Simple and Sweet

When it comes to holiday menus, I kind of forget about the drinks. I get so caught up in balancing the classic, “we have to have this because it’s TRADITION”  recipes and the new “this looks intriguing” recipes that I forget about having something to drink besides water. It’s not that I’m not into other beverage options; I just have more fun making food. Plus, it’s usually more fun to eat your calories, rather than drink them. (Fair warning if you come to our house – the beverage choices are probably rather limited.) 

We hosted several friends for Easter again this year, and I spent the week beforehand looking at ham recipes and trying to decide which type of rolls to bake. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, when the rolls were rising, that I realized I didn’t have anything to drink besides water. And I wasn’t going out to the grocery store the Saturday before Easter. No thank you.

After a quick survey of the fridge, freezer, and pantry, I decided that strawberry lemonade was the way to go. I still have a fair amount of strawberries in the freezer from last summer, and there were some lemons kicking around in the crisper drawer. Plus, the recipe I found got good reviews and was super easy to put together. Puree, strain, mix, and chill. The perfect amount of prep for a holiday weekend!

The original recipe says to mix the strawberry-lemon mixture with three cups of water, so that’s what I started with. I gave Andy a sample sip, and, well, you should have seen his face. 😀 I added an extra 1 1/2 cups of water, and we thought it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. (Of course, you may feel differently… adjust to taste!) 

With as easy as this one is, I might start serving drinks more often!

The best part about this lemonade? It matches my pitcher. 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade 

1/2 pound frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup sugar
3-5 cups cold water

Place the strawberries in a blender (or a deep bowl, if you’re using an immersion blender) and pour two tablespoons of lemon juice over the berries. Puree the strawberries until they are smooth.

Set a fine mesh strainer over a 4-cup measuring cup and pour the pureed strawberries through the strainer, straining out any seeds. Add the lemon juice to the strained strawberry juice. Add the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the strawberry-lemon concentrate into a large pitcher. Add 3 cups of water to the concentrate and stir to combine. Taste the lemonade, and if it is too strong, add additional water until lemonade reaches your desired strength. Serve cold.

From Epicurious 

Click here for a printable version.


Strawberry Ice Cream, All Grown Up

So, July is national ice cream month, and for once in my food-blogging existence, I am actually sharing a recipe before the “season” is over. Not that ice cream has a season, at least in our house. We eat it year round. (Although, we have been on a popsicle kick lately. Best investment of the summer.) 😀

A few months ago, one of my friends gave me a bottle of strawberry balsamic vinegar. The stuff is amazing. I’m talking “drink it straight from the bottle” good. It took my salads to another level (especially with some crumbled blue cheese and sliced strawberries). It was perfect in one of my favorite summer pizzas. I drizzled it on top of my birthday cake (chocolate red wine cake with a strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, in case you wondered). And then, I saw this recipe and realized that my fancy vinegar would be perfect for ice cream too.

I know that strawberry season is over, at least for most of the Midwest. (We’ve moved onto blueberries, raspberries and peaches now. Oh, how I love summer produce). However, one of the best things about strawberry ice cream is the fact that you can use frozen berries and still end up with a great-tasting ice cream (at least in my opinion). So if you were crazy lucky enough to put 40+ pounds of berries in the freezer, you’re all set.

This recipe is a little more involved than some other ice creams that I’ve made, since you cook the strawberries and then the custard base, but overall, it’s not too much work, and the flavor is definitely worth it. The vinegar isn’t overpowering; it just makes it a little more “grown up.” And while it won’t rival chocolate or moose tracks for my favorite flavor, it’s definitely good enough to make again. You know, since we have a few berries in the freezer. 😉

Strawberry Balsamic Ice CreamStrawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

3 cups of strawberries (fresh if they’re in season, frozen if not)
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup of sugar, divided
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, divided (I used my fancy strawberry balsamic, but any good balsamic vinegar would work fine.) 
5 egg yolks
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine the strawberries, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries are softened and the juices have thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, puree the strawberries until smooth. Refrigerate the puree until you’re ready to churn the ice cream.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar and salt. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat until it simmers, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar together in a medium bowl or measuring cup. (I use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup for this.) Reduce the heat on the saucepan to medium.

Slowly add the warm cream to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. (I use my 1/2 cup measuring cup to transfer the milk from the pan to the measuring cup.) You want to gradually add about 1 cup of warm cream to the egg yolks. Then, gradually add the yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining milk, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove the custard from the heat.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the cooked custard through the strainer. Chill the custard in the refrigerator until it’s fully cooled, or overnight.

When you’re ready to churn the ice cream, whisk the strawberry puree and the remaining 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar into the custard. Freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker and place in a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm.

From Pink Parlsey, who adapted it from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Click here for a printable version.

One Worth Getting Up For

Last weekend, we got up at the crack of dawn just so we could pick some strawberries. (OK, 5:30 A.M. Not quite the crack of dawn here in June, but still.) As I’ve mentioned before, we lack self-control when it comes to fresh fruit, which meant that we came home with more than 60 pounds of fresh, sweet, ruby-red strawberries. We froze 40 pounds (perfect for off-season snacking), and I made a batch of strawberry-vanilla jam. I also tried a couple more desserts (popsicles, ice cream and ice cream pie, if you must know), but that still left a lot for eating.

I put them on salads for dinner. We ate them at breakfast and with lunch. They just seemed so snackable. All was well, until the strawberries were almost gone, and I realized that I still had so many things I wanted to make. Scones! Cake! Biscuits! Shortcake! I was trying to decide which recipe was worthy of the final few berries, when Andy caught wind of my plans.

“You’re going to BAKE WITH ALL OF THEM?! What about eating them? There are never enough to eat!”

“ALL you want to do is eat them! I’ve only made ONE batch of shortcake this year!”

So, naturally, we did what any rational person would do. We got up at the crack of dawn (again) and picked 25 MORE pounds of strawberries. After filling my largest Pryex bowl with sliced berries for snacking, I went right to work, checking recipes off of my strawberry bucket list.

Scones in the freezer, check. Biscuits in the freezer, check. Strawberry vinaigrette dressing for dinner, check. Strawberry cake for immediate enjoyment, check.

Immediate enjoyment for sure. This cake was amazing. The batter mixed up in no time (all pantry staples), which is perfect for a busy summer Saturday. After pouring the batter into the prepared pan, you cover the batter with an entire pound of strawberries, giving you an incredible berry-to-batter ratio. The batter puffs up and around the berries, which get soft and jam-like in the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool before cutting into it.

The cake is supposed to be baked in either a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or a 10″ standard pie pan. Since my largest pie pan is only 9.5″, I opted for my 10″ cast-iron skillet. (Plus, I love serving food out of the skillet. It just looks so pretty.) 🙂 I think the skillet helped speed up the baking time too, as my cake tested “done” with about 12 minutes left on the timer.

Andy gave this a 6 out of 5, so it’s safe to say that he won’t mind if the last few berries wind up in another cake. After all, we won’t be picking any more berries… right?

Strawberry Summer Cake

Strawberry Summer Cake

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound of strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10″ cake pan or cast-iron skillet. Set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and one cup of sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and milk, and then add the vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the berries, cut side down, in an even layer on the top of the batter. (I did have a few berries that overlapped.) Sprinkle the reserved sugar over the berries.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until the cake is golden brown and tests done with a toothpick, anywhere from 38-60 more minutes. (Deb’s recipe said 60 minutes; mine was done at about 38.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

Click here for a printable version.


Childhood Favorites

Conventional wisdom says that it’s not a good idea to bake once the weather warms up for the summer. Especially if you aren’t running the air conditioning. (Which we almost never do. I’ll take the fresh air and a ceiling fan over the chill of the air conditioner almost any day.) Warm temps or not, sometimes you just have to bake something. Especially when it’s berry season. And while it’d be a crime to NOT eat hundreds of berries in their perfect, natural form, it’d also be a crime to let a summer slip by without making some fantastic fruit desserts.

Shortcake is near the top of the list when it comes to my favorite childhood desserts. (And that’s a long list. What can I say? I have ALWAYS been a dessert girl.) When I was a kid, strawberry shortcake meant Bisquick biscuits topped with strawberries and Cool Whip. And while I’ve moved beyond Bisquick and Cool Whip in most things, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of shortcake. So, while I have tried (and enjoyed) the “cake” shortcake, I was on a mission to recreate the stuff of my childhood dreams.

I used our last two quarts of strawberries for this shortcake, almost in a “farewell to strawberry season” tribute, and, rather than simply macerating the sliced berries with sugar, I pureed some of them to help create extra juice for drizzling. (“Extra juice” was the only way Andy was on board with shortcake. “No one wants a dry biscuit,” he said.) I used buttermilk instead of regular milk and winged it with the strawberry mixture. The best part about this recipe, though? (Aside from things like cream and berries, obviously?) How ridiculously easy it is.

Seriously. We are talking 20 minutes, start to finish. From the time you get the mixing bowl out of the cupboard to the time you are pulling warm, delicious biscuits from the oven. There’s no rolling, no cutting, no greasing of the pan. Just mixing, dropping and baking. Totally worth preheating the oven on a summer day. 🙂

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake 

For the shortcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk

For the berries:
2 quarts of strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered if small
2-4 tablespoons of sugar, to taste

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas and the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until it is just combined.

Using a large spoon, divide the dough in eight mounds (blobs? piles? none of this sounds appetizing) on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

While the biscuits are baking, puree 1/2 cup of the strawberries with a tablespoon of sugar. Gently toss the rest of the berries with the pureed strawberry sauce. Taste the berries and add additional sugar if necessary. Cover the berries and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve the shortcake.

To make the whipped cream, combine the cream, vanilla and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. (I used a Pyrex bowl and my hand mixer, but this could be done with a stand mixer as well.) Beat/whisk on medium speed until stiff peaks form.

To serve, split the biscuits in half and fill with strawberries. Place the biscuit top on the berries, add more strawberries and top with whipped cream.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.


Berries, Cream and Cake, All in One

A few months ago, Andy put in a request for angel food cake. Since he doesn’t request things often, I do my best to accommodate him when he does ask for something specific. (Except for meatloaf. I’m still working through my issues with that dish.) So, I added angel food cake to my “must bake” list and began looking for an occasion worthy of such a dessert.

Lucky for me (and Andy… it’s his request, after all), April rolled around with its plethora of birthdays, and I was appointed to make the dessert for our “April birthday dinner.” Perfect timing! And, to make things even better, I stumbled upon this fun version of angel food cake. (Because we know that I’m incapable of leaving well enough alone…) I was a little nervous about this technique because I didn’t know if the angel food cake would be sturdy enough to handle the rolling, unrolling, filling and then re-rolling, but it worked great! No cracks in the cake, and it kept its shape in the fridge until party time.

It was a definite success. There were oohs. And aahs. And lots of mmms. And we demolished it. At the end of the night, I confiscated the one remaining piece and took a picture just so I’d have something to share with the blog world. (And then I stashed it in the fridge so I could enjoy it the next day. Cook’s privilege, right?) 🙂

The only downside? I strayed too far from tradition for Andy. Apparently, what he wanted was an angel food cake (in the traditional shape) with chocolate frosting. Berries and cream, tucked in a cute roll, was too much of a change for him. (Not that it stopped him from enjoying multiple slices…) So, his request for an angel food cake still stands. Looks like I need another occasion.


Strawberries and Cream Angel Food Cake Roll

For the cake:
9 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup cake flour
powdered sugar, for dusting

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla (I’ll be honest; I didn’t measure this here. It’s vanilla. Can there really be TOO much?) 
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
4 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Side note: be sure your mixing bowl is clean and dry before the egg whites go in.) 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 11″ x 17″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. Lightly spray the waxed paper with cooking oil. (Yes, waxed paper. All the rolled cake recipes I’ve seen call for it. I’d guess that you could use parchment paper if waxed paper weirds you out.) 

Once your egg whites have come to room temperature, add the cream of tartar and the vanilla to the mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly beat in the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. As you add the sugar, increase the speed to high and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Gently fold in the flour 1/4 cup at a time.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes.

Place a clean, dry, cotton towel on the counter and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Carefully flip the cake out of the pan and onto the towel. Peel the waxed paper off the cake and then roll the cake up inside of the towel, starting with the short end. Allow the rolled cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake has cooled, prepare the filling. Beat the whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar together in a mixing bowl until semi-stiff peaks form. Gently fold the diced strawberries into the whipped cream.

Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the strawberries and cream mixture all over the inside of the cake. When the inside is covered in filling, re-roll the cake (not the towel this time). Place the cake on a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar. Chill until ready to serve.*

*I made this on a Saturday afternoon and served it Saturday evening, and the cake held up well in the fridge for that amount of time. The ONE lonely piece that survived until Sunday was also in pretty good shape the next day. However, since it didn’t make it past noon on Sunday, I can’t verify how long you can keep in this in the fridge.  

From Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version.

Strawberries and (sour) cream!

This would not have been an ice cream I would have gravitated to as a child. As pretty as it looks, I was (and still am, for the most part) a chocolate ice cream girl. Plain chocolate, rocky road, fudge brownie… you get the picture. (Apparently though, you wouldn’t know it by looking at my ice cream tag. Must be because the chocolate ice cream get eaten before I have a chance to snap a picture…) 

However, I was in the mood for ice cream, and I didn’t have the time or patience for a fussy, custard-based recipe, or a trip to the grocery store for additional ingredients, which is why this recipe was perfect. Five ingredients? Almost no hands-on prep time? Where do I sign up?

The ice cream ended up being better than I expected. It was just sweet enough and perfectly creamy. I just made sure that Andy didn’t see the sour cream going into the mixing bowl. (What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?) And since strawberry pairs so well with chocolate, I channeled my inner child and dressed it up with some chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Just because. 🙂


Strawberry Ice Cream

1 quart of strawberries, fresh or frozen*
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vodka, optional (I didn’t use this, simply because the vodka was in the basement, and I didn’t feel like going downstairs to retrieve it…) 
1 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream, with no apparent ill effects.) 
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Slice the strawberries and place in a large bowl. (See note below. If using frozen, simply place the frozen berries in a bowl and let thaw before proceeding.) Add sugar to berries and let stand for an hour. (I skipped this step since my thawed berries were already soft and juicy. If you’re using frozen berries, simply stir them until the sugar dissolves.) 

Mix in the sour cream and heavy cream, then use an immersion blender to puree the mixture to your desired consistency. (I made mine mostly smooth, with just a few strawberry chunks.) Stir in the lemon juice, then cover and refrigerate until well-chilled.

Freeze chilled mixture in an ice cream maker.

*Here’s the deal with the strawberries. Fresh is going to be better, 99 times out of 100. However, in March, in Wisconsin, “fresh” strawberries were picked green and trucked several hundred miles to get to my store. I opted to use the strawberries we froze after picking them last June. I let them thaw in a bowl, proceeded with the recipe. 

From Annie’s Eats, who adapted the recipe from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”

Click here for a printable version.

Strawberry Wine (Coolers!)

Ahh, wine coolers. Those super-sweet, fruity-flavored, neon-hued beverages were the first “real” drinks I tasted. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoyed them then. They’re not something I drink so much any more though – I tend to prefer a glass of wine instead. But then, I saw Annie’s post about homemade peach wine coolers, and then strawberry wine coolers, and I was intrigued. I knew that Karen would be willing to try them with me (especially since these are flamingo-colored!), so we whipped up a half batch last weekend.

Let’s just say that they were a success, and we’re definitely ready to try the peach variety in a few weeks when peaches are in season. (Plus, they’re easy to put together, which is a huge plus, considering the weather lately! Speedy, frosty beverages are a win-win when it’s 90+!)

Strawberry Wine Coolers

1/2 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 750ml bottle of semi-sweet white wine, well chilled (I used a Riesling from Yellow Tail.)
1 ounce of vodka
pinch of sea salt

In a blender, combine all but four of the strawberries, one cup of wine, the vodka and the sea salt. Pulse the mixture until the strawberries are pureed.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any seeds and chunks. (We skipped this step, thinking that fruit chunks wouldn’t bother us, which was true. However, once we got to the bottom of our glasses, we had quite the collection of seeds. Learn from our mistake; strain the mixture.) 

If necessary, put the strawberry mixture back in the fridge (or freezer, to speed things up) to chill. Before serving, pour the rest of the wine into the strawberry mixture.

Garnish wine glasses with the remaining strawberries, and serve the wine coolers over ice. Enjoy!

From Annie’s Eats