Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WDW - Berry Fun!

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I think berries are way delicious, so I decided to feature them on my WDW today.

One of my favorite ways to get berries is by picking up Costco's frozen Rader Farms 3-berry blend. It includes raspberries, blueberries, and marionberries (blackberries). Berries can be expensive when purchased fresh, but are so very healthy that we should eat them. Frozen is a great way to consume berries at a fraction of the cost. My Costco sells a 4 lb. bag of these for about $9.50. What a deal. Of course, frozen berries are not for all uses, as they don't thaw to the likeness of fresh, but I find frozen berries to be quite useful in many other applications. I wish these were organic, but at least this blend doesn't contain strawberries, one of the 'dirty dozen' foods we should buy strictly organic.

Frozen berries are not only convenient and last for months in your freezer, but they are every bit as nutritious as fresh. Berries contain vitamins (like A, C, E, & K), minerals (like calcium and iron) a host of antioxidants, and a good dose of fiber. In fact, one cup of berries supplies nearly 1/3 of your daily fiber requirement and 50% of your daily vitamin C requirement. As you probably know, the body uses vitamin C for protection from immune system deficiencies, and vitamin C may lower the risk of developing heart disease, certain types of cancer, and macular degeneration. Vitamin C aids wound healing, and studies show vitamin C may actually lessen the appearance of wrinkles. Bring it on!

And if you want to get even more technical, berries contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant which the American Cancer Society claims can protect your skin from ultraviolet damage and actually repair skin damaged from sun (think: the days of slathering our skin with baby oil and sitting out to fry).

So, considering all this, plus the fact that berries are low in calories, low in sugar, and bursting with flavor, have I convinced you to eat berries yet? Here are some of the (delicious) ways I like to get berries into my diet, using frozen berries.

Easy Berry Sauce - I make this berry sauce quite often to serve with pancakes, waffles, crepes, and muffins, or just to keep in the fridge for various uses. Simply simmer berries until they give up some of their moisture and are warmed. Add a little sugar (I use about 1 Tbsp. per cup, it's to taste) and a little cornstarch (about 1 tsp. per cup) and raise the heat a little to thicken. If you mash this up and cool it, you can use it as a low-sugar jam. Cooled, it also makes a great topping for yogurt or cottage cheese. A great breakfast or snack is a yogurt parfait: in a pretty glass cup, layer plain or vanilla yogurt, the berry sauce (or just plain thawed and drained berries), and granola - mmm. This sauce is so yummy, I can practically eat it with a spoon (and I do - ask my family how I like to "finish off the bowl" when we have this).

Oatmeal Topping - I like to put 1 cup thawed and warmed berries on top of my morning oatmeal. I generously sprinkle cinnamon and about 1 tbsp. brown sugar on first, then top with the berries and their juice. It is like eating dessert for breakfast!

Berry Crisp - This is a great recipe that I use year round, a total crowd pleaser, and it can be whipped up at a moment's notice if you have a bag of berries in the freezer. The recipe is below.

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins - I promise you, this is the best ever recipe for blueberry muffins. I have tried dozens of blueberry muffin recipes and this one is the moistest, most flavorful one I've found. Even though it calls for blueberries, I use the 3-berry blend (you need to cut the marionberries in half). Be sure to keep the berries frozen until ready to put in the batter. I also toss the berries in a little flour to keep them from bleeding into the batter. Another bonus about this recipe is that you can make the batter the night before (without the berries, unless you are using fresh) and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, gently stir in the berries, scoop batter into muffin cups, and bake. From one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten, the recipe is below.

Smoothies - Frozen berries are perfect for smoothies. The fruit and ice is already mixed into one! When the weather warms up, this is what I feel like for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack. Blend 1 1/2 cups frozen berries, 1 frozen banana (I freeze them in the peel and store in Ziploc bags), 1/2 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt and 1 cup of milk for a tasty treat.


Berry Crisp

Filling:
10 cups frozen berries (any kind)
6 Tbsp. flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Topping:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients and pour into a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Combine all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over fruit.

Bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream.

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Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
Ina Garten

16 muffins

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

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