Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blueberry-Lemon Pavlova with a stroll through the Alpine Meadows

My all time FAVORITE dessert has always been Pavlova.  I love how the meringue just melts in your mouth.  I love the real whipped cream (who doesn’t LOVE real whipped cream). I love that it is so versatile.. changing the flavours ever so slightly each time you make it keeps the variations endless as you use whatever fruit is in season.  You can create any flavor combos you’d like, fresh fruit – canned fruit – chocolate –custards-whatever your heart desires, it’s still going to be a phenomenal dessert.  Since it’s Blueberry season (and I still have at least a year’s supply), I thought I’d mix mine up a bit, and instead of using just fresh whole berries/whipped cream, I’d make a super simple berry sauce to drizzle on top.  The results: a perfectly delicate-light-melt in your mouth dessert. Blueberry-Lemon Pavlova.
Pavlova reminds me of growing up, I can remember no matter how full I was (or one time how SICK I was) there was always room for at least a serving-or two.  I can remember my cousin making a huge one, piping delicate crisscrosses and weaves forming a gorgeous meringue shell in the shape of an over-sized birds nest, dolloping whipped cream and then topping off with pounds of fresh fruit, adding candles and serving it as a deluxe birthday cake.  Stunning.  There was another time where I can remember the road trips out to my grandparents for Easter, and with all the family around – that was the show piece worthy dessert.  Time goes by so fast! Those moments seem like ages ago!  It’s funny how certain moments in time just stick with you.
One thing my honey and I tend to do on our little trips around is take detours – mini-road trips.  I love the fact that he knows our beautiful province so well, and what could technically be the same boring drive every weekend, turns into a mini-adventure making another lasting memory.  A few weeks back, on what would typically be just our straight “commuter” drive home from the lake; we took “the long way” home and made a little detour… Creating a memory I’ll never forget.  It was just before sunset as we headed up a dirt road, full of steep, sharp switchbacks.  Winding our way up to “Alpine Meadows” which is located in Manning Park, British Columbia.  All I can say is WOW.  Breathtaking.  The lighting was perfect, the wildflowers in bloom (and mosquito’s were hungry) BUT the sights to see made it all worthwhile!
Pretty sure our GPS was a little confused… as we were  definitely NOT in a grassy green meadow, those were some STEEP cliffs! Duke Dog had a grin on the entire detour… not that he knew what we were doing… but didn’t matter…he was enjoying the ride J It felt like we were driving to the top of the world!
Once we parked up top, there are maps of trails – areas where you could literally get lost backpacking for days on end through the mountain ranges. YUP – add another thing to my bucket-list, hiking the trails up there. Then – there was the wildflowers.  Stunning colours, absolutely amazing how these delicate flowers and plants can grow in such a harsh and extreme climate.  We were probably about a week late for the full bloom, which I can’t even imagine what the alpine meadows would look like then!
The sun was setting which casted a warm glow over everything.  I could have stayed up there for hours playing with my camera, taking in the views.
These plants were kind of cool (I think anyways), looked like a bunch of “Cousin Its” just growing in the alpine.
The Thistle’s purple colour seemed to glow neon in the light, and they were huge, growing right along the rocky cliff side road.
As we left the Alpine Meadows, the sun painted the clouds above in reds, purples, oranges and pinks.  Definitely an evening I will not forget… quite possibly one of my new favorite places to visit now during the summer wild flower bloom.  xorxor honey!!
NOW - back out of dream land, and on to the YUM YUM's.... :)
Blueberry-Lemon Pavlova
·         4 Egg Whites
·         Pinch of salt
·         1 cup Sugar
·         1 tablespoon vinegar
·         Whipping cream (mixed, with addition of sugar to taste)
- Preheat oven to 275F, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
- Beat egg whites/salt  using the whisk attachment on your mixer until soft peaks form

- Gradually mix in sugar, beat well after each addition
- Add vinegar, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form
- Using a spoon or spatula, mound the meringue into a circle on the cookie sheet that is lined with parchment
- Build up the circle forming a shallow birds nest.  Be creative here, to make it “fancy” you can put the meringue in a piping bag and pipe out designs.  BUT, back of a spoon/spatula works just fine here too!
- Bake at 275F for 1 ¼ hours.  Meringue should be creamy coloured (bake 15 more minutes if still sticky)
- Let cool in oven with the door slightly cracked open
Blueberry-Lemon Sauce
·         1 tbsp Cornstarch
·         ½ Cup Sugar
·         2 Cups Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
·         2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
·         Zest of 1 small lemon
·         1 tsp Vanilla Extract
·         Pinch of salt
- Add cornstarch and sugar into a small saucepan, whisk to mix

- Add blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and salt, stir to mix well
- Using a potato masher – mash berries, bring berry mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat , stirring frequently
- Turn heat down, and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Remove from Heat and let cool
Putting it all together:
- Carefully removed cooled meringue from cookie sheet and put on plate

- Spoon/pipe whipped cream into center of meringue shell
- Spoon Blueberry-lemon sauce on top of whipped cream, use back of spoon to swirl mixture in a little.
- I also topped with additional fresh blueberries for looks!
-Serve immediately!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blueberry Syrup...and summer time hues

Continuing on with my Blueberry addiction posts this month... I decided I wanted to try another "new" thing...and being that we still have some fresh Apricot Jam (another soon to be post)....making my No Pectin Added Blueberry Jam was probably a little overkill..ANNNDDDD I probably should tempt myself with another batch of Blueberry Fool so soon, especially because I've been the only one home this week... ...I'd of eaten the whole bowl.  SO - Blueberry Syrup it is! Besides, Up at the lake, we are truly spoiled every Saturday morning by THE BEST EVER french toast...which of course is made even BETTER with a yummy, flavourful, fresh syrup drizzled over top. **sigh** Is it Saturday yet?!  Something about knowing exactly where the blueberries came from, and watching your own harvest make such yummy things... is just plain rewarding.

The recipe - super easy, no long list of ingredients - just a little patience, candy thermometer and some fresh whole blueberries (frozen ones would work too), sugar, water and lemon. Easy Peasy.

Blueberry Syrup
  • 4 Cups Whole Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 4 strips of lemon (rind of) -I used half a lemon, and cut rind into thin strips
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • lemon juice to taste
- Pour blueberries into a saucepan, add lemon rind

- Add Water and turn on medium-high heat

- Using a potato masher, gently mash blueberries until most skins are broken

- Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently

- Turn heat down, and cook the berries for 5 minutes at just under a simmer - stirring frequently

- Using a jelly bag, or a strainer with a couple of layers of cheesecloth, Pour the hot berries in to strain/drip into a heat proof bowl.  If using a jelly bag, you can twist the bag closed and press lightly to squeeze out the juice.  Cheesecloth lined strainer - use back of spoon to gently push juice out. Careful though, the mixture is HOT, and the juice can stain!

- There should be about (at least) 2 cups of blueberry juice
- Discard the blueberry pulp
- Place Blueberry Juice and Sugar into a small saucepan

- Stir until fully incorporated.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently so that you do not burn it, ensuring the sugar is fully diluted into the blueberry juice and none sitting on bottom of pan
- Once mixture comes to a boil, wipe down sides of saucepan with a wet pastry brush, and let the mixture boil - without stirring - until the temperature reads 260degrees on a candy thermometer. Have patience!  It'll get there!

- Once temperature is reached, let boil for an additional minute.
- Remove from heat and let cool.  Add additional lemon juice to taste.
- Pour syrup into clean and sterilized mason jars.  If you plan on just refrigerating it, this will keep for a month or two.  Should you wish to can, follow basic canning procedures, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 mins.
- Let syrup cool completely before placing it in fridge.

This syrup isn't just good on french toast... pancakes...icecream.. mmmmvodka?! (blueberry martini anyone?!)  Spoon dipping in the syrup works too!  :)  I find the colour of the Blueberry Syrup stunning, Mother Nature sure nows how to create such beautiful things... Summer showcases the stunning colours - like these little inquisitive guys - the blue on them is so bright and vivid it's incredible. I believe they are some sort of dragonfly?  Though, appear a bit smaller than the dragonflies that are also flying around this time of year.  This past weekend, there were hundreds of them skimming along the water, hanging out on some of the lake's vegetation. A few will even land on your hand... so cool looking! (Have I mentioned I LOVE anything BLUE.. I mean, it does match my eyes after all) *teehee**eyesrollingIknow**

Absolutely Stunning in my opinion.... The plants (no clue what type they are) appear to attract them by the hundreds, and I can honestly say, they are one "bug" I have no issues hanging around! haha

..stay tuned... I've still got more BLUEBERRY tricks up my sleeves!  YUM YUM!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blueberry Fool.... Blueberry Month!!

 Blueberries. MMMMMMM blueberries!  Known as one of Nature's "superfruits", high in antioxidents, and simply delicious... I just couldn't help but jump onto the Blueberry Band Wagon, especially, as British Columbia produces some of the best berries around.  (That and I'm lucky enough to know of, and have access too, a wicked supply of these superfruits.) With the first pick going on now, and several gallons of blueberries to play with, I'm going to be a busy chick!  I declare and dedicate the next couple of weeks solely to Blueberries!  YUM YUM!!  What better way to kick off this mini-event with a simple, quick and easy... delicate but decadent dessert: Blueberry Fool.

After a hot afternoon's quick picking, and with a trip planned up to the lake for the weekend, I wanted to "whip up" a quick recipe that showcases the natural sweetness of the berries.  Hot days - for us - typically means lighter dinners, and if any.. lighter desserts.  Blueberry Fool is perfect for this!  Eat alone - or - top a yummy blueberry pie with it. IF there's any leftovers, it makes a perfect topping for a soft and fluffy pancake in the morning.  mmmmblueberry pancakes!
Blueberry Fool

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons water
- Fill your sink with the blueberries / cold water, gently wash berries, removing leaves and stems...

- Remove from water, pat dry
- In a small saucepan, combine berries, lemon juice and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until berries burst/begin to breakdown

- Keep stirring until the juices begin to boil and the sauce begins to thicken. Approx 5-8 mins.

- Remove from heat, and transfer to a small bowl.  Place in fridge, stir occasionally until cold.
- Meanwhile using whisk attachment on your mixer, combine cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla
- Beat until stift peaks form
- Gently fold in 1/2 cup of the thickened blueberry sauce with the whipping cream
- Serve in dessert cups, spooning extra sauce over top!


Stay tuned for the next BLUEBERRY Posting!  In the meantime... here's one of my most popular posts to date...  of course... starring the superfruits....  No-Pectin Added Blueberry Jam .

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A SUPER HERO PUNCH for a Bunch of Super.....people!

For 3 years running, we send out invite to our friends and family to join us up at our little spot of heaven in the Interior of BC. Good friends, good food, “camping” and the odd shenanigan to keep it all interesting are all included. This past weekend was that annual event, which I believe proved to be the best one yet!  The theme – SUPER HEROS.  YUP – even “grown-ups” like to show off their inner Super Hero self once in awhile.  (just sayin’…don’t judge!) The weekend has a loose itinerary, arrival on the Friday night, a group Potluck on the Saturday and the twist this year – Beer Tasting on the Sunday.  (It was a long weekend after all!) Mother Nature cooperated – and the Sun heated things up all day – which meant thirsty evenings! The Host House potluck contribution this year – my very own Super Hero Punch!
It’s light – fruity – and definitely has a *PUNCH* and a *KICK* that will quench the thirst of any *adult* Super Hero! I went with “summer” fruit flavours and adding frozen mixed berries to help keep the punch cool without watering down the punch too much. (Though in 40C weather… a little ice had to be added) Be fair warned… this stuff is YUMMY! Perfect for a hot summer’s night!
Super Hero Punch
·         2  (1 litre containers) White Cranberry Juice
·         2 (1 litre containers) Peach Juice (no sugar added)
·         2 (1 litre containers) Lemon Lime Soda
·         1 (750ml) bottle of Absolut GRAPEVINE Vodka
·         4 cups frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries) – or whatever you chose!
·         Ice ( optional )
- Mix all ingredients in a large jug, adding the frozen fruit last.
- Serve Immediately!
The APU weekend for me is months of planning, and it’s truly a pleasure to see it all come together!  I love hosting fun events like this…and I think sometimes it’s the smaller details that makes a great event successful!  I mean, come on, all Super Hero’s need someone to “change”… or attend to the call of nature… you know.. whatever … even Super Hero’s need to___.  ANYWAYS…
This is our Outhouse BEFORE the transformation, and AFTER!  Not too bad eh!? What Superman WOULDN'T want to use that to ...make a call. :)
Being that this year we decided to hold the event on the long weekend,  we added a 2nd mini-event (aside from the normal potluck), and our good friend, and neighbor up at the lake, hosted a Beer Tasting Event for all of us hero’s!  Of course, we all needed to taste beer the correct way – out of a glass… SO, recruiting my honey and a good friend.. we set to work!  Each person that participated in the Beer Tasting received their own “collectible” (ha ha) take home APU3 glass!  So easy to make… such a small detail… but appears to have been well received!
It’s easy! – Either purchase re-usable stencils (which I did for the lettering), or you can buy a blank sheet, which we cut out our own APU3 Stencil.  Using a paintbrush, and a small bottle of Armour Etch (found at any craft store), paint in the stencil, wait 60 secs, and wash off with water! That’s it! Your design is permanently “etched” into your glass of choice!  One set of stencils, a 3 oz bottle of Armour Etch and 1 paint brush was able to make over 40 glasses, and I still have a smidgen left over!
Eric from BigEZ Beer Reviews did a fantastic job introducing us to several beers from our beautiful province! Informative, knowledgeable …and knows how to just have fun with the group… can’t wait to try and convince him to do one next year! 
Over all…. All I can say is WOW.  The costumes.. the fun times…. Oh Red Solo Cup…. I can’t wait until next year to do it all again!  Hmm… wonder what the theme will be!! For those that made the trek, through long-weekend traffic-to joined us – THANK YOU!!  To those that put up with us invading their property and quiet neighbourhood - THANK YOU!!… it’s truly a team effort that makes a weekend like this a true success!!