National Blackberry Day!

It’s National Blackberry Day (I know, who knew such a day existed? Well, me.). For me, blackberries bring back sweet, warm childhood memories. When my family lived in Washington state, my brother and I would pick wild blackberries in the summer and bring home so many that my mom had no other options than to make a pie. Yum!

I carried this tradition down to my own family. When we vacationed every summer in the Pacific Northwest, we would pick wild berries and I’d always make a fresh berry pie. Double yum when it’s with your child!

Well, the inspiration for my picture book, Blackberry Banquet, came to me one time while I was picking berries. I accidentally stepped on a twig in the forest and watched in surprise as various animals flee from my favorite berry bush. Birds, squirrels, mice! That inspiration turned into an idea that later became Blackberry Banquet.

The book, a cumulative story about animals coming to feast at a blackberry bush only to be interrupted by a hungry bear, included fun, educational backmatter including a recipe for blackberry smoothies. But for now, I’m going to share author Jean Ann Williams’s winning recipe for “On Top of the Stove Blackberry Cobbler.” (Yuuuuummmy!)

ON-TOP-OF-THE-STOVE BLACKBERRY COBBLER
By Jean Ann Williams

INGREDIENTS:
1. As many blackberries you managed to pick.
2. Sugar to taste and added in before dough strips.
3. Favorite pie dough recipe made with shortening or lard, not butter.

STEPS:
Prepare pie dough for either one or two crust pie, depending on how many berries.

Wash berries in a colander, careful not to squeeze berries and therefore losing juices. Dump into a pot, not filling more than 2/3 full. DO NOT ADD WATER! Simmer on low to medium heat. Stir occasionally. Add the sugar to taste.

Pull an apricot-sized ball of pie dough and roll thin on a cutting board. Cut long strips like for lattice weave about ¾ inches wide. Then, cut the lattice in half to accommodate layering into pot of berries.

Once berries juices flow and thicken and boil slightly, add first layer of dough strips. Let simmer for five minutes to set the dough, and then stir into berries. Repeat the rolling of dough and continue this until all dough is gone or you have enough dough to suit you in cobbler. After last layer of dough is stirred in, let simmer for five more minutes. Take off stove and let cool to warm in the pot or in bowls.

This cobbler is very tasty warm and with a side of ice cream. IF you have leftovers, refrigerate. Eating cold is another treat, but if you wish to reheat, then add a bit of water to stir into bottom of pan so as not to scorch.

TIPS
I make this for at least twelve servings and use the double pie dough recipe (with maybe a little leftover). We’ve never measured our ingredients, except for the dough and it always comes out tasty. Did I say never add water when making? That is a sure way to lose some of your rich berry flavors. Enjoy! Our family has for three generations.

My own notes: (from Terry)
Because I’m one of those people who likes things in measurements, I’ll share the amounts I used:
four 6-oz. containers of berries (fresh berries are unavailable where I live)
½ cup sugar
Also, I kept a lid on the pot while it simmered to retain the heat and “bake” the piecrust pieces.
I served in custard cups with a choice of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for my judging team.

Sylvan Dell Publishing’s "Book Beat"

Sylvan Dell Publishing (publisher of Blackberry Banquet) puts out a bi-monthly newsletter called Book Beat that’s filled with all kinds of interesting things about reading, their company, books, authors and illustrators. This month I’m proud to say that they have included the winning recipe of my recent contest, “On Top of the Stove Blackberry Cobbler.” You can see the current issue of Book Beat by clicking here.

This was such a great and easy recipe that I wanted to share a little bit more about the recipe and the winner, Jean Ann Williams. The recipe has been passed down for three generations. At age twelve, she began making “On-Top-of-the-Stove Blackberry Cobbler” from berries her siblings picked by the pond, enjoying the dish hot or cold at every meal. She now serves the dessert with vanilla ice cream to her family. Jean Ann has published many healthy eating articles for the teen audience and has a blog at http://www.jeanannwilliams.blogspot.com/.

And guess what? I’ve been experimenting, and you can make it with other fruit as well. Yummmmy!

3

Best Blackberry Recipe Contest Winner!

Drumroll, please!!!

We have a winner! The winning contribution for the Best Blackberry Recipe came from writer Jean Ann Williams of Santa Maria, CA. Jean Ann’s recipe, On-Top-of-the-Stove Blackberry Cobbler, has been in her family for three generations and originated in Oregon, the birthplace of Blackberry Banquet. It’s one of those old-fashioned recipes that doesn’t require many ingredients or measuring because you suit it to your own taste.

Congratulations to Jean Ann and a huge thanks to all of the other entrants. It was fun baking, assembling and tasting the various recipes; and it truly was a difficult decision to make. In fact, I couldn’t decide alone—I ended up soliciting a “panel” of judges for their opinions. What was one judge’s comment on Jean’s winning entry? “It’s like blackberry pie in a cup!” So, without further ado, here is the winning recipe:

ON-TOP-OF-THE-STOVE BLACKBERRY COBBLER
By Jean Ann Williams

INGREDIENTS:
1. As many blackberries you managed to pick.
2. Sugar to taste and added in before dough strips.
3. Favorite pie dough recipe made with shortening or lard, not butter.

STEPS:
Prepare pie dough for either one or two crust pie, depending on how many berries.

Wash berries in a colander, careful not to squeeze berries and therefore losing juices. Dump into a pot, not filling more than 2/3 full. DO NOT ADD WATER! Simmer on low to medium heat. Stir occasionally. Add the sugar to taste.

Pull an apricot-sized ball of pie dough and roll thin on a cutting board. Cut long strips like for lattice weave about ¾ inches wide. Then, cut the lattice in half to accommodate layering into pot of berries.

Once berries juices flow and thicken and boil slightly, add first layer of dough strips. Let simmer for five minutes to set the dough, and then stir into berries. Repeat the rolling of dough and continue this until all dough is gone or you have enough dough to suit you in cobbler. After last layer of dough is stirred in, let simmer for five more minutes. Take off stove and let cool to warm in the pot or in bowls.

This cobbler is very tasty warm and with a side of ice cream. IF you have leftovers, refrigerate. Eating cold is another treat, but if you wish to reheat, then add a bit of water to stir into bottom of pan so as not to scorch.

TIPS
I make this for at least twelve servings and use the double pie dough recipe (with maybe a little leftover). We’ve never measured our ingredients, except for the dough and it always comes out tasty. Did I say never add water when making? That is a sure way to lose some of your rich berry flavors. Enjoy! Our family has for three generations.

My own notes: (from Terry)
Because I’m one of those people who likes things in measurements, I’ll share the amounts I used:
four 6-oz. containers of berries (fresh berries are unavailable where I live)
½ cup sugar
Also, I kept a lid on the pot while it simmered to retain the heat and “bake” the piecrust pieces.
I served in custard cups with a choice of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for my judging team.

1

BLACKBERRY BANQUET Blog Tour: Stops #5

I woke up today to find that my cyber-tour bus had stopped at two places; Anastasia Suen’s blog, Picture Book of the Day, and a Anne Marie Nichol’s blog, My Readable Feast.

But wait, you might say. Didn’t Anastasia feature your book yesterday? Well, yes, sort of. Yesterday, she posted an interview with me on her blog, but today she focused on my book for her blog, Picture Book of the Day. Because it’s a rhyming text, she thought it worked nicely with Poetry Friday as well. Here, she cleverly takes a closer look at books and gives readers two mini-lessons that accompany the book. What a fun way to stretch your imagination and practice your writing. Thanks, Anastasia!

My Readable Feast is a delightfully fun blog about family cooking and children’s books. How can anyone go wrong with that combination? Yesterday Anne Marie featured Blackberry Banquet, along with the blackberry smoothie recipe that is included at the end of the book. Today, she gave us a second helping of goodness by offering another recipe to munch on while reading Blackberry Banquet; Blackberry Cake! And mmm-mm! It looks yummy! (it might even cause me to squeak or yip!) I’m definitely trying this one :-).

Please check out both sites, as they’ve both offer a unique ways to extend Blackberry Banquet beyond the joy of reading it to a child. And I’ll tell you, its terrific to bond with books and create a true appreciation for stories where our kids are concerned!

Recipe: Bear’s Berry Best Blackberry Pie

Helloooo! Bear here. Terry has saved my Berry Best Pie recipe for last, which must mean it must be the best. Which it is. From the time I was just a cub, I remember watching Mama make this delicious berry pie. Something about the fresh blackberries makes it so good. Maybe it’s because my thick fur keeps the brambles from sticking me, so I can reach the highest, sweetest, ripest berries, or it’s the feel of the berry juice dripping down my muzzle, but I just find this is the perfect pick for any summer dessert. Mm-mm-mmm! It’s so berry good!

Bear’s Berry Best Blackberry Pie
Gather from the forest:
1 unbaked 9-inch double pie crust (I make mine from “scratch” but you could lumber on over to the store and get one of those ready-made frozen kind)
4 cups fresh blackberries (frozen works too, but isn’t quite as tasty)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. sugar
Aluminum foil or pie ring

Here’s what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. In a small bowl, mash a handful of berries. It won’t take long if you have big paws, like me. Or you can use the back of a spoon to squish them. Mix in the cornstarch. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, gently mix the remaining berries, sugar and flour. Carefully fold in the berry-cornstarch mixture, trying not to break any berries (otherwise, you might end up with a runny pie).
4. Pour into bottom pie shell. Add dots of butter.
5. Lay out the top crust layer on a floured surface. Using a sharp knife or pie wheel, cut into ½-inch strips. “Weave” the strips over the pie mixture, forming a lattice top. Pinch over edges to seal.
6. Brush lattice with a little milk then sprinkle with sugar.
7. Place a pie ring on the rim. If you don’t have a pie ring, cut a ring of aluminum foil (by folding it as if you were cutting paper snowflakes–but cut it into a ring shape).


*Note: Using the pie ring is important as it allows the pie to cook entirely, without burning the outside edge of the crust.
Bake until the juice is bubbling, about 40-45 minutes (I like to put a sheet of aluminum foil below it, so catch any juice drips).
Cool on a wire rack then serve plain or with vanilla ice cream. I guarantee, it will be berry, berry delicious!

Recipe: Deer’s Berry Best Salad

Excuse me…is it my turn? Are they ready? Oh, hello, my deers…I mean, my dears! I’m Deer, the quiet one of the group, you could say. Certainly, the most refined. You have no idea how difficult it can be to keep up with all those rascally little forest creatures. I’m constantly having to watch where I step for fear one will scoot right under my hoof! But alas, I digress.

When Terry asked me to share my favorite way of eating berries, other than straight off the bush, I knew without a doubt that I would give away my family recipe for the berry best salad you’ll ever taste. This recipe goes all the way back to my great-great-grandmother, who, as the tale goes, had a fleeting cameo role in the movie, Bambi. And this dish is so simple to put together that even a human can do it. So, without further ado, I give you, Deer’s Berry Best Salad.

Deer’s Berry Best Salad
Serves 4

Gather fresh from the forest and wash:
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Buy at the store:
¼ cup light sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 ½ teaspoons orange juice

1. Cut the strawberries in half.
2. Gently mix together all of the berries.
3. Make the dressing by stirring together the rest of the ingredients.
4. Serve the dressing with the salad.
For a fun twist, serve in a halved and scooped out cantaloupe!

Let the flavors leap and dance in your mouth!

Recipe: Fox’s Berry Good Red, White and Blue Sundae

Greetings fellow berry-lovers! So nice of you to stop by. You’ll be glad you did as today I’m sharing my favorite summer dessert—a delicious ice cream sundae layered with fresh berries. And of course, topped with the best berries of all—blackberries! I can eat blackberries ‘til my muzzle is stained deep purple and I’m donning a berry juice bib. Just thinking about them perks my ears and sets my mouth to watering—much more so than it was with that silly Gingerbread Boy. Mmm-mm-mm!

This is the perfect dessert for a summer evening with friends and family. Followed by a bit of dancing; dare I suggest, the Fox Trot?

Enjoy, my fellow berry-lovers!

Fox’s Berry Good Red, White and Blue Sundae
(Makes one sundae)
What to Acquire and Bring Back to Your Den:
Vanilla ice cream (I prefer that all-natural kind)
¼ cup fresh blueberries
¼ cup fresh raspberries
¼ cup fresh blackberries

How to create the masterpiece:
Place the blueberries in the bottom of an ice cream dish.
Top with one scoop of ice cream.
Place the raspberries over the ice cream.
Put another scoop of ice cream over the raspberries.
Top it off with the blackberries.

Grab a spoon and dig in!

Recipe: Squirrel’s Nutty Pawprint Cookies

Hi there! It’s finally MY turn to share. What’s this week’s treat? My delightful oh-so-nutty pawprint cookies. Mmm-mm! These sweet treats will have you running in circles and flying from one tree branch to another! Okay, maybe for the kiddies one cookie would be enough—but me, I eat them by the dozens! Yummy! Imagine—tasty cookie dough rolled in chopped nuts and topped off with blackberry jam. Mmm-mm! A berry-itable feast! It’s a forest treat I can climb into. Here’s how you can whirl up a batch.

Squirrel’s Nutty Pawprint Cookies
(makes about 24 cookies)
What you need to gather and bring back to your tree hole:
¾ cup softened butter or margarine
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I like ‘em sweet, but if you don’t maybe use a little less sugar)
1 egg, separated
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped nuts (I love every kind of nut on earth—can you imagine the world without nuts?—but this time I used walnuts)
Blackberry jam or jelly

Here’s what you do:
Preheat the oven to 375.
1. Cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Beat in the vanilla and egg yolk (but save the white part).
3. Stir in the flour and salt. Mix it up really good.
4. With washed paws, roll the dough into balls (about one teaspoon of dough per ball).
5. Beat the egg white and dip the dough balls into it then roll each ball into the nuts (ah-ah-ah! No snitching the nuts!)
6. Set them one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Press your paw (oh wait—your paws are a lot bigger than mine—use your thumb instead) into each cookie, making a deep hole.
8. Bake in the oven for as long as it takes to read a story or two, like Blackberry Banquet, about 8-10 minutes.
9. Place baked cookies on a rack to cool.
10. Fill centers with about ½ teaspoon of blackberry jam/jelly (if the centers rise too much during baking, you can press them back down again—I use the back end of an ice cream scoop but you can use whatever tool is handy).

Enjoy!

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Recipe: Bird’s Berry Good Oat Bran Muffins

Well it seems that since Mouse was able to feature a recipe on my blog, now the entire cast of characters from Blackberry Banquet want to get in on the action. You wouldn’t believe how much commotion can come from just five animals! Bird, in particular, really got her feathers ruffled. So, for the next five weeks each animal will share a favorite recipe. This week, it’s Bird’s turn.

Tweet-tweet-tweet! Ruffled feathers, indeed! It’s simply a matter of fairness! And I know you’ll love making my favorite recipe because it’s so much fun to make with your little nestlings. And it tastes so berry, berry good too! And remember, baking is a great way for little ones to practice measuring, math and hand-coordination skills (okay, I’m just a bird and know nothing of those things—Terry told me to say that!)

Bird’s Berry Good Oat Bran Muffins
Collect and take to your nest:
1 box of oat bran muffin mix (find it on the baking aisle—it’s the kind you only have to add water to)
Water
Popsicle sticks or other stirring tool
Blackberries (enough for 2 berries per Dixie cup)
5 oz. Dixie cups (one for each person)
Electric skillet (yes, you’ll need an extra long cord for it to reach your nest!)

Here’s what the grown-up does:
Lay a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of the electric skillet. In a safe location, preheat an electric skillet to 400 degrees.

Here’s what each child can do:
1. Measure 3 tablespoons of muffin mix into their paper cup.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of water.
3. Mix well.
4. Drop 2-3 blackberries into the cup and stir gently.
5. Carefully place the cup inside of the electric skillet (a grown-up may need to do this for younger children).

Place lid on skillet.
Read Blackberry Banquet while the muffins bake—about 15 mins. or so.
Remove muffins from skillet and let cool a bit.

Peel away the paper cup and enjoy your berry good treat!