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Berried treasure

Sweet treats are as good as gold

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fresh summer berries, now appearing in great supply in markets all over the country, are more valuable in terms of your health than an ocean full of buried treasure.

And, the benefits derived from eating fresh berries are worth their weight in gold inasmuch as berries are little powerhouses of vitamins, minerals and fiber and are among those foods containing the highest amounts of antioxidants. (An antioxidant is the substance that protects cells from being damaged by oxidation.)

Strawberries, for example, contain 16 times more antioxidants than honeydew melons, seven times more than what is found in apples or bananas, and twice that of an orange; just a half-cup of blueberries has the same amount of antioxidants as five servings of foods like peas carrots, apples, squash or broccoli; and raspberries have been found to contain 10 times more antioxidants than tomatoes.

Why the interest in berries and antioxidants? Because, a number of studies report that foods rich in antioxidants possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and heart protective qualities.

Berry season is here making this a berry good time to purchase berries for both eating out of hand now and for freezing.

If you freeze a couple of bagfuls right now, opening the freezer door a few months down the road will be better than finding buried treasure in your own back yard.

Fresh blueberry poundcake

1-1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

Rinse berries and pat dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2-inch loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Carefully fold in blueberries. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cake rest for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.

Berry-berry-berry good-for-you smoothie

1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1 banana, sliced

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup ice cubes

Sugar or sugar-substitute to taste (optional)

Rinse berries and place in container of an electric blender. Add banana, yogurt, milk, extract and ice cubes. Blend on medium-high speed until mixture is smooth. Serves 2.

Kitchen Ade Note: If you want a sweeter smoothie, trying adding additional fruit before reaching for the sugar bowl.

Caring for those berries

The enemy of fresh berries is moisture. Don't rinse berries until you are ready to eat them. Keep berries refrigerated, too. Under refrigeration, blueberries will keep for up to one week; strawberries anywhere from two to five days; and raspberries should be consumed within two days of purchase.

Fruit that has been refrigerated is best enjoyed after it's been brought to room temperature.

How to freeze fresh berries

Berries can be successfully frozen, for up to one year, by following just a few simple steps.

Raspberries and blackberries

Gently rinse raspberries or blackberries under a light spray of cool water. Allow them to air dry or dry on paper towels. Once dry, place berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 45 minutes, then place baking sheet in the freezer.

As soon as berries are frozen, pack in freezable containers and seal.

Strawberries

Choose plump, fragrant berries without bruises or rot. Look for bright green, moist green "crowns" without evidence of mold. Rinse strawberries under cool, water with stems on. (Leaving the stems in place helps to keep water from getting inside the fruit.) Allow strawberries to air dry or dry on paper towels.

Once dry remove stems and place on a baking sheet, in a single layer. Refrigerate for 45 minutes, then place baking sheet in freezer. As soon as berries are frozen, pack in freezable containers and seal.

Blueberries

Some people don't wash blueberries before freezing because to do so can toughen their skins. But, because I often bake with frozen blueberries and add them to batters directly from the freezer (frozen blueberries that have been allowed to thaw will "bleed" into batters), I always rinse the blueberries prior to freezing.

After berries are rinsed, air dry or dry on paper towels; remove any stems that remain on the berries.

Place berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 45 minutes before placing baking sheet in the freezer. Once blueberries are frozen, pack in freezable containers and seal.

Luscious blueberry trifle

1 3.4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding and pie filling

2 cups fat-free or low-fat cold milk (for the pudding mix)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 large blueberry muffins, or 2 1-inch thick slices blueberry pound cake, store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)

1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry

1-2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)

2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar or an equal amount of non-dairy whipped topping.

Fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)

Prepare pudding according to package directions. Stir in vanilla and lemon zest; set aside.

Cut blueberry muffins or pound cake into 2-inch pieces. If desired, brush pieces with brandy. Assemble trifle by dividing half the cake between the bottoms of two long-stemmed glasses.

Top the cake with half of the pudding, dividing it between the glasses.

On top of the pudding, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons blueberries into each glass. Top blueberries with half of the whipped cream, dividing it evenly over the blueberries in each glass.

Repeat layering with cake, pudding, blueberries, then the whipped cream. Top whipped cream with a garnishing of fresh blueberries, raspberries and a light sprinkling of blueberry cake crumbs.

Kitchen Ade Note: Be creative. Substitute different kinds of berries and cake for your own signature trifle dish.

Sue Ade, the Kitchen Ade, is a gourmet baker and collector of vintage cooking utensils and cookbooks. She can be reached at sueade@aol.com.



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