Apricot Almond Coconut Bars

Apricot Fruit Spread

My Grandpa John’s favorite jam was apricot. The last couple years of his life, I had more conversations with him about jam than anything else. He loved jam! He used to provide instruction on how small to cut the fruit into “small, small, small pieces”. I didn’t mention that I knew he had never make a batch of jam in his life. I just listened and promised to send more, along with another tin of Almond Roca. As my Grandma would say, “Grandpa is a choco-holic”. Then she would laugh at her own joke, like every time.

Grandpa, Danny and Rachel circa 1985 ish

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It turns out that apricot jam is also my brother Danny’s favorite. When I told him I made some for Grandpa he said “Wait, you can make apricot jam?!? That’s my favorite! I’ve been buying is for years!” I was like, puh-lease, I can make any kind of jam. Why didn’t you tell me (if I’m being honest, I followed it with some comment like “you dork”).

Aunt Becky’s Apricot Fruit Spread is make with two ingredients: Robata apricots and organic cane sugar. That’s it.

LA Weekly Blogs: What’s in Season at the Farmer’s Market: Apricot Flame Wars + Tenerelli is Back describes Robata apricots perfectly. “The sun-exposed skins redden with a heavy blush, making some of the fruits almost half red and stunning. Size-wise they’re practically a handful, rivaling some nectarines we purchased earlier. But here’s where the Robada shines. Imagine getting the mouthful of flavor that you’d find in a dried apricot — a potent concentrated mouthful of sugar and well-balanced tarty zing — but in the juicy and fresh flesh of a just-picked fruit. Refractometer readings put the sugar of a ripe Robada near 20 brix. For reference, that’s nearly the sugar level of a good pineapple. Now add elderflowers and honeysuckle. And on the finish, a slightest bitterness that reminds you of juniper berries. It’s a flavor you sit with after each bite, and there are about five of them with each fruit. You have to slow down and pay attention. The size requires that you bite into it, not just pop the whole thing in your mouth. The firmness requires that you chew, slowly releasing all its nuance. The color appeals to the eye. And the scent is floral and complex.” Yup, that’s them.

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Back to the jam. Robada apricots and organic cane sugar simmer in a big pot on the stove for at least 30 minutes. The resulting Apricot Fruit Spread is slightly less thick than flavors including pectin. Refrigerated, the apricot fruit spread is perfect on morning toast with a rich, concentrated flavor. One customer described it as tasting “like a fresh apricot”.

Apricot Almond Coconut Bars

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When I was a auditor, I used to bake cookies for my clients. It gave me an opportunity to try out new recipes without eating a whole batch of cookies. It also really sweetened them up. As a financial auditor, I arrived at my clients’ offices annually to check the work of their internal accountants and make sure their financial statements were correct. They were not pleased to see me or co-workers. Some of my audits lasted for weeks; weeks of endless questioning by a persistent auditor with nothing but questions! The questions took them away from their regular jobs which still needed to be done. Then I always asked for much more than originally expected, so my clients were often behind in completing requests. In order to “encourage” them, I baked cookies. I had one recipe for toffee, chocolate chip, pecan bars that were so delicious and sought-after that they would ask for more. I nick-named them “crack cookies”. Like a drug dealer, I would make a batch of cookies at the beginning of an audit or during planning to get them hooked. Later, I would promise a new batch if they provided the information I needed to do my job and finish more quickly. Like I said, those cookies really sweetened them up! (Recipe for Toffee, Chocolate Chip, Pecan Bar Cookies)

Apricot Almond Coconut Bars are my newest “crack cookies”. They highlight Aunt Becky’s Apricot Jam. I whipped up a batch on Thursday night for the Farmers’ Market on Friday. I won’t say that I received any serious marriage proposals, but I did get more than one request to come home with someone or a family to bake for them. I had to promise several customers to post the recipe ASAP so they could make their own. Normally when I share a new recipe, I take multiple pictures during the process. Due to the circumstances, I only have a photo of the remaining samples lumped together on a plate. Their form is slightly less than my best, but trust me, it doesn’t affect the flavor. I’m enjoying a cup of coffee in my Mary Poppins mug and eating these cookies for breakfast. It’s Saturday! My pond fountain and a local blue jay are providing background songs while I sit in my garden and write this post.

Recipe for Apricot Almond Coconut Bars

Gather It

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 cup apricot preserves (1 jar Aunt Becky’s Apricot Fruit Spread)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut
  • 1/2 cups sliced almonds

Mix It

  • Combine flour and baking powered in a bowl
  • Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs
  • In a small bowl, combine egg and milk
  • Stir into flour mixture
  • Grease 9×9 pan
  • Spread flour mixture into pan (flour your hands a bit if the dough is sticky)
  • Spread Aunt Becky’s Apricot Fruit Spread over crust
  • Combine egg, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract, coconut and almonds
  • Using a spoon or just your hands, drop the topping over the apricot layer
  • Optional – lick off your hands
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown

Gobble It

  • The “official” directions say to cool on a wire rack and cut into small bars. Yeah right!
  • Use a spoon to scoop a piping hot portion in to a bowl and top with vanilla ice cream. Do it right away!
  • Cool the rest until room temperature then cover and refrigerate to make the cleanest cuts

Adapted from Taste of Home Apricot Bars

Now, I guess you could make these Apricot Almond Coconut Bars from a regular store bought jar of jam. But it won’t really taste the same. You won’t get the Robata flavor and the concentrated apricot goodness. So get yourself a jar of Aunt Becky’s Apricot Fruit Spread before it sells out.

Aunt Becky’s in the News

Aunt Becky’s Special Jam was featured on the front page of the Tualatin Times. You can read the entire article by clicking here

My first season at the Tualatin Farmers Market is in full swing. PS Tualatin is pronounced Too-wall-a-tin, say it fast! Not knowing what to expect, I’m overwhelmed, just a bit…. A quick trip to San Diego for the 4th. Berry, currant and early apple picking. Fruit mashing, measuring, cutting, and processing. Vats of jam to make. New recipes to try then perfect. Samples to bake. Garden to prune, fertilize, trim, mow, and weed. Batches of regular and cinnamon applesauce for the locusts (aka my nieces and nephews). Teaching my 4 Seasons of Felt crafting class at church. Plus my fun social calendar comprised mostly of hanging out with friends at dinner or with a glass of wine on the patio.

In the midst, I met a sweet, ambitious, smart reporter named Caitlin. She visited the farmers market a few weeks ago to write a story. The next week, Caitlin called to ask if she could write a story about Aunt Becky’s. Of course! How fun!

I sent a group text to my sisters and brother….
Me: I met a reporter who wants to do a story about me for the local paper!
Heather: For what?
Daniel: WOW!!! What is she interviewing you about?
Rachel: How to b crazy. 2 steps or less. Lol Becky. Lol.
Daniel: Pretty sure it doesn’t take 2 steps.
Siblings!!! They were all rolling with laughter. Hardy har har.

Caitlin and Jamie, a photographer came over to talk and take photos of me making jam. Did I mention that Caitlin is also beautiful and has gorgeous long honey brown hair. I advised her not to spend one second of her 20′s feeling insecure – advice I wish someone had shared with me at her age. Jamie was super cool as well; he’s one of those people who is easy to talk to and feel comfortable with as he’s taking pictures.

Jamie brought his adorable third grade daughter Talia. It summer break and she was a trooper, going to stories all day with her dad. Well, I am not Aunt Becky for no reason! It was very hot. So I set her up in front of the TV with The Emperors New Groove, a box fan, and ice water in my special Disney princess cup. I was going to put in Frozen but I cannot figure out where it went. I even posted a request on Facebook to see if I had loaned it out and forgotten. My friend Wendy suggested that I “let it go”. Nice one Wendy. Talia was a little shy until I offered her a bowl of Royal Brooks cherries. Her face it up in a big smile. Like I said, she’s adorable.

I made a batch of raspberry jam in my kitchen while Caitlin asked questions and Jamie took photos. They were very good sports in the heat. After the jam was made my kitchen was a mess. But it was too hot to do dishes just then. I brought out my jam samples. Talia tried them all. Then we ate cheesecake covered with Strawberry Wine Sauce.

The experience was really fun. I was more surprised than anyone to learn that the story was on the front page of the Tualatin Times. My friends texted me stuff like, “congratulations, why didn’t you mention that you have a blond friend who’s single?” “why didn’t you tell them the blackberry merlot jam in brownies was my idea”, “now you’re the famous Aunt Becky but I knew you back when”, etc. Not to worry, I am still just me. The frenzy of fruit and market season continues. I have more flavors and recipes than I can post. Next up is Cherry Amaretto Sauce that I made with those Royal Brooks Cherries.

Featured Farm: Baggenstos Farm

Baggenstos Farm is another one of my favorite farms. Last weekend, a bunch of my girlfriends joined me to pick raspberries. The morning was cloudy and overcast with a very tiny sprinkling of rain. It was also warm and humid. Baggenstos Farm has u-pick strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Later in the summer, I’ll visit again for buckets of Roma tomatoes to freeze whole for sauces and soups, can whole to send to my sisters and dry in the oven for home-made “sun dried” tomatoes. The Farm is also popular in the fall for squash, potatoes and onions as well as events. Autumn events include a tractor hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pumpkin bowling and lots of other fun fall activities.

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My friend Danette brought her daughter Maggie to help pick. I missed the opportunity to snap a photo; Maggie was the best dressed out of all of us. Think pink polo shirt, jeans and pink polka-dot rain boots in case the fields were muddy. After about 30 minutes, Maggie decided the big play structure was much more fun than toiling in the fields.

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Tiffany and Carrie, also known as “the sisters”, helped pick a couple extra buckets after their containers were filled. Yes, they really are sisters. Yes, they often sing the song “Sisters” from White Christmas when referred to as sisters. (You haven’t seen White Christmas?!? Buy it. Watch it. Now. Celebrate Christmas in July.) Yes, their giggles are just as contagious as you would expect based on their adorable dimples.

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With the recent raspberry bounty, I will be making classic Red Raspberry Jam and Ribbon Reserves Raspberry Jam with Pear-Infused Brandy. If you live in the Portland area, July 4th weekend is a fabulous time to pick berries. Most people don’t think of going or are out of town. Go early at 9am when the farm opens. The berries will jump into your bucket.

Strawberry Wine and Portugal

My Grandma Beulah was Portuguese. Her family immigrated to Hawaii where she met my Grandpa John when he was stationed at in the Navy at Pearl Harbor during WWII. When I visited Hawaii last year, I learned that there were many Portuguese immigrants in the state. It made me feel like I found a little more of my roots.

So how does Portugal relate to Strawberries? Wine silly! My favorite summer wine is a light Rose from Portugal. Even though I’m making an exception to my goal of purchasing items made in the USA, I still feel like it’s me-ish. And I’m okay with that. In this case “that” refers to the Portuguese wine as well as the run-on sentences and use of the phrase “me-ish”.

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The newest flavor from Ribbon Reserves, Strawberry Wine Sauce is fully of goodness from Oregon and Portugal. Hood strawberries were sliced and added to the sterilized jars. Then light Strawberry Rose sauce was poured over the top for a light, refreshing sauce. The rose is delicate and goes perfectly with the tender Hood strawberries. Enjoy it over strawberry shortcake or vanilla bean ice cream, maybe with a glass of rose.

strawberry filled

Featured Farm: Lee Farms

This is the first in a series of my favorite farms in the Portland area. Summer is here!  My Farm Fresh group on Facebook is up and running with picking times and dates at my favorite local Portland-area farms. The first fresh fruit of summer is rhubarb, followed closely by Hood Strawberries. One of my favorite farms for Hood Strawberries is Lee Farms in Tualatin.

Like most farms that offer u-pick fruit, Lee Farms is adorable. Hello red barn inspired building, flower trellis and hanging flower baskets!

flowersLee Farmsopen door

Of course, my favorite is the small, delicate Hood Strawberries that taste like strawberry candy.

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In addition to a friendly, welcoming outside, Lee Farms has a pretty cool farm store. They offer fresh fruits and vegetables and a wide variety of local honey.

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If it’s sweets you want, look no further than their home-made fudge or freezer full of fruit pies made fresh on site.

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Farm events include berry season in early summer, Strawberry Festival during Father’s day weekend, Corn & Peach Festival during the last full weekend in August,  Fall Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Patch in October and holiday festivities in November & December at the Christmas tree farm. If you live in the Portland area, it’s not too late to get your hands on some Hood Strawberries at Lee Farms. If you don’t live nearby, you can order Aunt Becky’s Hood Strawberry Fruit Spread made from Lee Farm strawberries.

Welcome Summer

Wow, how is it June!?! I recently started reading “The Fault in Our Stars” (recommended to me well before I knew a movie was in production, thank you very much). The book includes deep themes related to existence and the meaning of life. It also includes big words I can mostly guess the meaning of, if I don’t know exactly. So I’m slightly chagrined at my start of “wow”, but only a little. I gotta be me.

I’m also realizing it’s been too long since my last post. This may be the way of things for a few months. I’m going to try and go a little easy on myself as we approach summer. It’s summer, when light and joy arrive in Portland with a bang. It’s also fruit picking season and Farmers’ Market season. Finally, it’s also my busy season at work. June marks the tail end of budget season and the beginning of audit season at the nonprofit I work for. Given the fun and busyness, I have neglected writing.

My big plans recently this year included building raised garden beds. I’ve had garden beds at my house since I moved in five years ago. After carefully building compost, planning my plantings, and checking the soil ph, I usually get a handful if green beans and some small so-so tomatoes. Change is here!

My customers often ask me if I grow the fruit I use in my jam. Ha ha no, I say, my garden is for my own backyard grazing. Plus I could never grow enough as I need. Strawberries this year alone filled 12 flats.

With a heart full of vegetable love, I build new cedar raised beds. The PVC pipe is for holding a raspberry and tomato trellis and crop covers in the fall and winter. The plastic on the sides is to protect the wood to give it a bit more life.

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Strawberry jam flavors coming soon!

I Heart Rhubarb

I Heart Rhubarb! I mean I love, love, love it! When I was in the second grade, my mom made a rhubarb pie for Thanksgiving. One of the grown-ups wanted a piece of that rhubarb pie right after dinner. My mom and Grandma were clearing the table and doing dishes. I always hung around the kitchen sink or counter where Grandma was working. She would pack a Tupperware container full of left-overs. Then Grandma would scrape any little bits left with the serving spoon and call me over. “Becky, eat the last wee little bit of this will you?” I obediently opened my mouth like a baby bird and Grandma shoved the rather large spoonful into it. And you wonder why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday?! The Thanksgiving of the aforementioned rhubarb pie was a little more chaotic than most. I’m not sure why, but there seemed to be more people in and out of the kitchen. Maybe it was a one-butt kitchen. Who knows. All I remember is that the rhubarb pie was calling my name like a siren song. When no one was looking, I snuck a tiny piece of the filling. Unfortunately, I misjudged my greedy heart. By the time mom and Grandma were done washing dishes, I had eaten almost 3/4 of the filling out of the pie. There was a bit left in the middle and an empty husk of a pie crust. I got in big trouble, but it was delicious.

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If you’ve never tasted rhubarb, it’s often served with strawberries. I like it just on it’s own. Aunt Becky’s rhubarb came from a local farm grower store with a freshly picked box from the Washington Rhubarb Growers Association. Sumner, WA is the Rhubarb Pie Capital of the World! Yet another reason to visit the Pacific Northwest!

My love of rhubarb has not waned over the years since the second grade. When I was approved as a vendor for Crafty Wonderland, I rushed to make a big batch of Rhubarb Fruit Spread. I don’t know very many people who really like rhubarb, but I figured the worse case scenario would be me eating it all. It turns out that Portland loves rhubarb too! It was one of my best sellers. I heard lots of comments like “this reminds me of my mom’s rhubarb pie!” I didn’t ask anyone if their mom’s rhubarb pie looked like my mom’s after I was done picking through the filling. I just smiled and ate some over ice cream for my dessert that night.

Chef Lily Bakes Cinnamon Walnut Scones with Spiced Pear Butter

Chef Lily is back with a new recipe for Cinnamon Walnut Scones glazed with Spiced Pear Butter.

At 6:49 am on a Monday morning, I was awoken from a semi-peaceful sleep by the sound of two girls fighting. I staggered into the living room at my sister Heather’s to find Lily and Grace on the couch arguing over the fuzzy red blanket for morning cartoons. Grace was enveloped in the huge blanket and Lily was sitting next to her in a t-shirt and shorts shivering. Grace said Lily “hogged” the whole blanket and Lily said Grace “never” shared. The blanket is king size and plenty big for both of them with room to spare.

Not to miss an opportunity to bake with Lily, I asked Lily if she wanted to make scones for breakfast. Since the original argument was because Lily was cold, I suggested she put on socks and her fuzzy purple bathrobe for baking. She skipped onto her room and skipped back into the kitchen.

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Gather It

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup Spiced Pear Butter

Make It

  • Ask a grown-up to preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Combine flour, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda,  and salt in a bowl

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  • Ask a grown-up to slice the butter into small slices
  • Use your fingers to mix the butter into the flour mixture until it’s a fine crumbly mix

stirring

  • Whisk the sour cream and egg in a small bowl (Lily cracked the egg herself for the first time!)

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  • Use a fork to stir the sour cream and egg into the flour and butter mixture until large dough clumps form
  • Use your hands to combine the dough into a ball
  • Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8 inch circle
  • Ask a grown-up to cut the circle into 8 pieces
  • Place the pieces on a cookie sheet

cookie sheet ready to bake

  • Ask a grown-up to bake for 15 to 17 minutes
  • After baking, cool for 5 minutes
  • Spoon Spiced Pear Butter and warm up in microwave until smooth and saucy
  • Brush top of scones with Spiced Pear Butter

glaze

Enjoy It

A cold glass of milk for kids or fresh coffee for grown-ups is a perfect beverage to enjoy with the Cinnamon Walnut Scones with Spiced Pear Butter.

After the scones were ready, I started coffee in the French press and woke up my sister Heather. Grace was still enjoying the whole blanket on the couch watching Netflix kids. Anna staggered out from her bed and deposited herself on the other end of the couch with Molly, the daschund. Between the five of us, we managed to make a big dent in the scones with a few for later.

Ribbon Reserves

Aunt Becky’s is pleased to announce the Ribbon Reserves product line. Ribbon Reserves are special jams infused with wine, spirits and gourmet ingredients. Aunt Becky’s will continue to source local fruit and non-GMO ingredients was well as focusing on ingredients and packaging made in the USA. Ribbon Reserves are small batch, limited edition flavors. Blackberry Merlot is the first Ribbon Reserves special jam and will be available on Etsy and at Crafty Wonderland in Portland on May 10th. Upcoming flavors may include Strawberry Champagne Jam, Strawberry Tahitian Vanilla Balsamic Jam, and Raspberry Jam with Pear Infused Brandy. Like many of Aunt Becky’s classic and unique flavors, Ribbon Reserves will also have ideas for enjoying as well as recipes.A special thanks to my talented cousin Susanna for the beautiful logo and my friend Diana for the encouragement and marketing tips.

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San Diego

Each time I visit my sister Heather in San Diego my friends in Portland ask what we’re going to do. It’s usually things like, go to the fire station or the county fair with the girls’ Girl Scout troop, help my sister with the semi-annual clothing swap to exchange winter and summer clothes, do a few loads of laundry, sit around in my pajamas until 11am, watch a movie on Netflix but fall asleep at 9pm because Lily woke me up at 6am, etc. The girls are now old enough to do some sight-seeing and visit some of San Diego.

Seaport Village

Heather and the girls picked me up from the airport and Gracie and I modeled our seashell necklaces that Grace made. The two halves of the shell together say “Best Aunt” (insert “awwww”). Like you would expect from it’s name, Seaport is a Village by the sea full of small shops and restaurants. For example, there’s a shop just of wooden toys and one dedicated to animals.

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Ear Piercing

Horton Plaza is within walking distance of Seaport Village. Lily has been dying to get her ears pierced. Grace had her ears pierced when she was six and because of her sensitive skin, her ears didn’t stay pierced. Grace was definitely not interested. Anna was on the fence. Surprising to Heather, I also got my ears double pierced. I did them myself when I was 14, but was not allowed and had to take the earrings out. With Heather’s encouragement  of “you’re only 39 once”! I went for it. Anna took the plunge too.

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Oceanside Pier

Oceanside Pier has a great bike path and walking trail along the ocean. Wild brown pelicans land on the edge of the pier for fish feedings. There’s a sign nearby the pelican stop that says the pelicans bite. The girls were nervous having their picture taken so close. Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier has a beautiful view of the ocean while eating classic cheese burgers.

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Garden Girls

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Old Town San Diego

To my surprise, Old Town San Diego is just like it sounds….it’s an old town. It’s the center of the original San Diego. We stopped at Coyote Café for fish tacos and I enjoyed a Cadillac margarita.

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Random Extras

Wow! What a trip! Here are a couple of my favorite extras. Gracie’s horse guarding her bed when we checked in on her after she went to sleep.

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Lily sprinkling cheese on macaroni and cheese we made with the “Horsin-Around” horse shaped pasta I bought Grace for her birthday.

lily mac and cheese

The garden at Stone Brewery. It’s becoming tradition for Heather and I to have a girls night at Stone Brewery. They have a beautiful garden FULL of frogs, Adirondack chairs and fire pits.

stone brewery

While it was so fun visiting San Diego, my next visit will probably be more like the usual. For example, I’m looking forward to seeing Grace and Lily perform with their baton team for the July 4th celebration at Grape Day park.