Tag Archives: blueberry

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

This is a hard story to write — hard enough that it’s taken me almost two months to even attempt it. I still feel raw about it, and I still don’t know how to address the situation head-on. So I’ll just muddle through it the best way I can.

On November 28, Mike and I broke up. It was a cold day, and I dropped him off at the train station so he could head back to Raleigh. Watching him close the door and walk into the station was like watching a movie, except that it wasn’t fiction. I knew we were about to travel a rocky road, but there was no way to switch off the television, no credits to roll — just the aftermath to clean up as best we could.

4,237 days (or 11 years, 7 months, and 5 days) earlier, I had just turned 15 years old. I was sitting in my room, looking out the window, and talking to Mike on the phone. He had something to ask me, but was obviously nervous: “If I were to ask you . . . something . . . what would you say?”

I helped him get to the point. Yes, I want to be your girlfriend. I couldn’t have imagined at that moment where the next 12 years would take us. Who knows when they’re 15 that they’re embarking on something monumental?

Over the years, our relationship brought us trials, for sure.

It also brought me through high school. Sometimes I’d leave school and drive straight to his apartment to watch Star Trek and eat Hamburger Helper (my early attempts at “cooking for him”).

It took me to college, coming home to see him every weekend. It took me off to the coast to study marine zoogeography for a semester — I remember the strain of distance, calling every night on my newly acquired cell phone, and his visit out to Atlantic Beach to see me.

Our relationship saw me through my first teaching job, a tumultuous experience for me. In the first hopeful, idealistic days before I began, he came and painted every single one of my lab tables a deep green to cover the graffiti. Later in the year, when my administration decided to switch my classroom and everything went wrong, my clean tables were mixed in with others and his hard work was lost. He was still there, though, helping me pack up boxes and carry them down the hallway to my new room.

The relationship also saw me through my year as a research technician and, finally, to my position at Woodlawn, the wonderful school where I now teach.

It saw Mike through college at UNCC. He rocketed through in 3 years with nearly perfect grades. It also saw him move his life three hours north to a new city this past fall to begin graduate school at NC State. It saw us through celebrations, new beginnings, and difficult endings. I wouldn’t trade a single day.

These Berry Crumble Bars were actually made at the very tail end of summer and are one of the only dishes I ever photographed at Mike’s apartment in Raleigh. I brought them up to share with him and my little brother, who is an undergraduate at NC State. The bars are buttery, crumbly, slightly lemony, and bright — almost cobbleresque, and perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The original recipe used only blueberries, but throwing in other berries or even combining berries is an easy way to create multiple varieties of crumble bars; I settled on blueberry and raspberry. Mike and I probably ate a billion of them over the course of my visit. I had a way of encouraging him to have dessert after every meal. I’m sure you’re not surprised.

So what do you say at the end of a story about a breakup? I think in this case, thank you. Thank you, Mike, for being who you are, and for 12 wonderful years. Thank you, God, for the promise that all things are working together for good for me (Romans 8:28). Thank you, friends and family and lovely readers, for your support during a rough time. Here’s to weathering loss and embracing the future — and to dessert!

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars



Recipe by: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Yields: 9 raspberry bars and 9 blueberry bars

Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate, small bowl, beat together the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter and egg mixture into the flour to form a crumbly dough. Press half of dough evenly into prepared pan.

In two additional bowls, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. Gently mix blueberries into one bowl and raspberries into the other. Sprinkle berries evenly over pressed dough — I did half the pan with blueberries and half with raspberries, but you could alternate or even mix the berries if you’d rather. Crumble the rest of the dough over top of the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely (and even chilling a little helps to ensure they’ll hold together) before cutting into squares. These bars are fun because you can have two different flavors (blueberry and raspberry) or cut your bars such that you have a combination of both berries.

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Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Bowls

This is a two-post kind of day, y’all. You don’t mind, do you?

Good. Because this recipe involves some of my favorite things: French toast, blueberries, and cream cheese. Oh my goodness, I love cream cheese.

Nature’s Pride bread is an official sponsor of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival this year, and as such, they issued a challenge to Featured Publishers to create a recipe using their products. I want to go to San Francisco as much as anyone, so I decided to give it a go. I pondered and brainstormed and debated and considered until, finally, I decided that I couldn’t think of a creative recipe and I gave up.

What? Don’t look at me like that! I was planning a ginormous dinner party, after all; cut me some slack!

It bothered me, though. When I was picking up supplies for the dinner party, I stuck some marshmallow cream and peanut butter in my basket, thinking perhaps I’d make a chocolate-covered fluffernutter. It still didn’t seem original enough, however, and in the shower this morning before church, I had almost convinced myself to give up again — when it hit me.

I’d already thought of and rejected stuffed French toast because sandwich bread is sliced too thin to cut open and stuff. Someone did it last year with two slices of bread, but I wouldn’t want to replicate something that had been that’d already been done.

Sometime between shampooing and conditioning, I realized that I could bake French toast into sweet little breakfast cups and fill them instead of stuffing them. They’d be topped with fresh berries with some maple syrup on the side for drizzling or dipping. Suddenly, a breakfast star was born.

There were still some obstacles — like how to create the French toast cups. In my first attempt, I dipped the bread into the custard and placed it uncooked into the muffin tin. I can’t really even describe the outcome, but they were something like soggy, bulbous custard balloons. Not San Francisco-worthy.

But my second attempt? Save me a seat on the trolley, because they were amazing! In this version, I cooked my French toast completely before cooling it and baking it into French toast cups. I then filled it with the sweetened cream cheese filling and berries to finish the dish.

Here’s hoping I win a trip to San Francisco to schmooze with some of my food blog faves, and that YOU make some stuffed French Toast Bowls immediately! Mike just polished off the last one for dessert, and if his reaction is any indication, you won’t regret it.

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Bowls



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with inspiration from Alton Brown
Yield: 8 bowls, or about 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, microwaved for 20 seconds (but not while still IN THE BEAR, y’all!)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices day-old or stale sandwich bread (I used Nature’s Pride Honey Wheat Bread)
4 tablespoons butter
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons sugar
blueberries
maple syrup, for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, honey, cinnamon, and salt (this step can be done the night before and refrigerated). When you’re ready to cook your French toast, pour this mixture into a cake pan or pie dish.

Prepare your bread: remove crusts and roll with a rolling pin to slightly flatten. Dip the bread into your custard mixture for about 8-10 seconds on each side before carefully removing it with a spatula to a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Allow excess moisture to drain off of the slices for 1-2 minutes.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet. Put 2 slides of bread at a time into the pan to toast gently to golden brown (about 2-3 minutes per side). Remove the French toast to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with all slices of bread.

While French toast cools, make your stuffing mixture by combining cream cheese and sugar into a bowl and mixing until fluffy. (When I tasted this at first, it was grainy, but then the sugar seemed to dissolve. I was going to suggest using confectioners’ sugar instead, but since the graininess was completely gone when we ate it, I don’t think there’s a need). Set aside.

Take each piece of cooled French toast and gently tuck into the well of a greased muffin tin, forming a bowl. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully. Pull them out of the oven and allow the bowls to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove them to cool on a cooling rack (the first time I did this, they started to fall apart because I pulled them out of the oven too soon, so I baked them a little longer and they were perfect). Once cool, fill them with the cream cheese mixture, top with berries, and serve with maple syrup for dipping.

Note: As part of Foodbuzz’s Tastemaker program, I received a coupon for a free package of Nature’s Pride Bread. But, um, actually I left it in my mailbox, so I bought this loaf with my own money. So I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Except that I may snag the coupon now and use it for another loaf to make hummus sandwiches. Ahem.

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48 Homemade Breakfast Cereals

I like variety. Sure, sometimes during the week I can get on a kick and eat the same thing every night for dinner (hellooo, lima beans, I’m lookin’ at you), but I also really appreciate mixing it up every now and then.

That’s why a few months ago when I decided I wanted some breakfast cereal, I went to the store and bought about 8 different boxes of the stuff. Each morning needed to have its own flavor — as long as the nutrition facts were acceptable. What? Don’t look at me like that. Sure, I may be the same girl who posted the Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, but I do try to eat reasonably during the week!

The store-bought cereal was okay. At least, I thought it was okay at the time. But then something happened — I had one of those thunderous BIG IDEAS.

It all started when I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Not So Humble Pie, and saw her (you’re not going to believe it) S’mores Candy Bar. I know. Insane.

The premise of her post was that she didn’t understand the excitement over this new company that makes customizable candy bars, since it’s so easy to make them at home. Having been excited about the customizable candy bar company, I felt admonished. And inspired.

Because even more than I had been excited about customizable candy bars, I was excited about customizable cereal. There’s this company on the web (I won’t link to them, since I’m about to tell you it’s silly to pay for their product) that allows you to choose all the ingredients you want in your own personal box of cereal — and even lets you pick a name for your new creation! Too fun!

BUT. I realized when I read Mrs. Humble’s candy bar post that it didn’t make any sense to pay for one kind of customized cereal (that was just like going to the grocery store), or even for eight kinds of customized cereal . . . what would really make sense is to make your own fully customizable cereal buffet — one that would allow you to have a different flavor every day if you wanted to!

A dream was born. I scrounged up recipes for homemade granola and nutty bran flakes (I’ll gush about these in a minute). And as if to emphasize that making homemade cereal was indeed my destiny, the folks at Oh! Nuts emailed to ask if I’d like to review some of their products. Uh, YES, NUT PEOPLE, YOU READ MY MIND. Pounds of nuts and dried fruits later, I was in the cereal-makin’ biz.

If you’re about to post a comment calling me a hippie for making my own bran flakes, hold it right there. This recipe is super easy, super cool, and super rewarding. You feel like a superhero (who makes their own cereal?! I MAKE MY OWN CEREAL! I AM CEREAL WOMAN!), you know exactly what healthy ingredients went into said cereal, and — this is the best part — you have bran flakes that don’t taste like a cardboard box. Every time I opened the jar they were stored in, I got a whiff of delicious nuttiness. They had texture! They had taste! Yes!

The granola is the flavor that really carries the cereal, though. I chose a Double Coconut Granola from Opera Girl Cooks that I’d heard a ton about. Once it cooled, it lived up to the hype — buttery, slightly sweet, coconutty, with a hint of salt to really amp it up.

Once you’ve made some flakes and granola, the fun starts. Possible add-ins are endless: dried fruits, fresh fruits, toasted nuts (do make sure to toast them — MUCH more flavor), seeds, chocolate chips, peanut butter or cinnamon chips, candy, marshmallows . . . be creative! Add a little, add a lot.

My favorite bowl was a straight-up combination of all my options: bran flakes, double coconut granola, dried cherries, dried blueberries, cinnamon pecans, and toasted walnuts. If you have just 2 dried fruits and two nut options along with your flakes and granola, you’ll have 48 possible breakfast cereal varieties — that’s a lot of options!

The Oh! Nuts products were a success in terms of taste — the blueberries had a pronounced, wonderful blueberry flavor, and the cinnamon pecans were so addictive that I almost ate my stash before I got my cereal made! The sour cherries did have an odd, slightly fishy flavor (I know, weird), but I still enjoyed eating them. Maybe a flavor compound of the cherries came out that isn’t as pronounced when they’re not dried?

To be honest, including the price of shipping, I probably wouldn’t spend the extra money to buy regular nuts or fruit from Oh! Nuts, but would just head to the grocery store. That being said, for specialty items or rare nuts/fruits/candies, they’re the place to go. The selection is huge, and the products are high quality.

If you, like me, love a big ol’ bowl of hearty, nutty, earthy, crunchy, chewy, flavorful, delicious breakfast cereal — and one that can change with whatever mood you’re in — I hope you’ll make your own personal cereal buffet! Or perhaps fix a cereal buffet in pretty jars as a gift for a friend. Even better, have a breakfast party: set up a cereal buffet for family and friends where each person can make their own cereal combination, perhaps supplemented with juice and muffins on the side. Have fun!

Oh, by the way, I did have to branch out a little in homage to my original inspiration. How about some S’mores Cereal?

Below you’ll find the recipes for granola and nutty bran flakes. I even included nutritional info so you can make healthy breakfast choices! Round up some of your favorite add-ins and place all the components in separate jars for storage. Enjoy!

Homemade Nutty Bran Flakes



Recipe by: Adapted from Mr. Breakfast
Yields: about 3-4 servings (NOTE: Feel free to double this recipe! I wish I had.)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup almond flour (or other finely ground nuts)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add milk and water. Stir to mix well. The resulting mixture will be a very wet “dough” (so wet, you can hardly call it a dough). Cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit two baking sheets, and set one sheet of parchment paper on the counter where you’ll be rolling — you won’t be able to transfer it without this!

Glop half of the “dough” out onto the sheet of parchment paper and flatten it by hand. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and “roll” it out (your rolling pin will almost just be smooshing it out into place) EXTREMELY THIN, almost transparent in some places. It will look like a giant bran flake — super fun!

Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the parchment carefully to a baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes, but check often after just 5, because such a thin dough can easily burn. You’re looking for a thin, leathery cracker that is crunchy at the edges. When it’s done, remove it and allow it to cool completely. While it cools, repeat the process with the other half of the dough.

After both giant bran flakes have finished their first bake, reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Tear the first, cooled bran flake into regular bran flake-sized pieces (about 3/4 of an inch), spreading them out on the parchment-covered baking sheet.

Bake at the reduced temperature for 20 minutes, flipping and stirring the flakes around every 5 minutes. Repeat process with the second cooled, giant bran flake. Then allow all bran flakes to cool completely. Store well in a sealed container for up to two weeks.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: about 1/4 of total yield Calories: 146.3, Fat: 5g, Sodium: 185mg, Carbs: 24.5g, Fiber: 6g, Sugars: 8g, Protein: 5.5g


Now that I’ve shared my favorites with you, I’m anxious to know: What sort of breakfast cereal would you make for yourself? Piña colada cereal with toasted coconut and dried pineapple? Cherry crumble cereal with dried cherries and cinnamon granola? A luscious combo of dates, coconut, and chocolate chips?

Double Coconut Granola



Recipe by: Adapted from Opera Girl Cooks
Yields: 3 cups of granola (NOTE: Double if you’d like more for snacking, because you’re gonna love this stuff)

Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 scant cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup clover honey
1/6 cup virgin coconut oil (half of a 1/3 cup measure)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used almond because I was out of vanilla)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
optional: I toasted another 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut to add in for sweetness, but that was before I’d tasted the cooled batch. It’s probably unnecessary.

Directions:
Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine oats and shredded coconut in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until just simmering.

Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Spread this mixture out over a large sheet pan, place in oven, and bake for 10 minutes before stirring the granola. Repeat 10 minute baking time, followed by stirring, until granola is well-toasted (takes about 4 cycles, or about 40 minutes).

Cool the granola on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally. When cooled, you can store granola in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for two.

Nutritional Info: Serving size: 70 grams (about 1/2 cup) Calories: 233, Fat: 12g, Sodium: 122mg, Carbs: 32g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 8g, Protein: 4.5g (NOTE: I’d use half a serving if I were combining the granola with bran flakes in my cereal)

Other delicious breakfast ideas floating around the internet right now: Beer Waffles with Cinnamon Cardamom Apples, S’mores Oatmeal, Oatmeal Pancakes, Pecan Sticky Buns, and of course, from yours truly, Carrot Cake Waffles.

Note: I received the above mentioned products from Oh! Nuts free of charge for review.

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