Strawberry Fluff

Strawberries have made their annual appearance in the stores and in our gardens. Time to made use of the bounty and surprise our family with a cool yet tasty dessert.

Strawberry Fluff

1 package (10 ounces) frozen sliced strawberries, thawed
1 cup boiling water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Drain strawberries, reserving syrup. Pour boiling water over gelatin in a bowl. Stir gelatin until it is dissolved. Add enough cold water to reserved syrup to measure one cup. Stir into dissolved gelatin. Chill until almost set.

In chilled bowl, beat cream, sour cream, and vanilla until stiff. Beat gelatin until it is foamy. Fold gelatin and strawberries into whipped cream. Pour into a one-quart mold or into individual molds. Chill until firm Garnish, if desired, with sweetened whipped cream.

*Sour cream is a great stabilizer for homemade whipped cream. It helps keep the whipped cream from breaking down and lasts in the refrigerator a couple of days. It also add a nice flavor to the whole dessert.

Hot Potato Soup

Even though the summer heat is sneaking into our weather pattern, I still enjoy a bowl of potato soup. It is a comfort food with a comfortable budget cost. Fresh garlic bread, although it adds to the carb cost for that day’s diet, is always a tasty addition. A simple salad can round out the meal.

Hot Potato Soup

1/4 cup bacon drippings
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups milk
4 cups peeled, finely diced new potatoes
1 cups grated Swiss cheese (Mild or sharp cheddar is a good alternative)
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a large kettle, heat bacon drippings. Saute onion and celery, until soft. Blend in flour over medium heat until golden brown. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Add potatoes, stirring until soup bubbles and thickens slightly. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in cheese one handful at a time until melted and smooth. Season with mustard, salt, and pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of crispy bacon pieces and finely chopped parsley.

(For an interesting taste treat, try using baked potatoes instead of raw ones. Just cut down the simmering time as the potatoes are already tender!)

Potential Reprisals at the Dinner Table

Since they could first express themselves, my children seem to think that I am trying to poison them! Lest you think the worst of my motives, my children equate excess servings of vegetables and salads with child abuse.

Like most children, mine consider the basic food groups to be fat, sugar, salt, candy, fried, caramelized and fast food. You put anything braised or poached within a few feet of them at the dinner table and children tend to self destruct rather than ingest vitamins. Mom does the best she can, they are willing to acknowledge, but with the advent of the Internet, there must be some recipes even Mom could make edible. Isn’t it wonderful how discerning our children are about culinary delights at an early age?

My search on the Internet provided me with the following potential taste treats:
Deep-fried, pancake batter covered Oreo cookies. See? I was keeping in mind the fried aspect of the basic food list!

A combination of sour cream, avocado and creamed Spam comprises this recipe. According to this recipe, you layer the ingredients, freeze them and then scoop them into a cone and sprinkle with bacon bits. Would I lie to you?
Then there is a bean fudge. The binding ingredient is refried beans combined with chocolate to form ‘fudge’!

Keeping in the snack category, I discovered a wonderful liver cookie recipe. The only thing the recipe didn’t cover was why anyone would make them.
If you want to inspire a gourmet reaction, the deep-fried Span with the raspberry sauce, is sure to be a winner. Can I ever go back to the mundane baked chicken?

And don’t forget the secret ingredient in the ‘sure to please’ chocolate cake recipe. Now I have a use for leftover sauerkraut!

Can you believe it, however? After doing all this research, my children were still not happy. Not one of my new recipes struck a happy note with them. It is curious that now when I serve the usual pot roast or salad, they seem to eat more readily than when I offer scooping them up a big cone of frozen Spam and avocado instead. Go figure!

A Few of My Favorite Things . . .

Providing a gluten-free diet for my husband keeps me busying trying to find really good substitutes for basic things . . . like pasta. For soups, I make my own egg noodles and use either Better Batter ‘flour’ blend or Authentic Foods Steve’s Bread Flour to make them. There are those moments, however, when I long for the times that using packaged pasta required only as much extra effort as it took to walk to the pantry.

Two of our favorite comfort foods around here are Pad Thai and spaghetti with extra meaty sauce. We’ve tried a variety of gluten-free options for the spaghetti and the results were just okay. Recently, however, I noticed that my favorite pasta brand from the pre-gluten-free days also had a gluten-free pasta. I was game for another go in my explorations into the gluten-free world and finally discovered one that is pretty good. It tastes like regular pasta, had a nice ‘chew’ and doesn’t get soggy if you save a serving for the next day. My current gluten-free option of choice is Barilla!

We also love homemade Pad Thai which uses Asian Rice noodles. There is a world of difference between the various brands so we have been trying and hoping to find the perfect one for us. The one we are using now is a product of Thailand, labeled ‘Rice Stick’, made by Sun Voi and comes in three or four different widths for whatever recipes you might want them. Our market of choice for purchasing these for a very reasonable price is the 99 Ranch Market which is a huge Asian market with just about every obscure ingredient you might want or need for a recipe. They also have a great bakery, too, as well as a large fresh produce section.

Coconut Cream and Fruit!

My husband is lactose intolerant yet wants to enjoy the fruits of the season presented in a cold and creamy context. With some apprehension, we tried coconut cream and discovered a new family favorite. Basically, you refrigerate two or three cans of coconut cream (Thai Kitchen or Trader Joe’s are the ones we like best)over night.

There are all sorts of ways to prepare the fruit for the dessert. Sometimes, I saute some some peeled and diced apples with cinnamon and a bit of sugar until softened. Strawberries, fresh or cooked down with some sugar and orange juice works wells, too. Blueberries, pineapples … The nice thing about coconut cream is that it won’t curdle like milk so fruits with acidity won’t change the texture. In a hurry, use a favorite fruit preserve or jam.

For the recipe pictured, I pureed fresh strawberries with some coconut palm sugar (lower glycemic reaction) and a touch of nutmeg and some finely grated orange zest.

For preparing the coconut cream, drain the clean liquid from the can and place the thick, white coconut cream in a mixing bowl. Add a teaspoon or two of coconut palm sugar or go whole hog and use granulated sugar to taste along with a bit of nutmeg, teaspoon of vanilla extract, and dash of nutmeg. Whip up to smooth and fluff it up. Now, you can either alternate layers of fruit and coconut cream or fold in pureed strawberries into the coconut cream, top with a nicely-slice strawberry, refrigerate a couple of hours and serve.

This is very much a ‘to taste’ sort of recipe. We don’t use granulated sugar so enjoy a less sweet result. No problem, however, using regular sugar.

I made a dozen of these desserts for Thanksgiving and found the best and most fun way to store them in the refrigerator was to put the dessert in 8-ounce Mason jars complete with the lid.

Easy Cheesecake!

Although we always called this a holiday cheesecake, I think it appeared many times at dessert time on ordinary days of the week. Naturally, any time cheesecake showed up after dinner, could be declared a holiday!

EASY HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE

Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup melted butter or margarine

Combine above ingredients and press into a spring-form pan. The crust should come more than halfway to the top of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pan requirement: seven to nine-inch spring form pan.*

Cheesecake Recipe
3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups granulated sugar

Place softened cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until cream cheese is thoroughly creamed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well combined. Add vanilla. While running the mixer gradually add sugar, beating well. Mixture should be thick and smooth. Carefully spoon mixture into crust. smoothing evenly.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes. Top will brown and crack. Cool and refrigerate eight hours or overnight before serving.

You can strike a festive note by spooning a puree of strawberries over each serving and garnishing with a mint sprig. Crushed pineapple also compliments cheesecake. Prepare about an hour ahead, a cup and a half of crushed pineapple combined with the zest of a lemon. Spoon over individual slices just before serving.

*A spring form pan is pictured above. Walmart usually sells them, three to a set for a budget-friendly price considering how often you will be baking cheesecake now!

Dessert Any Way You Like It . . .

I think one of my favorite desserts is a fresh pound cake with a bit of citrus scent wafting through the kitchen as it cools. Reading through the recipe, you can see this is an easy recipe with no mysterious ingredients you have to search for in the dark corners of the grocery store! The real magic comes when your cake is cooling and you decide how you want to serve it. Now, a simple slice of slightly warm cake is always a most welcome thing. However, there ARE other options!

Strawberries in season? Clean and slice up a generous amount, sugar to taste, and let set so the juices of the strawberries have dissolved the sugar into a sweet sauce. Put a spoonful of the berries on each slice of cake, follow up with whipped cream, and serve.

Feel like chocolate? Vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce over each slice will magically make the cake disappear.

Just some fresh, diced pineapple would work well. If it is a grownup dinner, soak the prepared pineapple in a tablespoon of rum or brandy an hour before serving.

Fresh and Lively Pound Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter (margarine will be okay but butter is terrific!)
1 generous cup of granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a vegetable spray, prepare a regular-sized loaf pan. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the sugar until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions. Add the nutmeg, extracts and zest. Gently fold in the dry ingredients. Smooth into the loaf pan. Bake for approximately an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top should be well-browned and cracked. Cool thoroughly in pan before removing and slicing.