Delicious/Nutritious: Cooling off with blueberries
Blueberries are available year round, and, like strawberries, these little beauties are typically a sign of summer. Juicy and sweet when fresh, they’re the perfect addition to pretty much anything at any meal.
“One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry…” the first line from one of my favorite children’s books, “Jamberry” by Bruce Degen.
When my son was just barely old enough to talk, I took him to Sonic for the first time and ordered him a lemonberry slush, which was the treatiest treat he’d ever had. I told him it was lemonberry, but in his 2-year-old parlance, he heard “jamberry” after his beloved berry book. From then on, the occasional success or special day warranted a trip to Sonic for a “jamberry” and, thus, a tradition was born.
But I digress. I love blueberries. My kids love blueberries. We usually call them jamberries, and we like them fresh, frozen, in smoothies, in desserts, in salads and floating in our lemonades. I was all in when Sarah suggested blueberries for this month’s column, and immediately decided that I wanted to do something with the little gems that wasn’t specifically geared toward children, much as my children are fans.
What better plan than to make that jamberry slush into an adult beverage? Behold, the jamberry summer brew. As I mixed up the first batch as a “test batch” to enjoy on Saturday night by the pool, I also made myself a salad for dinner.
I was having a bachelorette dinner, as my husband and son were out camping, and that is one of the few occasions that just a salad will do. So I made the kind of salad I love, full of fresh garden vegetables (and a little bacon) and then I looked over and saw fresh blueberries sitting on my counter, and thought, “Why not?”
So I whipped up a batch of blueberry basil vinaigrette and plopped a few of those fresh bad boys atop my beautiful salad, and the blueberry garden salad was just right for a girlie dinner sans meat and potatoes.
This is summer. Eat it outside, alone, and try not to think about work or bills or anything hard. Just enjoy a summer brew and a garden-fresh salad and be happy for 15 minutes.
Jamberry Summer Brew
3/4 cup tequila
1/2 cup blueberry schnapps
1 Bud Light
12 oz 7 Up or Sprite (I use diet)
1/4 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup frozen blueberries plus 1/4 cup juice from the bag of blueberries
1 lemon, sliced, for garnish (just float them in the pitcher or slice them for the edge of the glass)
Makes 1 pitcher, enough for about six 12-ounce drinks on ice.
Blueberry Summer Dinner Salad
Start with fresh greens. I recommend a mix of arugula and spinach. Add your favorite summer fresh vegetables: I used sweet red peppers, peas, cucumber, green onions and tomatoes.
Add some protein (to make it a meal): I used a hard-boiled egg and some bacon pieces, but chicken would be nice, too. Add a little cheese. I used feta because I thought the salty taste would counterbalance the sweetness in the vinaigrette.
Blueberry Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
6 or 7 fresh basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon minced fresh garlic (more if it’s not fresh)
1 to 2 tablespoons of honey, depending on how sweet you like it
Dash of cayenne pepper (just a little; trust me on this)
Pinch of salt and pepper
Combine everything in a blender or food processor. I added a little water afterward to thin it to desired consistency.
Blueberries are one of those fruits you have to love not just on taste principal, but on sheer good-for-you-ness.
One cup of the little blue beauties has just 84 calories, with no fat, yet comes with 4 grams of fiber and supplies 24 percent of your daily value for vitamin C, 25 percent of your manganese and 36 percent of your vitamin K. Plus, they have less sugar than most fruits, coming in at 15 grams for that same cup.
They have so many positives it’s hard not to just love them all by themselves. Just washed and ready to eat. For me, usually that means enjoying them alone, but sometimes that also means thrown on top of salads, oatmeal, etc.
Because of this tendency, it honestly took a lot of thought for me to come up with a recipe that would use blueberries in a way where they weren’t either the (solo) main event or just garnish. I wanted to really incorporate them — a challenge for ol’ rut-loving me.
Which meant going double-duty.
So, what I created this month is at once both a fruity smoothie and a yummy ice pop. It can be enjoyed ASAP, straight for the blender, or in a few hours after hardening into the perfect icy treat on a lazy summer night.
Either way, a few plain berries as a chaser wouldn’t be the wrong way to go.
Blueberry-Mango Pops and/or Smoothie
2 mangoes, chopped
1 cup vanilla non-dairy milk (we used flax milk)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup blueberries
In a blender, combine all ingredients except a half cup of blueberries. Blend until smooth. Stir in remaining blueberries and then pour into ice pop molds and/or pour into a drinking glass for a smoothie. Either drink the smoothie immediately or freeze the pops according to the directions of your kit. Makes either two smoothies or a set of frozen ice pops, though the number of ice pops depends on the size of your kit. This recipe makes 5 to 6 pops in my kit.
Note: You could use regular milk for this recipe, but if you do, it will taste a bit different because of the lack of vanilla flavoring. You’re best off adding a splash of vanilla that’s been made without alcohol because the alcohol flavor won’t burn off, obviously, because this is being served room temperature or frozen.