Thanksgiving with Blueberries, Riojas and the Best Trifle Ever!

Thanksgiving Blueberries

Why are cranberries the official berry for Thanksgiving?  I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that blueberries are moving in on that territory.  And with good reason!

Last week I was invited to a pre-Thanksgiving feast hosted by Erika Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen, sponsored by the US Highbush Blueberry Council and Rioja Wines.  Called A Very Blueberry Thanksgiving, this was not your ordinary Thanksgiving feast — because it was indeed so very blueberry!  Blueberries, “little blue dynamos,” if you will, are much more versatile than you might think.  At this tasty event, blueberries starred in both sweet and savory dishes in a fantastic, unique menu:

Mashed Potato Pops with Blueberry “Not Ketchup
Pumpkin Soup Shooters with Dried Blueberry Dust
Roast Turkey Breast with Blueberry Green Apple Salsa
Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Pulled Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Chutney
Chili-Rubbed Sweet Potatoes with Dried Blueberries
Brussels Sprouts with Blueberry Balsamic Glaze
Blueberry Stuffin’ Muffins
Pumpkin Bread Trifle with Blueberry Sauce
Blueberry Mulled Cider

Everything on the menu was divine, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be the Pumpkin Bread Trifle with Blueberry Sauce.  When I had my first bite of the trifle, it was one of those “OMG-ARE YOU KIDDING ME?-THIS IS SO CRAZY GOOD” moments.  You have those, right?  And Erika has kindly let me share her trifle recipe with you!  (Recipe is at the bottom of this post.)

Thanksgiving Blueberries and Rioja

Did you know that if you see blueberries in your market from November through March, they very likely are from Chile?  The harvesting time in Chile is opposite of ours, so we have the benefit of having blueberries and other fresh fruits when it’s too cold to produce them here.  To learn more about Chilean blueberries and Chile’s unique landscape and their commitment to quality, safety and sustainability, visit the Chilean Blueberry Committee.

We constantly hear about how healthy blueberries are.  Turns out, they’re more than antioxidants, that’s for sure.  These little blue dynamos are low in fat, full of dietary fiber, vitamin C, phytonutrients and are an excellent source of manganese.  (Click on those hard to pronounce and spell words to see exactly what they are, if you don’t know.  No biggie – I had to look them up, too!)  They may also play a role in brain and cardiovascular heath, insulin response, and cancer risk reduction.

Thanksgiving Blueberries and RiojaWhile I truly love a delicious wine, I readily admit that wine and wine pairing are not my areas of expertise.  (I go to actual experts when I need help with that.)  The wines we tasted are presented in the above image, and from left to right, they were truly wonderful.  Nina educated us about each one and paired them perfectly with each course.  These Rioja’s are from Spain, specifically Rioja, a region located along the Ero River in north- central Spain.  I adored the Cune Rosado, 2012, with its fresh, bright strawberry-red color, floral fruit aromas and balanced acidity.  And my absolute favorite was the LAN Rioja Edición Limitada, 2008 . Wow!  Such a bold red with a plush texture and strong flavors of ripe fruits, like blackberries, plums, and blackcurrants.  Delicious!

The Very Blueberry Thanksgiving was attended by a large handful of food bloggers from the Los Angeles area, Steve Hattendorf from the Chilean Blueberry Committee, Ryan Lamont representing the US Highbush Blueberry Council and Nina from Rioja Wines.  And of course our amazing host Erika who created and cooked this unbelievable multi-course menu.  And helping Erika throughout the party was the oh-so-lovely Lana of Bibberche.  Just thinking about the time and effort behind this meal, brought me back to my catering days.  A huge thank you to Erika for her creative, beautiful, delicious and very hard work — and for inviting me!

So what was my takeaway from A Very Blueberry Thanksgiving?  Well, in addition to blueberries being a handful of health, they can beautifully make their way into almost any dish at almost any meal — holiday or not.  Rioja wines are delicious, and it’s delightful to spend time dining with fellow food bloggers!

I highly recommend making Erika’s “OMG-ARE YOU KIDDING ME?-THIS IS SO CRAZY GOOD” Pumpkin Bread Trifle with Blueberry Sauce this Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Blueberry Trifle
Recipe by Erika Kerekes for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Serves: Serves 10 to 12
Make the pumpkin bread:
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola or grapeseed oil
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
Make the blueberry sauce:
  • 1 (32-ounce) bag frozen blueberries
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 cups prepared vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
Make the pumpkin bread:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, 2 cups sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Sprinkle the salt, flour, baking powder, and baking soda on top of the pumpkin mixture, then stir with a large spoon just until combined. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and pour in the batter. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, then crumble the pumpkin bread into large chunks with your fingers. (Alternatively, you can buy a large loaf of prepared pumpkin bread.)
Make the blueberry sauce:
  1. Put the frozen blueberries, remaining ½ cup sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer about 1 hour, until the sauce is thickened and glossy. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Just before assembling the trifle, whip the cream with an electric mixer (or by hand if you’re sturdy) until it is fluffy and glossy.
Assemble the trifle:
  1. In a large glass bowl, put down a layer of pumpkin bread crumbs, a layer of pudding, and a layer of blueberry sauce. Repeat once more, ending with a layer of crumbs. Pile the whipped cream on top and scatter the fresh blueberries on the whipped cream. Let sit at least 2 hours before serving to give everything a chance to meld.
Trifle can also be made in small glasses for individual servings.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge cranberry fan, too!  Perhaps the cranberry could just make room for the blueberry, and the Thanksgiving berry territory could be occupied with both.)

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