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Strawberries typically peak during May in the South and in June and July in the North. Local farmers markets in our area now have strawberries ripe for the pickin’.
If you like to pick your own, be sure to take a couple plastic buckets with you to load up on the local favorites. My wife recently went with some friends to indulge in their annual strawberry pickin’ event.
If you haven’t picked strawberries before, just grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion. When you get proficient at it, you’ll be able use both hands and pick off three or four berries with each at a time. I’m happy just picking off one berry with each hand. Remember to place—don’t throw—the berries into your containers and don’t attempt to pack them down.
Strawberries won’t ripen after they have been picked, so be sure to choose firm, bright berries with their “greens” still attached. Don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them, since they’re highly susceptible to mold. You can store them in your refrigerator in a container on a single layer of dry paper towels. If you’ve brought back home more than you can eat within a week, try freezing some in plastic resealable bags.
One cup of strawberries, which are high in Vitamin C and provide some potassium and iron, has only 55 calories.
If you’ve ever bothered to count the tiny seeds on a strawberry, you already know that there are about 200 tiny seeds on an average-size strawberry! Can you think of any other fruit with seeds on the “outside”?
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges and Pecans
This is one of my favorite springtime salads, using a blend of fresh spinach leaves, Mandarin oranges, fresh strawberries, raisins, red onion and pecans.
2 bags spinach leaves
1 can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1 small red onion, sliced
1 cup pecans, chopped
For the dressing:
1/2 cup dark current jelly
3 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
Melt jelly in small saucepan on low heat or in microwave. When cool, stir in vinegar. Clean spinach leaves, dry and remove stems. Mix all salad ingredients together, except for the pecans. About 1-2 hours before serving, add the dressing to the salad ingredients to desired consistency. Keep chilled until served. Add one cup of pecans just before serving. Makes four to six servings.
Grilled Balsamic Chicken Salad
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
2 Tbsps. white wine vinegar
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 cups assorted salad greens, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat gas grill for direct heat. Place chicken on the grill, cover, and grill chicken over medium heat 15-20 minutes, turning and brushing occasionally with 1/4 cup of the balsamic vinaigrette, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Once done, cut chicken into slices.
Using a large bowl, toss the salad greens, chicken and strawberries; divide among 4 plates. Arrange mango and avocado around each salad. Sprinkle with cilantro. Drizzle with reserved dressing. Makes 4 servings.
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1-cup all-purpose flour
1-cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
Mix together oatmeal, flour and brown sugar; add nuts. Cut in butter until crumbly. In another bowl, mix strawberries and white sugar together. In a greased 8-inch sq. pan, spread half the crumb mixture on the bottom; cover with strawberries. Spread remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or topping.
Strawberry smoothies are probably the most popular fruit smoothie as they are simple to make and strawberries are readily available most of the season. For a thicker version, just add a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream.
6 large strawberries
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup of whole or skim milk
Add all three ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth. Do not blend strawberries too much to create a very fruity smoothie where you can fully enjoy the strawberry taste. Additional fruits may be added, like bananas.
If using frozen strawberries, add some sugar or sweetened juice to the smoothie to create a sweeter taste.
Easy Strawberry Rhubarb Cheesecake
This is a real easy recipe that even I can handle, as I’m not really into the baking routine. Even the piecrust is relatively simple to make in a 9x13-inch pan.
For the crust:
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
For the filling:
2 pkgs. (8 oz. size) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
For the topping:
3 cups rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4 tsps. cornstarch
In a large bowl, combine margarine, brown sugar, flour and pecans. Press on bottom of lightly greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Beat the filling ingredients together until smooth. Pour over the baked crust. Return to oven and bake additional 20 minutes, or until filling is set. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar and strawberries. Cook over medium heat until hot and bubbly. Whisk together water and cornstarch and add mixture to rhubarb. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until mixture thickens. Cool slightly. Spread over baked cheesecake.
Refrigerate overnight. Cut into squares and serve.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.