Blueberries in Gloucester

When a friend first gave me her recipe for blueberry crisp, I had never heard of Annisquam. For some reason, I thought Annisquam was some place up in Maine.

It’s not – Annisquam is a beautiful waterfront village in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We visited one of its private beaches with friends on a beautiful summer day.


The next day, I realized where I’d heard the word before … in the title of one of my favorite recipes.

I’ve made Annisquam Blueberry Crisp with fresh blueberries in August and with frozen ones in January. I’ve made it with wheat flour and with gluten-free flour. Though the texture may vary slightly depending on the type of flour, it’s always yummy. The port is the secret ingredient.



Annisquam Blueberry Crisp

4 cups blueberries (or two 10-oz packages frozen, thawed)
1/4 cup ruby port
3/4 cup sifted gluten-free flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Combine blueberries and port in a well-buttered, 1 quart baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Add butter, cut into bits and blend until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the blueberries and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Serves 6 to 8

How to Make a Christmas Baby Feel Special

Do you know anyone who was born on Christmas Day?

I do, and my mother, Marialyce (aka Rusty), is one of them. Maybe that’s why she made such an effort to make birthdays such a celebration for her children. Because December 25th was never just her birthday. As a child, her parents put a candle on a mincemeat pie for her birthday cake, and many of her gifts were combined Christmas and birthday presents.


I started making birthday cakes for Mom with an Easy Bake Oven some time around age 6 or 7. After a molasses cake was a flat fiasco, I turned to Mom’s Julia Child cookbooks. For years, I made an orange chocolate cake with mocha frosting (Le Glorieux with Chocolate-Butter Icing, which just happens to be gluten free). A few years later, we began separating the occasions; opening up Christmas presents in the morning and birthday presents with cake in the evening.

Although she planned parties for many, birthday parties for Mom were few over her lifetime (she could count them on one hand). So when she turned 75, we decided to surprise her.

That Christmas, Mom and her husband planned a visit to my sister’s home in Alabama for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, my husband, our two kids and I flew into town, rented a car, and drove to my sister’s house. Posing as carolers, we rang the door bell about 9:30 pm. As we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” my sister called Mom to come see the Christmas carolers. As she came into view, we switched to “Happy Birthday” and watched her smile changed from delight to incredulity.

I’ll never forget that Christmas and what fun it was to surprise her. We’ve all heard that sometimes it’s better to give then receive, and that year, it definitely was.

Merry Christmas! Or should I say, “Happy Birthday!”?

Trip taken December 2004.

My Grandmother’s Apple Crisp Turned Gluten Free

Making apple crisp after picking apples in the country was a tradition I grew up with. Now, years later, I make a gluten-free crisp with apples I’ve picked in my home town.

Here’s my favorite recipe, adapted from the one my mom and my grandmother used to make.


4 medium, peeled, sliced, tart apples (Granny Smith or Cortland)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill quick gluten-free oats)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup softened butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a square baking pan. Place the apples in the pan. Combine the butter, flour, oats, and spices together into a crumbly mix. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake 30 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Making Tomato Confit

How do I prolong the fresh taste of sweet local tomatoes? A friend recently shared with me her recipe for tomato confit. Before the tomatoes are gone from your favorite local farm stands, check it out.

Tomato Confit

First, buy or pick a bunch of tomatoes (for this recipe, you’ll need a dozen), plus two heads of garlic, and fresh herbs, such as oregano, basil, or thyme. You’ll also need some coarse salt and some good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Tomato Confit Recipe


12 Roma tomatoes or small meaty tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or herb of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, sliced fine (optional)


Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bring a pan of water to a boil. With a sharp pairing knife, score tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a large bowl.

  1. Pour boiling water over tomatoes; let sit until skin is easily peeled, about 15 seconds. Drain tomatoes and cover with ice.
  2. Peel tomatoes when cool enough to handle. Halve lengthwise and place, cut-side up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt, pepper, thyme. optional garlic.
  3. Roast until tomatoes are dried halfway through, about 5 to 6 hours. Let stand until cool.
  4. Transfer tomatoes to a storage container; pour oil from baking sheet over the top. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.




Chiggers and Chokecherries and Jelly


For those of you who don’t live out west, and don’t live where the chokecherries grow, chokecherries are tiny berries with a big pit (relative to the size of the berry) and tart, but flavorful juice, good when made into jelly. I learned about chokecherries when I spent a summer in South Dakota as a teen.

With buckets in hand, we walked along the railroad tracks and along the Bad River searching for the tiny berries. It took awhile (at least in teenage time), but finally we had enough and stopped picking berries for a much needed swim. At home, my grandfather painted our chigger bites with nail polish to relieve the itch their tiny bites inspired.

We spent the next afternoon around the stove of our friend’s kitchen. I remember seeding the berries (that was a job!) and watching the big pot of bubbling juice. I remember skimming off the white foam and pouring the juice into the sterilized jars.

We brought jars of our chokecherry jelly home to California. Last summer, my brother discovered a jar of chokecherry jelly for sale at the general store in Custer State Park. He bought the jar and the memories it provoked back to California. I went home to Massachusetts and make Concord grape jelly instead.

If you live where the chokecherries grow, here’s a recipe to make your own jelly.

Chokecherry photo by Cindy Zackowitz licensed by CC under 2.0.

Eating Buffalo

When you’re traveling out west, in places like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and South Dakota, you’ll likely find buffalo burgers on just about every menu. Some places offer beef burgers as well, but when I’m in cowboy country, I usually opt for a burger made from the American bison. That’s right, a buffalo burger.


Why? They’re leaner, healthier, tastier and just a little different than a burger made from beef. Buffalo burgers are lower in fat and lower in calories, and higher in protein, iron, and vitamin B-12.

Although at once near extinction, (there were less than 300 in North America in the early 20th century), the American bison has made a come back, now numbering about half a million, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. There are now several  ranches and farms in North America’s west that raise the animal specifically for consumption.

Check out this recipe, if you want to try making buffalo burgers at home. (You should be able to find the ground meat next to the natural beef at your local supermarket.) Just don’t forget to wear your cowboy hat!

Buffalo Burger Recipe, Bison Burger Recipe | Simply Recipes.

When Can You Eat Pie for Breakfast?

When we’re on vacation, sometimes our healthy diets go on vacation, too. So, when I discovered the Purple Pie Place in Custer, South Dakota, I knew we were destined to go at least once. And we did, but not just once …

Finding the Purple Pie Place in downtown Custer was easy. We just looked for the only bright purple building on the main street.

Purple Pie Place

The Purple Pie Place is locally famous for its bumbleberry pie; a blend of berries, such as: blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, plus apples and rhubarb. But they offer other pies as well: apple, peach, cherry, rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, blackberry, blueberry, peanut butter, raspberry rhubarb jalapeño and a cream pie of the day. While the pie selection does not include any of the gluten-free variety, there is an ice cream bar for the gluten-free intolerant.

We ate our bumbleberry pie a la mode. The crust was flaky, the filling bursting with the flavors of different fruits all bumbled together. The pie was so good that we ate it for dessert one night, for dinner another night and another time for breakfast before we left the Black Hills.

Bumbleberry Pie

If you’re interested in going, the Purple Pie Place is located at 19 Mount Rushmore Road in Custer, South Dakota, just 13 miles from Jewel Cave National Monument (see related blog post).

If you won’t be visiting South Dakota in the near future, try making your own.

Bumbleberry Pie Filling Recipe (from
Makes 1 pie


2 pie crusts

2 cups apples – peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon tapioca
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoon water


In a large bowl, combine apples, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and lemon jiuice. Mix together sugar, flour, and tapioca. Gently toss with fruit mixture. Spoon into your favorite home made or store bought pie crust. Cover with top crust. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water). Cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to vent. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until filling is bubbly in center and top is golden brown. Trip taken July 2013.