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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Strawberries Make An Early Comeback this Year

By Sherrie Norris

For several weeks now, we’ve been seeing this year’s strawberry crop appearing at local roadside produce stands, in the supermarkets and at farmer’s markets. While the regional strawberry season usually starts at the end of April or early May and lasts through May (sometimes into early June), this year’s unusual weather patterns have brought them on earlier than normal. Luckily, the berries seem to be in abundant supply, which is a good thing for all of us. 

For those of us who love to pick our own berries, there are numerous grower sites off the mountain, in the foothills and toward Tennessee where many of us go each year.

I was surprised to learn recently that North Carolina still ranks third when it comes to strawberry production, behind California and Florida, with three commonly grown varieties here: Camarosa, Chandler and Sweet Charlie. Who knew that the strawberry is also the state (red) berry?

As my favorite berry,  the  strawberry is not only good to eat, but it is also good for you; it’s a great source of Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins K, B and  folic acid.

While we can find strawberries year-round in the grocery store, there’s something special about these  fresh, out-of-the-field berries that we enjoy this time every year. Let’s put them to good use while we still can.  Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is just a week away; these ideas might be good to serve that special gal.

Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake

50 vanilla wafer cookies, finely crushed

 5 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 qt. strawberries, stemmed

3 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided

2 cups white chocolate chips, melted

½ Tbsp. strawberry extract

1 ½  cups cold heavy whipping cream

 Red food coloring, optional

 Additional strawberries and whipped cream, optional garnish

For crust, mix together crushed cookies and melted butter.

Press mixture firmly into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch  baking dish or pan. Set aside. Puree berries in a blender; add to a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced to a thick puree (about ½  cup total). Set aside.

To make the cheesecake, add cream cheese and 1/3 cup powdered sugar to a bowl. Mix until creamy. Mix in melted chocolate chips, puree, and strawberry extract. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix heavy whipping cream and remaining powdered sugar until fluffy with firm peaks. Then mix  into the cream cheese mixture, until combined.

Add in red food coloring if desired for a darker color.

Pour batter into prepared pan and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, cut squares from pan and decorate with whipped cream and strawberries, if desired.

Skillet Strawberry Cobbler

1 stick salted butter 

1 ¼  cup sugar, divided

1 cup self-rising flour

1 c. whole milk

2 tbsp. cornstarch

2 lb. strawberries, halved (about 6 1/2 cups)

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Vanilla ice cream or whipped topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. Add  butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet; place in  oven for 5 minutes or until the butter is melted, swirling the pan occasionally to cover entire skillet. Remove from oven and set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of sugar with flour and milk. IN another medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and cornstarch. Add strawberries and lemon juice to cornstarch mixture, stirring to combine.

Pour batter onto melted butter in the skillet; do not stir. Spoon the strawberry mixture and any juices left in the bowl evenly over the batter, without stirring.

Place skillet on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake on the middle oven rack until golden brown and bubbly, about an hour, or maybe a little longer, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Note: Do not stir batter after it’s poured into the skillet. Just top with berries and  bake.

Strawberry Trifle

1 (10 inch) angel food or pound cake

2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed 

1 qt. fresh strawberries, sliced

1 pkg. strawberry glaze 

Crumble or cut cake into bite-sized pieces. Place in a 9×13-inch dish.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. Press cake down to form a layer; spread cream cheese mixture over cake.

Combine strawberries and glaze in a bowl until strawberries are evenly coated. Spread over cream cheese layer. Chill until serving.

Note: May use prepared strawberry pie filling, or strawberry freezer jam added to sliced strawberries, instead of the glaze. 

Strawberry Tacos

2 Tbsp. butter

6 (small) flour tortillas 

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp. honey

½  tsp. ground cinnamon

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1/3 cup vanilla yogurt

1 ¾  cups quartered fresh strawberries

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp butter over medium-low heat. Add 1 tortilla; cook each side until light golden, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack. Repeat with remaining butter and tortillas.

Beat together cream cheese, honey and cinnamon; slowly mix in yogurt until blended. Spread tortillas with cream cheese mixture; top with strawberries.