Kids are surprisingly funny sometimes

Last night I was hanging out on the couch watching a show while Jen snoozed on the other end. Brady wanders by, grabs my toes and says,

“Dad, I really like your egg sandwiches.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

“And my teacher didn’t ask me to say that, either,” Brady said.

“Are you saying that she didn’t approach you and say ‘Go tell your father thank you for making a good egg sandwich.’ I don’t see see why she wouldn’t have.” (he’s pretty good with sarcasm)

“Well I thought maybe you would think she told us to say something nice, but she didn’t. I just really like how you do it so the cheese is melty and the egg is kind of salty,” he explained.

“I am glad you like it, thank you,” I said.

“Sure,” he finished. Then, “tickle, tickle” as he grabbed my foot again and trotted out of the room.

Totally priceless and great, but at the same time, it leaves me scratching my head. What the hell was that all about?

Time for Blackberries

I was getting a bit stir crazy yesterday and was looking for some sort of outlet so that I wouldn’t have a full-blown freak out. I called a friend at my old work and had her go check the blackberries outside the gate and see if they were ready.

This was probably the first week they were ready to pick around here. At least at this particular spot.

Blackberries on the cane

Like the picture shows, about a third of each cluster is ripe for picking. I’m not sure the truth of it, but I believe that picking some allows the others to ripen faster. We only picked for half an hour or so, I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to make something with them tonight they were so good.

Brady was out there helping as well. He has a slightly different philosophy about picking berries than I do. He seems to operate on a “pick three, eat one” mentality. I can definitely relate. They were delicious.

I ended up leaving a small amount for Traci, a girl I used to work with, but we still managed a pretty decent haul for just 30 minutes.

A small flat of blackberries

I am not much of a baker. Cookies and such are no problem, but things like pies and pastries are far outside of my experience. I dug out a recipe for a Blackberry Cobbler (any berry would be fine I’m sure), that seemed pretty wacky but sounded amazing so I went for it.

I cleaned and dried the blackberries in the same way I described in the Blueberries post from last week.

Here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour*
  • 1/3 cup milk, room temperature
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

  1. In a 10-in. round or oval baking dish, melt 1/2 cup butter; set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, heat sugar and water until sugar melts; set aside.
  3. Place flour in a mixing bowl; cut in remaining butter until fine crumbs form. Add milk, stirring with a fork until dough leaves sides of bowl.
  4. Roll out to an 11-in. x 9-in. rectangle 1/4 in. thick. Spread berries over dough; sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll up, jelly-roll style. Cut into 1/4-in. thick slices.
  5. Carefully lay slices in baking dish over butter. Pour sugar syrup around slices (syrup will be absorbed).
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over top and bake 15 minutes more. Serve warm or cold.
  7. *If self-rising flour is not available, use 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder.

I didn’t make very many changes, but there were some.

  • I didn’t use the 1/2 cup of butter for the bottom of the pan. I used about 5T and it seemed like plenty to me.
  • My dough rolling skills were total crap and it wound up shaped more like Utah than Colorado.
  • I only used 1T of sugar for the top
  • I baked it on a convection cycle at 325 instead of conventional at 350. Same timeframe.
  • This is what it looked like before baking:
    Blackberry Cobbler before baking

    I was quite nervous at this point. This looked nothing like I had seen anyone bake before. The resulting cobbler was stunning, see for yourself:

    The finished cobbler

    I cannot say enough about how fantastic it tasted. I think it was, by far, the best thing I have ever baked. The bonus was that it cost probably less than $2 to make. I love that I took it from cane to plate in about four hours and that it was delicious to boot.

    Speaking of taking it to the plate:

    Plated blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream

    I froze the rest of the berries for use later. I will definitely be going for more here soon. I made freezer jam last year and it did not last anywhere near long enough. I think we munched it all before December was even over.

Blueberries

We still have about a week or so of blueberry season around here. They apparently were a very good crop this year, something to do with a hot spring and a wetter than normal summer.

Brady and I went out and picked 4.5 pounds yesterday afternoon. Not as much as we had last year but we were a bit late in getting out to the patch we go to. It’s a nice drive, about 30ish miles from the house.

It’s a great place to pick. You can hear cows lowing in the background and when you pick your head up from the bushes you get a nice view of the lake. There are about 14 rows of blueberry canes, with about 40 or so canes to a row.

There is a second set of canes roughly the same size that are a few years old but not ready to pick from just yet. Here’s an overhead view where you can clearly see the canes and the proximity to the lake.


View Silver Lake Blueberry Patch in a larger map

I would sure love to be out in the sticks like these guys some day.

I’m not sure exactly what the approved way is on how to clean blueberries, but the method I use has always worked well.

  1. Sift through the berries removing obvious stems and flower remnants.
  2. Set a large colander inside a large mixing bowl and place in the sink
  3. Fill with cool water and place about 2 quarts of berries inside the colander
  4. Agitate the berries to remove any leftover goobers
  5. Berries that float may have imperfections or mushy sections, check these
  6. Remove colander to drain berries, place on dark towel (to avoid staining) to dry

Repeat the cleaning process about 2 quarts at a time. To store blueberries I always freeze them individually, actually, I do this for all the berries I freeze.

  1. Place dry (very important!) blueberries a single layer deep on a cookie sheet
  2. Place cookie sheet in freezer for a few hours (I usually just do it overnight).
  3. Using a kitchen scale, portion out 1 pound of frozen berries into a zip-top baggie or other container
  4. Seal multiple bags into a gallon bag
  5. Return to freezer

The great thing is, when they are prepped and frozen like this they can be used in the exact quantity required. So long as they were completely dry when initially frozen they will stay that way. It is pretty much just a bag of blue marbles at this point.

It is very easy to reach in and get a handful at a time like this. I portion them into pound bags just because when we bake with them that about the quantity we use. It also conveniently turns out that a pound of blueberries is roughly equal to a quart in volume.

Prices were extremely reasonable, I paid $5.75 for 5 pounds. It turned out there was a bit of rounding going on since, during my portioning, I found that we actually only had 4.5 pounds. I gave the fella out there $6 and still consider it a bargain.

Last price I saw at the grocery store was $3 for a pint which makes the retail value of my berries about $27. It only took about an hour, although they were harder to get than least year since we spent the same amount of time and pulled 8 pounds last year.

It was a fun afternoon to boot, thanks for the invite Shawna, it’s a date for next year for sure!

Good food is really good

Since late July Jen and I have made a concerted effort to eat better. Not as wild and micro-managed as it once was, just better.

I have been mostly sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store now. Produce of all varieties is high on the list. I’ve been big into avocados lately and make fresh guacamole about once a week.

Now is a great time for fresh produce too. There are huge harvests coming in from the Puyallup valley right now. Our local grocery store had heads of butter, red-leaf, green-leaf, and Romaine lettuces for only $1 each!

The only thing I would like better is to be growing most of what we eat ourselves. Hopefully that’s something that can happen next year.

The upswing to all of this better eating is a huge improvement in how I feel day to day. I didn’t notice right away until I had something to compare it to. I had been eating like this for a few weeks and met some friends for lunch at Taco Bell. Now, to be fair, I like their food quite a bit. It just turns out that my body doesn’t care for it so much.

I had two items and no drink, so I wasn’t stuffed or anything like that, and by the time I got home I felt miserable. My stomach felt leaden and bloated and I was very sleepy.

I think that was my last signal to stop eating like that and I intend to heed it. It’s not like I’ve lost 40 pounds in the last few weeks or anything even remotely like that, I just feel so much better on a daily basis that choosing convenience food is like choosing to feel like shit.

Pass me the veg!