The Art of Cooking: Strawberry Harvest

As the cool weather drifts away and the heat of summer starts to settle in, one of the first things that come to my mind is the strawberry season ahead. This season brings fond memories for my family of early mornings spent in strawberry fields, picking only the perfect berries for our strawberry harvest. Years have passed, and schedules have changed, but our pre-summer berry tradition is still going strong.

Picking your own strawberries is a great way to get together and enjoy the coming of summer. One of the sweetest gifts summer has to offer is eating a big, juicy, bright red strawberry plucked right from the field. Hand selecting the strawberries yourself is a cost effective way of ensuring a fresh, ripe, all around good berry. When shopping for strawberries at my grocery store, I often end up bringing home less than ripe, flavorless berries.

When deciding what to do with your freshly picked strawberries, there are endless possibilities. If you cannot decide on what you want to make, though, the ever-popular “standing at your refrigerator eating them one by one” is always an option! The classic Strawberry Shortcake is always a pleaser, and one of my family’s favorites. Chocolate dipping your berries result in a great dessert or serves as a flavorful accessory to an afternoon get together. You can create a fun twist by adding your berries to salads; simply slicing them over pancakes and cereal makes for a more balanced breakfast.

This is a strawberry season favorite of mine. There is always someone in my family that makes this recipe every year for a get together. It works great as a sweet pre-dinner appetizer or as a light dessert. It is quick and easy to throw together, so it also serves well as a treat for unexpected company.

Creamy Strawberry Dip

8 oz cream cheese

2 cups whipped cream

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange flavoring

Cream together cream cheese and sugar. Fold in whipped cream and bend well. Stir in orange flavoring. Serve with strawberries.

Another out of the ordinary recipe is Strawberry Cake. A southern recipe brought up from my family in Tennessee, it quickly became a favorite due to its delightful strawberry flavor. This takes a while to make, but is sure to impress in the end. I usually decorate the cake with an array of sliced strawberries and dollops of whipped cream.

Strawberry Cake

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup mashed strawberries

1 6 oz package strawberry gelatin

5 eggs

Stir together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter together. Add eggs and buttermilk to sugar mixture and beat well at medium speed. Blend flour and liquid mixture. Stir in gelatin and mashed strawberries. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured cake pans. Bake at 325° for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake 10 minutes and remove from pans to cooling rack. Frost completely cooled cake with Strawberry Cheese Frosting.

Strawberry Cheese Frosting

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 stick butter

8 oz. cream cheese

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

1/2 cup mashed strawberries, sweetened

Cream butter and cheese. Mix sugar, preserves, and mashed berries with butter mixture until smooth.

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