RaeDi at Hummingbird Hollow

Thoughts on Food, Words from the Heart, 'The Little Winged Ones'….

Tag: Blackberries

Blackberry Pie

T has been hinting about when was I going to use the blackberries in the freezer and asking what I was going to make with them.  I need to make some more blackberry balsamic vinegar… we have consumed the lot that I made last summer and the blackberry syrup was finished up right after the New Year.   Since each was such a hit I was going to repeat exactly what I had done this past season.  I sure hope that we have another big blackberry chop again this year!

T had some errands he needed to run and I decided to surprise him with a blackberry pie.  He loves pie of any kind… especially fruit pies.  He was so kind in giving up some of his fishing time to help pick blackberries last summer… I have to be honest here… he picked most of the blackberries. 

Blackberry Filling:

  •         5 cups Blackberries, fresh or frozen
  •         1 cup white sugar
  •         ¼ cup brown sugar
  •         ¼ cup flour
  •         ¼ cup quick cooking Tapioca Pearls
  •         just a little fresh ground nutmeg (does not take much)
  •         pinch of Lemon Zest
  •         small pieces of cold butter (about 1 tablespoon)
  •         1 Egg beaten with just a dash of cold Milk
  •         A little Sugar for dusting on the pie crust

I mix or whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Put part of the blackberries in a very large bowl.  Spread about ½ cup plus of the dry mixture on top of some of the berries and toss a little, add some more berries and sprinkle some more of the dry ingredients over the top of the berries until you have used up all the berries and dry ingredients.  I do not mix the mixture too much; you want the berries to stay whole as much as possible.  Set this aside to absorb and mix together on its own while you get the tart ready with the bottom crust:

Pie Dough:

  •         3 ½ cups All Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting
  •         1 cup Icing Sugar, sifted
  •         1 cup plus 2 tablespoons good-quality cold Butter cut into small cubes
  •         1 Lemon zested
  •         Vanilla Beans ~ scrape from one Vanilla Bean
  •         2 large Eggs, beaten
  •         splash Milk
  •        All Purpose Flour for dusting
  •         Sugar for top of pre-baked pie

I doubled the recipe, wanted to do some extra details on pie and would freeze any leftovers and use for the next time I do some little tarts.  Makes for less work next time around!

Sift the flour, powder sugar into a bowl.  Pour into your food processor.  Add the cubes of butter a few at a time pulse a few times and then add more cubes of butter until you have all the butter added.  The mixture should be crumbly, pea size.  You can at this point add different flavors to the mix if you are so inclined.  I am adding only the zest of lemon at this point.  I mix the eggs, milk and vanilla beans and then add to the processor.   Gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, you do not want to overwork the dough.

Flour your counter lightly and place dough on top.  Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator to rest for at least one hour.

When ready to use put flour on counter and flour the top of the dough disk and cut in half; roll out until about 1∕8 inch thick.  Place in tart pan and fit the dough, take the rolling-pin over top of tart pan with dough over hang to cut off, save the extra dough that you have rolled away for making dough pieces to decorate the top of the pie.   Roll out another half of dough for the pie top.  Once I had the dough rolled out I took my cookie press/cutter and with just a little pressure cut through dough to leave a little of the pattern.  I rolled the dough onto my rolling-pin.

Once I have the filling in the pan, I put several small pats of butter on top of the filling and then covered the top with the pastry dough on my rolling-pin.  Once I have the top on the pie, I placed some leaves (one side brushed with egg mixture to glue to top pastry) around the top and then  I brush the beaten egg and milk mixture all over the top.   Sprinkle a little sugar on and put in the oven (on a baking sheet) that has been preheated to 375˚.  I bake for about 40-45 minutes and start watching depending on the oven it could take a few more minutes.  Once it is nicely golden brown it is done. 

T asked as soon as he walked in what I was baking and took a peek.  The look on his face was worth every bit of the effort to make this pie.  It was delicious….

Apple and Peach Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar

Valentine’s Day was a week ago today.  I always try to make something special for dinner to reflect on all the things that T does for me, to let him know how special he is to me.  This year things were up in the air with my Mom and Valentine’s Day came and went with no acknowledgements, for which I was so very grateful.  Once my head cleared I knew I still wanted to do something special and picked this evening.

I am not one that likes to eat out much and five-star restaurants have their place…  We have eaten at so many great five-star restaurants… example we ate at Napoleons in New Orleans, nice, really nice but to tell you the truth I loved eating at Uglesich’s (in central city New Orleans,) no food could compare and it is sad to say they are no longer in business… or take me back to Franky and Johnny’s what a marvel and what a difference in price from Napoleons.   T holds likes to hold on to a penny until it turns green, so I will let him hold on to his green pennies for a while longer.  Is that true love or not?

I love doing this dinner each year but wanted to tone it down a bit from a year ago… pacing me helped with this decision.  We both love a good salad and with the Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar I made last season I decided to up it a notch with crisp apples and peaches and add a little Feta Cheese and a few other salad regulars… it made an out of this world salad.

T loves pork and I decided to make stuffed pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts.  To end the dinner I went with an Italian pudding dessert… Caramel Budino with Salted Caramel Sauce it was exceptional, like an old world custard and the caramel sauce was just enough different it was such a delight.

Today I am posting the picture of the salad and will post the others courses of the meal in the next few days.  We both enjoyed this meal so much and it was something that lifted our spirits and made us forget reality for at least a while….

Blackberry Syrup and Blackberry Sparkling Drinks

About a week ago T came home from fishing so he could pick the last of the blackberries of this season.   Said when I told him I wanted to make some blackberry syrup he could not get it off of his mind.   He picked enough to fill our 6 quart stock pot almost full and then some.   Each berry was so swollen with sweet juices they were perfect for blackberry syrup.  He said that he had to put his picking bucket under where he was picking because they were just dropping off the vine.

This, I think I have said has been a good year for the blackberry chop here, one of the best we have had years.  I have gallons of berries frozen; and I made the blackberry vinegar and the tarts.  Now I have enough blackberries to make a couple of bottles of blackberry syrup.  I can think of so many uses for this syrup… ice cream, smoothies, pancakes, yogurt, fry bread,  (something I have not had in at least 20 years) biscuits, scones and the list could go on.

I could not believe the fragrance it gave off as I simmered the berries.  Even with the tail-ends of this summer cold I could smell the blackberry goodness throughout the house.  Almost as pleasant as baking bread!

This is a very simple thing to do, it takes a little time but very little work is involved.  I washed them gently, they were ready to burst and I did not want to lose a drop of that juice.

 Blackberry Syrup


  • 6 quarts of blackberries
  • 2 cups of water
  • About 1 ½ cups of white sugar

I added two cups of water to the pot of blackberries. Brought it to a boil and turned down and simmered.  Occasionally I took the backside of a spoon and crushed the berries on the side of the pan until I had them all broke down.  I simmered the mix for about an hour; I wanted it to reduce some (about 20%) to concentrate the flavors.

I put the berries through a strainer and then put through a strainer lined with a triple layer of cheese cloth.  I wanted the juice to be as clear as I could get it!  Once I had it strained I put the pure juice back in the pot, turned the heat to medium high and added about 1 ½ cups of sugar (they were very sweet berries) and stirred until the sugar dissolved.  I turned the burner up a little and brought the juice to a good boil and then turned down to simmer.  I kept it on simmer until it had reduced by about 20%.  I love the concentrated flavors of fruit syrups.  It thickened up and coated a spoon with the syrup.  Not like a pudding or jam, but it will lightly coat a spoon.

We had sun today and it actually got warm, so the first thing I decided to make with the blackberry syrup was each of us a Blackberry Sparkle Drink.  It tasted so good and was so refreshing.   I know that T enjoyed his and remarked that he was glad he picked the last of the blackberries it was worth it.  I know that I enjoyed mine, he was right ‘it hit the spot!’  ….

Summer of the Blackberry… Blackberry Vinegar, Tarts Too


This has been the summer of the blackberry.  The best crop we have seen in years.  There were at least a gazillion of large plump berries swollen with sweet juiciness. Everywhere you looked all you could see were blackberries all free for the picking, wild, organic and growing where ever you looked.

It has been over twenty-five years since I moved here from the East coast.  The longest I have ever lived in one state.  Actually this is now the longest I have ever lived in one town.  That is saying a lot, but a whole other story for another day.

When we arrived here about a week ago this same time years ago I could not believe all the blackberries.  They were wild and growing in all directions.  It should probably be the state fruit and flower! I think this years crop was very much like it was many years ago… lots and lots of blackberries!

We would be living out of our suitcases for the next couple of weeks until the movers arrived with all our belongings.  What we did have was a freezer which was empty and children who had been cooped up in a car for a couple of weeks coming across the USA.  They had lots of energy that had been kept at bay and I was needing something that would settle them down… something that would keep them busy… blackberry picking… they even asked if we could go blackberry picking when they seen all those deep black colored swollen berries.

We set out several days picking blackberries.  Gallons, I cannot remember how many gallons of blackberries we picked and froze.  Each day when we would arrive home everyone including me had deep purple hands and mouths that matched.  I wondered how many pounds of blackberries we had consumed while picking the prized berries.  Not one complaint did I hear in all the days picking blackberries.  We had so much fun; they were as wounded as I was from the thorns… all over our hands up our arms and even our legs. (And we were dressed for it!)  I had at least one wound across my face… you learn real fast how to pick blackberries and face toner hurts on wounds!

The only problem I could see was they expected me to make blackberry pie as soon as we received our household goods… I let them know that as soon as we emptied the boxes with the kitchen supplies and had everything needed including the pie pans I would make them one of the biggest blackberry pies they had ever seen.  I knew in saying that I would put on hold for at least one afternoon getting our new household in order… it was worth it that was the best blackberry pie we had ever had.  A big deep-dish blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream, the pie was still warm and the ice cream was melting, it was just the way we liked our pie.  I think we devoured that complete pie that evening.   I can still see their faces as they sat down to a huge piece of pie and a couple of big scoops of ice cream me telling them thank you for all the help with not only the berry picking but too with helping me unpack and setting up the house too… with their help we moved/arranged/rearranged furniture for days.  They even learned not to hang a picture above eye level.  I can remember later after being in someone’s home they would comment the pictures were hung too high or too low.

I think they enjoyed helping me… this was the first move that they were just big enough to help with lots of instruction.  Have you ever noticed when something is new and is exciting… young children don’t think of it as work to them it is a new adventure…  I think by the time we moved again it was hard getting them to help move and rearranging furniture was not an adventure any more.  It still surprises me what a little girl going into kindergarten, little boys (twins) going into the second grade and a sixth grade brother can do when they set their minds to it!  They were such good little helpers.

While picking blackberries we were never alone, they are always watching!  A young male Anna Hummingbird, I wonder do they report to the others what we are doing!  He is upset about something, did we take his blackberry?  Someone seems to be in trouble!  He is so little, sitting on the stem of an apple leaf!   There colors seem to blend in no matter where they are at!

This year T and I did a lot of picking of blackberries, I will admit T did 75% to my 20%; we’ll give him another 5%, maybe more (!)… We got gallons and gallons of blackberries.  We picks, washed, drain dried then froze them single layer on baking sheets.  It makes it so much easier.  If you need a cup you just take a cup, not a lump or two or even the whole package.  This way when I want to make the preserves and whatever else I can think of to cook all I have to do is get out a large bag of berries and measure.

So far I have done some wonderful little blackberry tarts, do you think T would have picked blackberries every afternoon for weeks without a little incentive!  This is still salmon season… berry picking and salmon catching is a lot of work you know.  I too know how blessed I am to open the freezer door and see the salmon and the blackberries and I realize how good the two together would be too!  Blackberry glazed Baked Salmon or a nice blackberry sauce with a pinch of fresh dill drizzled over freshly grilled salmon, so many things are coming to mind!

Then I wanted to do something I have never done before… I wanted to make some Blackberry Vinegar… I was game this year and we both love blackberry balsamic vinegar and why not!  There are so many uses…  First I would have to call Mom and ask her how to make Blackberry Vinegar.  I love to do something that is new to me and something that I would not have thought to do other than in the circumstance I am right now with an abundance of wonderful sweet juice filled blackberries.

After talking with Mom she made it sound so easy…

Blackberry Vinegar

Put the amount of blackberry you are using in crock or stainless steel bowl cover with vinegar put plate over bowl and let sit for at least three days.  Then the decision was what kind of vinegar, she uses white vinegar, I have read where you can use white, cider, white balsamic or malt vinegar.  Since she had used the white I decided the first round would be with white.  I let it set for the three days and then strained it through cheese cloth that I had triple layered to make sure I got everything; I wanted my blackberry vinegar to be real clear.  I could not believe how clear the juice was not one speck of anything… I did not press the berries; sitting in the vinegar for those days it extracted all the blackberry juice out of the berries.  I then put the strained juice in stainless steel pot and brought the mix to a boil and turned it down to simmer and added about 2/3 cup of sugar stirring until dissolved.  Mom and I decided to start with this amount and to taste (carefully it is boiling hot) and I liked the taste, the berries were already so naturally sweet this year.   I added about one tablespoon of mustard seeds and let the whole thing simmer until it had reduced by about 1/3.  I then bottled it (I used my re-useable bottles with a snap ring bottle top from my Lorina Sparkling French Sodas that I save just for purposes like this.)  I got two full bottles of blackberry vinegar.  (In the picture you see one is used… I made some wonderful Bruschetta that I will be posting next!)

I did save about 2 ounces aside; I have read where blackberry vinegar is very good for sore throats and is used for many medical ailments.  Right now I have a terrible summer cold that T decided to lovingly share with me.  I told him that his love for me does not mean he has to share everything with me!

I sipped my Blackberry vinegar, it was so good!  I should have taken a picture of it after I poured it in its little goblet… the color was a deep jewel black-red… as beautiful as a deep ink black wine from Cahors  (I was reading this post by Roger Stowell… it lingers on the mind doesn’t his coq au vin look delicious! Look at that color!)

The one thing I worried about in my sipping was if it would cause me to have a conniption coughing fit (I had finally finished with the coughing fit(s) side of this cold yesterday and my head was so thankful, it lasted for about what seemed like three days… each time the coughing fit happened it gave one the headache of someone who had a bad head injury! The blackberry vinegar actually felt good… like a good wine going down my sore throat.  The added mustard seeds gave it a little added warmth!

I know this vinegar will be exciting and incredible for any use I can think of.  I am so glad that I decided to make blackberry vinegar.  I hope to maybe make some blackberry syrup with some of my prized now frozen blackberries.  I took a walk about and found that we still have a lot of blackberries ready to be picked again, I wonder if I can talk T into ‘helping me’ pick the last of this seasons blackberries….

Blackberry Tarts

The dough recipe can be found here. It is a wonderful sweet pastry dough and very flakey.  It is perfect for fruit tarts.  Preheat oven to 375˚.  The blackberry pie recipe is one my Mom and I have been using for years.

Blackberry Filling:


  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup quick cooking tapioca pearls
  • Just a little fresh ground nutmeg (does not take much!)
  • Pinch of lemon zest
  • Small pieces of cold butter (I put one small piece in each tart)
  • 1 egg beaten with just a dash of cold milk
  • a little sugar for dusting on the pie crust

I mix or whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Put part of the blackberries in a very large bowl.  Spread about a ½ cup plus of the dry mixture on top of the berries and toss a little, add some more blackberries and sprinkle some more of the dry ingredients over the top of the berries until you have used up all the berries and dry ingredients.  I do not like to mix the mixture too much; you want the berries to stay whole as much as possible.  I toss the mixture in the bowl as I go along as gently as possible.  Set this aside to absorb and mix together on its own while you:  I get all my tarts ready with the bottom crust then:

I spooned the filling into each tart shell.  Once I have divided all the berry mix in the tart shells I put a small pat of cold butter on top of each tart.   Once I have the tart shells tops on I brush the beaten egg and milk mixture on top of each tart.   I make a slit in each and sprinkle a little sugar on and  put in the oven (on a baking sheet) that has been preheated to 375˚.  I bake them for about 35-40 minutes and start watching depending on the oven it can take a few more minutes.  Once golden brown they are done.

We like our served warm with some french vanilla bean ice cream.  If you have any leftovers be sure to refrigerate.

Valentine Dinner Menu of Roasted Lola Duck ~ Pavlova



Roasted Lola Duck, Potatoes and Carrots with

     Sage, Blood Orange and Blackberry Glaze Sauce




The Valentine Dinner turned out fantastic with a group of amazing friends.  Nothing was meant to be fancy, just wanted it to be a good home cooked meal.  Being together as one with good food that was (in the end) superb without a lot of work is everything a cook could ask for.   All of it was full of flavor and just good old home cooking.  I did this over a few days, working on different dishes for a few hours each day and in the end it did not feel as though it had been a lot of work. 

Anytime I want to roast meat I almost always turn to a cookbook that I have had for several years.  It is called Roasting A Simple Art’ by Barbara KafkaIt is an amazing cookbook.   I have used her recipes and tips more times than not when I have a special meal to prepare. 

I agree with Barbara Kafka that those of us who like duck love the old-fashioned, simple, crisp roasted duck.   She poaches the duck before roasting and it eliminates most of the fat from under the skin.  She uses high-heat roasting to complete the duck.  Poaching and then roasting does keep it from getting dried and stringy and the end results are you do have a nice broth after simmering it. 


For Simmering:

  • One duck, cut wing tips and add to pan
  • Duck Neck
  • Any giblets and such you have add to the pot
  • I added thawed duck stock and bones from my freezer and then added enough water to cover duck by an inch or:
  • Chicken stock if using (enough to cover duck by an inch)
  • 2 Quartered onion
  • 2-3 Crushed cloves of garlic
  • 3 or so large carrots chopped into large pieces
  • 3 or so stalks of celery chopped into large pieces

Into a small stock pot (with one duck you do not need a big pan and this makes for better stock) I added the neck, wing tips and a couple of quartered onions, a couple of crushed cloves of garlic, three large carrots chopped into large pieces, and a couple of stalks of celery chopped into large pieces.   I only added the veggies because I would need to add a little water and wanted more flavor for my stock.  I could have used chicken stock with the duck stock so I had enough fluids to simmer Lola in but decided on the veggies with the water instead.   I now added my thawed duck bones and duck stock from my freezer to the pan.  At this time, if you have any giblets and such add them to the pot, they give so much more added flavor.    I then placed Lola in the pot once everything started to boil.   Making sure the duck stayed submerged under the fluids, I placed a heavy plate on top of the duck when I added it to the pot; I checked it often to make sure she stayed submerged.  When Lola came to a boil I turned the heat down and simmered her for around 45 minutes. 

I spooned off about one tablespoon of fat from pot and I spread this in the roasting pan.   Now I spooned off as much of the fat in the pan as I could.   I removed the plate (or whatever you used to weigh the duck down with) and I then spooned as much of the floating fat that was left in the pot as I could.   I removed Lola from pan and drained (hold the duck over the stock pot and drain all the liquids from her cavity.) I then patted the duck dry and sat her in the roasting pan at room temperature.   I salted and peppered to taste and pressed them gently into the skin.   Be careful, she is hot and the skin is tender.     I let Lola sit and rest in the roasting pan at room temperature for about thirty minutes; this dries the skin out some.   You can roast the duck now or do as I am doing, she will sit in the bottom of my refrig until tomorrow.   I let the temp of her come down before putting in refrig. 

I placed Lola lightly covered in the bottom my refrigerator; she will continue to dry out some more.  I will take the covering off mid- morning or later and let dry in refrig until just before I am ready to roast.  I then stained the stock twice making sure that it was completely clear and placed in refrigerator too.  This makes it easy for me and there is not as much work if you divide it up some.


For Roasting:

To roast preheat to 425 degrees 

  • Lola 
  • 2 quartered blood oranges 
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic  
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste 

I got Lola out of refrig and left her on the counter to come to room temp.  I removed the broth from refrig and spooned off all congealed-hardened fat.  This can be frozen to be used for roasting veggies and such in the future.  I only saved a small portion of the duck fat.   I pre freeze in small teaspoon drops and once frozen put in a container in the freezer and then I can get just what I need when needed.  This is only used for special treats and such, I would not recommend duck fat on a daily basis for anyone.

I preheated the oven to 425 degrees.  I put into Lola’s cavity a couple of blood oranges sliced in quarters and the crushed garlic cloves.  I cooked her on the second level from bottom; I have a convection oven so it cooked differently than a regular oven.  After 10 minutes or so, I started to spoon out the fat that accumulates in the bottom of the pan.  Be very careful, this is very hot; I take the duck out of the oven to do this.  At this time move the duck around a bit to keep it from sticking to the pan. 

I roasted Lola around 45 or so minutes, each duck weighs differently.  When the juices were running clear she was done, for me anyway. 

Roasting Veggies:

Roast at 425 degrees ~ same as duck

The amount depends on how many are sitting at your table.  I get these ready before getting Lola out of the refrigerator.  It makes it easier when you do a small amount of the work at a time. 

  • Fingerlings if you have them if not ~ I used Yukon Gold quartered
  • Whole small carrots
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste  

I had Yukon Gold so this is what I used.   I quartered the Yukon Gold and washed and scrubbed the carrots. I put them in a plastic bag with less than a teaspoon of the grease from cooking duck.  I shook the bag until all were covered with a little of the fat.  I placed them in a shallow pan, put a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper on them and put in oven with duck.  I turned them every 10 minutes or so, they would not get burned and or stuck to pan (can be done as you spoon the grease from duck pan.)  They are done when tender, depending on temp of oven and size of veggies and how many you are roasting can be anywhere from 35-40 minutes give or take.  They are golden, delicious and the duck fat gives them a wonderful flavor without being greasy.  It takes very little fat to cover the veggies especially when you do it with the bag.  You only get what you want. 

Once Lola is done let her rest on counter for a few minutes before slicing.

I made a gravy/sauce from: about ¾ to 1 cup of duck broth.

 Sage, Blood Orange and Blackberry Glaze-Gravy-Sauce 

  • ¾-1 cup of broth
  • 2 Sage leaves
  • Add the Blood oranges and garlic used in cavity of duck
  • 1blood orange cut into wedges
  • 6-10 blackberries
  • Cornstarch ½ to 1 teaspoon

The amount of broth depends on how many are eating.  You would have to change amount of cornstarch to be used up or down depending on amount of broth being used.  Too, increase the number of blood oranges and blackberries needed to be about equal to the amount of broth.  Heat the broth and add the blood oranges and garlic from the duck cavity.  Now you add the slices of the blood oranges and the blackberries and bring to boil and then turn heat down a little for a few minutes.  Let it reduce just a little.  Remove the orange slices, blackberries, and garlic and squeeze them through strainer and put just the juice back in the broth.  Mix cornstarch with a little cooled broth and add to the pan whisking constantly for a couple of minutes, you do not want to taste raw cornstarch.   Keep temp at a beginning boil until thickened.  Remove from heat.  This sauce is very similar to the old fashioned raisin sauce my mom use to make. 

Serve over sliced duck or can be put in individual little sauce cups for dipping.

Save all bones and the broth and freeze for use another time.  I will be making a simple Roasted Duck Soup for tomorrow evenings meal with some of the broth and a little bag of left over duck already in the freezer from our last duck.  (All duck products from my freezer were leftover from a dinner at a friend’s house, her insisting I take home with me.  What a nice treat! )    Adding the stock from previous roasts each time you roast duck makes for a delicious future combo of anything you can possibly cook up! ….

 Steamed Baby Spinach with Pearl Onions and Almond Slivers

  • Spinach ~ amount you would need for how many you are feeding 
  • Pearl Onions ~ For this I use the frozen Pearl Onions, amount by how many you are feeding
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Slivered Almonds  

I put spinach mixed with the pearl onion in steamer and steam for a few minutes and turn then turn off heat.  Do not left lid, the steam will finish the spinach to a nice crispness without being overdone.  I put it in a dish and did a slight trickle of Pomegranate Balsamic.  Scatter slivered almonds on top of spinach.  It was perfect.  Spinach is one of my favorite veggies….




Bruschetta for Sliced Baguettes:

Since I had the pates’ it made my work of preparing the different appetizers’ that much easier.  All I had to do was put out some different crackers and I mixed some nuts with dried tart cherries and cranberries which were all a hit.  A few different kinds of cheeses and some grapes, with some sliced apples and I was almost finished.  I made a quick dish of double tomato for Bruschetta for the baguettes’ slices.  First I sliced the baguette at an angle.  I placed the slices on a jelly roll pan and drizzled Black Truffle Oil on and then toasted under broiler until they were getting just a little color and I then added Havarti and Dill cheese on top and broiled a little more until cheese was melted.  I did not cook too long to make them easier to spread the Bruschetta on.   Bruschetta is normally toasted after you put the tomato spread on the baguette, but with the company and the mix I decided to do it this way.  It was delicious.  

Double Tomato Bruschetta:

  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes diced (needed to be used and sure made a difference)
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 Cup of Spinach striped (when I use fresh Spinach in the bag I always remove the long stems, I wish they would do that when packaging and in the end how much do we pay for all those stems? I love it when it is season and I can grow my own)
  • 2 cloves of garlic diced really small
  • Teaspoon plus of diced Parsley
  • ½ Teaspoon Basil
  • ½ Teaspoon Oregano

Place all but spinach in sauce pan and bring to boil, turn down heat and cook until almost all the liquid is gone.  I stir this frequently so it does not scorch; it does easily when the liquid is almost gone.    Add the spinach and stir in and put in small dish for use.  Heat from the tomatoes will cook the spinach to the right doneness.  Delicious as a spread on baguette slices.  (It is also good on cooked Angel Hair Pasta!) This is full of flavor and color….  




Pavlova Nests with Pastry Cream, Fruits and Chocolate Ganache:

The evening ended with desserts of Pavlova Nests filled with pastry cream, whipped cream, strawberries, blackberries, and with a choice of chopped macadamia or pistachio nuts.  I then drizzled chocolate ganache over each nest.  There too were large strawberries dipped in chocolate ganache for those that wanted just a small taste of dessert. 

While cooking the meringue nests you do not want to open and close the oven door; the meringue nests will get cracks in them.  If you do get cracks and it bothers you, fill cracks in with whip cream later.


Preheat oven to 275 degrees


  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1 cup of Castor sugar, also known as “Berry sugar” ( I did not have any Castor sugar so I made my own, I put the amount needed in regular sugar in my mini processor and processed until it was very fine, it works perfect)
  • 1 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cups of whipping cream


Preheat the oven to 275F and place the rack in middle of the oven. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  Trace around a circle of something that is the right size for your nests with pencil, turn paper with pencil marks underneath.  Set aside.

In a clean, medium-sized metal bowl, (make sure that anything you use to make the meringues is grease free) beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.  Continue to beat the egg whites and gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, one teaspoon at a time.  Your egg whites should now be glossy stiff peaks.

Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.  Put some meringue in a pastry bag with a star tip on the end.

Now gently spread the meringue in the circle on the foil to make a circular base. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center so you have a very slight well in the middle.  I use a pastry tube # 43 and put two ~ three rings of meringue around the edges of bottoms to make the nest. 

I bake the meringue for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it got a very light color and a slight matt finish.   Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.

I made these the day before I needed them.

Pastry Cream:

This recipe comes from Pastry Chef.  Pastry cream is a basic in a bakery, it is used in so many ways, pies, fillings add some whip cream and the lists goes on and then add nuts, fruits, it has endless possibilities. 


  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 oz sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla or can use beans of one whole vanilla bean
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1.9 oz of cornstarch
  • 2 oz butter (unsalted)

In bowl whisk together the eggs, corn starch and the half of the sugar and vanilla.  Put aside for now. 

In heavy saucepan cook milk, half the sugar, if using vanilla bean add now, (if using vanilla it is added to egg mixture,) and salt until just below boil.

Temper the milk into the egg mixture (with whisk in hand add a little of hot milk mixture to egg mixture and whisk rapidly and constantly, add a little more of milk mixture to egg mixture ~ do this until you have added all the milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking the whole time, you do not want to cook the eggs) and then put everything back in saucepan on the stove and cook over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly and quickly, until the mixture has come to a boil, letting boil at least 30 seconds, it will be really thick.  If you undercook it, it will taste like raw starch.  Be careful while it is cooking it could bubble up and burn you.  Remove from heat and strain into a bowl.   Place plastic wrap directly on top of pastry cream.  Let cool down to refrigerate. 

I made this the night before.

Whipped Cream


  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 2~3 Tablespoon of Splendid
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla

I placed my mixing bowl and whisk blade in refrig for an hour or two to chill them before making Whipped Cream. 

When ready I got my mixer ready with bowl and whisk that are now well chilled.  I poured the heavy cream into mixer bowl added the sugar and begin to beat on low with mixer for about 30 seconds or until mixed well.  I added the vanilla and increased the mixer speed to medium high. 

I then beat the cream mixture until soft peaks form.  I put the whipped cream in a pastry bag with star tip # 43 and placed in glass and then in refrigerator until I would need it.

Chocolate Ganache


  • 8 oz of Semi Sweet Chocolates Pieces
  • ¼  Cup Heavy Cream
  • ¼ Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter

Heat the butter and cream just to boil.  Pour over chocolate pieces and stir until all chocolate pieces are melted.  Pour into to squirt bottle.  Set aside until cooled to room temp.   If you need to thin this down when ready to use all you need to do is place bottle of Ganache in a glass with warm water.  It will thin out quickly.   Be sure to wipe any water off bottle, you do not want to drip water on the desserts you are making.

Strawberries, Blackberries, Macadamia, and Pistachios’:

Wash blackberries then wash and slice strawberries; they are now ready for completing the Pavlova Nests.  You can do this right before you are putting the nests together. 

Chop up the macadamia or pistachio nuts.  Put in separate bowls.

Making the Pavlova Nests:

Gently spread pastry cream to top of each nest with spatula.  Pipe the whipped cream around the edge of each nest.  Now add the sliced strawberries and arrange in a decorative pattern in pastry cream edges.   Place blackberries in center. 

Drizzle Chocolate Ganache over each of the nests.  They are now ready to serve.  Putting these together when you have everything ready takes very little time at the last minute and everyone loves them and thinks it is really hard to do. 

If I can make these anyone can.  I have a shake in my hands from a bad neck and back and they are not perfect by any means but taste just as good as if a Pastry Chef had made them….



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