Light, refreshing, and guilt-free. Did I say tasty?
It’s blueberry season, and we’re having a really good year here! The surplus of these gems always gets me excited, and although my absolute favorite way to eat them is right out of hand, it’s fun to dress them up.
Lots of blue memories
Blueberries have a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, they grew wild just about everywhere, the sweet little low-bush wild berries were our favorites. However, much of our bounty came from high bushes on an old abandoned farm not far from our house. My mom, grandmother, and brothers and I would tie pails around our necks, traipse through the overgrown weeds, and dive into the rather gnarled berry patch. My grandmother all the time warning us against the snakes. That part makes me shudder still. We would fill our buckets, and our stomachs, and bring our treasure home.
Mom would freeze a bunch, make a pie or two, some muffins, and seemingly endless jars of jam. This was like Heaven, and we could eat all we wanted. For breakfast, we would have “berries and cream” which was really a glass of blueberries and milk with a bit of sugar added, but it tasted like the fanciest dessert on the richest table. I think of all this during my annual blueberry picking with my own grandchildren now, only I don’t warn them about snakes, and have never seen a one while picking with them.
We still have to deal with all those blueberries! I freeze a lot of them, and blueberry muffins never stay around long in our house. If I’m having a dinner party, there will be a tart or pie for sure.
Calling my name
Since I’m keeping my eye on heart healthy, and there’s not many foods better for you than blueberries, I thought I’d play in the kitchen over the weekend. I had a large bowl of berries calling out to me, and a package of whole wheat phyllo (fillo) sheets in the freezer, a dessert was in order.
Whole wheat is tastier
Look for an organic, whole-wheat variety in the freezer section, probably at a health food store or co-op. If they don’t carry it, ask them to! You’d be surprised at how eager they are to help! The whole wheat seems to be a little less fragile, and it has tons more flavor; naturally sweeter, it has a definite nuttiness to it that white flour phyllo simply does not.
The good and bad of it all
Phyllo dough can be lots of fun to play with, and also frustrating if it doesn’t go well. There are a few things to remember. Let the dough thaw completely overnight in the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature the next day, and when you are working with it, keep it covered with a tea towel. Many recipes tell you to use a damp tea towel, but that can sometimes make the dough soggy! A dry towel is best, it is just important to remove one sheet at a time, and immediately cover it back up. If a bit cracks, it doesn’t matter, there will be lots of layers.
An important swap
Most recipes will tell you to brush each layer with melted butter. Rather than add all that saturated fat, I lightly spray mine with canola oil. I use a refillable spray pump that works like a dream and dispenses the lightest of mists of oil. It works really well with phyllo.
The last thing to remember is that it bakes fast! Keep an eye on it, and set your timer.
Creaminess without the guilt
The ‘cream’ I used here is a lovely local non-fat Greek-style yoghurt, naturally sweet and thick. I’ve sweetened the entire cup with only 1 teaspoon of honey, that’s all it needed and if I were making it just for myself, I’d have left it out. A bit of lavender from the garden for interest, some lemon zest, and a little squeeze of the juice rounded things out. The blueberries were a perfect match.
Fresh, creamy, and crunchy
The entire dessert logs in at just 125 calories, no saturated fat, a little fiber, protein, vitamins, and antioxidants. But most importantly, it’s delicious and dessert satisfying with freshness, creaminess, and crunch!
Phyllo Nests with Blueberries and Lemon-Lavender Cream
- 6 whole-wheat phyllo sheets
- Canola oil spray
- 1 ½ cups blueberries
- 1 cup non-fat Greek yoghurt
- ¼ to ½ tsp. lavender flowers
- Zest of one lemon
- Few drops of lemon juice
- 1 tsp. native honey
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray two cupcake tins with canola oil (or you can make these in batches).
Open phyllo dough and place on and under a kitchen towel.
Remove one sheet of dough, covering the rest back up, and spray lightly with the oil. Repeat with a second sheet, and a third. Cut this three-sheet layer into scant 4” squares (you should get eight) and tuck each layered square into a cup of the tin, flattening the bottom gently. Fill every other cup so that they do not touch, less breakage that way.
Repeat this whole process again, rotating the second layered square so the little edges do not line up. Give them a final spritz with oil.
Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Let cool.
In the meantime, mix together the yoghurt, lavender flowers, zest, a bit of the juice, and the honey.
To create the dessert, tuck berries in the bottom of the cups, add a heaping tablespoon of the yoghurt, another layer of berries, and a bit more yoghurt. Top with a few berries and some more lemon zest. You can make the components well ahead of time and assemble just before eating.
To make this a little more special, toss the blueberries in a tablespoon of limoncello before tucking in the nests.
Any leftover shells can easily be filled with any sweet or savory you like. They are particularly nice with a crab and avocado salad!
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