In recent days, a road trip that I had to make several times for a sporting tournament took me by two you-pick blueberry farms. The signs are out and blueberry season is here.

Unfortunately for me, so is the county fair and softball season, so the you-pick blueberry season is going to have to slip by this year. Fortunately, I know I can find some at the farmers market and even our local grocery store. It’s not as rewarding as picking my own, but our taste buds will surely be satisfied.

Blueberries are such a treat and are fun to cook and bake with. They easily find a way into our menus for breakfast, lunch and supper. Here are some tips from blueberrycouncil.com:

• When you buy fresh blueberries, look for berries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned, with a silvery surface bloom and no leaves or stems. Size is not an indicator of maturity but color is. Berries should be deep purple/black to blue/black in color.

• Refrigerate fresh blueberries when you get home, either in their original plastic clamshell container or in a covered bowl or container. Rinse fresh blueberries immediately before you use them.

• Blueberries are super versatile and pair well with a number of sweet dishes.

• To prevent blueberries from sinking in your batter, spread half the batter in the pan, the add half of the blueberries. Or you can coat blueberries with flour before stirring them into the batter. Avoid over-blending.

• One reason blueberries sink is because the batter is too thin. Another reason might be that too much air has been incorporated into the batter. Avoid over-blending during the first stage of mixing.

• Try substituting dried blueberries for fresh or frozen ones to prevent them from sinking in batter. They remain suspended in the batter during baking and maintain a more structured texture than their fresh or frozen counterparts. They’re less likely to burst when they get hot.

• When adding blueberries to the batter, minimize streaking by gently folding them in at the end of the mix cycle.

• If you’re using frozen blueberries, add them before they have a chance to thaw, and bake your dish immediately to prevent color leeching and streaking.

• The secret to beautifully colored berries in baked goods or smoothies is proper pH. Blueberries turn reddish when exposed to acid, such as lemon juice and vinegar. Blueberries turn greenish-blue in a batter that has too much baking soda (or grey in a smoothie with a lot of dairy), which creates an alkaline environment. Add a little lemon juice to your batter or smoothies for a more vibrant color.

To successfully and easily freeze blueberries, just rinse, let air dry and lay out on a baking sheet. Dab berries lightly with a paper towel to remove any remaining moisture and then freeze berries on the tray for two hours.

Remove the tray from the freezer and place berries in labeled freezer bags, Remove as much air from the bags as possible before sealing tightly and returning them to the freezer.

Happy blueberry season everyone. Feel free to share your favorite blueberry recipe with me.

Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.

Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars

For the Base and Crumble Topping:

1 C all-purpose flour

3/4 C old-fashioned oats, or large flake oats (not quick oats or instant oats)

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 C packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 C unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg yolk

1 Tbsp packed brown sugar

For the Blueberry Layer:

2 C blueberries, fresh or frozen (see baking time adjustment if using frozen)

2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed (use 1 tablespoon if using frozen berries)

1/4 C granulated sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, oatmeal, granulated sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Gently stir in the melted butter & egg yolk. Remove 1 cup of the mixture.

Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium bowl mix together all the ingredients for the blueberry layer. Spoon over top of the base oatmeal cookie mixture in the pan. To the reserved 1 cup of oatmeal mixture, stir in the 1 additional tablespoon of brown sugar. Crumble the mixture over top of the blueberry layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes or until you see the blueberries bubbling and the top crumble turning golden brown. If using frozen berries, the bake time will be 50 to 55 minutes.

Allow to cool fully to room temperature (at least 3 hours) before cutting into the bars. Bars are easiest to cut when they're cold using a sharp knife. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Recipe and photo courtesy of justsotasty.com.

Blueberry Banana Bread

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/2 C unsalted butter softened

1 C granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 C mashed brown bananas 3 medium sized bananas

1/4 C buttermilk at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 C blueberries

1 Tbsp flour for coating blueberries

3 Tbsp turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or by using a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until combined.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't over mix the batter.

In a small bowl, combine the blueberries and 1 tablespoon flour. Toss until blueberries are well coated. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center.

Let bread cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen the bread with a knife and carefully remove from pan. Let the bread cool completely on the cooling rack before slicing. Recipe and photo courtesy of twopeasandtheirpod.com.

Blueberry Pie Lush

2 C graham cracker crumbs (about 14 to 16 whole graham crackers), divided

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 C granulated sugar, divided

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

⅔ C white chocolate chips

16 oz cool whip, divided

21 oz can blueberry pie filling

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 1⅔ cup of graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and ⅓ cup of sugar in 9X13-inch baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Combine well and press firmly using your hands, or a solid object to form a layer. Bake for 8 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave to cool completely.

For the first layer, melt white chocolate following the instructions given on the package and leave to cool. In a large dish put cream cheese, ⅔ cup of granulated sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add cooled, melted white chocolate and beat until well combined. Fold in ½ of the cool whip. Spread evenly over the completely cooled base.

Spread the blueberry pie filling evenly over the cheesecake layer. Top with the remaining cool whip and drizzle with the remaining graham cracker crumbs on top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Decorate with fresh blueberries of some reserved from the filling before serving. Makes about 24 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of sweetspicykitchen.com.

Cranberry Blueberry Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

1 heaping C blueberries

1 4- to 5-oz bag spring mix salad greens

1/2 English cucumber, chopped

1/2 C mandarin orange segments

1/4 C dried cranberries

2 to 4 Tbsp roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds

Blueberry Balsamic Dressing:

1 C blueberries

1/3 C balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp dijon mustard

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/2 C avocado oil (olive oil works, too)

Combine all dressing ingredients except for the avocado oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until blueberries are completely pureed, then use the little top cut-out to drizzle in the avocado oil at the end. Once dressing is emulsified you're good to go!

Wash and dry the salad greens. Combine with cucumber and blueberries, then toss with a drizzle or two of dressing. Add extra as desired. Top with mandarin orange segments, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds and serve.

Notes – To make salad in advance, mix together everything minus the oranges and dressing then combine when ready to serve. This recipe makes a bottle's worth of dressing which will keep great in the fridge for future salads. Recipe yields 2 large salads or 4 side salads. Recipe and photo courtesy of peasandcrayons.com.

Easy Blueberry Chia Jam

1 C frozen blueberries

1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp chia seeds

Add blueberries to a saucepan and cook on low for about 5 to 10 minutes. Mash them with a fork while they are cooking to break them up. Take the blueberries off the heat and stir in maple syrup, lemon juice, and chia seeds. Let stand until cooled, then transfer to glass jar for storage. Makes 12 servings. Store in refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Recipe and photo courtesy of vnutritionandwellness.com.

Blueberry Dump Cake Recipe

3 C fresh blueberries

1/3 C brown sugar or granulated sugar

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 box yellow cake mix

3/4 C unsalted butter, thinly sliced

Spread blueberries in a 13 X 9-inch cake pan. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top and mix everything together. Spread dry cake mix on top. Place butter slices evenly on top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream. Recipe courtesy of cakewhiz.com.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

1 deep dish unbaked pie crust

Filling:

3/4 C sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 C sour cream

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 C blueberries fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw and drain really well)

Topping:

3 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp cold butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare pie crust by covering the crust's edges with foil. This will help to keep the edges from getting too brown.

To make the filling, combine sugar and flour together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in sour cream, egg, vanilla, and salt over medium speed for about five minutes. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Pour batter into pie crust and bake for 30 minutes.

While pie is baking, prepare the topping by crumbling together the flour, sugar, and butter with a fork.

Remove pie from the oven and sprinkle on the topping. Return to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes until topping is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly before slicing. Recipe courtesy of belleofhtekitchen.com.