Celebrating Summer with Fresh Strawberries

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Summer is now well under way and many of us will be gathering with family and friends throughout the next two months to enjoy the warm weather and nature’s bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Knowing I would be spending most of my day recently at the Apple store, and feeling quite grouchy about it, I decided to start early so I could make a stop at one of the local farms with the “pick-your-own” option before I left town.  And let me tell you, I am so happy I did.  It was just what I needed to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day, no matter what!  

It had been roughly 17 years since I last picked my own strawberries.  And this time I have to admit, it was way more fun!  No small children to get discouraged or too hot; no one to complain that they want to go home; and in just 90 mins (from the moment I parked my car to the moment I drove away) I picked more than two times the amount of berries I ever picked back in the day with three young helpers.

I walked away with roughly 10 pounds of fresh strawberries!  

So now what?  

Well, this weekend I froze a portion, made some preserves, and the rest I set aside for eating now and to use in baking.

In the spirit of the upcoming Fourth of July festivities, I thought I’d share two of my favorite recipes.

When my children were growing up, I made the same strawberry shortcake recipe every summer and they loved it!  It was our tradition.  Now my kids are grown and I’m married to a man who prefers not to consume sugar or grains.  That makes baking difficult.  But with the help of a new cookbook - Sweet Laurel: recipes for whole food, grain-free desserts - I am learning a new way to bake.  

Now before you turn up your nose at that idea, let me assure you this recipe - for a new take on the traditional strawberry shortcake - is so yummy you will want to eat the flipping cake by itself - no strawberries necessary because it is so moist and so sweet!

The second recipe is for my strawberry/lemon preserves.  They are made without refined sugar and add a sweet tangy-ness to anything you want.  I love it on toast;  my husband enjoys it on his oatmeal; it’s delicious on top of ice cream. 

So, without further ado, I hope you will venture soon to try one of the recipes below.  


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Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes (Sweet Laurel)    

Ingredients for shortcake

2 cups almond flour

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (can use regular almond or coconut milk)

1/2 cup maple syrup

Ingredients for strawberry sauce

1 pint strawberries, tops removed and quartered

1/4 cup raw honey (I omitted this)

Juice of one lemon

Ingredients for coconut whipped cream

Two 13.5-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

A few notes before you start: 

* I use regular almond milk (found in the refrigerator dairy section) for the cake.  The batter was more runny, but it made no difference in the way the cupcakes baked/came out.

* You MUST use canned full fat coconut milk for the coconut whipped cream.

* I made large muffins/cupcakes and they were done in 23 mins in my oven.  When trying a new recipe, I always check five mins earlier than what the recipe says, just in case. 

* I omit the honey in the strawberry sauce.  This is just a preference as I find the finished product sweet enough for me.

* I use only one tablespoon of maple syrup in the coconut whipped cream, but most people prefer as recipe is written.

Steps

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Line muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Sift the flour to remove any lumps.  Whisk flour, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl.  Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, coconut milk and maple syrup together until combines. 

3. A little at a time, add dry ingredients into the wet, stirring until batter combines well.  

4. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups and bake 25-30 mins, until golden brown and inserted tooth pick comes out clean.  Immediately turn out/invert cupcakes onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for one hour.

5. To prepare strawberry sauce, put one cup of the strawberries, the honey, and the lemon juice into a food processor and blend.  Save remainder of cut strawberries for the shortcake assembly.

6. To prepare the coconut whipped cream, remove the solid coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can, and spoon it into a bowl.  Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat coconut cream on high until it thickens and forms small peaks.  IF the cream is too thick, you can add the remaining coconut water, one teaspoon at a time.  Otherwise discard it.

7. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the maple syrup and vanilla.  Transfer into a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

8. To assemble the shortcakes, cut off the top of the cupcake, add a spoonful of coconut whipped cream, and some quartered strawberries.  Drizzle with strawberry sauce.  Add cupcake top, repeat, but be more generous with the sauce on top.


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Anut Ellie’s Strawberry Lemon Preserves (revised without refined sugar)

Ingredients

2 lbs strawberries, tops removed and cut in half

Rind of one lemon cut up

1/4 cup water

1/4-1/2 cup of raw honey (or coconut palm sugar or no sugar at all)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

Things you will definitely need: large pot to cook berries in, small canning jars with two piece lids ( a disk and a rim), magnetic lid lifter,  and jar lifter - these serve to preserve sterilization of jars and lids if you plan to keep preserves for a period of time before using.  I also recommend a silicone canning mat, although I’ve read it is not necessary.

Tips: You will need to sterilize your jars and lids.  And you can do that in either a large pot or using your dishwasher.  If you use DW, be sure to time the end of the cycle for when the berries are cooked, so they should be put into the jars as soon as they are ready to go.  Because my DW takes so long to run a cycle, I used a large pot and timed it so that the sterilization step started 10 mins before the berries were finished cooking.

Finally, I used only 1/4 cup of raw local honey for my recipe and it comes out great.  But many “refined sugar free” recipes call for palm coconut sugar.  It has the consistency of regular white sugar.  I made a batch for my husband without any sweetener at all - and it was delicious, but super tangy. 

Steps:

1. Stir strawberries and water together in a large pot over medium heat, until the fruit begins to bubble.  Turn heat to medium low to allow a gentle boil for 20 mins.  Stir frequently to keep fruit from sticking to the bottom.

2. While fruit cooks, prepare jars and lids for sterilization - place empty jars and lids in a large pot, covering the jars in water, and set aside.

3. After fruit cooks 20 mins, use an immersion blender (or potato masher) to puree fruit.  Add lemon juice and zest and continue cooking for ten more mins.

4. During these last 10 mins, place pot of jars and lids on stove over high heat.  As it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium and let it remain on a low boil until preserves are ready.

5. Remove two tablespoons of fruit and place into glass measuring cup.  Add arrowroot powder and mix well.  This works as a thickening agent in place of pectin or gelatin.  Return to pot of fruit on stove and mix well for about one minute.

6. Remove pot from heat and stir in honey.

7. Using a jar lifter, remove one jar from pot of hot water and place on counter.  Using a large spoon, fill jar with preserves, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Using the magnetic lid lifter, remove a lid from the pot of hot water, making sure the two pieces are in-tact, and screw lid tightly onto jar. Continue process until all preserves have been jarred.

8. To “process” preserves, place silicone canning mat into a large pot and place the filled jars onto the mat.  Fill the pot until the jars are covered with two inches of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce heat slightly and boil for 10 mins.

9. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the pot and place upside down on a dish towel, leaving them for 20 - 30 mins.  If the canning process worked, the disk part of the lid should be indented tightly and will not move.  Preserves should last without refrigeration for up to one year.

These small jars make great hostess and thank you gifts.

Enjoy!!


As always, we are glad you stopped by to spend some time with us on the blog.  If you try a recipe, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know how it worked for you.  And we always enjoy hearing from our readers, so please let us know if there is something you would like us to address in our blog posts.


Namaste.