“I really am a smoothie person. I love making a morning smoothie and then will drink some coffee and will not eat at all before lunch.”—Gwyneth Paltrow
“From salad dressings all blessings flow.”—Paul Newman
Depending upon where you live in North America, blackberry season may have come and gone, or you are still anticipating the berry-ful bounty of blackberries. In fact, our family spent the weekend, one year, at Canaan Valley, WV, in late July, when blackberries were just coming into season, well past the time they would have been available back home. Additionally, I can recall visiting PEI and New Brunswick, Canada, during July, but during different years, and sadly learning that local blackberries would not be available until mid- to late August, well past the time of our respective vacations.
Why do I love blackberries so much? Perhaps, it is because it links me to childhood summer memories. Ironically though, I would have never eaten a raw blackberry, much less my Grandmother Helen’s family beloved blackberry cobbler as a child! I did, however, love the smell of the fresh berries as Papaw brought them into the house; the stories he would tell of the wars he waged with insects, heat, and thorns; and, I loved the way family, from as far away as Texas, would visit Grandmother’s house every July for a piece of that delicious smelling, warm cobbler topped with ice cream that slowly seeped into nooks, crannies, and crevices–creating a purple pool of creaminess that made my relatives, especially those ever-so-cool older cousins, smile and laugh as they teased Grandmother good-naturedly.
It wasn’t until I was a “mature” first year teacher, living with my Grandparents, that I came to try, and ultimately love blackberries. Moving in with my grandparents at the ripe old age of 21 was, at the time, a challenge; however, now, I look back on that time period with great fondness. While I do have certain regrets about this period of my life, I appreciate the love, security, and flexibility my grandparents provided me during those early adult years.
While Papaw was not an adventurous eater, Grandmother and I shared our love of exploring new foods with one another. In fact, it was seated in her kitchen where I would learn to eat foods that I had never before touched as a child. Maybe it was those Kentucky cooking skills she enthusiastically wanted to share with me, or perhaps it was all of the wonderful smells that filled her kitchen, day in and day out. Then again, maybe I just opened my mind, and, consequently, my taste buds. Whatever it is was, I learned to love blackberry cobbler, and, a whole host of other traditional, and no-where-near traditional, Kentucky (think Appalachian) foods, thanks, in large part, to Helen, my grandmother. From green bean casserole to broccoli casserole; from sliced and salted summer tomatoes (always beefsteak) to good ol’ half-runner green beans cooked with some form of pork; and, from stir-fried veggies and rice (I purchased a wok while living with my grandparents.) to rice cakes spread with natural, freshly ground peanut butter (at the newfangled nut-butter grinder located inside a fancy, newly opened Kroger grocery), topped with a bit of locally made sorghum; Grandmother and I ate and sampled, in our minds anyway, great food.
Two food items Grandmother never made were smoothies and salad dressings. In fact, it has only been in the past couple of years that I have started experimenting with creating these items. That said, I know if I had been creating smoothies and/or salad dressings in Grandmother’s kitchen, she would have been right there, in her designated kitchen chair, watching me work, asking me questions, and ready to be the first one to taste each new creation. Even now, there are numerous times that I think of Helen as I go about experimenting in my own kitchen and wish she were still around to sample, advise, and, of course, enjoy right along with me.
Grandmother Helen would have loved trying both my blackberry smoothie and salad dressing.
I can hear her, in my mind’s ear, “Oh, Stethie, that looks good! What did you put it in?” Furthermore, in my mind’s eye, I can see her tasting both of these recipes, rolling that first taste around her tongue to get all the flavors as she muttered, “Hmm . . .” and then, smiling at me, teeth purple from the blackberries and eyes radiating with both love and joy—one foodie to another– “Maybe I’ll have just a little bit more of that, Stethie, but not too much.”
And, I’d probably retort, good-naturedly, “Grandmother, do you want a small portion, or a Grandmother-Helen-size “small” portion?” Then, we’d both have a good laugh, she’d allow me to serve her, and then we’d sit diagonally from one another–at that table with it’s red checked table cloth– and savor our food together.
The following recipes are fairly flexible and can be altered based upon your preferred tastes and textures. Play around with ingredients, amounts, as well as combinations. Make these recipes your own.
From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, homemade meals as well as wonderful food memories!
Blackberry Bliss Smoothie
(Serves 1, but can easily be doubled or even tripled)
1-cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
1-cup liquid (milk or plant milk, pomegranate juice, or water)
2 medjool dates (pitted), or ½ banana, or ½ cup peaches, mango, or another type of berry
½ cup frozen riced cauliflower (my secret way to sneak in veggies early into the day)
½ teaspoon vanilla
Optional Add-ins: protein powder, nut butter, and/or 1 tablespoon of the following: chia seeds, flax seeds, or hemp hearts
In a high-speed blender, add in ½ -cup liquid of choice.
Add in blackberries, fruit of choice, cauliflower, and vanilla.
Add any optional ingredients.
Top off with rest of liquid.
Blend until smooth.
Serve immediately, or store in a container for up to 3 days in refrigerator.
Shake well before drinking a smoothie that has been stored.
Berrylicious Blackberry Vinaigrette
(Makes enough 2-4 individual salads, and can easily be doubled, if desired.
1 medjool date (pitted)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2-4 tablespoons water (depending upon desired thickness)
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ – ½ teaspoon (or more) of salt free seasoning, i.e. Mrs. Dash
¼ teaspoon salt, optional
¼ teaspoon onion powder, optional
**If you’d like the mouthfeel, and/or taste of a fat, add-in 1-2 tablespoons cashew butter, tahini, or a quality olive oil.
In a high-speed blender, place in all ingredients.
Blend until well smooth.
Check thickness and water accordingly.
Serve immediately over a fresh green salad, and/or store unused portion in refrigerator.