Local Guide to Blueberry Picking

One of my favorite Field Trips from Sacramento is to head to Apple Hill on a beautiful day. And if you’ve only made the trip in the fall, you’re missing out! June and July are prime blueberry picking season and, once you’ve turned your fingers blue from picking (and snacking), there’s plenty more to see and do in the area.

WHAT: Blueberry Picking

WHERE: Pine ‘o Mine in Apple Hill

There are a few farms to choose from in Apple Hill for blueberry picking but my favorite by far is Pine ‘O Mine. I love visiting with Dennis, the farmer, and he is great with kids too – so be sure to bring the whole family.

Pine ‘O Mine located at 2620 Carson Rd, Placerville, CA 95667.
Phone No. (530) 344-0288 – I recommend calling before you head up there just to make sure the farm is open and it’s a good day for visiting.

update: I’ve heard from a few people that the above number for Pine O’ Mine isn’t a working number. I would stop by there when you’re in the area and if they aren’t open, I suggest checking out the Apple Hill Growers website for additional berry picking farms.

 

OTHER GREAT FARMS FOR BERRY PICKING:

Rainbow Camino Ridge Blueberry Patch located at 2010 Snows Road, Camino, CA 95709. Phone No. (530) 644-1594

Bolster’s Hilltop Ranch Farm located at 2000 Larsen Dr, Camino, CA 95709. Phone No. (530) 644-2230

 

WHEN: June and July

WHAT TO BRING:

You don’t need much. Most farms have buckets available for you to put your picked blueberries in and have containers for you to bring home your picked berries. If you’re coming up from the valley, it’s generally a little cooler in the foothills so you may want to bring a light sweater. Wear jeans, tennis shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. I also pack a basket along with mesh produce bags so I don’t have to take home disposable containers but it isn’t necessary.

If you’re making a day of blueberry picking and want to explore the area a little, here are my local favorites:

BOEGER WINERY

Just down the road from Pine ‘O Mine is Boeger Winery that has an amazing tasting room, along with space to walk around and explore the winery, grass for the kids to play on and picnic benches to have a snack and take a breather on.

Boeger Winery is located at 1709 Carson Rd, Placerville, CA 95667 

BOA VISTA ORCHARDS

Boa Vista is a few minutes drive from Pine O’ Mine and Boeger Winery and it’s a great stop for local, seasonal produce and pantry staples like dried beans, jams, salad dressings, honey, marinades and unique sauces. I personally like to stop at Boa Vista for warm apple donuts that they offer in their bakery year round.

Boa Vista Orchards is located at 2952 Carson Road, Placerville, CA 95667

Z PIE

One of my favorite and easy places to stop for lunch or an early dinner after blueberry picking is Z Pie serving gourmet pot pies and artisan salads. They have a casual dinning room to eat there or you can also get the pies to go – either heated up or frozen. I usually buy a couple frozen pies to throw in my freezer for a rainy day.

Z Pie is located at 3182 Center St., Placerville CA, 95667 

THE FARM TABLE

One of my favorite little stops in Apple Hill WAS Smokey Ridge Charcuterie and Farm Stand. Smokey Ridge offered the best locally produced specialty meats, sausages, preserves, had amazing apples in the fall and delicious picnic style lunches from their farm stand.

I was so sad to go by last fall and see that they only offering apples at the time and had discontinued their other products. However, I was told they the charcuterie chef had gone on to open The Farm Table and – friends – it does not disappoint. You can take a peek at their menu here.

Also, while researching for this guide, I found out that The Farm Table offers a CSA like membership box called Our Gourmet Club that is offered 4-6 times a year and includes sausages, pates, specialty meats, preserves, wine, and other seasonal goodies and a separate Seasonal Sausage Club package offers several different types of hand made sausages (4 times per year). I think I know what I’m asking for, for Christmas 😉

The Farm Table is located at 311 Main St, Placerville, CA 95667

When you’re done eating and drinking your way through the area, you can stretch your legs walking and stopping into the little locally owned shops along Main Street in Placerville. My favorite stop is Placerville Hardware, which is the oldest hardware store in Northern California and the oldest general store west of the Mississippi.

It is packed from floor to ceiling with anything and everything you can think of. From clothes lines, oil cloth, cast iron pots and pans, to any and every hardware thing you would ever need. Honestly, you can spend hours poking around in there. I’ve done it a time or two!

Placerville Hardware is located at 441 Main Street, Placerville, CA 95667 

Valentine’s Day + Naturally Colored Blush Pink Icing

Naturally Colored Blush Pink Valentine's Day Icing

I’m personally not super into Valentine’s Day. It always feels like such a forced day to me. Every year I declare that I’m not going to participate and inevitably the day or two before, I have a flash of inspiration for little gift ideas and give in. This year was no exception. This morning I woke up thinking that I should decorate some cookies for a busy day of meetings tomorrow. Which lead me to remember seeing plain heart sugar cookies being sold at my local bakery, which then lead me to think that I could make a quick icing for them, package them up and hand them out tomorrow.

I stopped off at my local bakery during my morning errands, picked up the cookies, came home and rummaged through my cupboard only to find out that I was out of my vegetable based food coloring and I had no interest in running to the store. Crap. Now what? I’d been seeing a big trend on Instagram lately to naturally color baked goods with beet juice. It’s a creative idea but I don’t like the taste of beets and because I don’t eat them, didn’t have them in the house. I started going through my pantry for another creative idea and found a bottle of tart cherry juice. Eureka! The deep red color of the juice lead me to believe it could work so I started experimenting. To one cup powdered sugar, I wisked in the cherry juice one tablespoon at a time until I got to the desired thickness of icing. For me I liked the ratio of 1 cup powdered sugar to 3 tablespoons of tart cherry juice. The color came out less intense than the beet juice icing but I actually like how the tart cherry juice creates more of a blush pink and the juice adds a slight cherry flavor as well.

Naturally Colored Blush Pink Valentine's Day Icing

The process:

I laid the pre bought sugar cookies out on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath and drizzled the icing using my whisk that I used to mix the icing with (you can also use a fork dipped into the icing) over the cookies in a free form, Jackson Pollack way. You could be more precise if you wanted and pipe the icing on with a pastry bag but I didn’t have the patience or time for that today. I also experimented with dipping the cookies in the icing, laying on the cooling rack to let the excess drip off and that worked as well.

Let the icing set for a few hours before packaging up, I find the longer the better. I made these this morning and will package up tonight when I make dinner.

A few notes:

The next time I do this, I will reduce the cherry juice to get a more deeply colored syrup to color the icing.

If you are out of powdered sugar, you can blend 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor or Vitamix until the sugar is the same consistency of powdered sugar.

If you don’t have beet or tart cherry juice around, don’t run to the store. See what you have. If I had been out of juice, I would have used frozen raspberries by boiling them in a sauce pan with a splash of water until cooked, quickly blended in my Vitamix and pressed through a sieve to make a raspberry sauce that I would have added a tablespoon at a time instead. Be creative!

Naturally Colored Blush Pink Icing

one cup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tart cherry juice

Instructions

  • Measure powdered sugar into a small mixing bowl. Using a small whisk, add tart cherry juice (or another naturally red colored juice of your choice) one tablespoon at a time to powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you need for your project.

Notes

If you are out of powdered sugar, you can blend 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor or Vitamix until the mixture is the same consistency of powdered sugar.

If you don't have beet or tart cherry juice around, don't run to the store. See what you have. If I had been out of juice, I would have used frozen raspberries by boiling them in a sauce pan with a splash of water until cooked, quickly blended in my Vitamix and pressed through a sieve to make a raspberry sauce that I would have added a tablespoon at a time instead. Be creative!

http://www.caracrowley.com/naturally-colored-icing/

How to make naturally colored blush pink icing

 

 

Mixed Berry + Peach Pie

Mixed Berry + Peach Pie

One Pie

Mixed Berry + Peach Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk combined with a splash of water or heavy cream to make an egg wash
  • Sugar to sprinkle over egg wash before baking
  • 1 double pie crust or packaged pre made pie crust, I like Immaculate Baking Co.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine vanilla sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Prep peaches by peeling and slicing thinly and combine with vanilla sugar, cornstarch and salt mixture along with the berries you are using; let sit for 15 minutes. If using your own pie crust, lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface and roll out half the dough to a 12-inch round. Place in a 9-inch glass pie plate and brush with egg wash. Pour in fruit filling.
  • Roll out remaining dough to a 12-inch round and place over fruit filling. Trim excess and crimp edges to seal. Brush egg wash over the top of dough and dust with sugar. With pairing knife, cut several small slits on top to vent. Set on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, about an hour. (Tent loosely with foil if crust browns too quickly. Let pie cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours.
http://www.caracrowley.com/mixed-berry-peach-pie/

Mixed Berry + Peach Pie Recipe

Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s starting to feel like fall here in Northern California. Let the baking and comfort food commence!

I recently saw these pumpkin muffins with dark chocolate chips on Everyday Reading and mentally filed it away until I needed a quick fall treat.

Fast forward to tonight when I realized I was supposed to bring something to a morning meeting tomorrow. I was tired and didn’t want to spend a long time making something so I was in luck that these muffins take just a few minutes to mix together and by using an ice cream scoop to quickly divide the batter into muffin tins, I was done in about five minutes from start to finish.

I made a few changes and substitutions from the original recipe, the biggest swap that I made was to swap out the 1/2 cup of oil out or a 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. The applesauce keeps the batter moist as well as drastically cut the calorie count and ups the fiber in this recipe. See my tips below on how to use applesauce in place of oil in baking recipes.

Image Credit | Everyday Reading

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce*
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line your muffin tin with squares of parchment paper or parchment paper cupcake liners and set aside.
  • Whisk together the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and applesauce until smooth.
  • I used my Kitchenaid mixer but this batter is really easy to mix by hand if you don’t have a mixer or don’t want want to go through the trouble of getting your mixer out.
  • Pour the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and spices on top of the wet ingredients and then whisk until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips just until combined (don’t overmix).
  • Divide between the muffin tins and bake, about 25 minutes, or until the tops are lightly-browned and spring back when you press them gently with your finger.
  • Let cool for a few minutes then remove from the muffin tins. Serve warm.

Notes

You can also substitute dried cranberries for the dark chocolate chips.

*I used a ratio of 1:1 to substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in most muffin, quick bread recipes like banana bread and cakes like spice, gingerbread or chocolate cakes to make recipes healthier.

http://www.caracrowley.com/dark-chocolate-chip-pumpkin-muffins-2/

Dark Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

8 Cups

Homemade Granola

I try to always have client gifts on hand at all times. These gifts range between fresh flowers cut from my garden, to homemade cookies, to homemade granola and even fresh tomato tarts when I am overloaded with fresh garden tomatoes in the summertime. My clients invite me into their homes on a daily basis and I try to never to arrive empty handed. Recently, I made a large batch of granola that I packaged up and brought with me to my client meetings. Granola is one of my favorite things to make, or I guess I should say assemble since there really isn't any cooking involved. It's simple to create a big batch of it and for me it comes out differently every time since I use more of a ratio formula to use up what I have in my cupboard instead of a rigid recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 cups chopped nuts ~ I've used pecans, walnuts and even pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups dried, chopped fruit ~ I've used dried cherries, cranberries, raisins
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup good, local honey
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Instructions

  • Toss the oats, coconut, chopped nuts, and chopped dried fruit together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture. (To prevent the honey from sticking to the measuring cup, I measure my oil first and then the honey, the honey will slide right out of the measuring cup. I promise) Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the honey and oil. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then package into bakery bags for gifts or an airtight container for your pantry.
http://www.caracrowley.com/homemade-granola-2/

How to make homemade granola

DIY | Pumpkin Pie Spice

Fall has officially arrived in my part of the world and that means that it’s time for fall baking.  Some of my recipes call for pumpkin pie spice, which I refuse to buy at the grocery store because it’s expensive and I already have all the ingredients in my pantry and it takes about 60 seconds to mix up some of your very own that you can use all season long.

Spices you’ll need:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

DIY | Pumpkin Pie Spice

Gather and measure out your spices

DIY | Pumpkin Pie Spice

Mix them together and and store in a spice jar.

DIY | Pumpkin Pie Spice

I use this spice mixture for pumpkin pies but also in my morning oatmeal, homemade granola and pumpkin smoothies throughout the fall.

 

Homemade Brown Sugar

Did you know that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added to it? I’ve often run out of brown sugar while baking and instead of running mid recipe to the store, I usually mix up a quick batch since I always seem to have granulated white sugar and molasses in my pantry. I actually thinks it makes a much more flavorful brown sugar than store bought and I like that I can control the amount of molasses added to the sugar. If you need dark brown sugar, just add more molasses to your granulated white sugar.

Homemade Brown Sugar

The only two ingredients that you will need are granulated white sugar and molasses.

I like using the ratio of 1 cup sugar to 2 tablespoons molasses.

You can add more or less depending on how light or dark you like your brown sugar.

Homemade Brown Sugar

Combine sugar and molasses in mixing bowl with whisk attachment.

Homemade Brown Sugar

Mix sugar and molasses together for 5 minutes at medium/high speed.

Homemade Brown Sugar

Keep mixing.  Don’t be tempted to stop mixing too soon.

Homemade Brown Sugar

At the end of five minutes you will have fresh, fluffy brown sugar that can be used in any recipe.

Homemade Brown Sugar
Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag.