When Cindy Watanabe of Gold River was in high school, she worked at a produce market in Ludington, Mich., in the heart of Michigan's famed "fruit belt."
"I got this simple recipe from a customer, wrote it on the inside cover of a cookbook, and I've been using it for the last 25 years," says Watanabe. "I bake these fruit bars for every PTA coffee social at our children's elementary school by popular demand, and recently one father even did a little jig when he walked in the door and spotted the platter of fruit bars."
Watanabe coordinates the weekly PTA coffee social because staying active helps her cope with the effects of chronic Lyme disease. She recently received a disability retirement from the California Department of Fish and Game and tries to help others who have Lyme disease.
"Even though I started suffering from the effects of the tick bite in 1993, I only received a positive diagnosis in 1999," says Watanabe. "I'm normally a high-energy person, so baking and school activities are my mental therapy."
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the extract and the flour. Finally, gently stir in the blueberries by hand.
Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until top is a light-golden brown. Cool and slice. Yields 24 small bars.
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3 cups fresh blueberries