Blackberry Crisp (without sugar)

We will now take a break in the non stop pie action and bring you a healthier way to celebrate berry season. Adapted from Blissful Basil‘s book, which I just discovered at the library, this crisp uses maple syrup to sweeten the berries a bit. With a protein and fiber packed topping, I’m thinking it will do for dessert with cream or breakfast with yogurt. Because I couldn’t let one day pass without opening my favorite pie book, I’ve spiced the filling similarly to Four & Twenty Blackbirds’s solid blackberry and blueberry pie.

sugarfree berry crisp

1 pound blackberries (about 4 cups)
2 tbls. maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. arrowroot starch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cardamom
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 1/2 c. rolled oats, divided
1/2 c. almonds
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt
2 tbls. maple syrup
3 tbls. melted butter

  1. Make the filling. Wash and pat dry the berries. Mix all the ingredients together gently. Pour the berry mixture into a buttered baking dish.
  2. In a food processor, add half the oats and almonds. Blend until fine. Add the cinnamon, salt, maple syrup and butter. Pulse gently until mixed. Add the remaining oats and pulse only 3-4 more times to mix.
  3. Sprinkle the topping on and then bake for 50 minutes at 350F.

PS. I’m really kidding about taking a break from pie. You really should never take a break from pie. In fact, you should make this very delicious blackberry cream pie  I worked up. Based on a few of my favorite different recipes and using this coffee cake crumb topping, it’s just another great way to enjoy our bountiful berries.


Salad Rolls

This non-recipe recipe is a summer mainstay for me. When greens are abundant and there are lots of good things coming out of the garden, salad rolls are especially fun to make. It’s a healthy option for lunch (and tastes extra refreshing when packed up and taken to a hot picnic.) I like to add the crunch of peanuts or sesame seeds to make it feel like a complete meal. If you want, you can also cook up rice noodles and, when chilled, add them to the rolls. Salad rolls are also a good way to use bits and pieces of leftover vegetables or protein that you may have prepared for another meal. Good stuff!

I’ve seen kids (who won’t go near a salad in a bowl) devour salad rolls when they can dip it in this peanut sauce. It’s a mystery of childhood – why lettuce suddenly becomes appealing when it’s rolled up. Kids also like to roll their own and pick their fillings. If you prep your ingredients ahead of time, summer abundance and salad rolls can be a good excuse to have a party.

Fresh Salad Rolls

  1. Chop a lot of veg.
  2. Chop a lot of herbs. (Mint and basil are my favorite combinations.)
  3. Soak the wrapper in warm water briefly and roll it up.
  4. Make some magic peanut sauce for dipping.

Irresistible Peanut Sauce

2 tsp. oil (olive, coconut, peanut)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/3 cup natural, chunky peanut butter (no sugar added)
1 tsp. honey

Heat oil in the bottom of a small saucepan. Toss garlic for a few minutes until fragrant.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and whisk. Cook over medium heat until visibly thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Whisk well. Cool.


Fourth of July Treats

So, I couldn’t get this cake out of my head and I gave it a try. Two days later, we had a cake that made the group of kids gathered around the picnic table cheer when it was sliced open. What fun!

I used this recipe, though I had to take my own notes and draw a diagram to understand the layering. I contemplated a lot of different white cake recipes, playing the ‘how many eggs do I have and does it use’ game, but in the end, I’m really glad I went with this base. It was a little delicate to work with, but the flavor was outstanding. The stripes were made possible by this inexpensive, amazing tool. I frosted it with the vanilla bean buttercream from Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Cookbook. The recipe can also be found here – double the amount, using four egg whites for just enough to fill and frost the cake. It’s basically a layer cake with a tricky top layer. Using a bowl to cut out a small circle, I swapped in one red and one white half layer into a ring-shaped full height blue layer.

There was a lot of left over cake (thus why I had tried to find a different white cake recipe.) I used it to fake my way through a trifle, with whipped cream, amaretto, and berries.

And just for good measure, there were also these sugar cookies… We might have gotten a little crazy with the food coloring. Perhaps next year, I’ll experiment with natural dyes.

Cauliflower Walnut Salad and Kale Love

Here’s a good, quick picnic or potluck solution for you. I’m getting pretty excited about everything that is growing in the garden – it feels healthy and rejuvenating to have so much freshness. Markets are starting to bustle and our own garden is providing greens by the literal bucketful.

Last week, we found a new favorite pasta dish. (I’m thinking about saucing beans with it too…) Have you tried this trick for kale? You dump a large amount of leaves in the boiling water, skim them out, and then drop the pasta in. Process with a little garlic oil and pasta water and you have a magically fast, green sauce. I have Six Seasons out from the library, and we’ve been having fun working through a few things. I love this book. So much good summer food and simple tricks. The author is in Portland, so the veggies are all aligned with our seasons. And bonus! When reading about him we found that he cooked at Franny’s, the source of another cookbook that we absolutely rely on.

Getting excited about summer food

I’m getting pretty excited about summer food. There is so much green to be had – asparagus on the grill and snap peas on the side. There have been a lot of salads and a lot of radishes. What are you munching on? Here’s a list of cookbooks that I put together to help you get all ready for summer days and summer bites.

Nettle Quiche

I took my standby quiche recipe and adapted it for this seasonal ingredient. Playing with a potato crust widens the audience to include those who can’t do gluten (and those who have a crust making phobia…) Hope you too find some time this spring to make nettle quiche!