middle is still a little jiggly. Let cool on cooling rack at least 25 minutes before serving. Best served warm. Store leftover clafoutis covered in fridge.

Yields: 1 cake, 12 slices

cheeze pah

17 Sep

*side note: I’ve been selected again to participate in Foodie Fights! The ingredients are excellent, so be sure to check back on Monday to see what I’ve made and to vote!

When you make a cheesecake in a pie tin you cannot call it a cheesecake. It must be called a cheesepie. I’m not making up the rules here, people, I’m just saying what I learned on the almighty interwebs.

I wasn’t that excited to name a recipe in my cookbook a cheesepie. It’s just doesn’t sound that appetizing, to me, at least. But alas, I didn’t want to incite the wrath of the foodie cyber gods. Whatever you call it, this is some good cheese%#*$.

The directions for this pie (as well as a couple of others in my book) call for a water bath. A water bath is when you have your baking receptical (pie tin, springform, etc) in a larger pan with sides, filled half way with warm water. If you’ve ever had a cheesecake that was harder around the exterior and cracked in the middle, well, this remedies that. The water helps the pie cook more evenly, keeps it softer around the edges and keeps the middle from cracking.

For anyone who hasn’t done a water bath in the past this can sound foreign and off-putting. It’s SO easy and SO worth it. Take a look at this crazy gadgetry:


See, it’s not scary at all. It can be a pain to get into the oven, depending on how tall the sides of your pan are, but otherwise it’s a cinch. A word of advice, however- if you’re using a springform pan, wrap the bottom and sides with a couple of pieces of tin foil. This keeps any water leaking disasters from happening to your goods.

Here is the recipe for this beauty. It’s not really hard, but it does have a handful of steps that require wait time between each step. And it has a long cool time. I would suggest making this pie the day before you need it so it has time to set up and you don’t feel rushed.

Strawberry Lemonade Cheesepie (from 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes)

Prep time before baking: 45 minutes
Skill level: 4 whisks

½ Basic Pie Crust recipe (recipe can be found here)
1- 8 oz. container vegan cream cheese
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. yogurt (equivalent to 1- 6 oz. container)
1 aseptic container firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
1 cup sugar
1 teas. vanilla
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 teas. lemon zest (*note, if you like a very strong lemony flavor, double the amount of juice and zest)

Strawberry Topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen, chopped
¼ cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Roll out pie crust and fit to a 9 inch pie dish. Trim edges and crimp. Use pie weights or dried beans on top of parchment to weigh down the crust and bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine cream cheese, yogurt, tofu and sugar in a food processor or blender until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest until incorporated. Pour mixture into pie crust.


Place pie dish in a larger cookie sheet with high sides. Add enough warm water to the cookie come up to the middle of the outside of the pie dish. This is called a water bath and will keep your pie from cracking, as well as keep it creamy without it getting a skin. If water evaporates while baking, add more water as needed, but only hot water so you do not shock your bake ware and risk it cracking.

Bake pie for 1 hour. Center may not look completely set, but will firm up while cooling. Remove from oven and remove from water bath to cool on cooling rack.


While pie is baking, prepare strawberry topping. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add strawberries and water and mix to combine. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil, continuously stirring. Once it reaches boiling, lower to medium. Cook until strawberries get soft and mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let topping cool completely, occasionally stirring to keep a skin from forming.


Spread cooled strawberry topping on to cooled cheesepie. Let set in fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Store leftover pie covered, in fridge.

Yields: 12 slices


jam on parade!

6 Aug

Okay, this has been long in the making, but summer’s been keeping me a little occupied.

So, two things for this post:

1. Jam! I’m made a little photo tutorial on how to make jam. I swear, it’s not hard. A little time consuming, yes. But once you have your elements prepared and ready to go, it’s very straightforward. And after you’ve made jam once or twice you’ll be cranking out jars like you’re a machine. Now that I have my own pattern down, I can make a batch of jam, start to finish, in about 2 1/2 hours. Not too shabby.

2. I’m going to give this whole online community thing a whirl. I started a very interactive forum for nom! nom! nom!. It’s pretty sweet, it has the traditional forum bits with threads, but you make a profile that’s more in depth, kind of like Facebook. Plus, it’s got a real-time chat room integrated in it! So, I hope to see you on there. 🙂

Okay, so on to the jam. This jam is one of my favorites that’s I’ve made (and I’m up to 9 different kinds, yikes!). It is a mixture of marionberries (a NW varietal similar to blackberries), blueberries and plum. You could easily substitute other berries to make up the difference. I have a hard time coming up with fun names for my recipes, so I am pretty pleased with myself with this one.

Marion’s Plum Mad About Blueberry Jam
yields 6-7 half pint (8 oz) jars

3 cups plums, washed chopped and pitted
3 cups marionberries, washed
3 cups blueberries
4 cups sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp. pectin

To start off the jam making process, I first prepare my jars. This means that I wash and sterilize them. You can do this in a number of ways. You can hand wash them and then simmer them in hot water, you can wash them and place them, mouths up, on a baking sheet in a 150 degree oven or you can wash them in a dishwasher and leave it on the hot air drying setting. It’s really up to you. This serves multiple purposes. First off, you are cleaning the jars (obviously), but you are also keeping them warm and sanitary so your hot jam isn’t shocking a cold glass jar. Canning jars are tempered, but keeping them warm is important.

There is also a school of thought that if you are going to use a hot water bath to seal the jars and you will be boiling them for at least 10 minutes, the jars only need to be washed, but not sterilized. I know this is what many of our grandmothers did, but I’m a perpetual worry-wort, so I sterilize and hot water bathe them.

Anyway, I usually wash them and simmer them in my hot water canning pot. This way, the water is nice and hot, so once the jars are prepared and filled with the jam, it doesn’t take long to bring it to a boil to process them.

Let’s take inventory of the tools you need:

jam tools

This is a basic canning tool set. You need this in addition to a hot water bath pot. I picked up these tools and my pot for about $30 3 years ago. From left to right you have your funnel (to pour your jam into each jar without making a mess), your jar lifter (to lift the jars in and out of the hot water bath safely), your magnet (to lift the sterilized lids out of their pot), a jar vice thingy (not necessary, but helpful to hold onto a hot jar while screwing the ring on over the lid, and tongs (which serve many purposes). I usually configure my stove with a stockpot to make my jam, my hot water canner and a smaller saucepan to sterilize the lids and rings in.

Now, as a basic guideline, you can fit about 7 jars in a canner at a time. That’s 6 around the perimeter and 1 in the middle. If you’re using smaller jars (such as 4 oz. cuties) resist the urge to crowd them in there. Your jars should not touch inside the canner, or you risk the glass of the jars expanding and contracting against each other and cracking. Now that I’ve scared you, don’t worry. If you just put in 7 jars, you’ll be fine.

Another thing- make sure your jars don’t have any chips or cracks in them. Canning is very earth-friendly in that you can reuse jars and the metal screw rings over and over, but look for flaws in the glass and rust on the rings before using. You must buy new lids (just the flat metal part) each time you can, as they are single use for a safe seal.

Okay, so our jars are clean. Let’s chop up some fruit.


Here’s our beautiful fruit, sitting in the bottom of a large stockpot. The fruit will boil and foam up a bit, so make sure you use a pot with some space.


After adding the fruit, I add the sugar (reserving 1/2 cup) and the lemon juice, and cook over medium heat, stirring often. Once it comes to simmer I crush up the fruit, gently, with a potato masher. I like my jam chunky, so I don’t crush it up too much, but this is your call. By crushing up the fruit we also release some of the natural pectin in it, which interacts with the acidity in the lemon juice, helping it gel.

Around now I toss a saucer or small plate in the freezer to get it cold. I would also place the lids and rings in a my saucepan with just a few inches of water (enough to cover, plus an inch) and bring it to a simmer.


Once the jam comes to a boil, I mix up my remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the pectin, so the pectin doesn’t clump. This is added to the jam and mixed well to combine. Lower the heat to medium and let the jam bubble and burp for about 15-20 minutes, stirring continuously, until it begins to thicken.

Once your lids and rings come to a simmer, I usually turn off the heat and put a lid on them. This keeps them warm and clean. The heat cleans the lids, but also softens the wax along the bottom ring of the lid, making for a strong seal. You don’t want to boil the lids for a long time, just a nice simmer for a few minutes will do.

jam wrinkle

Once the jam starts to thicken you can begin testing it. We are checking to see if the jam will gel properly. To do this, retrieve your cold saucer or plate from the freezer and ladle on a little jam, about 1-2 tbsp will do. Place it back in the freezer for about 2 minutes to cool. Keep stirring that jam! Once the test jam has cooled, take it out and push your finger against the edge of the jam. If it is ready, it should wrinkle up slightly. That means the jam will gel. If your finger goes right through it with no resistance or wrinkle, clean off the plate, toss it back in the freezer and keep cooking that jam. Test again in 5 minutes.

If you are concerned that the jam is, yes, wrinkling, but not as thick as you want your finished product to be, don’t fret. This is a basic gel test and your jam sets up much more as it cools in the jars over the course of a day or two. This is just a simple way to gauge if it’s ready or not.


Once the jam is set, you can start to fill your jars. If your jam has a lot of foam on the top of it, skim it off as best you can.

I remove my simmering jars from the canner with the lifter and tilt them carefully to dump out the water. Quickly sanitize your funnel by dunking it in the hot water on the end that will touch the jars and ladle in your yummy jam, filling each jar to 1/4 inch below the edge. If there is too much space, the jar may not make a strong seal. If there is not enough room, the pressure from the seal may push out jam, causing it to ooze down the sides of the jar. About 1/4 inch space will do and if you don’t seal or it oozes, it’s not the end of the world. After filling each jar, use a plastic utensil and run it around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to remove any jam residue and place on a lid and screw on a ring. This is when your magnet and the jar vice thing come in handy, but a pair of tongs and a towel or ovenmit work, too. Just remember to be careful, as your jam and jars are very hot. Do not over tighten the rings. Just screw them down until there is resistance, but don’t tighten them, as the glass needs to be able to flex. I fill all of my jars on a cooling rack, with the legs folded in, over top of a dish towel to catch any water or jam splatter. Be careful of your placement of jars on the cooling rack, distributing the weight, so it doesn’t tip. This has happened to me and while I caught them in time, it’s startling and the jars are hot to the touch!


With the lid on, bring the canner to a boil. There should be enough water to cover the jars by 1-2 inches. Once boiling, carefully add them to the canner with the jar lifter and cover. For this jam, I processed them by boiling for 10 minutes. Other recipes you find my differ.

And this is where we get into the great jam debates. Some people process their jam in a water bath. Some people fill the sterilized jars, invert them for a few minutes and then just let them seal themselves, with no water bath. I have tried both. You will hear many people who have been canning for decades, and have never had a problem, insist that you don’t need a water bath. I encourage you to do some research and do what you are comfortable with. You will find, in the world of canning, loads and loads of contridictory advice, which is probably why it can seem overwhelming. I have found that the water bath seals feel much stronger, but they still seal fine without the water bath. I am a very cautious person, so I proceed with the water bath. It’s your call.


After the 10 minutes, remove the jars and let them cool completely for at least 12 hours, I shoot for 24. The rings will probably have loosened and I usually wait until they are completely cooled before tightening. After you remove the jars, you should hear the satisfying “ping” of the jars sealing. This can take up to 12 hours, but with jam usually happens within a few hours.

Any jars that do not seal should be stored in the fridge and consumed first. The others can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Whenever retrieving jam that you previously canned, always check to make sure it’s still sealed before eating. If the seal released or if there is any sign of mold, discard the jar of jam. Foam from the jam can leave a bit of a texture on the top of a jar, but it should be easy to tell the difference.

jam finished

After your jam has cooled and set up, enjoy! Some kinds of jam can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks to really set up, so if it’s not quite as thick as you’d hoped, there is still a chance. And if you have a jam that doesn’t thicken, use it as a dessert sauce or over ice cream. There is plenty of room in your heart for warm berry sauce over fudgy brownies or on top of creamy vanilla soy ice cream!

very berry american summer

23 Jul

It’s hot.

It’s very hot.

I’m not going to complain, though. Our weather has volleyed between 65 degree highs and 95 degrees highs, rather bipolar. And when it was cooler, I was very loudly unhappy about it not feeling like summer. Something out there must have heard me, because here we are.

The heat has some benefits, though, one of which being ripe fruit. My canning kick has continued… and continued… and I’m onto my ninth variety of jam! I’m going to try to take a break until fall, when I’ll start in on the butters (apple butter, pear butter and pumpkin butter). So far, one of the funnest parts of making jam has been gathering the fruit, meaning field trips to pick it.

My friend Sandy and I recently went blueberry picking, which was quite fun and scenic.

blueberry bunch

I picked about 13 lbs. for jam and freezing. Well, and eating too, of course.

blueberry bucket

After filling our buckets with blueberries, we moved onto marionberries.

blue- marion berries

We met a cute little friend along the way. He was about the size of a half-dollar.


This little guy was living the good life at the large, bountiful farm we were picking at, hanging out in the shade on a very hot, bright day. Smart little dude…

Later that weekend, while raspberry picking with Amy and our trusty sidekicks, Jim and Tim, we came across these hornets. I think they were sleeping in, which was fine by me.


After making loads more jam as well as freezing bags of berries, I decided to do something I don’t really do very often, which is bake with fruit. Sure, I toss handfuls of frozen berries into muffins, but rarely do I bake something where fruit is the centerpiece. I just love it so much on it’s own, I don’t normally see any reason to mess with it.

plum berry pan

This particular recipe called for plums and blueberries. I veganized it using vanilla soy yogurt for the eggs.


I love upside down cakes because they are such a lovely surprise. For this cake, I used spelt flour, which is my new grain addiction.

After it cooled, I flipped it over. Notice the classy texture from the bottom of my springform pan. Nice…


The hard thing about upside down cakes is determining when they are done. I baked this cake for 10 minutes longer than the recipe said and it was still underdone in the middle. It certainly didn’t keep us from eating it, though.

plum cakeslice

With all this canning and baking, however, I’m not doing a very good job of keeping our house cool. Jim and I always have the option of prancing around in our skivvies. There are other people who are not so lucky.


Here is Linus, trying to catch a breeze below the dining room window.


Bindhi assumed the “dead bug” position under the ceiling fan. Hey, we do what we can, right?