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Eating Well: Easy, delicious dip for strawberries

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This is prime season for succulent, sweet strawberries and the recent crop in grocery stores have been pretty good, considering nothing will ever take the place of the handpicked ones, the likes of which we used to find at Mark's Strawberry Farm, a location many of us remember and still miss.

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The wonderful thing about strawberries is they are not only deliciously popular, about 94 percent of all households eat them regularly, but you can eat lots of them and feel good about it because they are high in Vitamin C content and only contain 43 calories per one cup serving.

Besides eating them freshly cleaned, as is, the fruit is a major ingredient in several recipes, complemented by whipped cream, puddings, glazes or plain old dipping chocolate; and are a popular flavor for jams and jellies.

Strawberries are perhaps most famous for their starring role topping shortcake. My favorite memories of this dessert go back to my youth on the farm, when my mother would pick the fresh berries from our private, little patch in the garden; bake up a made-from-scratch white cake; and whip real, fresh cream to cap it all off.

I still serve the dessert on occasion but with some variation; and have a passel of other favorite strawberry recipes I fall back on whenever I'm looking for something special to treat my family or guests.

The following are from that collection, and ones that I'm sure, if you try them, will quickly become a part of yours.

The cheesecake strawberries are so easy and melt-in-your mouth delicious. It's the almond extract that makes the difference, so if you're thinking about leaving it out, please reconsider.

The decadent homemade cream puffs are a wonderful substitute to the shortcake version. Don't be frightened by the prospect of making the cream puffs, the process is relatively simple and almost always fail-proof.

The strawberry pie is remarkable, and a pleasant diversion with its non-traditional crust.

Strawberries are also a delightful additive to any salad. Frozen strawberries are used in this pretzel-based version which would also easily pass as a dessert, and the little red fruit enhances the flavor of the romaine and the bell pepper in the crisp strawberry side salad recipe.

So bring out the strawberries, prepare and enjoy.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Cheesecake Strawberries

Hull and wash two pounds of strawberries.

Mix together well:

1 pkg. instant cream cheese pudding

1 cup milk

Add 2 cups Cool Whip and 1/2 tsp. almond flavoring and blend again.

Pour pudding mixture into small ziplock bag.

Take the cleaned strawberries and either slice two diagonal lines from top down in an x-shape without cutting all the way through.

Slightly cut off one of the corners of the ziplock bag and using it like a pastry frosting bag squeeze the strawberry open and fill with as much of the pudding as you'd like. Repeat the process. As you fill the strawberries place them in an oblong pan or glass dish and place in refrigerator until serving. They will disappear quickly. If cutting the diagonal lines is too lengthy a process, just cut the berries in half and squeeze some of the pudding on top and serve that way.

Cream Puffs

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1 cup boiling water

4 eggs

Melt the butter in the hot water. Add flour and cook and stir constantly until the mixture leaves the side of the plan in a smooth compact mass. Remove from the heat, adds eggs one at a time, beating thorough after each is added. When dough is mixed well, drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Makes about 12 medium puffs. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes and then reduce to 325 degrees for 25 minutes. When cool, cut off tops and fill with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

Remembrance

Strawberry Pie

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

3 tbsp. strawberry flavored gelatin

1 to 2 pints cleaned strawberries

Whipped cream or Cool Whip

Mix sugar, cornstarch and water in saucepan; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin. Pour over strawberries, mix well. Pour into baked pie crust; refrigerate until set. Spread on whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Crust:

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

2 tsp. powdered sugar

Mix ingredients together and press into glass pie plate. Bake approximately 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels

3/4 cup melted butter or margarine

3 tbsp. sugar

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

2 cups whipped topping

1 6-oz pkg. strawberry jello

1 10-oz. pkg. frozen strawberries, thawed

2 cups boiling water

1 cup sugar

Mix together the crushed pretzels, butter or margarine, and 3 tbsp. sugar. Put in 9x13 inch baking dish, bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Mix together the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and whipped topping. Mix gelatin into boiling water, then add frozen strawberries. Spoon over cream cheese mixture. Garnish with fresh strawberries. Keep in the refrigerator.

Crisp, Strawberry Salad

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup white sugar

1/8 cup distilled white vinegar

1 tbsp. poppy seeds

1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

1/2 Bermuda onion, sliced thin

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped

In a small bowl, mix together salad dressing, milk, sugar, vinegar and poppy seeds. Refrigerate.

Combine lettuce, onion, strawberries, pecans, and red bell pepper in large salad bowl. When ready to serve toss with dressing.

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