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How to preserve fresh berries

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While having an abundance of fruit on hand is a happy problem to have, keeping your berries from going bad does present a challenge. Here are four great ways to preserve them.

1. Make jam. To turn your berries into jam, all you need is a pot, your fruits, some sugar and pectin. Make certain you properly seal your jars to ensure the jam’s safe to eat for up to a year. Homemade jams are perfect for spreading on toast or slathering over a bowl of ice cream.

2. Dehydrate them. Turn your oven into a dehydrator. Place berries on a baking sheet on the middle rack, and set your oven to the lowest heat possible. In a few hours, you’ll have dried berries to snack on, mix into trail mix or even bake with.

3. Make freezer jam. Freezer jam is thinner than the cooked variety, but tastes more like fresh berries. First crush the berries and then mix them with sugar and no-cook pectin (available at most grocery stores). Spoon the mixture into small jars and freeze it.

4. Freeze them. Having frozen berries on hand is great for making smoothies, oatmeal and baked goods all year round. You can also try them thawed and topped with heavy cream and maple syrup for a decadent dessert. Before freezing, lay them out in a single layer in a freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible.

These preserving methods will allow you to enjoy fresh berries long after the season has ended.

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Blueberry cheesecake lemon bars

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This decadent dessert combines the tang of blueberry and lemon with the creamy texture of cheesecake. It’s sure to be a showstopper.

Start to finish: 2.5 hours (30 minutes active)
Servings: 24 bars

Ingredients

Crust
• 1-1/3 cups flour
• 2/3 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/2 cup sugar

Lemon layer
• 3 eggs
• 1-1/2 cups sugar
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1/3 cup lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

Cheesecake layer
• 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Crumble
• 1 cup flour
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup butter, melted
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a 9 x 13-inch cake pan with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray and set aside.

2. To make the crust, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them by hand until you’ve achieved a crumbly texture. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and press it along the bottom using a spatula to make an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.

3. To make the lemon layer, combine the eggs and sugar in another bowl. Add the flour and mix well. Add the lemon juice and zest and incorporate it well. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes.

4. To make the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a third bowl until well combined. Add the egg and beat again. Add the sour cream, vanilla and lemon juice and stir to incorporate. Fold in the blueberries and set aside.

5. To make the crumble, combine all the ingredients in a fourth bowl and mix them until the crumble has the texture of wet sand.

6. Pour the cheesecake layer over the lemon layer and spread it out carefully with a spatula. Sprinkle the crumble over the cheesecake layer, making sure to cover it completely.

7. Bake for 60 minutes or until the cheesecake is firm. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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Breakfast: the best way to start your day

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You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but have you ever wondered why? Here are some benefits provided by eating a healthy breakfast.

Restore your energy
The time between dinner and breakfast tends to be the longest period that your body goes without fuel. Eating in the morning will help revive your brain and muscles and give you the push you need to go about your day. If you don’t eat breakfast, your body will draw on its energy reserves instead, which can increase your level of fatigue.

Improve your performance
Eating breakfast has a direct impact on your cognitive and physical performance throughout the day. Numerous studies from around the world indicate that eating a healthy breakfast improves academic performance and enhances hand-eye coordination.

Maintain your weight
Skipping breakfast makes it more likely that you’ll snack during the day and may consequently increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Plus, studies show that people who start the day with a healthy breakfast have an easier time losing weight and are less likely to be overweight in the first place.

Eating breakfast should be a daily habit. In addition to restoring your energy, improving your performance, and maintaining your weight, it makes it more likely that you’ll make healthy choices throughout the day.

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A guide to picking berries

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At this time of year, berries are abundant at grocery stores, markets, and farms. Here are some tips to help you pick the best ones in the bunch.

Blueberries
The skin of a perfectly ripe blueberry is dark blue or purple with no traces of red. The fruit should be firm and round without looking dried out. Large blueberries may be more attractive, but the smaller ones tend to have more flavor.

If you pick your own blueberries, place a bucket or container under the branch, and gently loosen the berries one by one with your fingers.

Strawberries
A fresh, ripe strawberry has a uniformly red hue, bright green leaves, and pale seeds. The fruit should be firm, so avoid ones that look wet or bruised.

To pick strawberries from a patch, cup the fruit in the palm of your hand and break the stem with the nails of your thumb and index finger.

Raspberries
A perfectly ripe raspberry should be bright red. It’ll be plump and feel almost velvety. If you purchase this fruit in a container, make sure the delicate berries at the bottom aren’t squished.

Ripe raspberries easily come off the plant when plucked. Look for the reddest fruit, hold it between your fingers and gently tug. Watch out for thorns on the branches.

Blackberries
A blackberry is ready to eat when it’s dark, glossy, and plump with no signs of red. Like raspberries, this fruit is delicate so check to see if all the berries in your container are intact.

You can pick blackberries the same way you do raspberries, just make sure to choose ones that have already started to soften.

Once you bring your berries home, you can enjoy them right away or set them aside for your favorite recipe.

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Summer salad with grilled halloumi

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This brightly colored salad with crispy halloumi cheese is light enough for summer but will certainly satisfy your hunger.

Start to finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

• 10 ounces arugula
• 1 fennel bulb
• 1 pomegranate
• 2 oranges
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
• Salt and pepper
• 14 ounces halloumi cheese
• Sprigs of fresh dill, to garnish

Directions
1. Preheat one side of the grill on high heat.

2. Divide the arugula onto four plates or in shallow bowls.

3. Cut the fennel bulb in half and slice thinly. Divide the slices between the four dishes.

4. Cut the pomegranate into four wedges and loosen the fruit with your fingers. Divide it between the four dishes.

5. Supreme the oranges and divide them between the four dishes.

6. Over a small bowl, use your hands to squeeze the juice out of the leftover orange peels. Add the olive oil, mustard, and maple syrup or honey. Whisk together until well emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste and set the dressing aside.

7. Cut the cheese into slices that are half an inch thick. Oil the grill rack on the side of the barbecue that isn’t lit. Put the halloumi slices on the oiled grill and cook for about one minute on each side. Divide the cheese between the four dishes.

8. Drizzle each dish with one-quarter of the dressing and garnish with fresh dill.

How to supreme an orange
Trim the top and bottom of the orange to create two flat edges. Then, rest the fruit on one end and cut off the peel, making sure to remove the white pith. Put the orange on its side and cut along the edge of each membrane to the core, releasing perfect wedges.

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Granola and berry parfait

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This dish is wholesome, delicious, and easy to prepare. Serve it at a festive breakfast with family and friends or any time you’d like to indulge in a decadent morning meal.

Start to finish: 1 hour (10 minutes active)
Servings: 6

Ingredients
• 4 cups rolled oats
• 1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds
• 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
• 1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
• 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup grated coconut
• 17 ounces frozen mixed berries
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 23 ounces plain Greek yogurt
• A few fresh raspberries
• A few fresh mint leaves

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, poppy seeds, cinnamon, and salt.

3. In another bowl, combine the maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well to incorporate.

4. Pour the mixture on the prepared pan and press using a spatula to ensure an even layer. Bake for 12 minutes.

5. Add the coconut and stir well. Press down again with a spatula and bake for another 12 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.

6. While the granola is cooling, combine the frozen berries and sugar in a small pot. Cook over high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the berries have mostly broken down. Using a hand blender, puree the mixture until smooth.

7. Once the granola has cooled completely, break it up into chunks with your hands or use a wooden spoon.

8. Using six small drinking glasses, pour about half a cup of yogurt into each. Add 1/4 cup of the berry puree, followed by 1/4 cup of yogurt. Top each glass with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the granola and garnish with a few raspberries and mint leaves.

This recipe can easily be made vegan or gluten-free by using vegan yogurt and certified gluten-free oats.

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The lowly cauliflower has gained respect, devotees

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Though cauliflower is native to Asian countries, it made its way to North America in the late 1600s. Two hundred years later, Mark Twain called it “cabbage with a college education!”

Cauliflower is so smart it can grow by the light of the full moon almost as well as during the day. It’s sometimes called the “moon crop.”

People who eat cauliflower are smart too. At the Foundation for Preventive Oncology in New York, they say it is one of the best healing foods you can buy, especially when it’s eaten raw.

The carotenoids in cauliflower make it a powerful defender against cataracts.

Its sulforaphane helps prevent cancer by increasing the production of enzymes that sweep toxins out of the body before they can damage cells and make them cancerous.

Its other cancer-fighter, I3C, works as an anti-estrogen. It reduces harmful estrogen levels that can cause tumor growth in the colon, breast, and prostate.

But cauliflower does more than fight cancer and protect the eyes. It’s rich in vitamin C and folate, nutrients that keep the immune system working well. Just three florets of uncooked cauliflower can supply two-thirds of your daily value for vitamin C.

Cauliflower gratin with ham

Divide a 2-pound cauliflower into florets. Cook in salt water 5 or 6 minutes. Drain it and run cold water over it.

Carefully brown 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs in 1/2 tablespoon butter and set aside.

In a small pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add 2 tablespoons flour, blend. Cook 1 minute, then add 3/4 cup milk, 3/4 cup chicken broth, a bay leaf, and a clove of garlic. Stir and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf, garlic.

Cut florets to similar sizes. Put in a buttered baking dish, salt, and pepper. Pour sauce on florets. Tear 1-ounce thin ham slices apart and scatter on top.

Finally, top with a cup of shredded cheddar. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

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