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The Best Blueberry Pie Ever

I have a super cute 2-year-old nephew who absolutely is obsessed with blueberries. (Or as he pronounces them, bloo-bewwies.) He would, and has, eaten them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So this summer, when we were all visiting my family in berry-land, I thought it might be fun to take Mr. Super Cute to the local berry picking patch for a treat.

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We arrived and he started going to town on the bushes, shoveling ripe as well as unripe blueberries in his mouth by the handful. It was a proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store afternoon.

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After about 30 minutes of picking, we had as much as we could carry, and headed back to the house to see our haul. Nearly every year I make jam while in the San Juan Islands berry-country, but this year I wanted to do something different. I hadn’t had pie in a long time, so blueberry pie it was.

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I must say, this pie turned out to be one of the best desserts I’ve ever made. The crust so tender and flaky, and the filling… divine. Probably because of the pickers! We had the pie for dessert that night, unfortunately for Nephew, it was after he had gone to bed.

The next day, Sister, Nephew and I were driving home, so Mom had us take the remaining pie with us. “Car Pie,” we named it. Mom packed up the pie in a bag, adding utensils and bowls, so whenever we wanted it, the Car Pie would be ready.

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We headed south and stopped in Seattle for a little detour on the big Ferris wheel there on the pier.

20140711_113340Gorgeous day, great view and a fun adventure.

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Before we got back in the car, Sister and I decided that we needed drinks to accompany our tasty treat. We kept telling Nephew that we were going to have Car Pie in a few minutes. He had no idea what that was, but we assured him it would be wonderful.

Sister, holding Nephew, approached the nearest restaurant… a crab-shack sort of take-out spot. We walked up, the guy behind the counter asked, “What can I get you?” Nephew declared, “Car Pie Please!”

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We about wet our pants as we laughed and told the counter-guy we wanted iced teas and milk. Still laughing, we went back to the car and served up the pie.

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Nephew was very serious as he experienced his first taste of Car Pie, and in the end it was a huge hit. Even now, after nearly every meal, he still asks for Car Pie. I’m a happy Auntie! Click here for the Car Pie, I mean, Blueberry Pie Recipe Tamara

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To make the flowered crust, I used these cutters:

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Click here for the recipe for my Blueberry Pie.

The Best Blueberry Pie, the Tamara Blog

Happy end of summer! It’s been a wonderful one!

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Hello friends!

I’m very excited and honored to announce that I’ve partnered with my pal Fabio Viviani (Top Chef fan fave, chef extraordinaire, restauranteur, and super fun guy) to write for his wonderful online magazine, titled appropriately, Fabio’s Magazine! 

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Starting with the August issue, that just came out, I’ll be a regular contributor with my DIY Style with Tamara Berg articles, offering crafting, food and lifestyle projects and ideas. You can make sure you always get the latest issue by subscribing here.

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And, if you want to know a little about me and my relationship with beets… take a look here.

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Oh, and one thing got mixed up… #4. I’ve never been to Colombia (yet!). Here’s what should have been there for my “weirdest food” answer:

4) What is the weirdest things you have ever eaten and where were you?

Most of the weird food I have eaten has been in China. There was Ox-Liver Mushroom in Shanghai, and Ant Soup in Hong Kong. Whenever I travel, I like to steep myself in the culture; so trying the local fare is a part of the experience. I love the inventiveness of everyday chefs. People make some crazy food in other parts of the globe!

This is a special occasion breakfast treat, perfect for Father’s day.

Candied Bacon Hearts -- The Tamara Blog

I should note here that the irony of taking bacon, something considered not good for your heart and shaping it into a heart, is not lost on me. But my  justification for this recipe is that the heart shape could represent how you feel for the person to whom you’re giving the bacon. In my case it represents one thing and one thing only – how I feel about bacon itself. I just love it! Sorry, all you vegetarians, I know your pain. I used to be one, but the bacon beckoned.

This Candied Bacon is a favorite for fancy brunches, but I often make it as an hors d’oeuvre. (When serving as an appetizer, I just make simple strips.) It’s crispy and crunchy and sweet and salty and a little bit spicy. Just a bite or two satisfies all your food cravings. It’s beautiful for a party, and equally welcome for a breakfast-in-bed special treat. A word of caution: be sure to make plenty. I’ve never had leftovers… darnit!

Make ahead and serve at room temperature or serve warm.

Candied Bacon Hearts (click for printable recipe)

  • 1 package thick-cut bacon
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a rack over a foil-covered pan with sides (not a cookie sheet).

To make hearts, cut bacon in half lengthwise, then crosswise. Each heart will require one half a piece of bacon.

Working on a piece of paper towel, and one heart at a time, season bacon with pepper, then sprinkle with a light layer of brown sugar.

Sugared bacon in process
Move bacon to the prepared rack. Place the bottom short edges of two bacon strips on the pan, overlapping to form the bottom point of the heart.Sugared bacon in progress

Overlap bacon edges

 

Next, fold over the top ends, twisting each once to create the top loop of the heart. When forming the heart, alternate bacon ends. Gently press the intersection of the four ends together. Sprinkle on more sugar, if desired.

Bacon hearts on rack

(If making as simple strips, lay the strips on the rack, pepper, and sprinkle with a layer of brown sugar.)

Place in oven and bake 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of bacon. Remove when crispy.

Candied Bacon Hearts -- The Tamara Blog

Serve immediately, or set aside to cool. Can be made one day in advance, and reheated before serving. They’re tastiest when served warm or at room temperature.

TIPS: Clean-up from this recipe can be a mess if you don’t use the rack-and-foil method. If, by chance, you don’t have a rack & pan combo that will work, try this kitchen hack: Take a sheet of heavy-duty foil, twice the size of your sheet pan. Fold the foil in ½” accordion pleats. Spread out over a foil-covered sheet pan. Lay bacon perpendicular across the foil ridges to lift it from the pan bottom. Once the bacon is done cooking… simply toss all the foil in the trash.

Fabio Vivianni Loves my Candied Bacon!
If making this bacon as an hors d’oeuvre, it’s probably best to serve in simple strips (like the ones chef Fabio Vivianni is holding in the pic above), as the heart halves sometimes separate. And that just won’t do!

Enjoy this decadent treat – your loved ones surely will!

 

 

 

Caption Beautiful sweet and salty toffee pretzels.

 Beautiful sweet and salty toffee pretzels.

Ah yes, there is a holiday for everything. And April 26th is, at it turns out, National Pretzel Day here in the US.

By far, my favorite way to eat pretzels is dipped in toffee. I posted this recipe a few years back, but here it is again. It’s worth a revisit. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of my Toffee Pretzels Recipe.

DSCF7003 Tamara's Toffee Pretzels


I do love a good soft pretzel, and have made them at home (key: look for a recipe that uses baking soda, like this one). They’re really worth the effort.

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I hope you have a delightful and carbo-licious Happy Pretzel Day!

 

DIY Soap Petals

Mother’s Day (in the US) is May 11th this year. Here’s a quick but special gift for any Mom.

 

Scented Soap Petals

These soap petals are, in effect, beautifully scented, teeny, tiny washcloths. A little treat for your guests and a great twist on the hostess gift.

Tools and Supplies:

  • Fabric Rose Petals — available at craft stores in the Wedding section.
  • Glycerin soap base, unscented – from craft stores, or sometimes found at grocery stores.
  • Essential oils –your fragrance makers. Get them at drug stores, craft stores, or online.

Instructions:

Cut the soap into cubes and place in a glass bowl, 5 oz will make about 75 petals. You can melt the soap using a microwave, but a double boiler is better at maintaining a constant temperature.

When the cubes have melted, stir in your essential oil. 5-10 drops is plenty. When choosing your fragrance, you can always use rose, as the petals are usually rose petals. But you can also consider the color of your petals – neroli or grapefruit oil for peach-colored petals or lavender scent for purple petals.

One by one, give your fabric petals a quick dip. It’s important to only dip one at a time, so they don’t stick together and make a mess. Make sure they’re fully coated. Remove them with chopsticks, tongs or tweezers. Cool on a metal rack and your petals are done!

Place in a pretty dish on your bathroom counter. For those who aren’t sure how to use them, a friendly note is always helpful (see below). No messy bar-soap, no ugly hand soap. Yay!

They can also be scattered to make a romantic bubble bath. But do remember to remove the petals before draining the tub or you’ll have to call a plumber.

I’ve included some text for you to put in your soap petal dish. (Soap Petal Labels)

Bonus Tip: I like to make mine semi-waterproof by covering with packing tape before cutting out.

If you’re looking for more fancy labels, check out the printables at my pal Cathe Holden’s blog, here.

 

A quick revisit of several of my blogs that are great for St. Patrick’s day.

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For my Toffee Pretzel Shamrocks, see here.

You can find the Rainbow Cookies here.

How to make a Celtic Knot bracelet here.

My Lucky Penny necklace blog is here, and my book, A Penny Saved can be found here.

Have a lovely St. Patrick’s Day!

As always, the day before lent is Mardi Gras, and this year it falls on March 4th. As mentioned in a previous blog (found here, go read it!), Fat Tuesday is also known in many parts as Pancake Day. This year I wanted to revisit the holiday, so I made American pancakes with a little update, using jam as a decorative and delicious accent.

Mardi Gras Pancakes with Berry Syrup

Never having been to The Big Easy, I was surprised to learn that Mardi Gras has ‘official colors.’ (Who knew?!) They are Purple, Green and Gold.

According to the site MardiGrasNewOrleans.com:

The official Mardi Gras colors were selected in 1872 to honor the visiting Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, whose house colors were purple, green and gold. The 1892 Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” affirmed the colors’ meaning.

Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. Gold Represents Power.

To honor this, I made my pancakes using berry jam (purple), lemon zest (gold), and a little mint (green).

Mardi Gras Pancakes

Here’s my mother-in-law’s recipe:

  • 1-1/3 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbps. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together the dry ingredients with a whisk. Add egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir together and cook on hot griddle until done.

To make the fancy fleur-de-lis design, I used seedless boysenberry jelly, and put it in a plastic bag with the corner cut off.

Pipe the jelly onto the pancake on the griddle.

Now. Here’s the tricky part. When I flipped the first few pancakes, the jelly smeared. To prevent this, I took out my handy kitchen torch, and applied heat to the uncooked side of the pancake, until the surface was cooked just a little. When the ‘gloss’ of the batter was cooked away, it was ready to flip, and no longer smeared.

Use torch on top of pancake

*Note: The fleur-de-lis is not directly connected to Mardi Gras, but does have connections to New Orleans. As a francophile, I just like the symbol. It doesn’t take a lot of skill to draw, and just looks fancy. You could also make swirls or hearts. Go crazy!

For more information and another recipe, take a look at my original blog on Mardi Gras and Pancake Tuesday here. Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Pancakes with Mint

Update: I just learned that the National Cathedral in Washington DC has an annual Pancake Race. Check out the pics for the 2012 Pancake race here. And the 2013 race pics are here. Fun!

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