A berry sweet spring in northwest Ohio

–by Jennifer Ruple

Jennifer Ruple

Spring has finally taken root in northwest Ohio, and folks are outside basking in all its glory. This past weekend saw the opening of the Biggest Week in American Birding where people of all ages flocked to catch a glimpse of the warblers. Hundreds showed up to kick off the outdoor season at the Toledo Farmers Market; the Sylvania Farmers Market gets underway on Tuesday, June 5 at 3 p.m. And garden centers are packed with those working on their vegetable gardens and outdoor projects.

Have you joined a CSA, a Consumer Supported Agriculture program, yet? I did, and I can’t wait to come up with new recipes to share from the farm fresh produce I receive each week.

Speaking of recipes here are a few using fresh berries to sweeten up your springtime celebrations. After all, our local berry season is right around the corner. See you at the markets! 

Cheesecakes with Berry Sauce

Cheesecakes with Fresh Berry Sauce
These mini cheesecakes are not only rich and creamy, but they are super easy to make. Prepare them ahead of time and pop them into the freezer until the day of the event. Just prior to thawing, remove the cupcake wrappers – they come off much easier when the cakes are frozen. While the cakes thaw, make the fresh berry sauce then drizzle just before serving.
Yield 18 mini cakes.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Heat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, combine crust ingredients.

Line cupcake pan with paper baking cups. Evenly distribute cups with graham cracker mixture. With a 1/4 cup measuring cup, firmly press crumbs down. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all ingredients until smooth.

Pour filling over graham cracker crusts. Bake for 15 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack before freezing or topping with berry sauce.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Fresh Berry Sauce
2 pints raspberries or blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add 1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in a little water if a thicker consistency is desired.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit breaks down.

To remove seeds, push mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Let cool and drizzle over cheesecakes, or serve warm over French toast.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Brioche French Toast with Blackberry Sauce

Brioche French Toast with Blackberry Sauce
French Brioche with its moist, buttery and slightly sweet properties, will take classic French toast to a whole other level. We like Trader Joe’s brand, but if you can’t swing a drive to Ann Arbor, Sautter’s (of Sylvania, Ohio) carries a version as well.
Serves 4.

8 slices French Brioche
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cooking spray or butter
Blackberry sauce (see above)

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and coat with cooking spray or butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.

Dip each piece of Brioche in egg mixture, coating both sides.

Place two pieces of Brioche in the skillet at a time and cook about 1 minute per side, pressing down slightly with a spatula to ensure even browning.

Top with blackberry sauce, fresh berries, and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Mixed Berries Salad

Mixed Berries Salad

So bright and colorful, who could resist a big bowl of fresh berries and nuts over a mix of spring greens. Top with crumbled goat cheese and dress with a fruity vinaigrette.
Serves 4.

5 ounces spring mix lettuces
1 pint mixed berries such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds or pecans
5 ounces crumbled goat cheese

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuces, nuts, fruit, cheese. Drizzle on vinaigrette.

Strawberry Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, combine the olive oil, strawberries, shallots, vinegar, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
(Recipe adapted from finecooking.com)

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