It is hard to pass up the beautiful displays of fruit that welcome you as you enter the markets - whether indoors or out. Rainbows of colors await you in an array of purple, red, orange, yellow and even subtle shades of blue. Fruit is a great complement to any meal and refreshingly light during these warm summer months.
My personal favorites are the berries and cherries. Some general rules about selecting berries -
Most berries do not ripen after they have been picked so you want to look for ones that are fully ripe. They should have a beautiful aroma, and deep colors - avoid dull colored or if they have any green or yellow patches (mostly with strawberries).
Avoid overripe berries that are soft and mushy and therefore usually close to becoming moldy. It is best to purchase berries and use them within 3 days as they are highly perishable and do not store well. It is best to refrigerate berries as soon as you bring them home and since water encourages spoilage, do not wash them until right before you are ready to use them. If you have too many - wash, spread them out on a sheet pan and freeze and package for later use. I love eating frozen berries right out of the bag!!
Berries are rich in health-promoting nutrients, providing antioxidant protection from free-radicals that can damage cellular structures, including DNA. Berries are also rich in dietary fiber and relatively low in calories, nutritious and delicious. One cup of raspberries contains only 60 calories, one cup of strawberries 44 calories, one cup of blueberries 81 calories , making berries a smart choice for snacks or dessert options.
One should always try to choose organic fruit and locally grown if available. Strawberries are known to be one of the top foods on which pesticide residue is found and also one of the most common foods associated with allergic reactions. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all contain oxalates which may be of concern to some individuals. Oxalates have been linked to the formation of kidney stones, although it is not clear that restricting oxalates reduces the formation of kidney stones. So, if you have experienced kidney stones in the past, moderate consumption where berries are concerned is usually recommended.
Blend yogurt, honey and almond extract until smooth. Divide the mixture into two dessert dishes. Place raspberries in one layer on top and garnish with almonds, chocolate and/or coconut.
Place berries in lightly buttered or sprayed 13x9x2 inch pan or casserole dish of similar size. Sprinkle a little flour, tapioca or potato starch and toss in pan gently. In large bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, oats and spices. Toss with melted butter until evenly combined. Mixture should be somewhat moist and crumbly - if too dry add a some additional melted butter. Crumble mixture evenly over the top of the berries. Bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.
Heat oven to 375 and grease 12 regular muffin cups or use baking cups.
In a medium bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in the sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla, baking powder and salt.
Mix mashed berries into batter.
Fold in half the flour with a spatula, then half the milk. Add remaining flour and milk. Fold in remaining blueberries.
Scoop batter into muffins cups and sprinkle with nutmeg sugar.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let muffins cool at least 30 minutes before removing from pan.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter or spray a 9x13x2 inch baking pan. Warm berries in a saucepan until the juices run. Reserve one cup of juice (may need to add water to make one cup). Combine cooled reserved juice with cornstarch and lemon juice. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring until thickened. Gently stir the berries back in. Set aside.
Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press 2/3 of mixture into greased baking pan. Bake 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool slightly and spread berries over the crust. Crumble remaining flour/oat mixture over the berry layer and press lightly. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly brown. Cool and cut into bars - 16 to 24 depending on size.
Have a BERRY Good Summer!!!