Archive for the 'dessert' Category

Super Simple Blueberry Tarts

Blueberry tarts

I made these last weekend, when we were invited over at the last minute to have dinner in our friends’ back yard. I wanted to make a pie, but there wasn’t time – and my crammed freezer had half a package of frozen tart shells left over from something or other that I kept having to move so I could close it, so I decided to solve two problems at once.

Most berries are sweetened and thickened with sugar and flour or cornstarch before being baked in a pie; in this case, the tart shells get a quick 10 or so minutes in the oven to get toasty while you simmer some berries on the stovetop with those same ingredients, reserving half the berries to stir in at the end so that they burst and pop and retain their juice. You then satisfyingly spoon the berry filling into the tart shells, and you’re done.

You could, I’m sure, spike the filling with lemon zest or spoon it over lemon curd, or top your filled tarts with a dollop of cream. But they were perfectly awesome straight up, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – so awesome in fact that I made another batch a couple days later, when my parents were stopping by for dinner. It’s the sort of dessert that demands – or rather politely asks, in a casual, summery sort of way – to be eaten outside.

Super Simple Blueberry Tarts

1 dozen frozen tart shells

Filling:
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375F. Put the tart shells on a baking sheet and slide them into the oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Take them out.

Meanwhile, put half the blueberries into a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add to the berries along with the lemon juice and bring to a simmer; cook for a few minutes, until the berries burst and soften and the juices thicken. Once it comes to a boil, make sure it cooks for a full minute to maximize thickening potential and make sure it’s not starchy.)

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining blueberries. Let sit for a minute to cool slightly, then spoon into the tart shells, piling them high.

Makes 1 dozen blueberry tarts.

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July 27 2015 | dessert | 2 Comments »

Saskatoon Pie Milkshakes + a Caboose Cabin

Saskatoon pie milkshake Collage

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and working more hours than is probably good for me (or those I live with), and there have been extra obligations that have all added up to too much of everything, and not nearly enough sleep and W. And so on Friday we spontaneously decided to hop in the car and take off somewhere where there wasn’t a computer, or a neglected garden/back yard/basement that needed work, where we could just hang out for a night and play cards and eat Cheezies and sleep in.

Attachment-1 copy

I find car trips therapeutic – to an extent – and am particularly fond of hour-or-two long excursions during which I can either answer my email in the car as Mike drives (I get a crazy rush out of dozens of emails whooshing out of my outbox when we arrive at an internet connection), or unplug and gaze out the window at rolling fields. As much as I love the mountains, I feel comforted and anchored to the prairies, and I love driving north, east and south through Alberta farmland, past cows and classic cars and weathered churches dropped into farmers’ fields, poking through small towns, looking for pie.

On Friday it was overcast, like a damp grey wool rug had been draped over the world, and so after picking W up from school we drove to High River, not quite an hour away, where some people and homes and businesses are still in flood recovery mode, and you can still see boarded up buildings and piles of sandbags. We made a stop at the Hitchin’ Post, a teeny box of a drive-in set in the middle of an enormous parking lot, serving up burgers, fries, onion rings and real saskatoon berry shakes.

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hitchin' post collage

It was windy and wet, but the food was hot – I imagine on sunny days, that parking lot is full, the people and the cars taking up far more real estate than the building itself.

I had heard last week about a spot about half an hour east of High River called Aspen Crossing, a sort of oasis for train lovers, with a campground, a fully functioning railway that offers 3 hour, 28 mile round trips with themes like wine and cheese, ales on the rails, grain elevator tours (you can’t get much more Alberta than that) and a dinner theatre complete with train robbery. But what made me pick up the phone and make a reservation was the two caboose cabins – Canadian Pacific railway cars transformed into cabins you can stay in for the night.

caboose cabin
Caboose cabin interior

How. Cool. Is this? Says W: “this is the best vacation ever.” Nevermind that it was raining, and there was no internet. (All the more perfect.) There are two, with a third planned for this summer; we booked the larger Canadian Pacific Caboose, which technically sleeps 5 but comfortably sleeps 3 – there’s a queen-sized bed, a (very firm) pull-out couch, and a bed up the ladder in the cupola – the raised part of the roof where the conductor would traditionally sit. (Warning: If you visit and have more than one child, make sure you stay as many nights as you have kids, or there will be fighting over the loft. It’s about as cool as it gets for a 9 year old. And also a 47 year old.)

canadian pacific 2
caboose cabins Collage

There was a deck with a gas barbecue, a fire pit, a little kitchen with a fridge and stovetop, a shower, a retro gas stove in the living room to warm the place and make it even cozier, and air conditioning up top for the heat of summer. The Union Pacific is smaller, and parked beside the teeny store/bathrooms/showers/laundry – ours was a little more private, and a stretch of grass between the two was perfect for soccer and Frisbee-throwing. There were plenty of kids on bikes, lots of dogs, a playground, and a special area where they let you set off fireworks – which are for sale in the gift shop. (To up the cool factor.)

dining car
Dining car

There’s a dining car of course, where you can go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch – and they have their own flock out back to visit and thank for the eggs.

hens Collage

It’s a trek we’ll likely take again – especially knowing we can be there in less time than it takes many people to commute on a regular weekday – and next time we’ll stop at the other dining car – the Whistle Stop in High River, which I hear has great pie, and at Evelyn’s Memory Lane Cafe, which we tried to stop at but construction had torn the street up. Perhaps next time it will be a southern Alberta pie crawl, with a long, digestive nap in a caboose.

saskatoon milkshake

The Hitchin’ Post reminded me that I had a bag of saskatoons in the freezer, and also vanilla ice cream – while a milkshake seems like an obvious recipe, I always forget that I can make them at home – and how completely delicious they are.

Saskatoon Berry Pie Milkshake

You could really use any berry in this recipe and come up with a pie-milkshake version; rhubarb would work exceptionally well, or blueberry, strawberry, raspberry or blackberry. If you really want to justify calling it a pie milkshake, rim the glasses with graham cracker crumbs before you pour in your shake. (For the record, the city was named after the berry, so the berry itself isn’t capitalized; the city is.)

fresh or frozen saskatoons
sugar
vanilla ice cream
milk

Put a cup or so of saskatoons into a small saucepan and add a splash of water (they aren’t very juicy at first) and a shake of sugar – about a third of a cup, or to taste. Simmer until the berries pop, then cool and refrigerate until cold.

To make your milkshake, you kind of have to play it by ear – how much milk you’ll need will depend on the density of your ice cream and the juiciness of your saskatoons. Put a few scoops of ice cream into the blender, then add a good pour of saskatoons and their juice, and a glug of milk, and pulse until it’s as smooth as you can get it, adding extra milk or berry juice if it’s too thick, or more berries if it’s not purple enough.

Serves as many as you want to.

I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.

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May 31 2015 | dessert | 11 Comments »

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