sweet things Archive

On Planting Fruit Trees (and a recipe for Blackberry-Blueberry Crisp).

Two weeks ago, I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate my 31st birthday. My mom and sister were particularly excited for me to open my gifts, as they had already informed me that they’d chosen the perfect gift. As I unwrapped the presents, a theme began to unfold before me: a beautiful vintage cobbler pan, a cookbook for rustic fruit desserts. And lastly, a gift certificate to a local nursery. Specifically, a gift certificate for fruit trees.

I didn’t get it at first. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit trees and I was very excited at the prospect of having my very own. But I wasn’t sure why they were so excited to give me fruit trees. And then they explained it: they gave me the gift of fruit trees because I’m the one that’s staying.

I am a planter.

I am rooted here in Portland.

As I mentioned previously, my sister and her husband and daughter are moving to Minneapolis to work with the urban poor. Specifically, they will working with the large population of Somalian refugees that have settled in Minneapolis. (To read more about what they’ll be doing in Minneapolis, check out their blog.)

On Friday, my sister and I will pack all of her earthly belongings into a Subaru wagon and we will then drive halfway across the country. We’ll see a lot of Montana and North Dakota, and eventually we’ll land in Minneapolis. My mom, brother-in-law, and niece will fly out a few days later and will join us, as we attempt to settle them into their new life in Minnesota.

To be completely honest, I’m a little bit of a wreck. I’m just not ready to say goodbye to them. Selfishly, I want them to stay here, but, in my heart I know that it’s their time to go. I know that this is what they are supposed to be doing. I’m heartbroken, and yet so proud.

And while they are off in Minneapolis doing amazing things, I’m going to plant some fruit trees and put down roots. I’m going to do everything I can to provide them with love and support them from afar.

That being said, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bake another cobbler or crisp without getting a little bit sappy. I definitely blubbered a bit while baking this crisp (and also while writing this post).

So without further delay, I’d like to share this recipe for you. It’s quite lovely.

(Note: I’m still undecided as to what fruit trees I want. I’m currently thinking I’d like a Meyer lemon tree and a blueberry bush. What do you think I should plant?)

Blackberry and Blueberry Crisp
(Adapted from Savory Sweet Life)

Note: The original recipe calls for 6 cups of blueberries (and does not use blackberries), which fills a 9×13 pan. I made less filling (4 cups of berries), and filled a 9×5 pan and a small ramekin. I did make the same amount of crumble as the original recipe called for, as I like to have a lot of crumble!

For the berry filling:
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil

For the crumble topping:
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed in 1/2-inch squares
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole pecans
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your baking pan (with oil, butter, or nonstick spray) and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the berries, sugar, and lemon juice. Mash the berries a bit (with a fork or spoon), and season with nutmeg and dried basil. Transfer the berry mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse together the butter, flour, and brown sugar. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Once combined, add in the pecans and process for a couple of seconds – until the pecans are chopped and incorporated into the mixture.

In a small bowl, gently toss the butter/flour/pecan mixture with the oats, cinnamon and salt. When combined, sprinkle this mixture over the berries in the pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crumb top is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. The crisp is great hot or cold, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

**Funny side note: I tried to make fresh basil whipped cream to go atop this lovely crisp. I made it two different ways, and each time it was a dismal failure. That being said, I scrapped the idea of basil whipped cream and topped the crisp with vanilla bean ice cream. It was super delicious.

Vanilla Bean & Lavender Panna Cotta with Fresh Peaches

I like to think of this dessert as peaches and cream, all grown up.

My husband, however, describes it as “milky jello.”

The funny thing is, he’s kind of right. Panna cotta is essentially milky jello.

However, I don’t think that description does this dessert justice. This panna cotta is light and creamy, sweet but not cloying. The addition of honey, lavender and vanilla give the dish a subtle and lovely complexity. In addition, it’s the perfect summertime dessert, as it requires very little cooking.

And it should be said that this dessert is just really, really pretty. Not only does it taste good, but it’s just so lovely to look at.

Therefore, I implore you, friends: go forth and make this milky jello!

Vanilla Bean and Lavender Panna Cotta with Fresh Peaches
(Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes)
Makes 4 small panna cottas

For the panna cotta:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons honey
1.5 teaspoons culinary lavender
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

For the peach topping:
1-2 peaches, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon raw sugar

Prepare four small dishes (cups, mugs, ramekins, etc) by greasing them with a small amount of canola or vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 2 tablespoons of water. Allow the gelatin to ‘blossom’. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, cream, and honey over medium-low heat. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife, and scrape out all of the vanilla seeds. Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add in the scraped vanilla pod and the lavender. Heat for 10 minutes, or until the milk is warmed all the way through and the honey is dissolved and combined with the cream.

Strain out the vanilla pods and lavender, using a mesh strainer or cheese cloth. When the milk mixture is still warm, stir in the gelatin mixture until combined. Pour contents into the containers. Refrigerate for 6 hours (or overnight), until set.

30 minutes prior to serving, slice the peach(es) and toss with sugar, lemon juice, lavender and thyme. Allow the peaches to sit for 30 minutes or more, in order to get the juices flowing.

When ready to serve, remove the panna cottas from the fridge and top with a spoonful of the peach mixture. Enjoy!

Strawberry Lemon Ginger Ale Pops: Recipe Swap

When life hands you lemons – or a vintage recipe for Lemon Sponge Pie – make popsicles. (That’s what I always say, anyway…)

For this installment of the Recipe Swap, Christianna from Burwell General Store selected a recipe for Lemon Sponge Pie. The recipe actually looks pretty great (unlike the infamous “Ham Snails“), but I just couldn’t bring myself to bake a pie.

It doesn’t get hot in Portland very often, but when it does the whole city shuts down. We all turn into whiny, melty puddles. It’s a bit pathetic, really.

That being said, I am guilty of being a whiny, melty puddle this week. It was 102 degrees! There was zero chance I was going to turn on my oven. So, I turned Lemon Sponge Pie into Strawberry Lemon Gingerale Pops. I was really pleased with the results.

They were frosty, tangy, refreshing, and delicious – the perfect cure to my summertime woes.

(Inspired by this recipe from What I Do)
Makes 4 popsicles

1 bottle good quality ginger ale or ginger beer
1 pint of lemon sorbet, softened (Note: you will have sorbet leftover!)
6-8 strawberries, stems removed and diced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small bowl, mix together the diced strawberries, lemon zest, and grated ginger.

Place a spoonful of the strawberry mixture in each popsicle mold. Pour a bit of ginger ale (slowly, as it will fizz!) over the mixture, and top with a dollop of lemon sorbet. Repeat with each mold – strawberries, ginger beer, sorbet – until each is nearly full. Leave a very small amount of headspace at the top. Place lids/sticks the in the molds and freeze overnight.

And, please see below for the other creative contributions to this month’s recipe swap!

Strawberry & Mint Shortcakes: Recipe Swap

When life hands you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. When life hands you a neck injury, however, it seems that you can’t make much of anything.

I’ve been stuck on the couch for three days. It hurts to move, it hurts to sit, it hurts to sleep. I’ve got my routine down: a glass of water, ibuprofen, ice (frozen peas) and heat (homemade sock rice pack). I watched an entire season of Project Runway yesterday. I’m going a little bit stir crazy. And while there’s never a good time to get injured, this weekend seemed like particularly bad timing. The Montavilla Farmer’s Market opened for its 6th season today. In addition, today is the deadline for the June Recipe Swap.

I’ve been planning this post for weeks. When Christianna (from Burwell General Store) emailed us the recipe for ‘Mint Pie‘, I knew that I was going to take the recipe in an entirely different direction.

You see, I’m one of the few people on the planet that doesn’t like the combination of chocolate and mint. I love chocolate. I love fresh mint. For whatever reason, I just don’t like them together. (Please don’t hate me!) Since it’s strawberry season in the Northwest – and since my mint plant is growing like crazy and threatening to take over the backyard – I decided to combine these two ingredients instead.

My apologies to all of the chocolate-and-mint lovers out there, but I’m officially on Team Strawberries-and-Mint. The combination is incredible! This dessert is a slight variation of a classic strawberry shortcake, but it’s the subtleties that make this recipe truly special. Perfectly ripe strawberries, purchased at the farmer’s market this morning. Fresh mint, plucked from my backyard. Hints of lemon, mint, black pepper, and cream. It all works together to create a light and airy spring treat that isn’t overly sweet or complicated. It’s just perfect.

Adapted from Bite by Michelle
(Makes 10-12 shorcakes)

For the shortcakes:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely diced
1 stick (1/2 cup) chilled salted butter, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup buttermilk
Optional: Egg wash & raw sugar

For the strawberry topping:
1 pint strawberries
1.5 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white sugar
A couple grinds of black pepper

For the lemony whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender (or knives, fingers, food processor, etc) cut in butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in mint and buttermilk, and mix until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead a couple of times and pat into a circle (with a 1″ thickness). Using a biscuit cutter (or juice glass), cut out the shortcakes. Place on a lined baking sheet, 1-2 inches apart. Optional: brush each cake with an egg wash and sprinkle with raw (or coarse grain) sugar before baking.

Place baking sheet in the oven on bottom rack and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, wash and de-stem the strawberries. Slice strawberries and place in a bowl. Toss with fresh mint, black pepper, lemon juice, and black pepper.

Mix the whipping cream, vanilla, sugar, and lemon zest together. Whip, using a whisk or electric mixer for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and billowy. (Be careful not to overwhip! You want soft peaks.)

When the shortcakes have cooled, arrange each cake on a plate with a generous dollop of whipped cream and strawberries. Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Rhubarb Bars

Every Tuesday evening, I meet up with six of my closest girlfriends.

We make dinner together. We drink wine, we talk, we laugh.

I look forward to it every single week. We’ve been making dinner together on Tuesday nights for almost 3 years now.

This week, we said goodbye to our friend Stacie. Stacie is getting married and moving to Spokane and is going to do all sorts of wonderful and exciting things with her life. I’m positively thrilled for her. But, she’s moving a lot sooner than expected – we thought we weren’t going to have to say goodbye until August. But, sometimes life hands you a curveball. In this instance, life handed Stacie a good job in Spokane. And the job starts now.

I’m horrible at goodbyes. But I showed up on Tuesday night with a bottle of champagne and some rhubarb bars. (I happen to think that bubbles and baked goods are a perfectly acceptable way to say goodbye.)

Here’s to you, Stacie! Safe travels and happy adventures, my dear.

P.S. I’ll see you soon, friend. This isn’t goodbye.

P.P.S. As for the rhubarb squares, they speak for themselves. We devoured them all in one sitting.

Adapted from Two Spoons
(Makes one 8×8″ pan)

Crust ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Rhubarb puree:
3 cups chopped rhubarb stalks
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 a vanilla bean

Rhubarb topping:
1 (heaping) cup rhubarb puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup of white sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon corn starch

To make the rhubarb puree (can be done ahead of time):
Place rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine rhubarb and sugar. The mixture will look dry at first, but as the rhubarb heats up it will release moisture. (You don’t need to add water, I promise!) Let the rhubarb simmer on the stove until it is soft and pulpy (10-15 minutes). When the rhubarb is soft, stir in orange zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the mixture. Allow to simmer for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat and puree the mixture, using an immersion blender or food processor. Set aside to cool, or store in the fridge for later use.

Make the crust:
Mix together the butter and sugar until well combined (with a wooden spoon or mixer). Mix in the flour until the mixture in uniform. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. (Note: I ended up adding a little extra flour and butter to the mix, as I wanted the base to be a bit thicker). Place the crust in the freezer while your oven preheats to 350 degrees. Once your oven is preheated, remove the crust from the freezer bake it for 15-20 minutes, until golden at the edges. Remove from oven.

While the crust is baking, make the filling:
Whisk eggs and sugar together. Whisk in the lemon juice, rhubarb puree and corn starch until combined and uniform. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the crust. Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the topping is set and just starting to brown along the edges. Allow to cool completely before serving. Dust with powdered sugar (if you desire) just prior to serving.

Gin & Tonic Jellies: A Vintage Recipe Swap (and a Tribute to Mad Men)

Today is a big day.

It’s April Fool’s Day. Game of Thrones (Season 2) premiers tonight. A new recipe swap goes up today.

And there’s a new episode of Mad Men on tonight.

I adore Mad Men. I think the writing is fantastic, the sets and wardrobes are stunning, and I have a soft spot in my heart for Don Draper.

So I think that it’s entirely fitting that I’m giving my recipe swap post a Mad Men twist.

If you’re unfamiliar, I’m part of a Recipe Swap group that re-interprets vintage recipes. Christianna from Burwell General Store selects a recipe from an old cookbook and emails it to the group. We then create our own interpretations of the recipe, and we all post on the first Sunday of the month.

This month’s recipe was bizarre, to say the least. Christianna selected “Ham Snails“, in honor of the post going up on April Fool’s Day.

I read through the recipe a few times and to be honest, I was somewhat repulsed. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the recipe. Nothing about it sounded appealing to me. (And, I’m still in the middle of Lent, so I knew that I couldn’t actually make something with ham.) But for whatever reason, I kept coming back to the “jelly roll” part of the recipe. I wasn’t about to make a ham snail, but I could work with a jelly roll.

And somewhere along the way, a jelly roll turned into a jello shot.

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I’m happy that it did. I was researching classic cocktails to make for this evening, as we’re having a few friends over to watch Mad Men and Game of Thrones. And I cam across a recipe for Gin & Tonic Jellies. Done and done.

You see, the gin and tonic is my all time favorite cocktail. It is simple, crisp, refreshing, and perfect. I was giddy at the prospect of turning my favorite cocktail into jello. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone: these gin & tonic jellies are my ode to both ham snails and Mad Men.

Sure, it might be a stretch. But it’s a delicious (and boozy) stretch.

So happy recipe swap, everyone! (And happy April Fools! And Mad Men! And Game of Thrones!)

(Adapted from The Food Network)

10 ounces tonic water (I use Q Tonic Water)
6 ounces gin
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
2 limes, hollowed and flesh/pulp removed (See note below)
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
Lime zest, for garnish

Note: If you would like to make jello shot lime wedges, first cut two limes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or small paring knife, remove the lime flesh and pulp, leaving the “shell” in tact. Once all the flesh is scraped out, set aside until ready to use.

Pour half of the tonic water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top of the tonic (do not stir) and allow to set until the gelatin blooms (5 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat the rest of the tonic water and the lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring the tonic to a low simmer and then whisk the hot tonic into the gelatin mixture. Whisk in the gin. Pour the mixture into shot glasses or hollowed lime halves and place in the refrigerator for 2+ hours (or until set). Garnish with lime zest. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

On Life, Los Angeles, and Blackberry Cream Scones

Holy smokes!

Life is certainly never ever boring. I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for the past few weeks and I don’t even know how to start writing about it. I keep starting blog posts, but then I never finish them. I feel overwhelmed, but in a good way.

So I’ll just start with the basics.

*If you happen to be reading my blog, you might notice that the site looks completely different. The blog got a whole lot prettier recently (thanks to Randall at Dept3), and I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to the new look. Thank you all for your kind words!

*I went to Los Angeles for a long weekend and ate a lot of good food and saw a lot of good friends. Highlights included: meeting Christianna of Burwell General Store (and dining at the fantastic Cook’s County Restaurant, where she currently works), eating a classic beef dip sandwich at Philippe’s in downtown LA, spotting Julie Taylor (Friday Night Lights!) at Intelligentsia, taking in the Pacific Standard Time exhibit at The Getty Museum, and discovering The Thirsty Crow’s amazing happy hour ($5 Manhattans, Moscow Mules, Old Fashioneds, etc.). Overall, it was a fantastic trip.

*Secondly, my first two articles for the Plate & Pitchfork Almanac were published a week ago, so if you haven’t seen them yet I’d encourage you to check out the first issue. The P&P Almanac is a collaboration between a few talented Portland ladies, and the first issue contains great photos, stories, and reports from the Portland food community.

*In a moment of complete and utter insanity, I signed up to run the Shamrock Run. I am not a runner. In fact, I generally hate running. But, my sister talked me into signing up for the Shamrock and so I best figure out how to run a 15k (9 miles) by March. This could be interesting. ;)

*This past weekend, I was hired to do “craft services” (aka provide food) for a commercial shoot and it was a great experience. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Strange as it may sound, I really enjoy the challenge. It’s experiences like this enable me to learn more about my abilities as a cook. I love it. Bring on the challenges!

*In the middle of all the madness, I found the time to make these delicious blackberry scones. Yes, I know that blackberries are decidedly not in season in January. But there they were, staring at me from the shelves of my local Trader Joe’s. They were so plump and perfect looking, I simply couldn’t help myself! So, I caved and I bought blackberries in January. (I then made myself feel better by justifying my purchase by using the fresh blackberries in combination with the last of the blackberries in my freezer from last summer’s pickings.)

Honestly, I’m just happy I found time to cook anything at all! In the middle of a busy couple of weeks, these scones were a welcome change from chard and beets.

That being said, you could easily substitute other berries (raspberries, marionberries, blueberries, etc) in these scones. I plan on making them again with the last of the raspberries I have in my freezer!

Blackberry Cream Scones with Lemon Glaze
(Adapted from Eat Live Run)
Note: I tripled this recipe, as I was cooking for 20+ people. I originally wanted to make blackberry sage scones, but realized that I was all out of dried sage. So, I used a bit of dried thyme, which worked nicely.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup blackberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp cold butter, cut into small squares
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk or cream

for glaze:

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cream


Preheat oven to 425.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter with your fingers and work mixture together until it resembles coarse sand. Gently cut in the blackberries, making sure to not overmix. You want large chunks of blackberries in the mix.

Add the cream and mix with your hands (or gently with a spatula) until a wet and sticky dough forms. On a well-floured surface, form the dough into a small circle and slice the dough into 8 small wedges. Place wedges on a lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.

To make the glaze, mix together the powdered sugar and cream. Add in lemon zest and vanilla, and mix to combine. Once the scones have cooled, drizzle the glaze over the scones.

Note: I forgot to take pictures of the scones after I iced them, so you’ll just have to imagine how lovely they were!