Easy Blackberries and Cream Pinwheel Pastries Recipe

Blackberry pastry recipe


Berries cookbookThese pretty pastries, which are featured in my new cookbook Berries: Sweet and Savory Recipes, only look difficult to make. Flaky puff pastry pinwheels are anchored with a sweet, creamy filling and topped with blackberry jam, fresh berries, and a sprinkle of sparkling sugar.

They’re prepared from time-saving frozen puff pastry. You can easily thaw the pastry sheets by separating them and covering them with parchment or plastic wrap, and simply letting them sit out at room temperature for about half an hour. You want the pastry to be cold, but pliable.

Here’s the easy recipe:

Blackberry pastry

Blackberries ‘n’ Cream Pinwheels

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1/2 cup blackberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries or boysenberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sparkling sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on high speed until smooth. Add the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla; beat until smooth then reserve.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each sheet of thawed puff pastry to a 10-inch square. Cut each square into 4 equal squares and transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each square. Prick the pastry squares with a fork. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of each square, spreading in a small circle about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the jam on top of the cream cheese mixture and top with 4 blackberries.

Use a sharp knife to make four diagonal cuts from the corners of each pastry square to within 1 inch of the center. Fold every other corner up over the filling to the center, overlapping the points and pinching to seal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Brush each pinwheel all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle the pastry with sparkling sugar. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 pastries.


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Grateful thanks to photographer Stacey Cramp for shooting the beautiful pastry images, to Vanessa Seder for her lovely styling, and to publisher Gibbs Smith for permission to share the recipe. 

How to Attract Hummingbirds and Make Your Own Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbird at feeder

Photo: S. Sompop


I always love hearing the thrilling, trilling sound of the first hummingbirds here in Colorado. According to Audubon, hummingbirds beat their strong, tiny wings 90 times per second. Their energetic metabolisms burn up calories fast, which is why they typically eat half of their weight in bugs and nectar every day and visit 1,000 to 2,000 flowers a day.

We hang a feeder in the shade garden, and if we’re quiet we can watch the hummers stop by for a drink throughout the summer. The stores  have commercial hummingbird nectar on the shelves right now, but a quick look at the ingredients list reveals that the mixture is mostly water and sugar enhanced with red dye #40 and chemical preservatives.


Hummingbird nectar


Instead, make your own hummingbird nectar. It’s easy and inexpensive, and all you need is water and refined sugar. According to Audubon, “Plain white table sugar is sucrose, which, when mixed with water, very closely mimics the chemical composition of natural nectar.”

I was tempted to make homemade nectar with a healthier ingredient than refined sugar — honey or raw sugar, for instance. But Audubon says NO — plain ole’ refined sugar is best since raw and organic sugars contain higher levels of iron that could be harmful to the birds, and honey can promote “dangerous fungal growth.” Goodness knows I always try to avoid that.

You don’t need to add red food coloring, either. Just use a brightly colored feeder to attract the hummers. Here’s how to make a batch of nectar, and you can increase the quantities depending on how much you need:

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

1 cup water

1/4 cup refined white sugar

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before filling feeder. Change nectar weekly.



Photo: Monkeystyle3000


Flowers Hummingbirds Like

You can also attract hummingbirds to your garden or yard by planting nectar-rich flowers.

Look for blossoms in bright colors, which are more attractive to hummingbirds than light pastel hues. Tubular-shaped flowers tend to contain more nectar. Here are some varieties that are especially attractive to hummers:


  • Bee balms
  • Columbines
  • Coneflowers
  • Daylilies
  • Delphiniums
  • Lupines
  • Salvia


  • Foxgloves
  • Hollyhocks


  • Cleomes
  • Impatiens
  • Petunias
  • Zinnias


Hummingbird at feeder


How About You?

Does your garden attract hummingbirds? Do you have a feeder? Do you grow any special flowers in your garden that the hummers especially like?

If you want to take a deeper dive with hummingbird watching, check out Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home website and app where you can sign up to share your own sightings and observations.


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The Photos I Didn’t Post on Instagram This Week

Instagram Eliza Cross


I love looking at everyone’s pretty pictures on Instagram. When I scroll through the feed, it’s like a little vacation for my soul. And when I look back through the collection of images I’ve posted, it’s like viewing a scrapbook of memories and lovely sights.

Instagram isn’t a reflection of my real life, though — not by a long shot. If I were posting the bad and ugly along with the good, I’d have shared this image:


kitchen drain repair

Real life.


Last week we discovered that the drain line from our kitchen sink cracked at some unknown time, and had been slowly leaking water in the basement wall. Getting it repaired wasn’t pretty… or cheap.

We couldn’t use our kitchen sink for four days. So I didn’t make homemade pizza like I’d shared on this previous Instagram post:


homemade pizza


Instead, real life led to pizza delivery because the kitchen was torn up and the plumber was here working late on Saturday night.


pizza delivery

Real life.


I love taking pictures in the garden, and occasionally I see a sight like these lovely Forget-me-nots:


forget me not


But do not be fooled into thinking that this snapshot is an accurate representation of our garden, my friends.

If I’m being real, I need to share some photos of the bug infestation I’m currently dealing with.


Black Cherry Aphid

Real life.


I believe this is Cherry Blackfly, an aphid that sucks the sap from cherry tree leaves in the spring. Ladybugs eat the aphids, so maybe next year I’ll try introducing some of the lucky bugs to the emerging leaves early in the season.

Interestingly, the wasps in our garden have also been eating the aphids. I tend to think of wasps as pests, so I’m reminded that nature has its own self-sustaining balance. At this stage of the growing season, the only remedy is to cut off and discard the damage — and who doesn’t love snipping sticky leaves covered with thousands of black bugs?

This is our dear dog Maddie. She is 16 or 17 years old, and I love this recent photo showing her sweet face and glorious white whiskers.


Australian cattle dog mix


This spry senior is starting to have a lot of accidents, though. Our wonderful vet has been running tests and trying different drugs, hoping for a miracle cure. The grass around our patio is not looking pretty, but I don’t care because she’s doing her best to get outside quickly.


Real life.


I’m reminded that the things we post on social media are usually the prettiest sights and our best selves, and not a true representation of anyone’s reality.

Did you know that Instagram has some real-life hash tags. including #bummer, #expensiverepair, #aphids, and #uglylawn?

If you want a real treat, be sure to check out #olddogsrule.


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Remembering the Puzzling Days of the Dandelion

bumblebee and dandelion


“In today’s history lesson, we’ll examine a very strange time in human history – the early 2000s.

During this troubling period, humans on the planet Earth had collectively decided that this flower was a scourge:


Dandelion flower


Taraxacum, more commonly known as dandelion, was a perennial, herbaceous plant that grew on Earth. It had long taproots that helped naturally aerate the soil. The entire plant was edible, and it had many medicinal purposes.

However, major chemical companies spent millions of dollars on advertising to convince consumers that dandelions were bad.


dandelions in a garden


During this same time period, many people grew large patches of non-native grass in their yards. Although the natural habit of plants on Earth was to diversify, the humans spent long hours removing dandelions and tending their large swaths of fescue grass.

Lawns were a lot of work. They weren’t practical or sustainable, but most people still had them because it was the norm.

A yard of bright green, weed-free grass was a status symbol at the time. Some lived in neighborhoods with HOAs that called dandelions “noxious weeds” and required their removal.


bee and dandelion


Water was becoming scarce. Droughts were increasing worldwide at a rapid pace, yet inexplicably the humans continued to use precious water on their large swaths of turf.

The humans rarely enjoyed or even stepped on their yards of grass.


perfect lawn


They maintained them mostly for show.


honey bee and dandelion


The media outlets of this era regularly reported the alarming facts that bee populations were dwindling rapidly. In 2017, Time magazine reported that 700 North American bee species were headed for extinction.

Dandelions were a natural pollinator that bees loved, but for some reason this did not stop the humans from trying to eradicate the yellow flowers from their turf patches.


dandelion bee


Water supplies were becoming increasingly polluted in the early 2000s.

Weed killers were big business. Humans purchased billions of dollars of toxic chemicals to eradicate the dandelions, clover, crabgrass and other plants that naturally sprouted up in their lawns. The chemicals seeped into the Earth’s surface water, groundwater and soil. Herbicide residue was found in many foods.


Ortho weed killer

weed killer


The weedkiller glyphosate was linked to cancer and other diseases in humans, but the chemical companies funded research studies that refuted the claims.

The chemical companies financed like-minded politicians through political action committees, and hired lobbyists to weaken and eliminate restrictions on toxic herbicides.

Despite the widespread adoption of the internet around the turn of the 2000 millennium, it was a period of great misinformation and the people had not yet figured out how to discern the truth.

While we may never fully understand the mistakes and motivations of the Earth people of the early 2000s, we can learn from their catastrophic errors in judgment and take better care of our planet Kepler-186f.

We must remember to always demand clean, independent scientific research. We must remember to vigorously keep dark money out of politics. We must always hold our elected officials accountable to preserving our planet’s resources.

Let the early 2000s always remind us that seemingly innocuous actions by a large number of people can result in terrible consequences.

Let history remind us to seek and revere the truth.

And let us never forget the dandelion.”



Lawn photo by Sir Mildred Pierce.

A Reader’s Decluttering Dilemma



Occasionally you readers write and ask me for advice.

When you query me about topics like cooking, gardening, simple living, and Greek yogurt, I always feel a mixture of flattery and terror—honored to be asked, and scared to death I’ll steer you wrong.

Curiously, you never ask me for dating tips. What’s up with that?!

Anyhoo, a lovely reader named Leah wrote me about a common dilemma that can arise when trying to clear space and get organized. Here’s her letter:

Dear Wise Eliza,  (Please note: I may or may not have added the word “Wise”)

We need to declutter, and I am about to get rid of lots of things. For me, the difficulty isn’t in parting with the things (i.e., it’s not a question of sentimentality or nostalgia) – the issue is that I don’t know how to find all these things good homes without going to great lengths. Goodwill and other charity shops are great for some items, but I simply don’t know what to do with really nice things. I want the next “steward” to really love them – not keep them in storage (as I did) and then put them in landfill.

I can get rid of these things quick on Freecycle, but I’ve found that people don’t value objects or services unless they pay for them. eBay is a possibility but it involves a lot of time and hassle; yard sales are time-consuming and people generally are looking for deals (rather than things they love and need); and giving these things as gifts feels like I’m burdening my friends. Two strong, conflicting needs – to shift the stuff fast and be non-wasteful – are tough for me to reconcile, and I don’t know what to do.

What would you advise?? My husband tells me not to feel guilty or responsible for the existence of these things (especially the items that were given to me as gifts), but I find this so emotional and difficult!

Gratefully yours,

~Conscientious, but Crowded


Leah, have you considered keeping a hungry goat as a pet?


Pet goat


Sorry, I’m kidding—no pun intended.

Let me share a couple of thoughts, and then we’ll invite our astute readers to weigh in.

1. You might enjoy this post,How to Declutter Your Home,” by Maxwell Ryan. Ryan is the co-founder of Apartment Therapy, a wonderful site with inspiring photos and ideas to help people in smaller homes create beautiful, highly functioning spaces.

2. Consider selling your treasures on NextDoor.com, a site that connects people in nearby neighborhoods. It’s much less anonymous than, say, Craigslist. I’ve sold several items using the site’s free classified ads, and met some really nice people in the process.

3. Find a nonprofit that helps people transition from homelessness. A fine example here in Denver is Joshua Station, a former old Motel 6 converted into apartments refurbished by volunteers and decorated with donated goods. If you find a charitable organization where your wonderful treasures will directly be making a difference in another person’s life, you may feel more peace about letting them go.

4. Photograph your treasures before you say goodbye, and make a photo book through a service like Shutterfly. Write a few memories, so that you can remember and share your feelings about the items and what they meant to you.

How About You?

Readers, will you share your thoughts about how to mindfully declutter and let things go? I always love hearing your ideas, personal experiences—and dating tips.


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P.S. Grateful thanks to Tomi Knuutila for the use of the collection image above and Rebecca Siegel for the use of her wonderful goat image.

Yummy Easy Homemade Meatballs

homemade meatballs


My favorite technique for preparing homemade meatballs also happens to be incredibly simple. These are my three tips for delicious meatballs that are browned on the outside and tender on the inside:

Secret #1: Most meatball recipes call for raw onion to be added to the mixture, but I prefer to saute the onion in butter first along with a little minced garlic. This pre-cooking step allows the onion and garlic to “melt” into the mixture as the meatballs cook, resulting in a pleasing caramelized flavor.

Secret #2: I like to use a blend of half Italian sausage and half ground beef. The Italian sausage adds a little zing (and admittedly, a little extra fat) to the ground beef, taking the meatballs from sodden to spectacular.

Secret #3:  Instead of laboriously trying to evenly brown the meatballs on all sides and dealing with spattering fat in a frying pan, I simply shape them and bake them in a hot oven. After just 20 minutes, they’re miraculously browned and perfectly cooked inside.

Shall we make some beautiful meatballs together?

To begin, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook 1/4 cup chopped onion just until it turns translucent. Add 1 clove minced garlic and continue cooking for about 90 seconds, until the mixture barely begins to brown. Remove from heat and reserve.


saute onion and garlic


Next, combine a half pound each of ground Italian sausage and ground beef, 1 piece of fresh bread processed into crumbs, an egg, a teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl until well combined.


meatball mixture


(No matter how hard you try, it’s hard to make a bowl of meatball mixture look photogenic.)

Use a tablespoon to shape the mixture into meatballs.



Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet.



Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. You can see how the onion becomes caramelized after cooking. Yum.


homemade meatball


At this point you can add the meatballs to a spaghetti sauce like I did in the photo at the top of this post, and serve over spaghetti.

Or, you can toast some buns, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese, and make meatball sandwiches.


meatball sandwich


You can also freeze the cooled meatballs, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. Here’s the complete recipe:

Mama Eliza’s Easy Baked Meatballs

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef (I like ground chuck for this recipe)
1 piece of bread
1 egg
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease or spray with cooking spray.

Heat the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. When it melts, add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 90 seconds. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the sausage and ground beef. Pulse the bread in a food processor or blender to make crumbs and sprinkle over the meat mixture. Add the onion mixture, egg, salt, and pepper and combine until well blended.

Use a tablespoon to form the mixture into balls. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the meatballs are lightly browned and cooked all the way through, about 20 minutes. Cool the baking sheet on a wire rack. Makes about 18 to 20 meatballs.


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For the Love of Classic Clothes

Classic clothing

Dear friends,

I own a silk blouse that I’ve been wearing and enjoying for 16 years. I don’t even remember where I got it, but the blouse fits perfectly and the cut is flattering. The sleeves are just the right length, and the collar is neither too narrow nor too wide. I hand-wash the blouse, and because it’s made of quality fabric it still looks like new.

In a world of cheap, throwaway goods, isn’t it a pleasure to own something that is classic, well made, and lasting?

For the past several years, I’ve been challenging myself to only acquire great clothes that I really love. No more buying a so-so shirt just because it’s on sale. Everything has to fit well and feel good. Gradually, my wardrobe has morphed into a smaller, but nicer collection.

Great clothes don’t need to be expensive. For Christmas the past few years I’ve asked for classic cashmere sweaters from the thrift store, and my family has happily obliged. I now have an assortment of soft, pretty sweaters that keep me warm and cozy all winter long.

A tailored black lightweight wool blazer I found at T.J. Maxx is perfect for business events, and it always looks right because it doesn’t have big shoulder pads or huge lapels — just traditional, time-tested styling.

Some other staples in my closet include jeans that fit well, black pants, a white cotton blouse, a black skirt, white jeans, fitted t-shirts, and a little black dress for parties. I wear a lot of black, so I have black boots, pumps, flats, and sandals as well. Simple.

According to Esquire magazine, some of the can’t-fail classic items for men include khaki pants, an oxford button-down shirt, a navy sport coat, a white dress shirt, a tailored suit, and a polo shirt.

True sustainability, for me, is wrapped up in craftsmanship and lasting quality. Accumulating fewer-but-better clothes frees up closet space and makes getting dressed in the morning a pleasure.

How About You?

What clothing item in your closet has stood the test of time? What wardrobe favorites do you return to again and again?

What men’s and women’s clothing classics would you add to my lists above?

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.


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The Secret to Cooking Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs


I love hard-cooked eggs, but too often this seemingly-simple recipe has led to frustration — undercooked yolks, or worse, yolks tinged in green from over-cooking.

And the peeling! Peeling hard-boiled eggs has nearly driven me to madness, especially when I wanted perfect specimens for a nice plate of deviled eggs.

Fortunately, there is a simple secret to making perfect hard cooked eggs. Forget pricking the ends, using old eggs, or risking cracked shells by dropping eggs in boiling water. Instead, cook them in hot steam for a perfect result.

You’ll need a large saucepan that can accommodate the steamer basket or insert. Arrange your large eggs in a steamer basket.


hard boiled eggs


Add about an inch of water to the pot and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. Add the egg-filled steamer basket (use an oven mitt if necessary to protect your hand) and cover. Set your timer, and steam the eggs for exactly 13 minutes.


steam hard cooked eggs


While the eggs are cooking, fill a bowl with ice and water.


Ice and water


When the 13 minutes are up, use tongs to immediately transfer the hot eggs to the ice water, and let them rest in the water for at least 10 minutes.


Chill hard boiled eggs


Tap the eggs all over with a soup spoon to crack the shells, and roll them gently on your counter.


Crack hard cooked egg


Then peel them under a gentle stream of lukewarm running water, which will help loosen the membrane between the shell and egg.


Perfect hard boiled egg




Hard-cooked eggs


When you cut them, you’ll be rewarded with perfect yellow yolks. The peeled eggs will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Need an easy deviled egg recipe for Easter brunch or a picnic? You might like these Bacon Deviled Eggs.


Bacon Deviled Eggs

Hugs and happy Easter!

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P.S. There’s still time to enter the book giveaway for a brand new copy of The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross.

Book Giveaway: The Suburban Micro-Farm

The Suburban Micro Farm book


This month I’m excited to give away a brand new copy of Amy Stross’s terrific book, The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People ( Twisted Creek Press, $24.95). Amy blogs over at TenthAcreFarm, where she writes about permaculture gardening and urban homesteading from her tenth-acre yard in the suburbs of Cincinnati.

For those of us who are stretched for time but still would love to yield abundant harvests in our gardens, Amy’s 344-page book is full of great ideas, practical advice, helpful illustrations, charts, photos, and resources.

She begins with a good section on managing expectations, and shares her own strategies for planning and scheduling gardening tasks — many in 15-minute increments. Next, she provides tips on how to improve suburban soil. From there, she covers a variety of helpful topics like getting organized and sketching out your garden, starting plants from seed, growing your own fruits and vegetables, extending seasons with cold frames, growing herbs, incorporating edible plants into a suburban landscape, and a great section on permaculture and micro-farming.

I was especially inspired by the last chapter, where Amy covers ideas and tips for generating income with your suburban farm, from growing cut flowers to making your own maple syrup. Reading this book made me look at our yard with a new point of view, wondering how I might transform some of the unproductive spaces into gardens that would produce good food — or even a little extra income.

This book would be a worthy addition to any gardener’s library. If you’d like to enter to win your own copy, just leave a comment on this page and reply to this question:

What’s one new thing you’d like to grow in your garden?

(After reading Amy’s book, I’m inspired to grow black raspberries.) The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. shipping address, and will run through Friday, April 21 at midnight MST.

BIG thanks to Amy Stross for providing the book for this giveaway, and good luck to all of you!


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