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Eating Well: Strawberries nutritious, delicious dessert choice

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May is National Strawberry Month and the prime season for the fruit that is great eaten alone or in combination with other ingredients for a deliciously light, yet decadent dessert or salad.

Strawberries are plentiful right now in the supermarkets and reasonably priced as well, making them a popular fruit mainstay in most households, so much so, that about 94 percent of all households serve them regularly, an excellent nutritional choice, since they are packed with Vitamin C and contain only 43 calories per one cup serving.

Besides eating them freshly washed from the container, strawberries are a major ingredient in several recipes, enhanced by whipped cream, puddings, glazes or plain old dipping chocolate.

Through the years, strawberries have become synonymous with shortcake. Nothing is easier or more delectable that topping a store bought angel food cake with berries and fresh whipping cream, or making your own from scratch short cakes or pound cake, using that as your yummy foundation.

Another 'shortcake' alternative, is the relatively easy-to-make homemade cream puffs featured below.

This time of the year, I also look forward to making my "Cheesecake Strawberries," a recipe so easy to prepare with so few ingredients, it's sometimes a once a week treat that always disappears quickly.

And if you really don't want to take the time to fill the individual strawberries, serve the cheesecake pudding mixture as a dip surrounded by the fresh berries.

As for salads, strawberries are also the perfect addition. 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 Ziploc 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 Ziploc 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.

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 Jell-O

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.