Spring (though it’s actually starting to feel more like summer here in NC) has officially begun. It seems like the trees were, just moments ago, blossoming in delicate flowers and poking little green buds into the cool air, but they are suddenly enrobed in lush, green leaves still blinking in their new-found sunshine. The daffodils and tulips have come and gone, and the light lingers a few moments more every evening.
But just in case there was any doubt:
The berries have arrived.
Glistening, ruby-red, and more photogenic than any berry I know, strawberries are the first fruit of the season to reach the farmers market in Durham. They’re the first float of the summer produce parade; it’s definitely cause for celebration.
And what better way to celebrate than with a classic, fresh, and simple strawberry shortcake?
Okay, okay, I know you might be skeptical about my use of the word “simple” when discussing a six-layer cake, but I promise, it’s really rather easy AND is so totally worth it once you have your first bite.
I promise, I don’t only make miniature pies. I made a full-size cheesecake just a few weeks ago, in fact. But Christmas cheesecakes must be mini.
As you can probably deduce from some recent posts, holiday baking is sort of a big deal at my house. Not cookies, so much, as is the case for many families, but there are certainly quite a few recipes that make their way down from the cupboard only in December and then hide away for the rest of the year. Toffee is mom’s signature project, and mini cheesecakes are dad’s.
So with a few modifications, I make them exactly the same way I remember them. Including the shunning of my food processor and using a trusty old bag and rolling pin to mash up cookies into crust.
It works just as well, plus it’s always sort of fun to mash things up with a wooden stick, right??
And now, for something completely out of the blue, a fresh berry jam.
No, I’m not so far behind that I’m posting recipes I made this summer.
Seriously. I went to the farmers market last week, and nestled between the butternut squash and dark, leafy greens sat some of the most fabulous raspberries I have ever seen.
I talked a lot about strawberries when I started this blog, just as they were ripening here. One might assume from so much strawberry talk that they held the highest honor in my berry kingdom.
Be still, my heart.
Luscious, tart, and totally worth the seeds that will get stuck in your teeth.
There is little to complain about with the North Carolina growing season. It’s long, it allows for multiple plantings of cool weather plants, and an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables grow here quite happily. But I have been stymied ALL SUMMER, waiting for baskets of brilliant red raspberries that would never arrive.
Until November, apparently.
Grown under passive tunnels that gather warmth without requiring electricity (as greenhouses typically do), these gorgeous gems of fruit are coming into their own when most other berries have long since disappeared from the market stands.
My high school theatre classroom (the Dungeon, to be exact) was unlike any other classroom. It had no desks but was bordered with squashy, mis-matched sofas, and it served as not only a classroom, but as a rehearsal space, a lunch hall, a dressing room on show nights, and for some of us, an office. It’s possible that during tech weeks I spent more time in there than in my own house.
Needless to say, a LOT of food found its way in and out of the Dungeon. But there were certain foods that were never allowed.
Corn nuts (for the smell). Sunflower seeds (for the mess).
But above all, blue food. There was no real purpose in asking why. You just. didn’t. eat it.
But I like to think that if school had been in session over the summer, blueberries would have been allowed. As one of natures only blue foods, they are phenomenally good for you, delicious, and extremely versatile.
Blueberry season is coming to a close here, but while they were still plentiful on the bushes, I made a trip to a little pick-your-own farm nearby to get my hands on some. Plenty for immediate use, plenty to freeze for later so that I can make these muffins all year long.
I’m actually really not much of a muffin person, to be perfectly honest. I tend to crave something savory rather than sweet in the morning. But if I do make muffins, this recipe is likely to be repeated with regularity.
Oh, happy day. Happy glorious day, I’ve arrived in Colorado! And I’m about to go off the grid.
Four days waaaay up in the Rocky Mountains with no phone service, no interwebs, not even electricity except for three hours every evening.
I cannot wait. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as few days without a single moment looking at a screen.
But! I did want to leave you with a summery dessert to savor during this heat wave. Using two fruits that simply scream “SUMMER!!” (can you hear them?), it comes together quickly and easily and most importantly, it doesn’t require too much oven time. I know, I know, hot dessert during a heat wave?? Just wait, the heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top of it makes it worth the 20 minutes your oven will be on.