Freeze those blueberries!!!

Is it just me, or is spending a sunny morning picking blueberries with kids one of the funnest family activities ever? We saved up 10 trays of fresh blueberries last year and ran out in the middle of the winter. I’m going for 20 trays this year – at least. The fact that we have an extra large freezer in the garage allows me to stockpile.

Just in case you didn’t already know, blueberries are really easy to freeze. They are in many ways my favorite berry because they are so sturdy, versatile, and downright tasty. Freshly picked berries  that have never been refrigerated are my idea of heaven. But in the middle of winter I also love having the fixings for smoothies, pies, muffins, syrup, and blueberry compote at the ready. Whenever I pull some out of the freezer, the kids insist on having a few to snack on right away.

All you need to do to freeze them is lay them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure they are dry. Make some room in your freezer and let them freeze for at least 4 hours. They freeze relatively quickly. But I usually forget about them and leave them overnight.

After the berries are frozen, transfer them to a gallon-sized airtight bag squeezing out all the excess air you can before sealing it completely. There are fancy gadgets and tools that can remove all the air. But that’s not necessary for blueberries. They’ll be fine.

Et viola! You’ve got yourself some frozen goodness. Put the bag back in the freezer where it will be waiting for you patiently.

Here in the Northeast, most pick-your-own farms grow a wide variety of berries that produce all the way into the fall. So get out there and get pickin’!

Homemade Blueberry Fruit Leather

Who wants to place a bet on how soon my kids are going to get a cavity? I can’t stop making dried fruit purees this year and it is going to be my downfall.

Well, que sera sera. Frankly, not a bad way to go.

Dehydrated fruit purees I’ve posted about already such as the Strawberry Roll Ups and the Polka Dot Roll Ups contain very small amounts, if any, added sugar. For this reason, they are thinner and a little more brittle than traditional fruit leather. When fruit puree is loaded up with sugar the finished product is thicker and more flexible.

Turns out it doesn’t take gobs of honey to make thick fruit leather, just a 1/4 cup is necessary for this recipe. It’s not super sweet like grocery store fruit leather. I think it’s just right. 

1 pint fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup honey
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Heat the blueberries and water in a medium saucepan over med high heat until it comes to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium low so that the mixture is at a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove saucepan from heat and add the honey, applesauce, and lemon juice. Puree the mixture with a hand/immersion or regular blender until smooth.

Prepare a 15 x15-inch dehydrator tray with a lightly greased liner. Pour the blueberry mixture onto the middle of the lined tray and spread it out evenly with a large offset spatula or a spoon until it is 1/3-inch thick. It should be an approximately 12 x 12-inch square. Having the outside edges thicker is fine as they tend to dry more quickly.

Insert the tray into the dehydrator and set the temperature to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Run the dehydrator for 8 to 10 hours. The finished fruit leather may have a couple sticky spots on the surface, but for the most part it should be dried yet pliable.

Remove the fruit leather from the tray. Cut with a knife or scissors into individual servings. Wrap pieces in wax paper. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 10 pieces
Prep-time: 15 minutes
Drying-time: 8 – 10 hours

Blueberry Pizza

I think there’s an unwritten rule in most households that the kitchen is principally the realm of one person. It’s pretty much understood chez moi that the kitchen belongs to me. However, when it comes to pizza, the rules change. Once a week, my husband makes a mean pizza pie. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked upon a quest to create a sweet little pizza snack. But, with some over-the-phone counsel from the pie master, I managed to create something beautiful.

My husband makes his own dough and I was fortunate enough to lay my hands on some. For this recipe I recommend store-bought pizza dough unless you are already accustomed to making your own. My local Whole Foods has some nice whole wheat dough in the freezer case. Alternately, you could try asking your favorite pizza parlour if they would sell you some of their dough.

1 pound pizza dough (I used white, but whole wheat would be fine)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Heaping 1/4 cup cream cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes.

The dough should be approaching room temperature.

We use a pizza stone in our oven and a cornmeal-dusted peel to transfer the pizza onto the stone. But, if you don’t have either, use a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you have some good dough on your hands, you should try tossing it. Otherwise, use a rolling pin to create 14 – 16 inch circle.

Mix together the egg, yogurt, cream cheese, honey, zest, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Spread evenly over the tossed dough leaving the outer edge untouched in order to minimize run-off. Scatter the blueberries over the top.

Bake for 5-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Keep a close eye on it after five minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. After a few minutes, slice and serve. Can be topped with cinnamon sugar, aged balsamic vinegar, or strawberry sauce (1 cup defrosted strawberries pureed with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar).

Yield: 8 slices
Prep-time: 30 minutes
Bake-time: 5-10 minutes

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Oatmeal Banana Blueberry Muffins (a.k.a Nirvana Muffins)

A friend of mine special-ordered this recipe. I hope it provides a happy home for all of her overripe bananas.

Oatmeal Banana Blueberry Muffins Recipe

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup mashed ripe banana (from two medium bananas)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 seconds. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the egg, banana, oil, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. Make sure that the honey is dissolved and not hiding out anywhere in a big clump. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir to combine. Add the blueberries and fold them in gently.

Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. Fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the biggest muffin comes out clean.

Yield: 12 muffins
Prep-time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 18 minutes

Note: My friend tested these out for me and told me that mini muffins only take 8-10 minutes to bake. Oh, and she said they have earned a place in her recipe box! Yippee!

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Blueberries with Maple Whipped Cream

[donotprint]I remeber being shocked the last time I looked at the nutrition information on a carton of heavy cream. I’ve blocked out the details though. And I comfort myself with the fact that kids need something like 30% of their calories from fat.  Build that brain with this truly delicious snack.[/donotprint]

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1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pint fresh blueberries (approximately 2 cups)

Chill metal bowl and metal whisk by placing them in the freezer for a few minutes. Remove bowl and whisk from freezer. Put cream, syrup and lemon juice in bowl and whip with whisk (standing or hand-held electric mixer is easiest) until the cream forms soft peaks.

In ramekins or small bowls, layer a large dollop of the whipped cream, 1/4 cup of the blueberries, and a small dollop of the whipped cream. Top with a few extra berries. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Yogurt

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1 cup plain greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest, chopped fine
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (approximately 1/2 of a lemon)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

In a small bowl, mix yogurt, zest, lemon juice, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Fold in blueberries. Divide between 4 ramekins or small bowls and top with a few additional blueberries. Serve.

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Blueberry “Pie”

[donotprint]Pie is always a lovely idea, but I never seem to find the energy (or bravery) to make one, especially just for a snack! So instead, I’ve done my best to create an extremely quick and  healthy alternative.  I love this crust so much that I created a cookie recipe based that is very similiar.[/donotprint]

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Crust:
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cold

Topping:
1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries (approximately 3 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

For the crusts, put the walnuts, pecans, oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a 5-10 seconds until the texture is crumb-like. Chop the cold butter into large chunks and add to the food processor bowl. Cut the butter into the nut mixture pulsing for 5-10 seconds until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles large rough crumbs. Do not over process. The occasional larger chunk of butter is not a problem.

Divide a heaping 1/4 cup of the crust mixture between 8 ramekins. Press the crust down into the ramekins and up the sides with your fingers starting from the center. Rest assured, any holes or imperfections will be taken care of during baking or covered by the berries.

Bake crusts on the center rack for 10-15 minutes or until edges start to turn brown. Allow the ramekins to cool before serving.

While the crusts are baking, put blueberries, lemon juice, maple syrup and cinnamon in a bowl. With a fork, mash the berries partially so they begin to release their juices.

Once the ramekins are cool, top each crust with a scant 1/3 cup of the mashed blueberries and finish with a dollop of whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 “pies”.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 10-15 minutes

Note: Can be made ahead of time. Store the crust and berries seperately in the refrigerator. If possible, remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

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Blueberry Delight

[donotprint]This recipe is the result of many many trials that resulted in total bombs, i.e. fruit soup. This recipe is either a very thick soup or a light pudding; either way it’s a nutritious and delicious snack.[/donotprint]

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2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup low-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Position strainer over bowl and pour blueberry mixture through strainer, stirring occasionally to move things along. Discard contents of strainer.

Pour strained blueberry mixture into small bowls or ramkins. Cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight. Serve topped with whipped cream.

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Blueberry Fun Cakes

[donotprint]My kid came up with the name. She comes up with a good many of the names actually, or at least makes serious contributions to the brainstorming sessions we have in the kitchen while stuffing our faces.

A whole english muffin could  be used instead of bread slices, but cutting out the bread rounds takes very little time and is oh so cute. This recipe is also an easy opportunity for kids to have a big role in preparation.[/donotprint]DSC09823

1/3 cup fresh blueberries
3 slices whole grain bread
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Wash berries and gently pat dry with a towel. Set aside to dry further.

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Cut bread into 2″ rounds with cookie cutter or shot glass. Each slice should yield 3-4 rounds. Arrange rounds on ungreased baking sheet and set aside.

In small bowl, mix together yogurt, sugar, and lemon juice. Spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of yogurt mixture onto each of the bread rounds. Top with 1-3 blueberries depending on size of berries.

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Bake for 5-8 minutes or until edges are golden and berries are starting to burst. Allow to cool for 2 minutes (blueberries can retain heat and be too hot for young children – when in doubt, cool longer). Transfer to plates with spatula and serve.

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