Monday, June 25, 2012


Right now, it's hard to go anywhere in New Bern and not see blueberries.  The Farmer's Market has locally grown blueberries from several farms.  Prices range from $3.00 to $3.50 per pint.  Last week, I found organic blueberries at Harris Teeter, usually $4.99 per pint, marked 2/$3.00, and they were fresh. Wal-Mart has some good prices on blueberries, but they're not as fresh as I would like.

The best overall price for day-to-day shopping in New Bern is at the Lowe's Blvd. stand.  They're selling Nelson's blueberries 2/$5.00, and he's having a hard time keeping them in stock.  If you want some, better go early.  (Please note that Nelson's does use pesticides.)

If you stock up on blueberries and have too many, you can always freeze some for later.  It's easy:  just put the pint container in a freezer bag and freeze.  Never rinse blueberries before freezing!  When you're ready to use the blueberries, take out the amount you want, dump them into a strainer and rinse under cool water.  Blueberries don't stick together in the freezer and the quality of the berry doesn't change much.  They don't get terribly mushy the way strawberries do.

If you want some good blueberry desserts, I've collected some of my best recipes for you.
Lemon Blueberry Cheese Tart,  

Blueberry Swirl-Lemon Shortbread Bars, 

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars, 

Cook's Illustrated Blueberry Pie, 

Bon Appetit's Blueberry Sour Cream Pie, 

Blueberry-Raspberry Crumb Pie, 

Wholegrain Blueberry Cobbler, 

Blueberry-Coconut Muffins with Pecan Streusel Topping, 

America's Test Kitchen Blueberry Muffins, 

King Arthur Flour's Classic Blueberry Muffins, 

Buttermilk Berry Muffins

 and Limoncello Apple-Blueberry Pie  -- 

these are all recipes that I've tried and given top ratings.  Click on this link to find all the recipes.  Well, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


New Bern is a Pepsi town, a fact I discovered in 1992 during our first visit.  We went for lunch at the Chelsea Restaurant downtown and I ordered a Coke.  "We only serve Pepsi here," was the waitress' reply.  Then I spied the huge Pepsi mural on the wall behind the bar, painted by the now-deceased and much-revered New Bern artist, WillieTaglieri.  A 1984 postcard immortalized this beautiful painting.

The reason we're a Pepsi town is simple:  it was invented here.  Created and developed in 1898 and introduced as "Brad's Drink", it was later renamed as Pepsi-Cola on June 16, 1903, then to Pepsi in 1961. 

In honor of Caleb Bradham's creation, I've developed a recipe for barbecued chicken and ribs using Pepsi.

The BBQ sauce is sweet and spicy with mild vinegar undertones and a perfect balance of flavors.  It pairs nicely with my rub to make a succulent BBQ dinner.  There's a bit of work involved here, but the good news is you can start ahead of time by making the BBQ sauce and rub a week or more ahead of time.  You can also rub the chicken and ribs two nights ahead, and roast them both the next day and refrigerate overnight.  Then, the day of your BBQ feast, all you have to do is put the pieces on the grill with the BBQ sauce for the final cooking.  Why not give this a try for the upcoming 4th of July?

Pepsi-Cola BBQ-Sauced Chicken and Ribs
Rating:  9 out of 10

Pepsi BBQ Sauce:
1-1/2 tsp. garlic, grated
1/8 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or table salt
1-1/2 cups Pepsi
1/4 tsp. dry powdered mustard
1/4 tsp. Grey Poupon
3/4 cups ketchup
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
1-1/2 tsp. McCormick's hot New Mexico chili powder (or 1-3/4 tsp. chili powder)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Louisiana hot sauce
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2-1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

In small saucepan, combine all ingredients except lime juice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 45 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Stir in lime juice.  Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper and/or hot sauce, as desired.  (Can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)

Chicken and Ribs:
2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or table salt
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. Mexican oregano, crushed
2 tsp. chipotle chile powder

1 rack of Baby Back Ribs
1 whole chicken cut up, or 2-1/2 to 3 lbs. of chicken pieces 
(If chicken is no-water-added, it should be brined for one hour first in a solution of  1/4 cup salt and 2 Tbsp. honey or sugar to 1 quart of water plus garlic and any herbs of choice.)

In small bowl, combine salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, oregano and chile powder.  Blot chicken and ribs well with paper towels to remove all excess moisture.  Lay chicken pieces on large baking sheet.  Lay whole slab of ribs on another baking sheet.  Sprinkle each with rub; turn over and sprinkle underside with rub.  Use up all the rub.  Cover each baking sheet with plastic wrap well and refrigerate at least 5 hours, or, preferably, overnight.

Remove plastic wrap from ribs.  Pour 1/2 cup water or chicken broth into pan; cover with tinfoil.  Place in 325F oven for about 2 hours, or till tender.  

Remove plastic wrap from chicken.  Pour 1/2 cup water or chicken broth in pan; cover with tinfoil.  Place pan in 325F oven and bake 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake additional 20 to 30 minutes, or till tender.  

Meats can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated a day ahead, if desired.

In the meantime, heat a gas grill to 400-425F.  Cut ribs into pieces.  Pour some sauce into a small bowl, reserving some for serving.  Oil the grates well and place ribs and chicken on hot grill.  Cover grill lid and cook about 5 minutes.  Baste with sauce.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Turn pieces over.  Baste with sauce.  Cook 5 minutes.  Repeat so that both sides are basted twice.  Transfer to serving platter and serve with extra sauce.  Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Several months ago, I met a fellow food blogger from Raleigh, Pat Palmer.  Pat, a tried and true Southern gal, was in New Bern for the antique show and looked me up after having found my blog while surfing.  We spent a few enjoyable hours together, chatting away about food and blogging.

Pat has her own blog, "Gadding About with Grandpat."  Though I don't visit it as often as I would like, it's a good read.  When I posted about Southern Living's Swoon Pies, Pat left me a comment that it was serendipity because she, at almost the same time, was posting about moon pies.  It's a small blogging world, after all.  Check out Pat's post on moon pies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Coming from the Northeast, I had heard of whoopie pies (origin Pennsylvania, or perhaps New England, depending on which story you believe).  Moon pies, though, were a new one on me.  Southern Living's February 2012 issue brought me up to speed on one of the South's most beloved sweet treats.  But they decided to put their own S'more's twist on moon pies, by making a graham cracker cookie sandwiched with marshmallow filling, then dipped in melted chocolate and chopped nuts.  The photo (above) looked so inviting -- so "swoon" worthy -- that I decided to make them.

Southern Living insisted the swoon pies, like the original moon pies, paired well with an RC cola, but I passed on that idea.  While I was swooning over the swoon pies, a friend came over.  Originally from the deep South, he said he was transported back to his childhood, when he and his friends ate moon pies and swigged down RC colas.  I'm not recommending anyone repeat that tradition, as there's plenty of sugar in these delightful cookies without the added cola.

These cookies are amazing and well worth the trouble of making them.  I wrapped up the leftovers individually in plastic wrap and froze them.  Thank you, Southern Living, for another great recipe.

Swoon Pies
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine, February 2012
Rating:  10 out of 10

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Diamond kosher salt, or table salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia + 2 Tbsp. sugar)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used my homemade extract.)
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream (I used plain non-fat Greek yogurt)
Parchment paper
Marshmallow filling (recipe follows)
6 oz. (about 1/2 pkg.) semisweet chocolate morsels
2 tsp. shortening (I used butter)
Toppings:  chopped roasted salted pecans, chopped crystallized ginger, sea salt

Heat oven to 350F.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl; stir in graham cracker crumbs.

Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with paddle attachment of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beating until blended.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream (or yogurt), beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat at low speed until blended after each addition, stopping to scrape bowl as needed.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake at 350F 13-15 minutes or until set and bottoms are golden brown.  Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Make Marshmallow Filling:  Beat 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter with electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, beating well.  Add 1 cup marshmallow creme and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Beat until well blended.

Turn 12 cookies over, bottom sides up.  Spread each with 1 heaping tablespoonful Marshmallow Filling.  Top with remaining 12 cookies, bottom sides down, and press gently to spread filling to edges.  Freeze on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet 30 minutes, or until filling is set.

Pour water to depth of 1 inch in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer; place chocolate and shortening (or butter) in a medium-size heatproof bowl over simmering water.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until melted.  Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove cookies from freezer, and let stand 10 minutes.

Dip half of each cookie sandwich into melted chocolate mixture.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with desired toppings and freeze 10 minutes or until chocolate is set.  Cookie sandwiches may be covered with plastic wrap and stored in fridge up to 24 hours.  Or wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap and place in freeze container for longer storage.