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Berries are nature’s candy. There is nothing better than biting into a handful of the sweetest, ripest and juiciest of summer’s bounties — the berry. Berries are so delectable and favored in our house, that my son refers to them as dessert and has, on many occasions, passed on ice cream or a cookie in favor of a juicy crimson-fleshed strawberry (his favorite.)  Not only are they delicious but — wait for it — they pack a wallop when it comes to nutrition. That is, if you eat organic.

Why Berries Kick A@#!

Berries are one of the Superfoods (do they get a cape?), those foods so nutritionally superior that adding them to your diet can do amazing things, like keep free radicals at bay, battle cancer, and slow down the aging process. How does a sweet little berry do this? Because some of them, like raspberries and blueberries are loaded with antioxidants.

Blueberries in fact, have been shown to slow down neurological degeneration and both berries contain ellagic acid — a cancer fighting compound, that helps keep free radicals from damaging your cells. Not only that but they are full of fiber and vitamin C as well as calcium, magnesium and manganese. Just one cup of berries is around 8 grams of fiber.

These berries have a high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value, a scientific measurement of the antioxidant power of a food. Raspberries have been found to rate at 5,065, with wild blueberries rating at 9,621 — conventional berries are about half that. If you’re eating conventionally produced berries, you’ll also be bellying up to high concentrations of pesticide (not my favorite thing to load my kid up on!) That’s why I opt for fresh organic berries in the summer and frozen organic berries the rest of the year.

Let’s Have a BerryFeast!

When Whole Foods Markets approached me and asked if I’d like to throw a berry party for me and my friends,  I, of course, said Yes! They supplied the berries and other ingredients of my choice and I got to come up with a nice array of berry dishes. Some I peppered throughout the month on here, serving up Sour Cherry and Sour Cream Milkshakes, Easy Frozen Blackberry Pops, Summer Strawberry Chicken Salad with Hazelnuts and moist and fluffy Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins.

I even whipped up a from-scratch New York Style Cheesecake using a beauty of a recipe from Epicurious which I adapted by using gluten-free graham cracker cookies by Kinnikinnick from Whole Foods and omitting the lemon and zest and replacing it with 2 tsp of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla and then topped with fresh organic strawberries, lining them up like little slivers of hearts for a sweet treat on Father’s Day!

Finally, the day of the backyard BBQ at my sweet friend Margo’s house (her house is MUCH bigger than mine and she has a fabulously HUGE yard) nevermind that in Portland, even in late June you CANNOT count on the weather to cooperate — we BBQ’d and Berry’d out, even in the rain. Margo and her mother sweetly put together a yummy grilled feast for us all:  BBQ chicken legs, two kinds of pasta salad (a Greek gluten-free pasta with olives, tomatoes and feta) and a bow tie fresh pesto pasta salad and beautifully caramelized, grilled asparagus — Yum!

I was in charge of dessert — and drinks! Well, mostly — Margo whipped up some lovely “Crema — “Italian Custard Cream” from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan which she adapted by omitting the lemon peel and instead soaked freshly cracked cardamom seeds in the milk for about a day beforehand and then added rum. “I don’t know how much rum — more than a dash–I’d describe it as a pour.”  To which I added my Mixed Berry Gazpacho with Basil (from this month’s Bon Appetit recipe by Michael Laiskonis) — the pairing of these two dishes was phenomenal (the basil, olive oil and pepper added a wonderfully rich complexity to the dish that is not to be missed!) and the Crema tasted like a beautifully executed panna cotta, sans gelatin. Thanks Margo!

Strawberry cream puff.

The other dish I made was Strawberry Shortcake Cream Puffs with Rose Water and Honey — these were devoured just moments after I placed them on the table — a clear hit!

Lastly, and of course, not least, I shook up a big Mason jar of fresh blueberry Mojitos. The Mojito recipe I use is my favorite from AllRecipes — with the addition of crushed wild mini blueberries and full size fresh blueberries for garnish. I also make a simple syrup instead of granulated sugar in which I soak lime peel and mint leaves for an extra refreshing punch of citrus and mint. These were not only deliciously thirst quenching but beautifully colored as well.

It was a BBQ and a Berry Fest to remember.  Thanks to Margo, Justin, Tula, Leslie, Conrad, Juno and Todd for joining in the cooking, planning and/or eating of the feast and thanks to Whole Foods for making it all possible!

I hope you enjoy the Cream Puff Shortcakes and the links to all the other berrylicious recipes we enjoyed that day!

Strawberry Creams Puffs with Rose Water and Honey

Use my Choux Pastry recipe at the end of the Emeril Lagasse Artichoke Soup with Oysters post to bake up the golden puffed up pastry that will cradle this simple berry preparation, then add a dollop of fresh whipped cream. The rose-water and honey is a an old friend of mine. I often eat a dish of strawberries with just a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of rose-water — together it’s a trinity unparalleled. I always say it’s something that the Gods of Greek Mythology must have eaten high on Mt. Olympus.

  • 2 lbs fresh organic strawberries, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Raw, Wild Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Rose Water

Stir all the ingredients together, adjusting rose water and honey to tastes and depending on the ripeness of your berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve at least 1 hour.

Right before serving, split the pastry, fill with a nice heaping of strawberry mixture and a generous dollop of freshly whipped organic heavy cream (no sugar necessary.) Do not fill these ahead of time because the filling is much too juicy and the pastry too delicate to last more than a few minutes, during which they are eaten, before becoming soggy.

This month Whole Foods is featuring Cherries and giving away a WHOLE CASE OF CHERRIES as part of their Cherry Fest. Just visit their blog and comment on what you’d do with all those cherries for your chance to win! (I know, I did.)

Disclaimer: As a sponsor of this blog, Whole Foods provided ingredients free of charge in order to facilitate these recipes. No monetary compensation was received for my opinions — they are, as always, truthfully my own.