Saturday, July 23, 2011

Romantic Blueberry Notions......

It is July and that means it is National Blueberry Month! Who can pass up any excuse to celebrate most all National "____" Months (except for National Fruit Cake Month...I could probably skip that So since I live in the Midwest, I am happy to enjoy this time of year and celebrate fresh Michigan Blueberries.

I always wonder what it would be like to experience a Michigan Blueberry Farm and harvest season (I often wonder about a lot of fruit/vegetable harvests and how it would be a great feeling of accomplishment). But now after saying this out loud, I realize maybe I shouldn't admit these things..oops! HA HA!

In my head, this idealized image comes out a little more on the romantic side - a cool breeze, a blueberry rake to collect the berries, no physical effort needed and then magically...the berries would just appear clean, cool and in pint sized containers ready to enjoy. This isn't how it works???

Then I wake up and come to the realization my notions, if said out loud, would either offend or create laughter in the blueberry community (there is a community...right?!). While the season success produces amazing fruit, the harvest I realize is probably not as beautiful. This reality which I assume I need to accept consists of massive machines, manual labor and a lot of sweat....not so romantic, huh??

While I am not able to experience the harvest by traveling to Michigan (which would ruin my ideals I am not willing to part with...just yet), the ability to get the berries here is an improvement over the frozen options. So I'll stick to my romantic notions and continue visiting my local Farmer's Market.  

Let's celebrate National Blueberry Month with Blueberry Oat Cookies. Enjoy this recipe and hopefully they will stay around your kitchen longer than my test batch did for me (and I doubled it....)

Blueberry Oat Cookies
1 C Unbleached Flour
3/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened 
1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed 
1/2 C White Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
1 C Rolled Oats 
1 C Fresh Blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees

Mix the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until creamy. Beat in vanilla, then add the egg and beat just until mixed well. Add the flour mixture gradually, just until combined. Stir in the oats and blueberries. Using a large scoop, shape dough into balls and space evenly on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

Nutrition and miscellaneous facts:  1 cup of blueberries is 84 calories.  Blueberries contain no cholesterol or fat and are also low in calories. Blueberries are high in dietary fiber, Vitamin A, Niacin and contain iron and and are a fair source of Vitamin C. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Maple Cream Apple Crumb Pie

Midwest summer.....where did the time go. It seemed like just yesterday it was May, there was a cool breeze in the air and I was excited to start summer. Memorial Day and the 4th have now come and gone...and we are almost to August in the Midwest.

There are so many exciting things to do still this summer - day trips, street festivals, farmers markets, time with friends and amazing unexpected things yet to come. It seems like the calendar gets busier each week but when it is so much fun who notices how quickly it goes by.

For those who have never experienced August in the Midwest, I can say it is an experience one should avoid....well unless you enjoy humidity.....LOL. Today is one of the hottest days of our summer in the Midwest this year. Until today, we have enjoyed a beautiful summer...(not too hot and humid!) but today is different. Let's hope everyone is inside spending time with their friends and family.

So take time to enjoy the summer before it is gone and this Maple Cream Apple Crumb Pie.

For this recipe, I use New Hampshire Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup from Fuller's Sugarhouse in Lancaster, NH. There are many Grades to choose from but I prefer A Medium Amber. I like the rich taste which can be use on waffles or in recipes. I have been purchasing from this family my entire life and have it shipped to me on a regular basis. If you have never tried New England Maple Syrup, I would highly recommend trying it. Just be warned, once you switch it is hard to go back..but oh so worth it!!!

Maple Cream Apple Crumb Pie

Turn oven to 425 Degrees when you are ready to assemble pie.

Butter Pie Dough 
(this is my classic pie dough - make at least 1 hr ahead. I always make 1 day before)

1 1/4 C Pie and Pastry Flour
1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 stick (1/2 C) Unsalted Butter
3 Tbsp Ice Water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor. Add butter and combine until butter is combined in small pieces (resembles course meal). Add water and blend until ball forms. (Can add more water if needed). Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and put in refrigerator for 1 hour. Can be made up to one day ahead.

When ready to use, let sit out for 30 minutes before rolling out on a floured surface. Roll out into a 12" disk and transfer to pan. Trim off excess and shape crust.  Set aside.
**Tip - Use the rolling pin to transfer the pie crust to the pan. 

Crumb Topping
1 1/4 C Unbleached Flour
1 C Brown Sugar (packed)
1/2 C Rolled Oats
1 1/4 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened and cut into pieces

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and oats. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into mixture until coarse meal and well combined. If you don't have a pastry blender, you can use a fork or even your hands. Set Aside.

Apple Filling
 4 Medium Granny Smith Apples (cored, peeled and sliced)
3 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1/4 Cinnamon
1/4 Salt

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. add apples and coat evenly with mixture. Cover and set aside. 
**Tip - When cutting apples, fill bowl with cold water to keep apples in until ready to use. They will not turn brown before you are ready this way. Just be sure to drain well before using. 

Maple Cream Filling
1 (8 oz pkg) Cream Cheese (cold)
1/3 C Sugar
1 Egg
2 Tsp Maple Syrup
1/4 Tsp Salt

In a bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg, maple syrup and slat until well blended and thick, about 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.
**Tip - Use a sieve when creating a cream filling, this will allow for no clumps or large pieces of sugar or other ingredients which may not have been broken up by the mixer. 

To assemble pie:
 Spread cream cheese filling evenly in prepared pan. Gently spread apple filling over cream cheese filling. Sprinkle crumb topping over entire pie. Place pie on baking sheet and place in 425 degree oven. Immediately turn down oven to 350 degrees and bake for 70 minutes, until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.