Springtime recipes for a strawberry surplus

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You're walking through the grocery store and find yourself in the produce section. You see a fantastic set of plump, red strawberries that you can't wait to eat. They look so beautiful and healthful sitting in your shopping cart and all through the week perched in your refrigerator. But then what? You eat a couple of them here and there. After day two, they start losing that vibrant red color. At day three, they are becoming a bit more shriveled up than you remember. Before you know it, you are throwing almost the whole container of the once beautiful bunch in the trash, before you even had a chance to make that pie.

The traditional strawberry season for the U.S. is from June until mid August, but new farming methods extends it from April until mid December. This season has proven quite 'fruitful' for the world's favorite berry. My last trip to the grocery store boasted such large strawberries, you could eat them like an apple. Not to mention the huge drop in price from earlier in the year. At only $2 a pint, we should all be stocking up. But, how many times have we all wasted our precious strawberries and regretted not utilizing them to their full potential? I have some fool proof methods to get the most out of your berries this season.

If you are a procrastinator when it comes to washing your fruits and veggies when you get home from the store so that they are ready to use during the week, try this: Before even putting your berries into the fridge post shopping trip, just give them a quick rinse under warm water, trip off the stems, and put them onto a cookie/baking sheet. Throw the sheet directly into the freezer and forget about it. About an hour or two later, you will find your berries frozen solid, in their perfectly ripened state. Then, just put them into a Ziploc bag, and they will be ready to use when you are. You can use them to in a pie, as a homemade jam, or as a replacement for ice-cubes in your morning protein shake. (P.S.: This is also a great trick for ripe bananas)

My personal favorite is a delicious strawberry brunch salad. It's quick, healthy and delicious!

Field Greens Salad with Strawberries, Gorgonzola and walnuts
(Serves 4)

5 cups field greens, washed (or buy the pre-washed bag)
6 oz. Gorgonzola or blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
2 cups fresh strawberries, stemmed and quartered

For the Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons strawberries, mashed well with a fork
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
A dash of salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Put the greens in a large salad bowl and top with walnuts and strawberries. In a smaller bowl, blend the mashed strawberries, balsamic vinegar, pepper and salt. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream until the mixture is smooth and incorporated. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to mix. Top with the Gorgonzola or blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Or, you can use them all up in a big jar of homemade preserves:

Strawberry Jam
4 cups halved or quartered firm strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Mix berries and sugar and let stand for eight hours, stirring occasionally. Place berry mixture in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add lemon juice, return to a boil and boil rapidly for five minutes.
Remove from heat, cover and let stand 24 hours. Bring berries to a full boil over high heat and boil rapidly for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Let cool at least one hour and ladle into Tupperware or a sterilized glass gar (To sterilize, slowly submerge jar in boiling water for 2-3 minutes). Lasts in the refrigerator for one week, or in the freezer for 3 months.

Or, you can never go wrong with the tried and true easy weeknight dessert, Strawberry Shortcake.

Strawberry Shortcake
(Serves 4)

1 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and stemmed
1 loaf store-bought pound cake, sliced thin
1/4 c sugar

For whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar

In a food processor or blender, blend strawberries and sugar until the strawberries are chopped very small (mixture will be moist). Set aside. In a decorative bowl (or individual wine or martini glasses) place one layer of pound cake slices. Alternate layering with a spoonful of the strawberry mixture and pound cake until the container is full. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip cream and sugar with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Top shortcake with whipped cream and refrigerate at least one hour. Serve with coffee and enjoy!

Image via Geograph.org.uk

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