Blueberry Pie That'll Make You a Hero

The job of family baker, and I'm guessing that's you since you're reading this, is a special one. You get to tempt taste buds with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies and Sunday morning cinnamon buns, and everyone ooh and ahhs over your creations. Yes, baking is work and there isn't always a lot of time to make the magic happen, but when the time is there and the ingredients are handy, there's something empowering about being the one with the white thumb (like a green thumb, but dusted in flour).

Unless of course they don't ooh and ahh. Unless they say no thanks, I don't really like pie/those cookies/that kind of cake today. Yes, there are people out there, including one in my very own home, who are extra particular about what they eat or don't have a single sweet tooth to count. Or they do have a sweet tooth but it belongs to candy. Let's not pretend it makes sense, it's not logical. We can only hope to win them over one day.

Then there are the home baking superfans. I have one of those in my house too. He jumps up and down at the mere mention of pie, takes a first slow bite then rolls his eyes back in his head and pretends to fall off his chair. Yup, those are the hero moments for the family baker. Those are the moments when you swing your apron around to the back like a cape and take the dramatic bow you deserve because you. are. that. good.

Blueberry pie in butter pastry is a winner. This recipe uses frozen blueberries so you can whip one up any time of year and be the family baking marvel that you are. Who knows, maybe you'll even convince the tough to please.

Blueberry Pie (using frozen berries)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1 egg
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp water

4 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
Extra granulated sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

To make the pastry, stir the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a hand pastry blender or two knives working across each other (or pulse all ingredients so far a few times in a food processor) until coarsely blended and there's not much flour dust left in the bottom of the bowl. In a small dish, beat the egg, vinegar and water. Add to the butter mixture and stir with a fork until the dough starts to come together. Form the dough into two balls. Roll out one ball on a floured surface and transfer to an 8 or 9-inch pie plate. Set the other ball aside.

To make the filling, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Stir to coat the berries. Pour into the pie shell and spread out evenly. Cut the butter into pieces and dot across the filling. Roll out the second ball of dough on a floured surface. Transfer to cover the filling. Crimp edges and cut a few slashes in the centre for a vent. Dust pie top with extra granulated sugar.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 65 to 75 minutes until the filling can be seen bubbling through the vent. If the edge is getting dark while baking, cover with foil.

NOTE: A hot-from-the-oven blueberry pie tends to be soupy. It's best to let it cool back almost to room temperature, or chill it after it cools, to allow the filling to fully set. 
What do you bake that makes you feel like a hero?

Curried Apple Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

This post is sponsored by SweeTango. 

It's remarkable I've managed to be so quiet on apples so far this fall. In past years it has felt like wall-to-wall apple talk around here because I love the little things so much. Pretty sure I've even called them my favourite all-time ingredient in the past. I'll stick to that. 

The truth is some big changes have happened for me this fall. The biggest of which is I'm back in the workforce! I mean like, out there, beyond the walls of my kitchen and my laptop screen, doing actual officey things. My youngest boy is now in school (how'd that happen so fast?!) and so I have all this time during the day to get out there and be productive, for my family and for myself. And I'm loving it.

But I'm still blogging too, and sharing stories, images and recipes from my kitchen, like this oh-so-tasty chicken salad recipe. It gets a big flavour boost from curry powder and diced SweeTango apple. This apple has one serious crunch. In fact, the world record for loudest apple bite was won with a SweeTango. For reals, it's that crunchy. The experience of a SweeTango is described as a burst of sweet juice with notes of citrus, honey and spice. That's the kind of apple I want in my chicken salad!

Head on over to the SweeTango website to get your hands on the recipe, and let's be all-apple all-the-time together.

3 Life Lessons From the Garden

One of the best things about having a backyard veggie patch and fruit trees is how much they teach me. When I'm back there, my toes in the grass and the sun on my face, there is no technology to distract me. No one pleads with me to do things they can perfectly well do for themselves. There's nothing in the way of listening to my own thoughts (you parents of young ones know what I'm talking about). It's just me and the plants, slowly and quietly changing and trying to improve every day. 

There's a lot to learn while watching the beans grow and the zucchini plants blossom. Here are three life lessons my garden has given me:

1. All Things Come in Their Own Time

You can't rush what grows in the garden. It requires patience and time to reach its potential. A careful eye and a little experience will tell you if carrots are ready to be yanked from the soil or if tomatoes need another couple days to ripen on the vine. On the flip side, you also can't deny something its readiness when it comes earlier than expected. For example, the warm, dry weather this year means I am picking apples in July. Granted we have an early ripening variety, but it's typically the first week of August before I'm canning my first batches of garlic rosemary apple jelly and cinnamon brown sugar applesauce, and filling the freezer with apple oat crumbles. The truth is the garden responds to the conditions in the air and in the soil, whatever they may be, just as we must learn to thrive as best we can with whatever life blows our way and plants at our feet.

2. Good Things Grow on Trees
You can't always get what you want and money doesn't grow on trees, but plenty of really great stuff in life does start out on a branch. Peaches, pears, apples, apricots, nectarines and plums arranged neatly at a roadside stand or growing in your own backyard are as beautiful as life itself, and sometimes the cherry on top of a good day is quite literally a cherry on top. All these beautiful things bring us together, whether we go fruit picking with friends, chat with the seller at a roadside stand or preserve jars of dill pickles with a neighbour. All of that makes life richer, feeding our bellies and our hearts at the same time. Trees also bring us nuts, olives, bananas, lemons, limes, oranges, coconuts, figs and so much more. Yup, if it starts on a tree it can improve your life.

3. If We Don't Change We Don't Grow
There's no denying that change can be difficult, especially big changes like the one I am working on. After nearly nine years at home with my kids, I am planning to return to work outside the home this fall once my youngest son starts school. It's a big change, and not one that comes without a little anxiety, but the garden reminds me that change isn't only natural, it's actually healthy and can bring new things that I didn't even see coming. Just as a bean seed changes into a sprout, then into a stalk, then it flowers and produces fruit, people too can blossom through change. And just as the roots of the bean plant when left behind can add important nutrients to the soil over winter, we too leave our lasting marks on the world behind us as we change and move forward. Change is always coming our way, but we get to choose how we want to handle it.

What life lessons has your garden taught you?

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam: A Canning Photo Story

Strawberry season has come early to my little kitchen garden here on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It is usually mid June before I'm picking in the strawberry patch, but a mild spring and plenty of sunshine have conspired to deliver a cheeky May bounty of ripe, juicy berries perfect for homemade jam. 

The rhubarb plants are still going strong as well, so my first jam of the growing season this year is a batch of homegrown strawberry rhubarb jam with just a touch of lime. Mmm! My littlest son especially will enjoy this smeared all over his face for the coming year.

Here are some jam-making snaps from the holiday Monday experience in my happy little kitchen. Canning is such a colourful, beautiful, delicious experience and I love sharing the photos with you here. Want the recipe? You can find all my canning recipes in my national bestselling cookbook The Canning Kitchen. Homemade jam for all!

Batch Cookbook Blog Hop & GIVEAWAY

This is the time of year I start dreaming up preserving plans for the sunny months ahead. What do I want to preserve? How many pounds of tomatoes, peaches and cucumbers do I want to can this year? What will I grow, and what will I buy? Preserving can be done year-round, and I do put up jars of this and that when the mood strikes, but I like starting the growing season with shelves that are starting to get bare. They are not empty shelves to me. They are space for a fresh start.

I sat with my bare feet in the grass this Mother's Day, the sun shining hotly on my head, and did some daydreaming. No need for a spreadsheet or a checklist. Nothing set so firmly that it can't be undreamed. Just ideas and intentions.

Just in time for planning summer preserving comes along a new cookbook from the folks at the Toronto-based food blog Well Preserved. Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison's beautiful book Batch: Over 200 Recipes, Tips & Techniques For a Well Preserved Kitchen from Appetite by Random House is in stores now. It has loads of ideas for canning fans, but you'll also find recipes for other types of preserving, such as dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting, smoking and infusing. I have my eye on the mushrooms section and the instructions for making mushroom powder.

With a wide range of preserving options for an equally wide range of preservable foods, Batch is a thorough resource that is sure to please experienced preservers. But with its simple language and helpful illustrations, there is still plenty to love for the new preserver. 

Start with the quick recipes like Salt-Preserved Lemons and Limes (salting) and Strawberry Ginger Leather (dehydrating), then work your way up to recipes with more steps like Cherry Ginger Beer (fermenting) and making your own bacon (salt and smoke). If you love the way food and science combine to make magic in the kitchen, you'll have fun casting spells within the pages of Batch.

I'm joining forces with some other Canadian food bloggers this week in celebration of the launch of Batch and giving readers a chance to win a copy for their own kitchen. We've all made something different from the book, and I chose Quick Pickled Grapes (page 219). I love me some sweet and sour flavours, so these halved grapes and lemon slices tucked inside a jar and topped with a simple brine of wine vinegar and honey is a winner. So far we've enjoyed them with seared pork chops and in salads. Yum.

Scroll down and enter to WIN a copy of Batch, and visit the other bloggers involved in the Blog Hop to enter their giveaways too...

Batch by Joel MacCharles & Dana Harrison, published by Appetite by Penguin Random House Canada. Author image credit: Margaret Mulligan.

Here are the other Canadian food bloggers participating in the Batch blog hop this week:

Getty at
Mardi at eat. live. travel. write.

Jan at Family Bites
Kelly at 


Valeria at A Canadian Foodie
Isabelle at Crumb

RenĂ©e at sweetsugarbean
Food Bloggers of Canada

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