Tuesday, September 13, 2011

...Summer Thrills (part 2)

From the first appearance in Spring to the tail-end of Summer the scent and sight of beautiful deep red strawberries can always make me smile.

It seems I have a life-time of nostalgic reasons…

* There is a vague, pleasant memory of expansive fields with neat rows of the low-growing plants, warm sunshine, and sweet, fruity, strawberry-scented air from a time when my Grandma Mola took the Aunts and me (and maybe some siblings?) to a ‘you-pick’ strawberry farm.

* Long before I met & married Papa I had bought my very first set of new dishes and chose them specifically because they were embellished with a strawberry fruit and blossom motif.

* Before we settled down to raise a family Papa and I worked in logging and lived in several awesome forest and meadow areas near each job. The first ‘homes’ we had were either campers, tents, or small travel trailers (that we would borrow or buy at one time or another) we'd set up beside a spring or creek. One of the best times was a gorgeous summer and fall spent up at Bidwell Springs below Butte Lake. Quiet, peaceful and private, it was at this camp that we stayed the longest and where I found some wild strawberry plants and transplanted them to create a small strawberry bed there in the woods.

* Eventually we began living in actual houses and I was either buying strawberries by the flat or growing domesticated plants; passing along to my babies the pleasure of hunting for the sweet treats under the lush green leaves.

* Ben liked to ‘drive’ an emptied flat as his imaginary car...

* ...and ever since she was little Abby Jayne has asked for strawberry shortcakes (made with angel food cake) for almost of every one of her birthdays...

* One of our all-time favorite Eli-o quotes comes from an encounter with strawberries when he was 5 years old. Standing out in the middle of our small berry patch he held up a beautiful specimen. With his cute little Eli voice completely indignant he queries: “Why? WHY? is this strawberry red when it tastes so sour?!”

He was a bright little guy and knew you waited until they were red and sweet before you picked them …humph! the unmitigated gall of this berry passing itself off as anything but what it’s supposed to be! 

Abby and I think it is utter blasphemy to dip strawberries in sugar or chocolate. But! we do always appreciate them made into a pie! As soon as the rhubarb is big enough, we'll start the Spring with Crumb Topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. When the rhubarb is done it's on to the delicious and simple (and no added sugar!) Light Strawberry Pie made with both berries and crushed pineapple

Today is most likely the last time this season I’ll be making this old family favorite. To be fully enjoyed it has to have plenty of whipped cream available… it’s just not the same without it! My recipe states 'whipped cream for garnish', but that's bogus. Each serving needs to be absolutely smothered in it. Remember cousin Paco Bean's statement, kids: 'At the Baker Hause they put whipped cream on EVERYTHING!'

Once I went to make the pie and found I didn’t have a box of sugar-free vanilla pudding (not a staple in the pantry), so I created a substitute that works awesome. Now, if only I could do that with the gelatin part of the recipe!

Sugar free pudding mix substitute:
1/3 c Splenda
3 T cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

One last important note: a purchased graham cracker crust will do but is inferior to a homemade one! Here's the 'no-extra-added-sugar' one I make:

Graham Cracker Crust 
1 ¼ c cracker crumbs
1/4  c Splenda
1/3  c butter, melted
Mix crumbs, splenda, melted butter. Press firmly against bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake @ 350° for 10 min. Cool and fill.

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