Tag Archives: strawberry

Celebrate the 4th with Roasted Strawberry Sauce…and Ice Cream!

The 4th of July is a great time of year. Summer is in full swing, flowers are blooming, and the farmer’s market is overflowing with produce. To celebrate the holiday this year, I’m making roasted strawberry sauce served over creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect combination, and the cool ice cream is a welcome treat for the hot July weather.

The roasted strawberry sauce is easy, and it’s a great way to use up strawberries that might be turning past their prime. The strawberries cook down with brown sugar and create a sweet, ruby red, carmelly (I know, inventing words again) sauce that’s perfect with ice cream. And the best thing is, there are only 2 ingredients!

Take 3 cups strawberries that have been hulled and quartered. Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Trust me, the parchment will make clean up so easy! Top the strawberries with 1 cup brown sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until soft and syrupy.

strawberriesin baking sheetbrown sugarready for the ovensauce readysauceeasy clean upThat’s it! Pretty simple, and absolutely delicious. Drown some vanilla ice cream in this sauce and dig in. I hope you have an amazing 4th of July, and buckets full of ice cream! 🙂 Enjoy!

enjoy!

Nothing Says Spring Like Strawberry Pie!

It’s been a long time coming, but I think it might finally be spring. Sure, the bulbs aren’t exactly bursting with blooms, but I do see some daffodil buds and tulip shoots. The crocuses are out, so that’s a start. And the trees sort of look like there is some growth…sort of?!?!? Anyway, I’ll take it. It’s spring. And nothing says spring more than strawberry pie.

I’ll admit strawberry pie is not you’re most common. Sure, there’s strawberry rhubarb, which I’m sure is quite delicious. However, strawberry, with its sweet, bright red filling, and buttery, flaky crust just says sunny skies to me. So, for Easter, it was the perfect addition to the table.

To start, I use my standard pie crust recipe. You may remember it from Thanksgiving. You want a top and bottom crust for this recipe. As a side note, I had the chance to roll out the dough on my new granite counter tops…WOW! What a difference. The cold, hard surface made it a breeze to roll out dough. Definitely a plus for the new kitchen!

Roll out the crust for the bottom about an inch larger than your pie plate. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray and carefully line with the crust. Rest the crust lined pie plate in the refrigerator while you roll out the top crust. You want the top crust a little larger than the pie plate so you can create a seal and crimp.ready to rollrolled outready for fillingFor the filling, you’ll need 4 ½ cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters. In another bowl, combine 1 ¼ cups sugar, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Combine with the strawberries, and pour into the bottom crust. Dot with 4 tablespoons butter and cover with the top crust.slicingstrawberriessugar and spiceready for combiningready for piefilledTo seal and crimp, cut the edges, leaving about half an inch of overhang from the edge of the pie plate. Fold both crusts over the top so it creates a nice edge around the entire pie. Pinch the edges to crimp. You can do this in a decorative fashion; however, sometimes I just prefer the rustic look. Cut a few slits in the top for ventilation too.coveredcrimpedFor a shiny top, that also adds a delicious sweetness and crunch, cover the crust with 1 teaspoon ½ and ½ (or milk will do) and sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sugar. It is my secret to a delicious crust, and I do it for all of my pies.making the crunchy toppingBake in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling. I put the pie plate on a foil lined cookie sheet just to catch any overflow of the juices. And if the crust gets too dark, just cover with a piece of aluminum foil.ready for the oven

So, my next tip, don’t throw away that left over pie dough. Roll it out, brush with 1/2 and 1/2 or milk, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and cut into strips. Bake on a cookie sheet in the same oven for about 10 minutes until golden. These cinnamon-sugar treats are absolutely delicious, and it lets you see just how flaky and perfect you made that pie crust! It’s definitely the perfect snack for the cook.doughcinnamonsugarslicedbakedperfectionIf you’re looking for a pie to make, or just craving something sweet, or something fruity, give this one a try this spring or summer. It is absolutely delicious and just screams warm weather!

Strawberries Everywhere…and Strawberry Shortcake!

Strawberry PlantWhen I was in 6th grade, my younger brother gave me a strawberry plant. At our school, the 6th graders had “partners” in 2nd grade, and he was my partner. We helped them with school work and projects, and did some fun things with them during school. At some point, they grew strawberry plants for us as a gift (for the life of me I can’t remember why). And, at that young age, I had already loved gardening, so I was very excited to take it home and plant it in the garden. Sure enough, it did great that summer, and then the next spring, there were strawberries and plants everywhere. While the strawberries were great, over the years, my mom had enough of the plants taking over the entire garden, so, unfortunately, they all came out. But, I learned a few very important lessons: 1) strawberries are really easy to grow and delicious, and 2) the plants will take over any space you give them!

BiteMany years later, as I was cleaning up the gardens at my house, and pulling out tons of pachysandra that had been planted just about everywhere, I had a revelation. There are 3 very small beds next to my house that are completely enclosed in concrete. The beds boarder the house on one side and the sidewalk on the other. So, the light bulb went off, and I decided to plant strawberries there. They could grow and spread, and not intrude on anything else, and they have done great in this spot. For many years, they were enjoyed by my nephews who would pick away and eat them, covering themselves in the red juice. Now that they are a little older, they have some self-control, and I get to enjoy the strawberries, and when I’m lucky, there are enough to make strawberry shortcake!

For me, there is only one way to make strawberry shortcake…and that’s with a biscuit or scone. Don’t get me wrong, when you use pound cake or some other cake, it’s delicious. But it’s just not Butterthe same for me. I love the crumbly texture of the biscuit that soaks up the juice, combined with the creamy whipped cream and juicy berries. The recipe I have I adapted from one I found online, which, for the life of me now, I can’t find the link, but it’s a simple scone recipe with macerated berries and whipped cream.

Whisk together 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Cut in 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces. If you have a food processor, you can use that. Otherwise, just try to work in the butter using a fork. I often times need to get my hands into it to break up the pieces of butter. If you do this, just be careful, you don’t want the butter to melt. You need to work it fast if you use your hands. Then whisk 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup heavy cream until combined. Pour that into the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Ready for OvenTurn the dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Form into a 7 inch round, then cut about 2-3 inch pieces. As you can see from my picture, mine are not perfect at all. 🙂 Place them on a greased cookie sheet and brush with a little cream, half and half, or milk, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. You want them a little golden and a toothpick to come out clean.

As those are cooking, you can get the strawberries ready. It will take about 2 lbs. strawberries, although this time, I mixed strawberries and blueberries. Whatever you prefer is fine, even Fruitpeaches are great this time of year. Take about half the fruit and smash it with a potato masher. Then add the rest, along with 1/4 cup sugar. Let that sit for a while so the juices run.

The last component is the whipped cream. I used 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream and about 3 tablespoons sugar, but, whenever I make whipped cream, I always taste it. Some people like it sweeter, some people like it less. I am on the sweeter side! Start whipping the cream, and, once it starts to thicken, add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff.

Whipped CreamOnce the scones are cooled you’re ready to assemble. Of course in our hurry to eat them this time, I never took a picture of the completed shortcake, but just cut the cooled scones in half, spoon some fruit on the bottom half, with the juice of course, top with some whipped cream, and add the top!

And I know what you’re thinking, it’s a little late for strawberry season if you grow them at home, but there are tons of strawberries in the grocery stores right now, not to mention blueberries, peaches, etc. Just get some fruit, and have at it!Ready to Eat

A Great Spring-Summer Dessert…Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

It’s so nice to have the warm weather back.  The sun stays out longer, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and I love it.  After such a long winter, it’s so refreshing to finally be in the heart of spring, with summer right around the corner.

StrawberriesWith the warm weather, I get excited about summer clothes and outdoor activities, but I also get excited about summer food.  Just like swapping sweaters for t-shirts, I think most people also change their eating habits in the summer, even if they don’t realize it.  Instead of the heavy stews, we start eating dinner salads and lighter meals.  We start to replace the starchy vegetables for fresh summer produce.  And, we no longer crave the rich desserts like bread pudding, but start to focus on lighter desserts with fruit, like panna cotta with balsamic strawberries.

Cream and SugarI’m not sure if you’re familiar with panna cotta, but it’s a delicious, creamy dessert that’s surprisingly simple to make.  Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in Italian, and the cream is really the star of the dessert.  It’s delicious sweetened cream that takes on a creamy, semisolid texture.  And ok, ok, I’ll admit it, it does have cream, so I guess it’s not as light as I said.  But it’s cool and has a light, creamy texture that’s perfect for summer.

Cooked CreamTo start, you’ll need 1 quart heavy cream.  Pour about a cup of it in a bowl and sprinkle in 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin.  It ends up being a total of .5 oz of gelatin.  Let that begin to dissolve while you heat the rest of the cream in a saucepan over medium heat with 1 cup sugar.  You want to heat this mixture until the cream warms and the sugar dissolves.  It should only take a few minutes, but make sure you stir so the cream doesn’t burn.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the gelatin mixture.  Continue to stir until the gelatin dissolves in the cream.

Ready for UnmoldingOnce the gelatin has dissolved, you can remove the cream mixture from the heat.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and that’s it.  Your panna cotta is done.  You just need to pour the mixture into molds and allow it to chill.  You can pour the whole thing into a big bowl, so that you just scoop out the solidified mixture once it’s cooled, or you can pour the mixture into single serve molds that you can then unmold for a great presentation.  I just used small 1 7/8 cup rectangular Pyrex containers, but you can really use anything you like.  Once you pour the mixture into whatever container/containers you’re using, put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to cool and solidify.  I made mine the night before.  And don’t cover them when they are hot, or you’ll end up with water in your panna cotta.

Balsamic GlazeWhile that is chilling, you can make the strawberries.  Simmer 1 cup balsamic vinegar for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened.  Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons honey.  Allow the mixture to cool, then add 1 lb sliced strawberries.  That’s pretty much it.  Let the strawberries stay at room temperature for a while so the flavors meld.

After several hours or overnight, when the panna cotta has solidified, you can unmold (or scoop and serve if you’re not unmolding).  UnmoldedSimply run a knife around the edges to loosen, then set in warm water for a few seconds.  That should melt the edges just a bit and loosen the panna cotta.  Just put a plate on top of the mold and flip it.  You may have to tap a bit to get it out.  To serve, scoop some of the strawberries with the balsamic reduction around the plate, and that’s it.  Enjoy!

Oh, and this recipe is great, but really, the panna cotta is great with anything.  It’s delicious with some chocolate sauce, or just some fresh fruit or berries, or just plain, on it’s own.  It’s cool, creamy, and delicious.

An Update on the Garden and Seeds!

Today was finally the kind of day I’ve been waiting for.  It was beautiful, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid-60s, the grass was turning green, and everything outside seemed to be green and growing.  It finally feels like spring, so I took the opportunity to check things out in the yard.  I also wanted to provide some updates on the seeds I planted a few weeks ago.

Bearded IrisAs I wander through the yard, it’s always nice to see mother nature in action, sending up new shoots.  I spotted some of my bearded irises first.  They have such beautiful blooms, even though they are short-lived, but the spikes of leaves last longer and really add contrast to the garden.  The other great things about bearded iris is that they multiply fast.  What starts out as just 1 small rhizome quickly spreads.  You can divide them also to have more and also spread them out.  I’ve found that after the clump gets too big, you really need to divide or the flowers aren’t as big.

PeonySome of my favorites, especially in the spring, are peonies.  I love the big flowers.  They put on quite a show.  I have both tree peonies and herbaceous peonies.  The tree peonies are interesting in shape, but I think I lean towards the good, old-fashioned herbaceous ones.  Thankfully both are starting to show growth in the garden.  The herbaceous ones always send up these amazing red shoots.  They are easy to spot in the spring soil.  They will be bursting with color in May.

Tree PeonyThe tree peony is a very interesting specimen.  As the name suggests, it grows as a tree, and it sends out new shoots every year.  These shoots will include the buds that will also put on quite a show in a few months.  The one very nice thing about the tree peony is that the flowers don’t weigh the plant down.  Often times, towards the end of the blooming season, especially if we get a good rain, the herbaceous blooms will end up on the ground because they weigh the delicate branches down.  The tree peony comes with its own built-in support!

DayliliesDaylilies are just starting to burst through the soil.  The bright green shoots are coming up in a number of places.  They prefer a little bit of shade and do really well, growing into very substantial clumps, sending up big, colorful blooms.

20140331_161038Even though many people think of mums in the fall, they do start to sprout now if you have them in the garden.  They are a hardy perennial, and I’m always lecturing people about how they can plant their fall potted ones in the ground.  The good news is a bunch of friends have no desire to do it, so I get their leftovers!  These will need a cutting back before July 4th to make sure they don’t bloom too early.  Any later than that, and they won’t have time to bloom at all this season.

Probably the favorite plant in my garden as far as my Strawberryniece and nephews are concerned, the strawberry plants are doing well already.  They will have sweet, delicious berries in a few months.  One thing to note, they spread like crazy.  I have a few sections on the side of my house where there are beds that are surrounded by sidewalk.  They have done great in this location, and also can’t take over anything!  It’s a win/win.

TulipsI have a number of bulbs that I’ve planted over the years.  Some of my favorites are daffodils and tulips.  I love that the daffodils are one of the first to bloom in the spring.  They are such a welcome sight, and they multiply and create full clusters in the garden.  Tulips are another favorite, and you can really spread out their bloom time with the different varieties available today.  They are just starting to poke through, although they will take a little while to send up buds.  Even so, they are always such a welcome sight in the early summer garden.

As for the seeds I wrote about a few weeks ago, I’m happy to report that I have seedlings for all of them.  Some have definitely done better than others, but I’m not loosing hope.  There is still time for a few to come through.  Here is what’s growing so far:

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Eggplant

Eggplant…small, but coming along.

Kale...I've gotta thin these!

Kale…I’ve gotta thin these!

Tomatoes...these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Tomatoes…these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Beets...you can't miss these...I love the red color.

Beets…you can’t miss these…I love the red color.

Fava Beans...these are growing like crazy!

Fava Beans…these are growing like crazy!

Sage

Sage

Chives...these are also so tiny.

Chives…these are also so tiny.

Taragon

Tarragon

Squash

Squash