Love and Confections: April 2013

April 21, 2013

Blueberry Squares


Wednesday, I blogged about my tour of Lake Catherine Blueberries. I had so many ideas of what to make with my fresh blueberries. I decided to share a recipe that my family has been making for nearly 4 generations.

Somewhere along the line, my Great-Grandmother and her sisters started baking this fruit square recipe. It is a very hearty and dense recipe that isn't too sweet, but just sweet enough. I actually eat it the day after it is baked, because I  like the flavor better. This is also great served warm with some vanilla bean ice cream. This recipe works well with basically any fresh fruit. You can even use canned pie fillings if you're in a pinch.

Blueberry Squares
Love and Confections Family recipe
This recipe was adapted from my Great-Grandmother. It's a very hearty and dense cake-like treat, that isn't too sweet. You can make it in a 9x13 cake pan or a 12x16 cookie sheet with sides - your choice.

Blueberry Squares Ingredients:
 - 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar (100g)
 - 4 cups fresh Blueberries
 - 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
 - 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
 - 2 sticks Butter
 - 1 & 1/2 cups Granulated Sugar (300g)
 - 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
 - 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract
 - 4 large Eggs (200g)
 - 3 cups All-Purpose Flour (375g)
 - 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
 - 3 tablespoons Heavy Cream

Blueberry Squares Directions:
 - Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour your baking dish (9x13 or 12x16). Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature and that your Blueberries are clean.
 - In a small bowl, add in the first measurement of Granulated Sugar, Blueberries, Lemon Zest and Lemon Juice. Toss to combine and set aside.
 - In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the Butter and Sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the Vanilla and Almond Extracts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
 - Add one egg at a time and mix until fully incorporated before adding another. Scrape the sides of the bowl after each egg is mixed in.
 - Sift together the Flour and Baking Powder. Slowly add it into the batter, stopping to scrape the sides halfway through. Gradually add in the Heavy Cream, one tablespoon at a time.
 - Spread 3/4 of the mixture in the bottom of your baking dish. Evenly distribute the Blueberry mixture over the batter. Randomly drop the remaining batter, by the spoonful, over the Blueberries, and bake for 25-30 minutes - depending on your oven - or until a cake tester comes out clean after inserted into the middle of the  squares.
 - Serve with whipped cream or ice cream and enjoy!

Until next time,

April 17, 2013

A Tour of Lake Catherine Blueberry Farm


The sun warmed us as honeybees flew near and we picked and ate blueberries off the bush. We rode around in a John Deere and learned about blueberries and blueberry farming for hours. We ate more blueberries. We tasted homemade Blueberry Orange Blossom Honey and a variety of Blueberry Jams. We ate some more blueberries, and planned what we would create with our haul. A truly wonderful Spring day...

A few local Food Bloggers and I recently went and took a tour of Lake Catherine Blueberries. I have been blueberry picking before and wait for blueberry season every year. I met one of the owners at a local farmer's market and inquired about the farm. I can definitely say it was a great experience. The owners are incredibly nice and immensely knowledgeable. They welcomed us onto their farm and into their lives. Please read to the end for information on their grand opening celebration and a coupon for blueberries!

I love seeing where my food comes from and interacting with local farmers and producers. We learned so much about blueberries that our tour lasted about 5 hours. The quality of Lake Catherine Blueberries is incomparable to what is found in the grocery stores.

Most grocery store berries are over 26 days old due to the nitrogen displacement of oxygen for transport from South America. The use of nitrogen as a non-chemical method of food preservation is gaining acceptance in the food industry because it expands the availability of perishable items. Most fruit in grocery stores have had this nitrogen preservation. Lake Catherine Blueberries are picked fresh and sold in season - when the fruit is at its best.

The variety of blueberries depends on the climate. Blueberries need a specific number of cold hours each Winter to regulate their growth, known as chill hours - one hour of time with the temperature between 32 & 45 degrees F to set buds. If a blueberry bush doesn't receive enough chill hours in the Winter, the buds might not open evenly, or at all, in the Spring.

Lake Catherine Blueberries grows 2 different types of berries appropriate for Florida chill hours, Emerald and Jewel. Emeralds are large, mildly sweet berries and Jewels are large, slightly tangy berries. They have these two different varieties for cross-pollination purposes - which creates more seeds.

Learning how the Bumble Bees help with pollination

For pollination, Lake Catherine Blueberries uses both Honey Bees and Bumble Bees. Their honey bees also make amazing Blueberry Orange Blossom Honey that they sell at the Farmer's Markets and during u-pick season. Florida produces 20-25 million pounds of blueberries per year and Lake Catherine hand picks about 10,000 blueberries per day.

Lake Catherine Honey Bees

During blueberry season, Lake Catherine is open daily from 9am-5pm. Check out the Lake Catherine Blueberries Facebook Page for weather conditions and updates before you visit. They also encourage you to eat the berries right off the bush, so you can decide which type you like best. Come back on Sunday to see one of the desserts I made with Lake Catherine Blueberries!

Lake Catherine Homemade Jams - they are DELICIOUS!

This coming Saturday, April 20th, Lake Catherine Blueberries is hosting a Grand Opening Celebration for the season. There will be live entertainment, face painting, pony rides, hay rides and a barbeque, in addition to some wonderful u-pick berries. They will also be selling their jams, cobblers, syrups, honey and other Lake Catherine Blueberry products. Just remember that they do not accept debit or credit cards at this time, so please have cash. Below is a coupon for $2 off one pound of blueberries. Tell them Terri from Love and Confections sent you - you will love it.

Lake Catherine Blueberries
5849 Lake Catherine Road
Groveland, FL 34736
(352) 551-4110

View of Lake Catherine and the Lake Catherine Blueberry Farm in the distance

Until next time,

April 7, 2013

Balloons for an Angel


Sorry this post took a little long to write - somehow these things always seem harder to put into words.

While everyone was prepping for Easter, I prepped for a different kind of party...

I don't remember how old I was when I finally realized I had an older sister, but she had died before I was born. My family and I visited her grave often and we all saw her little baby picture every day. I knew that she was my sister, but I was too young to actually understand what it all meant. The day it became a reality, I was sitting in the kitchen and I started to cry uncontrollably. I couldn't believe I had a sister, and that I would never get to meet her, or play with her, or grow up with her.

That was when Mom decided that we celebrate her, instead of cry about it, and that's what we did. Every year on her birthday, we would send pink balloons to Heaven - one balloon for each year, however old she would have been.

I would get so excited for her birthday. KB and I would help Mom pick out balloons - sometimes all pink, different shades of pink, or a pink and purple combination. It was the only thing we could do to make it special, so it had to be perfect. Most of the time, we went to the cemetery to let them go.

On one of her teenage birthdays, Mom decided that we should let them go at home, because of the inclement weather. The sky was dark gray and looked like a bad storm was coming. Since we had a lot of balloons, the party store employee separated them into two groups and tied the strings together. The wind was furious, and we struggled with the balloons.

In our driveway, Mom and KB let go of one set of balloons. They floated away, tied together, on their journey to Heaven. My turn came and the wind picked up. My set of balloons sailed right into our neighbor's tree, tied together, and stuck on one of the top branches. Up to that point, I had never felt so much panic in my life. She NEEDED her balloons on her birthday.

Mom got out an 8 foot ladder, but couldn't reach. She got a 12 foot ladder, but couldn't reach. She got the pool net, standing on top of the 12 foot ladder and still couldn't reach. As a last-ditch effort, she duct-taped a broom to the pool net, on the ladder, swaying in wind... all while I was crying my eyes out. It finally worked! She managed to free the balloons - a few had popped from the branches - but they were free!

We can laugh about it now, at how ridiculous and dangerous everything was. My Mom is my hero - for this and many other things. She made sure my Sister got her birthday balloons. To this day, we always make sure we are in an open area and don't have them tied together.

Little E & Thelma helped with the balloons. So thankful to have such great friends.

Last Saturday, March 30th, her 30th Birthday, my Family and I released 30 pink balloons (and 1 gold one, since it would have been her golden birthday) for my Sister. 15 from Raleigh, NC, where my Parents and KB live, and 15 from me in Orlando, FL. Even though we never met, she is a huge part of my life. She has always been remembered and missed at every holiday and major life event, but we know she is always there with us in Spirit.

There is barely a day that goes by that I don't think about my Sister, my Angel. Happy Birthday Elyse!

Until next time,