Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's The Berries!

May is quickly sliding into June and bringing with it one of my favorite food seasons of the year:  Berry Time!  Strawberries (love ‘em!) are at their peak here in South Carolina and many of my favorite berries – blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, to name a few - will soon join them. From now through August, I’ll be picking fresh berries and featuring them prominently in my meal planning. Yes, that’s right. I said “picking.” I’m fortunate to live in an area where we have an abundance of farms and orchards and nothing, but nothing, beats that “fresh from the farm” taste. Some of my earliest memories are of picking berries at my grandparents’ farm. I had a good system back then: one berry for the bucket, two berries for me. I thought it worked quite well! *grin*

There are so many things to love about strawberries. They make a beautiful centerpiece with their vibrant red color and tantalizing aroma. They’re the perfect fruit for dipping into rich, dark chocolate.
They're a great source of Vitamin C and one cup is only about 45 calories! (Minus the chocolate, of course.) They call out to me to pop one in my mouth and enjoy the burst of delicious sweetness on my taste buds and I answer that call...a lot. Right now, there’s a basket of locally grown strawberries in my fridge and I’ve been having a blast eating them six ways from Sunday. They’ve graced my cereal at breakfast, added colorful flavor to my yogurt at lunch, topped a bowl of ice cream for dessert, joined with pineapple and bananas for a satisfying snack, quenched my thirst in a cool smoothie and tumbled joyfully over home-baked shortcake.

I come down firmly in the middle of the shortcake debate between biscuit and sponge cake.  I love them both!  Some berries will be frozen for mid-winter strawberry pleasure but frozen strawberries just aren't the same as eating them fresh from the farm so, for as long as the season lasts, I’ll be on a diet of strawberries, strawberries, strawberries! Then, when the season ends, I’ll bid a fond farewell to plump, juicy, sweet strawberries and say a hearty “Welcome Back!” to another favorite fruit: Blueberries!

I pick my blueberries, blackberries and figs at a local farm called The Happy Berry. Don’t you just love that name? It’s a great place! The people who run it are friendly and helpful, there’s always laughter among both the employees and the pickers, you share the orchard with chickens and the occasional baby pig and you leave with oodles and oodles of yummy berries at a very affordable price. Have you ever picked blueberries? There’s a technique called “tickling” that makes it easy and fun. The berries hang in clusters from the branches. Hold your bucket in one hand and cup your other hand below the cluster of berries. Then, using your fingers, “tickle” the berries off the branch and right into the waiting bucket. Easy peasy! I visit The Happy Berry five or six times over the summer and usually end up with enough berries in my freezer to see me through the winter. Making fresh blueberry muffins, pancakes or cobbler in the summer is a delicious delight but, in the dark days of winter, it’s priceless!

Here are a few of my favorite berry recipes.

2 cups orange juice
2 cups orange sherbet
1/2 cup fresh strawberries
1 banana
2/3 cup fresh pineapple

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  For a thicker smoothie, add crushed ice before blending. 


 3 cups blueberries
 1/4 cup cornstarch
 2-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
 3 tbsp sugar
 1/3 cups melted butter

 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
 2 tsp vanilla
 1-1/2 cups sugar
 1 small package of whipped cream

Combine blueberries and cornstarch; cook until thickened. Cool.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter and press into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Reserve a little to sprinkle on top.

Soften the cream cheese. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla, then fold in whipped cream. Spread half of cream cheese mixture over crumb crust. Spread cooled blueberries over this and then the rest of the cream cheese over the blueberries. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Chill overnight.


1 cup blueberries
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (room temp.)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (room temperature)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease muffin pan or pans.

Sprinkle berries with small amount of sugar or flour and toss lightly to cover. (This prevents sinking in batter). Set aside.

Sift and combine all dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.

In a smaller bowl, beat eggs until light then add milk and melted butter.

Using a spoon, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Quickly add the liquid ingredients, then mix lightly. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill muffin pans two-thirds full of batter. Bake 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Do you like berries?  Which ones are your favorites?  Have you ever hand-picked them?  Have any recipes to share?  I'm always on the lookout for new ways to fix my favorite berries!  Oh, and just for fun, on which side of the great Strawberry Shortcake debate do you stand?  Biscuit or Sponge Cake? 



  1. Hi PJ,
    I love strawberries, they're my favorite. I'm also a big fan blackberries. I've never hand picked them before. I guess I should look into which farms I can go and do that. My cousin likes to buy frozen raspberries and eat them with ice cream. I'm going to go with the spongecake since it's the only type of Strawberry Shortcake I've ever eaten.

  2. Jane, picking is a lot of fun. Hope you give it a try! Do you have any favorite blackberry recipes to share with us?

  3. Love your blog, PJ - your berry-picking stories and your recipes make me want to go pickin' somewhere! Growing up, my sister and I loved to pick blackberries from bushes in the woods behind our house. We are SO lucky that we never ran into any snakes!! BTW, not many made it home...we popped them right into our mouths and kept on playing! :-)

  4. Hi PJ, reading your blog is making me hungry for berries! Not only are they delicious but they're so good for you. A truly guilt free treat!
    As a teenager, first time I went picking at a "pick your own" strawberry farm, my friend and I ended up with more than 10 pounds of strawberries (on top of the ones we'd eaten). We'd picked them, we had to pay for them. We ate them every which way--I even used some as a face mask. I couldn't even look at a strawberry for about three years afterward!

  5. BTW, not many made it home...we popped them right into our mouths and kept on playing! :-)

    Best way to pick, KayJax51! :) Welcome to The Romance Dish! Is this your first visit?

  6. We ate them every which way--I even used some as a face mask. I couldn't even look at a strawberry for about three years afterward!

    LOL@Kandy! Yeah, that can be a problem with over-indulging. A face mask? I'd love to hear more about that!

  7. Yes, this is my first visit--thanks for the warm welcome. And, I'll definitely be back!

  8. Oh, I love blueberries, allergic to strawberries but they look soooooo good. I have got to try those Blueberry Cream Cheese Squares! Two of my favorite flavor profiles in one.

  9. Morning, Dianna! You know, I never realized until I got older just how many people are allergic to strawberries. Don't worry about any going to waste. I'm sure I've eaten enough for my share, yours and several friends! lol!

    Hope you enjoy the Blueberry Squares. The Happy Berry has lots of fab blueberry recipes at their site. Just click on the highlighted "The Happy Berry" in my blog to take a look!

  10. PJ! I want to live next door to you! :-)

    You are bringing back memories big time. We spent our summers picking blackberries when I was young. We had quite a few bushes in the fields near our home, but my aunt who lived WAY out in the boonies, had a HUGE patch on her property. We kids called it berry heaven. :-) We'd pick for hours and bring them home to Grandma. I'd help her make jam and pies. I remember my Grandpa being so happy seeing us coming with our full buckets! :-)

    I'm going to try your square recipe! Yum!

  11. "Berry" good post, PJ! I am going to add another piece to the biscuit and sponge cake debate because I use a butter cake recipe for my strawberry shortcake. If I had to choose, though, it would be biscuit.

    One of the best pies my mom made was a peach-black raspberry pie. She didn't have quite enough br for a whole pie so threw them in with peaches. YUM!

  12. Oh, do I love berries...all of them! When we were in Florida last month, we bought a flat of strawberries as we were heading home. We enjoyed strawberry shortcake for dessert for a few nights--I like both the biscuit and the sponge, too--and now I have a freezer full of strawberries for later.

    Soon it will be time for the strawberries here, so I can have more fresh. Same with blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. We actually have blackberry brambles at the edge of our property, so we don't have to go far. I remember picking blackberries with my cousins when we were little, at my great aunt's house--so sticky!

    My grandpa's sister, my Aunt Mary Lou made a huckleberry cobbler that was to die for! I was probably about 7 or 8 the last time I had it, but I can still remember how wonderful it tasted.

    I love to use fresh berries on top of cereal, in smooothies, in a cobbler, or use the strawberries for a strawberry rhubarb pie.

    When we lived in Virginia, we picked strawberries with the kids. My daughter, Morgan, was about three and I looked back and she was eating more than she put in her bucket!

  13. @Gannon--Morgan sounds like Little Sal in "Blueberries For Sal"; eating more blueberries than picking any to put in her pail! :)

  14. Deb, sounds like you have some wonderful berry-picking memories too.

    I remember helping my grandma make jams and pies. Nowadays, I make jam the quick and easy my bread maker!

    Oh, and I'd love having you live next-door! :)

  15. "Berry" good post, PJ!

    LOL! Love it! :)

    I use a butter cake recipe for my strawberry shortcake.

    Deb, that sounds yummy! Does it have a regular cake consistency or is it more like a pound cake? Will you share the recipe with us? And, while we're at it, do you have a recipe for the peach-black raspberry pie? That sounds fabulous!

  16. We actually have blackberry brambles at the edge of our property.

    Gannon, do you have to share them with the bears? The black bears will be searching out the berries around here all summer. As a matter of fact, they've already started. One of the local elementary schools had to go on lock-down this week while a black bear sat on the playground, munching.

    Will you share your recipe for Strawberry-Rhubarb pie with us? When I was a kid, my grandma made that from the strawberries and rhubarb they grew on the farm but she never wrote down the recipe.

  17. Homemade jam/jelly making in your bread-maker? You've got to share that recipe, PJ!

  18. This post is making me so hungry! I adore berries and i have picked them by hand. There is a wonderful farm run by Mennonites nearly by that has an half of acre of strawberries that you can pick. We always go every year and pick some. I actually don't know any recipes to use them in since i don't cook a lot. I am siding with biscuit thought. I don't really like sponge cake.


  19. Homemade jam/jelly making in your bread-maker? You've got to share that recipe, PJ!

    It's easy! Here's the recipe I use. It's from the Oster recipe book that came with my bread maker.


    1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
    2 tsp. lemon juice
    1 cup sugar
    1 Tbsp. powdered, low-sugar fruit pectin

    Combine all ingredients into bread pan. Select Basic setting and mix 5-6 minutes, scraping sides of pan with a rubber spatula. Stop the mixing.

    Select Bake setting and bake until the bread maker beeps and display reads 0:00. Stop bake cycle and remove bread pan from the unit. Pour hot jam into containers, cover and refrigerate to set.

    Yield: 3 cups

    It's delicious, especially on freshly baked bread!

    3/4 c butter
    1 c sugar
    2 eggs, whites separated
    3/4 c milk
    2 c flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. vanilla
    Cream sugar and butter and beat until smooth. Add egg yolks. Add dry ingredients and alternate them with the milk. Beat well and add vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff and add to batter. (Sometimes I skip this and just add the whole eggs.) Pour batter into a well-greased 8x8 pan for a thicker cake or a little larger pan for a thin cake. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.

    4-5 peaches, sliced
    3 heaping T of cornstarch
    2 T lemon juice
    1 1/4 c sugar
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg (which is the only spice to use with peaches, according to my mom)
    Optional: add 3/4 to 1 c black raspberries
    Mix ingredients together and pour into pie crust and lay another crust over the top. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.

    No one can make a pie crust like my gram or mom; I've even got a recipe, but it never turns out flaky like theirs.

  21. Melissa, my sis-in-law makes wonderful sweet biscuits using Bisquick for strawberry shortcake and then tops them with homemade whipped cream. Decadently delicious!

  22. Deb, thank you so much! Those both look delicious! I live in peach country and will definitely be making that pie once they come into season.

    I know what you mean about the crusts. Both my mom and my grandma made fabulous crusts from scratch. I buy the ready-made. I've just never been able to get the hang of it.

  23. Sure am glad that "virtual" calories can't stick to my hips. These are some yummy recipes, Ladies!!

  24. PJ, berry picking with grandmothers seems to be a memory many of us have in common. I know I've never again tasted cobbler to compare with those Gran made from the blackberries I, along with an assortment of siblings and cousins, helped her pick.

    Strawberries are my favorite though. In fact, I had fresh strawberries and yogurt for breakfast this morning. School's out here now, which means more overnight visits from the grands with strawberries and bananas atop pancakes for breakfast. We eat a lot of strawberry-blueberry parfaits in the summer too. Since my maternal grandmother made the most luscious strawberry shortcake with her pound cake as the base, that's my choice. But these days I most often use an easy, guilt-free version with angel food cake. If I'm feeling energetic, I'll bake srawberry bread. Yum!

  25. PJ, you have hit on one of my favorite things: berries! Strawberries and blueberries are the favorites in my family. In fact, we had strawberries and blueberries with Cool Whip whipped cream on top last night! Sooooo good. Plus, I love to make my own strawberry/blueberry smoothies. Yum!! I am so priniting out your recipe for "Blueberry Cream Cheese Squares". My family would LOVE them! Thanks!

  26. Welcome to the blog, kayjax51!! We hope you'll visit us often! :)

  27. Hi Janga! I've tried strawberries with angel food cake but it just doesn't float my boat. I guess I need more substance to my base.

    I think our grandmothers' baked goods tasted so delicious because they used all those wonderful ingredients that medical scientists have since discovered are no good for us. ;-)

  28. Andrea, do you blend strawberries and blueberries together in a smoothie? What else do you put in? It sounds wonderful!

  29. PJ, I haven't seen any bears--my neighbors had one trying to get into their bird feeder last year--but they can share as long as they come at night. ;-)

    Here's the recipe:

    Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    1 pound fresh rhubarb, chopped
    2 pints fresh strawberries
    Pie crusts for double pie
    2 Tbs. butter
    1 egg yolk
    2 Tbs. sugar

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, mix flour and sugar. Add strawberries and rhubarb. Toss w/ sugar and flour and let stand for 30 min. Pour filling into pie crust. Dot top w/ butter and cover w/ top crust. Seal edges of top and bottom crust w/ water. Apply egg yolk to top of pie w/ pastry brush. Sprinkle w/ sugar. Cut small holes in top to let steam escape. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Cool on rack.

    I just came back from the farmers market and got some strawberries and rhubarb, so I'll be making a pie later. Yum!

  30. PJ said: Andrea, do you blend strawberries and blueberries together in a smoothie? What else do you put in? It sounds wonderful!

    PJ, it's delicious. I put in about a cup of strawberries, a half cup of blueberries, a cup of skim milk, a tablespoon of sugar, and about 10-12 pieces of ice. Sometimes I'll add a half a banana, too, if I'm in the mood. ;-)

    I told my hubby about the Blueberry Cream Cheese Squares and he asked me how soon I can make it! LOL

  31. Strawberry shortcake - definitely biscuit. The sponge cake is just too sweet.
    We have strawberries in our garden and a red raspberry patch. Have picked berries since I was a child. In my youth it was wild berries - strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. We had a mulberry tree in the yard and a current bush.
    When we couldn't have a garden, we would go to the pick-you-own places to get our berries when we could.Have frozen them, dried them, made jams and preserves, pies, and cakes.

    There is a really easy frozen cake that I haven't made for years. Slice up the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and set aside.
    Dice up a sponge cake into one inch cubes.
    Mix cake with sliced strawberries and cool whip.
    Spoon into a tube pan, and cover with plastic wrap.
    Place in freezer until frozen.
    Slice frozen cake and serve. May garnish with cool whip and strawberries.

  32. I wanted to add that my family enjoys our strawberry shortcake using a sour cream pound cake and vanilla ice cream. (I usually "cheat" and buy a pound cake from Publix's Bakery.) Wow...would love a bowl right now...have had strawberries on my mind all day! :-) Sure enjoyed my first visit to your blog, PJ!

  33. PJ, I'd read in a historical novel (it might have been Gone With the Wind, but maybe not) that strawberries fade freckles. That's why I tried the strawberry face mask, to try and fade my freckles. It didn't work!
    Some marvelous recipes here! BTW, I use my breadmaker to make jam, too, so easy! I have a big sour cherry tree and an gnarled old plum, both fruits that make wonderful jam.

  34. Librarypat, that frozen cake sounds delish! I'm going to give that one a try. Thanks!

  35. Karyn said: I have a muffin recipe I use that has strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in them, fantastic!

    That sounds wonderful! Will you share the recipe with us?

  36. Kandy said: PJ, I'd read in a historical novel (it might have been Gone With the Wind, but maybe not) that strawberries fade freckles. That's why I tried the strawberry face mask, to try and fade my freckles. It didn't work!

    Kandy, now that you mention it, I remember reading that in some historical novels too. Btw, having met you in person, my advice is forget the masks. You look great with freckles!

  37. Kayjax, I'm so glad you enjoyed your first visit with us. Stop by often!

  38. MMMMMMM thanks for the post PJ.
    I absolutely love berries . I am going to try that Blueberry cream cheese squares & strawberry jam.

    I have a recipe for peaches and praline pie I will dig up it is really tasty.
    Love & Hugs,

  39. Karyn said: I have to find it *snort* But will share it maybe tomorrow! Cheers!

    LOL! Sounds like you have a recipe filing system to rival mine. Hope you can find it. I'd love to make some!

  40. Pam said: I have a recipe for peaches and praline pie I will dig up it is really tasty.

    Peaches and praline pie? That sounds decadently delicious. I'd love to give that one a try!

  41. What a wonderful post, PJ!!! We are planning to pick berries at the local farm in just a week or so. We did it last year and the boys had so much fun. Plus it is peach picking time too, so we get pick them also.

  42. Definitely Scones! I have always enjoyed making good/not too sweet scones for Strawberry Shortcake.

    Is a scone basically a biscuit? Maybe just more dense.


  43. Hi Jessica! Scones are a bit like dense biscuits. I love them but I never thought about using them for shortcake. I'll have to give that a try. Thanks!