I am pretty sure I do not remember a summer in Tennessee without blackberries. Every summer I have grown up, we have picked blackberries and my mom has made blackberry jam, and we have delighted in the beautiful bounty that is inside of a blackberry. The flavor is rich, it pops in your mouth and produces a burst of summertime, pollenated by bees that is unmatched.
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We are lucky enough to own some land in Knoxville and to our delight, have rows and rows and rows of blackberry bushes.

Today, I had several friends come over, armed with long sleeves, long pants, and buckets to pick berries. I knew the task was daunting, and I needed assistance. We all traipsed down the hill and into the fields with our three 4 footed friends. (Anabelle and Mogul were accompanied by Allie, my brothers dog.) The weather was surprisingly cool and overcast, gratefully, as the day before it was 90 degrees at 9 a.m.

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To our delight, the blackberries were plump, juicy, and as my friend Debra showed evidence from tasting on her purple tongue, they were delicious! We picked these beautiful fruit while catching up on our summers. During this time, our wonderful neighbor showed up ready to help us mow down our fields to access the berries even more…he is a wonderful and amazing soul.

With our buckets full, we climbed back up the muddy slope to the house, dove into the welcoming coolness of the awaiting swimming pool (FIRST-we removed what we hoped to be ALL of the massive tons of poison ivy that accompanied the berry picking). We shared what our big plans were for the berries and felt summer slip into our veins as we settled into our lunches and our afternoons.

Life is such a blessing accompanied by good stories of nature, pets and love…and prickly berries.

The recipe I chose to make a bit of my berries from comes from the following link: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/10/14/sky-high-blackberry-apple-muffins/. I simply wanted a recipe that incorporated blackberries that were fresh. This recipe sounded amazing (and currently is wafting through our kitchen)!
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I usually do not follow recipes to a ‘T’, but today, I did, subbing only steel cut oats (I had them on hand) and using plain vanilla yogurt instead of cinnamon, because I used Saigon Cinnamon yogurt in all of my cinnamon spice ingredients (it is a lot more potent than regular cinnamon).

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Ingredients:

MUFFINS
3 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon (or 2 teaspoons for a lighter flavor)
3 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 very large apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
1/2 cup Chobani Apple Cinnamon yogurt (I used plain)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or vegetable oil)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you prefer)
1 pint (about 1 cup) fresh or frozen blackberries, chopped
OAT STREUSEL
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown)
3 Tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats (I used steel cut)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon Cinnamon was used in my recipe)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Make the muffins: Toss the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped apples together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar, yogurt, applesauce, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk together vigorously until combined and smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until combined. Do not overmix the batter.

Make the streusel: toss the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside. Layer 1 Tablespoon of batter into each muffin tin. Top with a couple chopped blackberry pieces, then layer with more muffin batter and a couple more blackberry pieces until you’ve filled the muffin cups all the way to the top. Sprinkle each with streusel.

Bake the muffins at 425F for 5 minutes. Keeping the muffins inside the oven, turn the temperature down to 375F and bake for another 15-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Muffins stay fresh at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tomorrow, we host our first Bed and Breakfast ‘folks’ and I cannot wait until tomorrow when I can dig into one of these beautiful muffins!

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