Every time I step into the grocery store and see those small plastic containers filled with fresh red raspberries, I’m instantly transported back to the memory of picking berries with my grandparents. It’s July, the sun is warm on my skin, and I’m standing in a thicket of berry bushes along the path at their mountain house in Pennsylvania. At eight years old, I can vividly remember the little cuts that were all over my hands and arms from reaching for the big juicy ones buried beneath the thorns. I was terrified of the possibility of spiders and bears around me. And to be honest, I still am afraid of both at 28! Anyways, back to the berries. The pain from those little thorns was all worth it when I got to lick a spoonful of my grandmother’s homemade jam.
Now as an adult, I’ve taken that memory of the sweet red raspberry jam and expanded the possibilities with that berry and so many others. The list is endless, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, lingonberries, gooseberries, cranberries… the list goes on, but I’ll save you the reading! No matter which one your favorite is, the versatility of berries makes them the perfect fruit to keep in your fridge or freezer.
The freezer. That mysterious cold place where food goes to be buried and forgotten about, but it doesn’t need to be that way. The freezer can be an incredible tool for storing fresh berries all year long. When berries are in season, you can usually save a lot of money by buying them in bulk. Take them home, wash them, lay them out in a layer of parchment paper lined cookie sheet and stick in the freezer. Once they have frozen, portion out the berries in Ziploc bags or better yet, vacuum seal them. Or, if you don’t want to fuss with freezing the berries yourself, there is an easier way…just buy them pre-frozen in your local grocery store! Grocery stores now carry all sorts of frozen varieties. You can buy a bag of just your favorite berry or buy a blend of several different kinds.
We have all come across berries in one form or another- jam, jelly, smoothies, baked goods, or a topping for a stack of pancakes; oatmeal; or yogurt. Whichever way you choose to eat these little antioxidant packed berries is up to you. However, one of my favorite ways is in frozen yogurt bark! There are plenty of varieties of recipes that you can find online, but one of my favorites is from Ciara at MyFussyEater.com. Coconut provides a great chew and sweetness to the bark. You may have heard of fro-yo, but berries take the popular dessert to a whole new level. The varieties are endless depending on the type of yogurt you prefer or the berries you want to use. And why stop there? You can add all sorts of other toppings to the bark…chocolate is my go-to! Yogurt bark is the perfect snack for morning or night. It’s also an easy recipe that your kiddos can help create.
Frozen Yogurt Bar
- 1 large container of your favorite yogurt
- 2 cups of berries
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 4 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 4 Tbsp. honey
- In a large bowl, mix your yogurt with the honey. (You can skip the honey if you already have a yogurt that is sweetened. Adding honey is best for plain yogurts without flavoring, especially the plain tangy yogurts like Greek or Icelandic.)
- Spread out the yogurt on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Make it pretty and smooth!
- Next, sprinkle all of your ingredients evenly over the yogurt. I used fresh strawberries and red raspberries and I added some frozen blueberries and blackberries. I find it best to push some of the bigger berries into the yogurt to make sure they will ‘stick’ when we go to cut it and eat it later.
- Once you’re satisfied with your creation, stick it in the freezer and let it sit for 4-6 hours. Make sure it’s level! I usually make this towards the end of the night and let it freeze while I sleep. In the morning, I have a great on the go morning snack!
- Once the yogurt has completely frozen, carefully remove the parchment paper from the pan and lay the bark on a cutting board or a flat counter. Cut the bark into bars for easy snacking. You can put each bar in a separate Ziploc bag or in a plastic container. Just be sure to place parchment paper between each one.
So what else can we make with berries? Obviously, we all love the sweet taste of a blueberry muffin or raspberry strudel, but that’s too easy. I do love a spinach salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and walnuts, but again, that’s too ordinary. We could cook the berries down with some agave or honey and make a delicious syrup for our Sunday morning breakfast, but even that’s not interesting enough. Okay, I’ve got it. How about chicken? Yes, that’s right, let’s take that beloved chicken breast and pair it with red raspberries.
Sometimes when I have too many red raspberries leftover from my yogurt bark creation, I’ll make this raspberry chicken recipe for a quick and tasty meal. There are many recipes online, but Trisha Yearwood’s version is probably my favorite that I’ve found so far. The earthy flavor of the mushrooms paired with the tangy raspberries and lemon zest really makes this dish pop. Of course, you can substitute your favorite berry and play around with added ingredients. Don’t be afraid to try new flavors. After all, that’s how some of the best dishes were created. And in case you have kids who are fussing over the fancy chicken breast, you can always make them traditional chicken fingers and pair them with a homemade blueberry barbeque sauce.
- 4 chicken tenders or cutlets
- 1 cup red raspberries
- 4 Tbsp. EVOO
- 3 gloves garlic, minced
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock/broth
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- Fresh lemon zest (I like a lot!)
- Salt & pepper to season the chicken
- Heat EVOO in saucepan over medium heat
- Season the chicken and place into warm oil. Brown on both sides then remove from pan.
- Add garlic & shallots to the saucepan. Cook about 1 minute.
- Add in chicken stock and white wine. Reduce down for about 8-10 minutes over medium heat.
- Add in sliced mushrooms and cook on a simmer for about 3-4 minutes
- Place the chicken breasts back into the saucepan and cook until finished, about 10 minutes.
- Add the raspberries, balsamic vinegar, butter, and lemon zest and cook for about 1 minute.
- Serve alone or over your favorite grain. It goes great with quinoa.
- Lick the plate…it’s that good!
With their versatility, berries can be included into your daily food intake with ease. Keep them frozen, buy them fresh, make something sweet or make something savory. No matter what recipe you put these colorful little berries in, just be sure to enjoy it!
Brooke Wiseman is a Food and Nutrition major at the University of Alabama, who is studying to become a Registered Dietitian with a concentration in community nutrition and wellness. In May of 2017, Brooke graduated from Gaston College in North Carolina and received her AAS as a Dietetic Technician. Shortly after graduation, she passed her NDTR (Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered) exam. Within the last two months, Brooke passed her national exam and earned a certification as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Brooke currently works at the local YMCA as a trainer and an adult fitness specialist. As a military spouse, Brooke hopes to use her knowledge of nutrition and exercise experience to help others reach their goals where their family ends up next.
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