Sunday, May 16, 2010


I realize that I have readers scattered all over this globe, so forgive me as I indulge a bit in the fact that it's strawberry season here in Oklahoma! The good news is that strawberries can be found in supermarkets almost any time of year, but for many of us, the late spring and early summer is the prime time to find locally grown, often organic berries that are ripe and ready to enjoy!

Strawberries provide an amazing source of vitamin C with one cup supplying more than 150% of your daily requirement. Another great factoid is that these delectable delights are a slimming fruit.....that same cup only has about 45 calories. As with most berries, they are a lower glycemic index fruit and they pack an anti-oxidant punch. They also contain ellagic acid, which is a potent, anti-cancer compound.

Dig this: the succulent s-berry has blood-purifying, astringent, diuretic, liver-tonic and wound healing properties. In other cultures this fab fruit is used medicinally in cases of anemia, constipation, fevers, hangovers, high blood pressure and jaundice. Because it also helps the body eliminate uric acid, it is used for gout, arthritis, bile & kidney stone reduction and rheumatism.

Now here is the caution, this berry is among the most hybridized and pesticide/herbacide-contaminated produce item on the market. So, I feel it's worth your time and money to search out organic sourcing whenever possible. Our local farmers markets offer organic or sustainable offerings, and believe me, you'll be able to see and taste the difference.

Strawberry selecting tips:
High quality strawberries are plump and well rounded with a natural shine and rich red color. When purchasing strawberries, check the pint or carton to be sure unripe berries are not buried beneath a ripe layer on top because strawberries don't really ripen after being picked. Their tops should be bright green and fresh, not wilted. Strawberries without caps should not be purchased as they may be overripe and not good quality. Obviously you'll want to avoid cartons of strawberries that are stained, leaking, or showing signs of mold. Use strawberries as soon as possible after picking or purchasing to ensure the best flavor and appearance as well as the highest nutritional value.

Using and Preserving Strawberries:
Fresh strawberries are delicate and perishable. If not used immediately, remove berries from their containers right after picking or purchasing. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow container, loosely cover, and refrigerate. Fresh strawberries are best when used within one to two days for best quality. Wash fresh strawberries just before you are ready to use. Washing strawberries removes their natural protective outer layer, and if done before refrigerating, quality will deteriorate rapidly. Wash berries gently in a cold water vinegar bath, leaving caps on during washing to prevent water from soaking into the strawberry, diluting the flavor and changing the texture. Let the sand and soil sink to the bottom, and then lift the strawberries out with your fingers. Several washes in clean water may be necessary. Let the berries air dry, or gently pat them dry with a soft towel. To add a bit of additional life to your berries, spritz them with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice before refrigerating or freezing. This will help them retain their beautiful deep red color, and will also preserve them for longer spans due to the antioxidant effect of the vitamin C.

Freezer Facts:
Strawberries can be frozen whole, sliced, or pureed, depending on their intended use. Strawberries can be stored in airtight freezer bags at 0°F for 8 to 12 months. Frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh berries in recipes; however, the freezing process will make the texture change when thawed. Strawberries are best served with a few ice crystals still remaining. If thawed completely they will become mushy.

Dehydrating Facts:
Sweeter varieties with a full red color and firm texture dry best. Slice strawberries for uniform drying. Dehydrated strawberries can be ground into powdered in a blender or food processor and then used to flavor juices, smoothies and other fruity recipes. I store this powder in an airtight Mason jar in my refrigerator for months. The best way to dry strawberries is to make into puree, put through a sieve to remove the seeds.


Strawberry Lemonade

2 cups water
1/2 cup + agave nectar or honey
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint fresh strawberries
2 cups cold sparkling water
fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
whole strawberries, for garnish

Combine the sweetener, lemon zest & lemon juice into a pitcher. In a blender, puree the strawberries and add them to the pitcher. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until well chilled. Add the chilled sparkling water before serving and pour into pretty glasses filled with ice, garnishing with fresh mint & a strawberry.

Strawberry Cloud
A delicious chilled fruity soup that can also be thinned and enjoyed as a smoothie.

1 Young Coconut, just the meat
Coconut water, reserved for blending
1 pint fresh strawberries, reserve one or two for garnish
4 - 5 oranges, juiced
1 tbsp raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Crack open the coconut and pour out the water, reserving the water and extracting the meat. In a blender, place this meat with the strawberries, orange juice, honey and vanilla, blending well until smooth and creamy. Add a bit of the coconut water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Garnish with a few sliced strawberries and mint leaves.

Strawberry Fields Salad

For the salad:
6 cups mixed spring greens (I am using arugula & butter lettuce)
6 large strawberries, washed, tops removed and sliced
1 small bunch of fresh basil or mint leaves, chopped
1/3 cup candied nuts*
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, optional
1/4 cup rawmesan cheese sprinkles

For the dressing:
1/4 cup cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp dry mustard
sea salt & pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, dry mustard and salt & pepper. In a large bowl combine the greens, strawberries, fresh herbs, pecans, red onion and rawmesan cheese. Toss with the dressing and serve.

Pretty as a Strawberry Pie

For the Crust:
½ Cup Almonds
½ Cup Shredded Coconut
1 heaping TB of Cacao Powder
1 tbsp coconut butter (or oil)
Pinch of Sea Salt
2 - 3 soft dates, chopped
1-2 TB Cacao Nibs
Seeds from ¼ of a Vanilla Bean

~ Process the brazil nuts, shredded coconut, salt, cocoa powder and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor until fine crumbs.
~ Add the dates and cacao nibs and process until the mixture just starts to stick together.
~ Press into the bottom of 1 9-inch springform pan.

For the Filling:
2 young coconuts, meat only
coconut water, used only for blending
2 cups fresh strawberries
1 tbsp agave nectar (substitute dates or honey)
1 tbsp coconut butter (optional)

For the topping:
sliced strawberries, spritzed with fresh lemon juice

Keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Freezes well too, but you may want to add fresh strawberries to the top before serving.

*Candied Nuts
Courtesy Melinda Gill

2 cup mixed nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, etc.)
1 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
1 ½ tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

Wisk together the syrup, cinnamon and salt until you get a smooth consistency. Stir in the nuts until they are well coated. Allow to sit for an hour so nuts can soak in the syrup. Dehydrate overnight (8 to 12 hours) at 105 degrees. Flip them and dehydrate another 4 to 6 hours.
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