Friday, March 22, 2013

Strawberry Season!

Around here Spring means strawberries.  South Louisiana grows a lot of strawberries!  The nearby small town of Ponchatoula, LA is considered the Strawberry capital of the world.  Every Spring they hold a Strawberry Festival.  It is the largest free festival in the country.  Carnival rides, bands, and lots of food booths make for a fun-filled weekend!  Growing up, I used to go to strawberry farms where you could take a basket and pick your own.  Talk about fresh!  Obviously, I love strawberries.  When strawberry season rolls around I buy them by the flat, which is 12 pints.  So, I have to figure out what to do with all of them.

Of course I eat them plain.  But, I buy so many that I need to find other ways to use them.  I freeze some whole (after removing the hull), then put them in freezer bags.  I use them in smoothies instead of ice (who wants a watered-down smoothie!).  Or, float them in a glass of pink lemonade (again, better than watering it down with ice, plus it's a pretty garnish).

I also slice some, put them in a bowl and add sugar.  The sugar helps to break them down and forms a sweet syrup.  This make a fantastic topping for ice cream or cake (think strawberry shortcake).  You can put this in freezer bags, as well, and thaw it as you need it.

Speaking of strawberry shortcake, you can buy those sponge cake shells at the grocery store, but I like to bake a sponge cake in a loaf pan.  I slice it and add the strawberries and syrup and whipped cream.  This sponge cake is dense with a crisp, sugary crust.  Yum!  Here is the recipe:


2 TBS sugar (to dust the pan with)
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan well with shortening.  Sprinkle the 2 TBS sugar all over pan to coat the bottom and sides.  Shake out any excess.  Beat eggs until pale and fluffy.  With mixer on a low speed, slowly add the sugar (a spoonful at a time).  Add the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour and baking powder.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.

 Bake 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until the top looks golden and crunchy and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Slice with a serrated knife when cold.

Strawberry Syrup:
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar

Put sliced strawberries in a bowl.  Add sugar and stir.  Let sit until the strawberries have broken down and formed a syrup.  Pour the strawberries and syrup over a slice of cake.  Top with whipped cream.

If you like cheesecake, you'll love this next recipe.  It is a no-bake dessert that is always a hit.


12 whole graham crackers, finely crushed
6 TBS butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 TBS sugar, divided
4 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
1 (8oz) tub cool whip, thawed

Mix graham crumbs, butter and 1/4 cup sugar.  Press into bottom of 9x13 pan.  Refrigerate.  Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl.  Add preserves.  Place fresh strawberries and remaining sugar in a small bowl and mash them.  Stir into cream cheese mixture.  Stir in cool whip.  Spoon over crust.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm.

So, there are some of my favorite things to do with strawberries.  If you get the chance to buy a flat, go for it!  You'll always find a way to eat them!


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