suffering for strawberries

When I think about Summer I think about adventure. New sights. New sounds. New experiences. Since I’m now a working girl my time with the kids is really limited, they’re busy with camp and grandparents all summer and they’re both getting to the age were friends are beginning to trump Mom. So when it comes to entertaining my little loves on our days together, I go out of my way to keep things interesting. We do things like tromp around Storm King Art Center and spend the day digging for sand crabs at Sandy Hook. Explore lower Manhattan and visit the new baby gorilla at the Bronx Zoo. Just last week we spent the morning strawberry picking in Western N.J.

Apple and often blueberry picking has become a part of our annual trip to Vermont each August. Every one looks forward to hiking through the orchard, snacking on perfectly crisp apples and enjoying the rolling Green Mountain views. A trip North just wouldn’t seem complete without it. But that’s the extent of their PYO repertoire; they’ve never gone asparagus, peach or even strawberry picking. I have vivid memories of picking mountains of incredibly sweet red strawberries and eating them for days, weeks (or because my mother often froze a bunch) months on end thereafter. It seemed to me to be time that my own children enjoyed (or perhaps suffered through) the same experience. If you’ve gone strawberry picking before then you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you haven’t then let me quickly set the scene.

Strawberries, the sweetest of Mother Natures fruits, are typically grown in long, dusty, very low to the ground and completely unshaded rows. They also happen to be ready for picking when (and only when) the temperatures reach hellfire hot. So you may be wondering, did my cherubs charge headlong into this sweaty adventure yelling “Thanks for the wonderful memories Mom!” or “Don’t worry about Lilly, I’ll resuscitate her. You just keep picking those sweet, sweet berries!” Um no, not exactly. They did make an effort to see how quickly we could fill up our basket, they made a game of finding the mostly perfectly or oddly shaped berry and they were already discussing what to make with our bounty as we left the field. Sounds like the perfect image, right? Yeah, perhaps it would have been had my yelling “I’m sorry this isn’t your idea of fun. Go wait for me at the farm stand if you’re that miserable!” hadn’t proceeded it. Sigh…

As Harry Truman is quoted as saying: “The reward of suffering is experience.” And apparently strawberries.

Homemade Ricotta Waffles with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Even if you’re usually not a sweet for breakfast type, you’ll love these waffles.

strawberry waffles2

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 eggs
3 tbsp. canola oil
Strawberry Sauce, for serving (recipe below)
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta, eggs and oil. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until smooth.
  2. Coat a waffle maker lightly with oil, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. Preheat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Spoon in the batter, close lid and cook until the waffle is golden brown, 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, keeping prepared waffles warm in a low temp. oven.
  4. Serve the waffles with fresh strawberry sauce and enjoy. Makes 6-8 waffles.

*adapted from williams-sonoma 

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
This simple sauce is perfect on waffles or pancakes, yogurt of even ice cream. 

2 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

  1. Place all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and gently stir together. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the fruit breaks down and the sauce reduces.
  2. Cool slightly and serve with abandon.
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fro-ly sh*t delicious!

Have you noticed that the country has become frozen yogurt obsessed? There are no less than six frozen yogurt shops within a 4 mile radius of my house, and that doesn’t even take into account the local ice cream shops that also sell it. It would appear that fro-yo has become hot, hot, hot!

Last year the Easter Bunny brought my kids a set of personal sized ice cream makers. They were thrilled and couldn’t wait to get started, but the recipes that came along with the units all called for heavy cream and whole milk. In other words real ice cream ingredients! I’m all for less than healthy treats now and again (which of course includes full fat ice cream), but I certainly couldn’t picture us whipping up a weekly batch of the stuff. I didn’t want their interest in cooking to be diminished just because the folks a Hamilton Beach couldn’t come up with a healthier frozen dessert recipe, so… I did a little research and a bit of recipe tweaking and came up with a solution. A fresh strawberry frozen yogurt recipe that tasted great and I could feel good about encouraging my kids to make and eat. This recipe is loaded with fresh strawberries (which just happen to be hitting the supermarkets again) and high protein greek yogurt and light sour cream in place of the full fat dairy. We added a few chocolate chips just to up the ante and the results were delicious!

But then I got crazy. Then I decided that if the frozen yogurt was healthy perhaps I should make a topping for it that was just a smidge unhealthy. Something like, oh I don’t know— homemade chocolate sauce! Like I said crazy, but oh so good…

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
This recipe doesn’t make a tremendous amount, perhaps a quart or so, which is just enough for your kids to think you’re a total rock star in the kitchen. Enjoy the accolades!

ice cream3

2 1/2 cups diced fresh strawberries
2/3-3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt
1/2 cup light sour cream
2/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Hull and chop the berries. Toss them with the sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, cover and let steep about an hour.
  2. Remove 3/4 cup of the macerated berries and set aside. Combine the remainder of the berries, sour cream and the greek yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Gently stir in the reserved strawberries and chill the mixture for at least one hour.
  3. Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. (Half way through the processing we added our chocolate chips.)
  4. Enjoy your homemade frozen yogurt with a healthy drizzle of chocolate sauce and revel in how multifaceted you’ve become in the kitchen.

*adapted from kitchen trial and error

Homemade Chocolate Sauce
This sauce is fantastic drizzled on ice cream, makes terrific hot chocolate or chocolate milk and is the perfect chocolate fix right off the spoon.

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. real vanilla extract

  1. In a medium high sided saucepan mix together the cocoa powder and water. Place over a medium flame, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil and allow to cook and thicken for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. (Be prepared for it to bubble up while cooking.)
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the salt and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly before pouring into glass jars. Allow to fully cool on the counter then store jars in the fridge.

*adapted from small notebook