I grew up in an orchard. Well, not literally in an orchard, but about ten giant steps from one. When I was little, my dad and mom grew six acres of cherries, peaches, and raspberries right behind our house. That’s why I love writing about orchards and berry picking in my Huckleberry Hill books. Anna and Felty Helmuth live near a large huckleberry patch, and in my new Amish romance series coming in 2016, an orchard is part of the Amish farm where my characters grow up.
When I started writing Amish romances, I felt an immediate kinship to the Plain people because of my upbringing on a fruit farm. My sisters and I would stack limbs, drive the tractor, pick and pack peaches, and can fruit all summer and fall. My favorite time of year was raspberry picking time. I loved filling my bucket with plump, red berries and eating as many as I wanted while I worked. I always carefully inspected every berry before it went into my mouth so I wouldn’t inadvertently eat any bugs.
A good raspberry picker knows that, many times, the best raspberries hide beneath the cover of the leaves or are tucked deep inside the bushes, just out of casual reach. If you don’t want to miss the choicest berries, you have to look carefully, be patient, and be willing to search for the hidden gems.
I’ve decided that relationships are like raspberries. We’re so busy these days. We tend to rush past each other, not really seeing, not making connections because we have a to-do list and a pair of blinders on. We miss out on priceless opportunities to nurture relationships, to find the hidden gems in our families and neighborhoods.
So today, think of the patient, careful raspberry pickers who fill their buckets with rare and delicious fruit. I want to be one of them.
Here is our secret family recipe for one of my favorite desserts ever: Raspberry Cheesecake. At our house, we put up a lot of jam, and we made a lot of raspberry cheesecake. It was pretty much the perfect childhood.
2 cups flour
1 cup butter—softened
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Mix well and press into a cookie sheet.
Bake 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t brown too much on the edges. Let cool and then crumble into a bowl. Set aside.
Press about 2/3 of the crust into the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then layer the filling as follows:
Use an electric mixer and mix until smooth:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8 oz. package cream cheese—softened
1 8 oz. tub of a non-dairy whipped topping like Cool Whip
Spread cream cheese mixture over the crust.
1 package raspberry (or strawberry) Danish Dessert
16 ounces of raspberries, frozen or fresh
Mix according to package directions for pie glaze leaving out ¼ cup water. Once the Danish Dessert is mixed and cooled slightly, stir in raspberries.
Pour the raspberry mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Crumble the rest of the crust over the top of this. Cover and let chill overnight.
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award-winning author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill Amish romance series. After growing up with a steady diet of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, she went slightly crazy and got a degree in mathematics, which came in handy when one of her six children needed help with homework. After her fourth daughter was born, she started writing. By juggling diaper changes, soccer games, music lessons, laundry, and two more children, she finished her first manuscript in just under fourteen years. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth. Jennifer and her husband have been married for thirty years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and three adorable grandsons, whom she spoils rotten.