Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blackberry pie

Two years ago, my then 6 year old daughter and I went to a then-nearby farm where we walked up and down row after row of blackberries.

We each had our own basket and we had a friendly competition to see who would get the most blackberries.

Of course, she won.

As I said, that was two years ago.  She still talks about picking blackberries, how stained our shirts and shorts were, how we licked the blackberry juice off our fingers, and how we snuck one or two right from the vines into our mouths.  And whenever she does bring this up, she always mentions the blackberry pie we made with our loot.

Having never made a blackberry pie before and not having a family recipe of sorts, I turned to my online recipe book, allrecipes.com, where I found this recipe for Blackberry Pie I.   It's incredibly easy and amazingly delicious.  The Husband isn't a big fan of blackberries  - he doesn't like the seeds, and I could do without them as well, but I'm willing to do a little extra brushing and flossing of my teeth (which I should be doing anyway) in exchange.


4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup white sugar


1. Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar and flour. Spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

2. Bake at 425 degree F (220 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

And savor the goodness.

Zucchini and egg scramble

I'm almost embarrassed to post this. It's so simple, some would argue that it's not even a recipe. But when I made this dish for my family Sunday morning, I realized that it has value. It's seasonal. It's healthy. It's kid-friendly. What's not to like?

Here's what you need:

zucchini, diced or grated
salt and pepper

To give you an idea on quantities, I typically use the equivalent of 1 small zucchini per dozen eggs.

In a medium size bowl, crack and scramble the eggs. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a nonstick pan, melt about two tablespoons of butter (yes, butter—it tastes good) and saute the zucchini. I like to let it get a little caramelized on the outside.

When the zucchini is cooked, add the eggs and gently scramble the mixture until it is cooked through.

That's pretty much it. My family loves this. The zucchini adds a subtle sweetness to the eggs. You can jazz it up with herbs or grated cheese, but honestly, it's quite perfect as is.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Late summer chicken and rice bake

I was inspired by grey skies, rain and a cool late summer breeze. A craving for something warm and hearty, but not too heavy. And since chicken and rice are pretty much "pantry" staples in my kitchen, I figured I could throw something together for dinner that was loosely based on this delicious chicken with rice dish. It was a somewhat risky move to make at 5 p.m., an experiment that my husband and son could easily balk at. But I've been away from this blog and from trying new recipes for so long, that I figured it was worth a try.

Here's what you need (you'll have to read through to the end for the thumbs up or thumbs down):

4 boneless, skinless breasts
@ a cup and a half of rice
a handful of vermicelli
1 can of artichoke hearts, quartered
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
chicken broth
butter, olive oil, fresh lemon, salt, pepper, thyme, paprika---for seasoning

Rub the chicken breasts with a bit of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, thyme and paprika. Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter and brown the vermicelli. Add the rice and mix well. Place the rice mixture in a buttered casserole dish. Add the tomatoes and artichoke hearts, including the liquid from both cans. Pour in about 1 cup of chicken broth. Layer the chicken on top, sprinkle in more seasoning to taste, and cover the dish tightly with foil.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the liquid is absorbed, the rice tender and the chicken cooked through.

The verdict: Thumbs up! All three of us loved it. The chicken was tender, the rice flavorful—I would definitely make this again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One thing you can do

A friend and neighbor, mother to three young, energetic boys and about to welcome a girl, recently confided in me that she would like to change her family's eating and buying habits. She wanted to eat more seasonally available, locally produced foods. "But I don't know where to start!" She said this as we watched her kids and mine graze on the last of the broccoli, picking it right from the stem, then hunting for more. I knew very well how she was feeling because I could easily recall having the very same conversation with another neighbor a few years before -- but then I was the one trying to glean as much information as I possibly could. Having been a grocery store girl from childhood, and not deviating much as an adult, I had very little knowledge of what was harvested when. And planning a meal around that? Forget it! It was too complicated! And you know what? I still find it challenging. But little by little I'm learning by doing and each year it has gotten progressively easier.

So, I told my friend that there was one very easy thing that she could do right now that would get her started. There is one thing that will make an impact on her winter eating habits and make her excited for Spring to arrive in next year so she can continue a rich family tradition that she can start right now.

I told my friend to make a habit of going to the weekly Farmer's Market. I told her where she could also find the best farm stands. Make it a regular family outing, I recommended. Go a few times a week if you are able. Try and guess with the kids what you might find for sale today. Because if it is for sale at the farm stand then it is in season. Then, when the beans or the corn or the blackberries or whatever are in season -- buy as much of it as you are able, take it home and freeze it. I brought home 12 dozen ears of corn last week for $32. We made a party of shucking corn in the back yard and now I have a stock of organic corn in my freezer and I supported the local farmer who grew it. What a deal!

It helps to have a spare freezer, but if you have the room you can pick one up for around $200. After a year of buying, freezing and eating locally produced, organic foods, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Otherwise, just start smaller. Stash away a bag or two of corn and green beans in the back of your freezer. You won't believe how good it tastes when you cook it up next November or December. Make room for a bag of blueberries, blackberries or peaches and add them little by little to your Sunday morning pancakes.  Trust me, it will leave you wanting more.

But beyond just healthy eating and supporting local farmers (which is so important, by the way!), there is another very important reason why you should do this one thing if you are able. Your kids. Watching all that oil spill out into the gulf made me acutely aware of the fact that our individual choices and actions matter. If we teach our kids when they are still young how to responsibly consume food then when they are adults they won't be buying processed foods because they lack the knowledge they need to make other choices. It won't take them 40 years and a lifetime of bad habits to figure it all out.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and buy locally. You will not regret it!