Sunday, July 27, 2008

Blackberries (the kind you eat)

Last week I discovered a patch of blackberries about a mile from my house. (There are many benefits to jogging and riding a bike.) Blackberries are brambles as are raspberries, but when you pick them, raspberries are hollow and blackberries are not.

With a new source of fruit, I felt compelled to alter my raspberry-rhubarb crisp recipe for blackberries. I even had enough confidence in the result to take some to a carry-in picnic. (The arrow points to the blackberry-rhubarb concoction below.)
There were so many good desserts that I could not sample them all. The picture does not show even half of them. Some of the people who tried the easy blackberry-rhubarb crisp even said that they liked it. And no one died (so far). In fact, I was a little disappointed that they ate so much of it: there will be less in the mornings for me.
At least where I live, blackberries mature later than raspberries, so there is a supply of fresh bramble fruit lasting for about a month. I think that is great.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Magical Fruit

My garden is finally producing abundant beans. This year I did not plant enough in the sunnier part of the garden, so bean abundance has been a bit late. (Beans are so productive that they produce even in partial shade. Many garden vegetables do nothing at all in partial shade.)
Beans are one of the foods that were developed in the Americas. Other American-developed fruits and vegetables are tomatoes, corn (maize) including sweet corn, potatoes, squash and pumpkins, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. European diets were pretty boring before Columbus.

Green beans are best when picked young and tender. We prepare them by steaming them. Some people like them al dente; I do not. If steamed too long, they get mushy. When we have abundance, we have more beans than we can eat at one meal, and then I can eat them cold for lunch the next day. After many summers of fresh green beans, I have a hard time eating canned or frozen green beans. They are just so inferior to fresh beans.

If you let green beans ripen, you can harvest the seeds and used them as dried beans, which are an excellent source of protein. In fact, dried beans were once used as an example to illustrate the economic concept of inferior good, a good which people used less of as their incomes rose. As people got richer, they could afford meat, so they dropped dried beans from their diet.

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit. Eat lots of vegetables and then you can survive many desserts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

One Hundred Pushups Challenge

So have you been enjoying a lot of desserts lately and want a quick way to get in shape and feel stronger? Me too. Here's the latest fad, one that I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and do:
one hundred pushups.

There's a six-week training plan, taking about 30 minutes a week, and at the end of the program you should be able to do 100 pushups. If you'd like to learn more about it, visit

I'll let you know how it goes. Good luck!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Easy Raspberry-Rhubarb Crisp

I have had black raspberries growing in the back yard for years. They are very seedy, and mostly I have just ignored them. But this year my son and daughter-in-law wrote about how much they were enjoying the various bramble fruits. And one of the bloggers I sometimes read wrote about raspberry pie. So I decided to try my black raspberries.

I like easy recipes, the easier the better. I am even willing to trade off quite a bit of taste to get more ease. This recipe does not give you the world’s best raspberry-rhubarb crisp, but it is very easy.

2 cups of oatmeal
A cup or a cup and a half of flour
A pinch of salt
A half a cup of brown sugar
Between a half a cup and a cup of sugar

The amount of sugar depends on how sweet you want it. If you like things a bit tart, keep the sugar low. If you want it sweet, increase it.

Add 1/3 cup or so of vegetable oil. Corn oil or canola oil work well. With a fork thoroughly blend the mixture. Cover the bottoms of two glass pie plates, which should take between 1/3 and 1/2 of the mixture.

As for the fruit, you should have a cup to two cups of raspberries, and about four cups of rhubarb cut into small pieces. (I know that technically rhubarb is not a fruit, but we will call it fruit anyway.) Make sure the rhubarb is not woody. One stalk of woody rhubarb will ruin anything you make using rhubarb, and as the stems get older, the veins get woody.

Spread the fruit evenly in the two pie plates. Then cover the fruit with the remaining crisp mixture.

We could put this in a conventional oven and bake about an hour, but it is much easier and the results are as good if we put it in a microwave for seven to eight minutes. It is not done if the rhubarb is still holding its shape. When properly cooked, the rhubarb will be reduced to mush and the juices of the raspberries and the rhubarb will soak into much of the crisp mixture. If it is runny, you have put in too much fruit relative to the crisp mixture. (I have had that happen because I do not measure very well, and if I have lots of fruit, I use it.)

You could serve this as a dessert; it works well with ice cream. But I prefer it with yogurt as breakfast. The oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt make it a healthy start to the day, but it tastes like dessert in the morning. Here is the result, served with some blueberry yogurt.

(Variations: You can eliminate the raspberries altogether and make a rhubarb crisp. You can replace the raspberries and rhubarb with cherries and the results are very good. You can also replace them with peaches or apples. As you get sweeter fruit, you should compensate by using less sugar. With really sweet apples, you might not want to use any sugar at all. And if the fruit is watery when cooked, use more flour. If the fruit is not watery, use less flour.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I ate some Chips Ahoy the other day and decided that homemade cookies are so much better that I took some time to make them. I used the recipe on the back of the chocolate chips package, but of course I had to tweak it a little. Add some M&Ms, a little less flour, and add 1/3 cup oatmeal (to make it healthier and counteract the M&Ms). They turned out super. What's your favorite change to the standard chocolate chip recipe?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rhubarb Crumb Bars

Okay, I know you're supposed to start a recipe post with the finished product. But we scarfed it down so fast that I didn't get a chance. In fact, my husband finished the rhubarb crumb bars off at breakfast this morning. He was lucky I was out doing a bird survey or I might have beat him to them. So here's a photo of the rhubarb I'm going to use for the second batch.

Our wonderful neighbor had given us a bunch of rhubarb and I looked on the internet until I found a recipe that sounded healthy. It's got oatmeal in it, so it's got to be healthy. We'll ignore the butter, sugar, and brown sugar part of it. Besides, rhubarb, always needs a little help, doesn't it?

Here's the recipe, a tasty dessert (or breakfast) good in or out of the desert:

Top and bottom "crust"
1/2 cup butter, (melted)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal (uncooked)

1 egg (beaten)
1 Tbls butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 Tbls flour
1/4 teas nutmeg
2 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2" pieces)

Mix butter, brown sugar, flour, and oatmeal, until crumbly. Press 1/2 into greased 9" square pan. In another bowl, beat egg, mix in butter, sugar, flour, nutmeg and rhubarb. Beat until smooth. Top with other half crumb mixture, press mixture down lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

If you happen to have lots of rhubarb and need more ideas of what to do with it, here's a website to the rescue: