Fruity Farro Salad with Honey Lime Dressing


HI all– I’m hoping summer is cooling down here– but we are still big on summer salads and with nectarines and strawberries beautiful and ripe these days, here was a recent supper.  A splash of farro and sprinkling of garbanzos gave it some heft and balanced out the sweet fruit and creamy avocado.  With the tart lime dressing and a chunk of walnut Levain bread– delicious!

FRUITY FARRO SALAD WITH HONEY LIME DRESSING

Salad:
1/2 cup farro
3 cups greens
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 nectarine, cut to small chunks
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1 avocado, cut to small chunks
1/4 cup salted almonds, chopped

Dressing:
3 tab. olive oil
1  1/2 tab. lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. honey
salt & freshly grond pepper to taste

Cook the farro according to the directions on the package (mine simmered 10 minutes with 1 cup water and a pinch of salt).  Drain off any extra water.  Cool.

To make the dressing, put the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, honey, salt and pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake briskly until it’s thoroughly combined.  (If you let it sit, the honey may sink to the bottom, so shake it again just before you pour it on the salad).

Layer the greens, cilantro, garbanzo beans, farro, nectarine, strawberries, avocado,, and almonds on a platter.  Pour on the dressing when you are ready to eat.  Enjoy!

Pear Berry Cake


Hey there– Don’t you love using up leftovers in a way that doesn’t taste like–well– leftovers??  We had some pears and berries languishing in the fridge from the weekend.  Mixed them into a little cake for friends.  I’d say the berries were much improved by a wrapping of sweet tender cake!

PEAR BERRY CAKE
1  1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. amaretto or almond extract*
3/4 cup canola oil
2 pears, peeled, cored and cut to bits
2 cup mixed berries**
1/3 cup sliced almonds

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the vanilla, amaretto and oil.  Stir in the pears into the stiff batter and then gently fold in the berries.

Then scoop the batter into a 9″ or 10″ springform pan (or cake pan). Sprinkle the almonds on top and then bake it in a 350 fahrenheit oven for 25 to 30 minutes more until the cake is cooked through and a sharp knife inserted to the cake comes out clean.

*I use amaretto because I can buy a big bottle for $7 at the market (so much less than almond extract.)
**I used leftover strawberries, blueberries and blackberries from a breakfast we had here a few days ago (see the Books & Breakfast post! )

Orange Strawberry Bread

Hello all– Love a little loaf of quick bread.  It takes about 15 minutes to get it into the oven.  It smells sweet and fruity while it’s cooking.  And it’s great to share with a friend and a mug of tea.  Simple pleasures.

ORANGE STRAWBERRY BREAD
1 orange, peel grated, juiced
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tab. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups strawberries, cut to bits

Grate the peel off of the orange.  Then cut it in half and juice it.  Set the peel and juice aside.

In a mixing bowl beat the two eggs and sugar until blended.  Then stir in the sour cream, oil and vanilla.  Next mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.  And finally stir in the strawberries, orange peel and juice.

Spoon the mixture into a standard loaf pan (9″ x 4″) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the bread at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, until it’s well browned and a sharp knife inserted in the top comes out clean.  Delicious warm with a slather of butter and a mug of tea!

Simple Spring Salad

Hi all– This was the salad on our Easter table–bright and fruity and just right with ham and Aunt Lu’s marvelous potatoes!  It was a good day with grand-girls and their great grandparents around the table.  Hope you have a lovely Easter with people you hold dear.

SIMPLE SRPING SALAD

Salad:
6 cups greens
3 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups blackberries
2 cups mandarine oranges, peeled and sliced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. tarragon vinegar (or your favorite mild vinegar)
1 tab. honey
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Layer the greens on a platter.  Then pile on the strawberries, blackberries and oranges.  Sprinkle on the feta.

Pour the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake until it’s thoroughly combined.  Drizzle over the salad.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

Hello all–  Wonderful time with friends last night– went to dinner at IL Amerikano for dinner, sort of Mexicanish-American food.  I took full advantage of their spiced French fries with cilantro ranch dressing!!  And then we all headed back to our house for this berry cobbler– warmed in the oven with a plop of vanilla ice cream — accompanied by good conversation.  The best kind of Saturday night!


MIXED BERRY COBBLER

Berries:
6 cups mixed berries
(I used blueberries, blackberries & strawberries)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Biscuits:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tab. cornmeal
2  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup buttermilk*
6 tab. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla


In a large mixing bowl stir together the berries, 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Nestle the berries into a 9″ square (or deep round) baking dish.  Pop them in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

While they are baking, make the cobbler (biscuits) to set on top.  Mix together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Then stir in the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla.  Mix it up to make a stiff dough.

Drop the the dough by spoonfuls onto the hot berries and turn up the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until the cobbler is golden.  Serve it warm with ice cream.  Perfect!

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, pour a tablespoon of cider vinegar in a measuring cup and fill to 1/3 with milk.  Let it sit a couple minutes to thicken.

Strawberry Topped Angel Food Cake

Hello friends–  The big news around our family is two babies to arrive in November!!  Our two beautiful nieces are expecting just about a week apart– so exciting!!  So last Sunday there was a family shower, all gathered around to bring gifts for the little ones and to offer blessings  and hugs.

And of course there was cake.  This couldn’t be simpler– It involves an angel food cake mix and some thin frosting. plus a few strawberries.  It’s sweet and fruity and pink.  Just about right for celebrating new babies on the way…

STRAWBERRY TOPPED ANGEL FOOD CAKE
Cake:
1 Angel Food Cake Mix*
water

Frosting:
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 oz. butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
8 strawberries cut to tiny bits

Garnish: fresh strawberries

To make the cake, following the directions on the package.  Cool the cake completely upside down perched on a bottle before taking it from the pan and adding the frosting.

Beat the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and cut strawberries with an electric mixer for a couple minutes until it blends into a creamy glaze.  Pour over the cooled cake.  Top with fresh berries!

*the only brand of Angel Food cake I can find here is Betty Crocker.  Please don’t buy an angel food cake premade– there’s a huge difference and making one from a mix takes less than 10 minutes (+baking time).

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And here’s the new Moms!  Sam with Grandma Lo and the sweet clown doll Grandma knit for the baby.  And Andrea with her Paul and a new quilted baby blanket.  Such a fun day!
     

Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

Hello there–  This fruity cake is a bundt cake made by someone who’s kitchen is without a bundt pan.
So it’s a little plain, no nice rounded bumps and ruffles– but just as delicious.  Now and then I think I should buy a bundt pan– but my kitchen cupboards are full, really full.  I think I’ve hit my cake pan limit.
This is a tender, super moist cake, spiked with sweet berries and covered with a sweet glaze.  I think you’d love it while the berries are fresh and sweet right now.

FRESH STRAWBERRY  YOGURT BUNDT CAKE

3 cups strawberries, cut into chunks (about 16 oz.)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2  1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unflavored yogurt
1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tab. milk

Clean and cut the strawberries into little chunks. Pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  then beat in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally beat in the yogurt.  Then stir in the strawberries with a wooden spoon until they are spread all through the stiff batter.

Spoon the batter into a bundt pan (or tube pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake the cake at 325 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes until a thin knife inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake sit in the pan and cool for about an hour before you turn it out onto a plate.

With a fork whisk together the powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk.  If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk.  Drizzle over the cake– and it’s beautiful and ready to eat!

Strawberry Cream Cake

Hi there– It’s birthday season in our family.  Three birthdays together at the start of May and three more at the end.  So I’ve got birthday cakes on my mind.  This will probably show up at a birthday party or two!!

The biggest bash is for my father-in-law Stu.  He’s turning 90!  –and is so beloved by everyone who knows him.  You’ve never met a kinder more gracious man.  Family is coming from far and wide to celebrate with our “Grandpa Stu”.

Hope you have some happy family birthdays on your horizon.  And that they include cake, lots of cake.

STRAWBERRY CREAM CAKE

Cake:
1 cup strawberries, cut to small bits
1 strawberry  cake mix
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup water
3 eggs

Topping:
2 cups strawberries, cut to small bits
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 big pretty strawberry for garnish

To make the cake, cut the strawberries fine.  If they are still damp from cleaning, pat them dry.

Make the strawberry cake according to the directions on the box. (mine used 1/3 cup oil, 1 cup water & 3 eggs).  Pour it into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish (or a 10″ springform pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until it is lightly browned and comes out firm to the touch.  Let the cake cool completely before adding the topping!

To make the topping, cut the strawberries to small bits.  Set them aside.  Whip together the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla pudding mix with an electric mixer until it is stiff (the whisk attachment works best for this).

Stir in the strawberries and then pile it all onto the cooled cake.  You can serve it right away, but it’s better to set the cake in the fridge for an hour or more to let the topping completely set.  Enjoy!!

Strawberry Scones

Hello all– It’s starting to be strawberry season here!! That’s great news!  When we were married at the end of March, a hundred years ago (more or less), my Mom and I scoured the town for beautiful ripe strawberries to cascade down our wedding cake.  We finally found them jut in time in a small market couple cities over!!

But now we’ve got these sweet red berries and they are just right to be folded into buttery, crispy scones. With a smear of butter and maybe just a dot of jam.  Perfect.

STRAWBERRY SCONES
2 cups strawberries, stemmed & cut to bits
1 tab. sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup whole milk (or half & half)
1 egg
coarse sugar*

Stem and cut the strawberries to small bits until yo have 2 full cups.  Mix them with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.  With a pastry blender (or a food processor if you don’t mind cleaning that big thing), cut in the butter until it is cut to the size of peas in the mixture.

With a soft spatula, sit the strawberries into the flour mixture.

In a separate bowl whisk together the milk and egg.  Then stir them into the flour mixture as well until it’s all moist and combined.

Onto a counter dusted with flour, dump the dough out.  Cut it into 2 halves.  Take the first half and form it into a thick disc.  Cut it into 6 triangular pieces (like a pizza!) and set them onto a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment.  Repeat with the second half of the dough for 12 medium sized scones.

Sprinkle the coarse sugar onto the tops of the scones and pop them into a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy around the edges.  Super delicious hot from the oven!!

*the recipe I worked from called for turbinado sugar.  I used some coarse sugar crystals I had from a cake decorating shop.

Strawberry Chicken Salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing

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Hi friends– I don’t know if you’ve watched the cross country weather news this week, but we are roasting here in Southern California!!  Today it was 105 degrees in our little town!  And being the frugal (cheap!) people that we are, we have our air conditioning on a plan that cuts off on super energy use days to save money on our monthly bill.  Ugh.

When dinner time rolled around, I sure did not want to spend a whole lot of time in a hot kitchen– so here’s dinner. A sweet berry salad with chicken and a chunk of sour dough bread on the side.  Just about right on a hot night.

The good news– only 90 degrees predicted for tomorrow!!!

STRAWBERRY CHICKEN SALAD WITH HONEY BALSAMIC DRESSING

salad:
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups glad greens*
8 oz. strawberries, cut into bites (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1 oz. feta, crumbled

dressing:
3 tab. olive oil
1 tab. white balsamic vinegar**
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the 2 tab. olive oil in a skillet. Cut the chicken horizontally to make 2 or 3 filets.  Then drop it into the hot oil.  Salt and pepper the chicken liberally and cook about 3 minutes on each side until it’s nicely browned. Remove from the pan to cool.  Then slice into thin strips.

Layer the salad greens, strawberries, chicken on 2 dinner plates.  Then sprinkle the walnuts and feta over the top.

To make the dressing put the 3 tab. olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme and salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it until the dressing is thoroughly blended.  When your ready to serve it up, pour the dressing over the salads and set them on the table!

*I use red leaf lettuce. Spinach would be great or any other favorite lettuce.
**Or whatever vinegar you have in the cupboard.

 

Strawberry Easter Cake

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Hi all– Easter’s come and gone, but I do have one more little recipe from our Easter this year.  It’s really not much of a recipe– just cake and lots of strawberries.  But the creamy filling that “glues” it all together is the secret of this sweet fruity cake.

STRAWBERRY EASTER CAKE
1 white cake mix
1/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tab. instant vanilla pudding mix*
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2  16. oz. packages of beautiful strawberries (about 4 cups)

garnish: tiny flowers/mint leaves

Make the cake according to the directions on the package. My mix called for water, 1/4 cup canola oil and 3 eggs.  Spoon it into 2 standard 9″ round cake pans.  Bake it up and let it cool in the pans.  Cut each of the 2 layers in half horizontally to have 4 thin layers.

Beat the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla pudding mix with an electric mixer until it is stiff.  Then cut up the cream cheese into 20 or so small bits and drop it into the whipped cream. Beat it again until the cream cheese is blended with the whipped cream.  That should make it nice and sturdy to spread on the cake.

Pick out 6 or 7 of the prettiest strawberries and set the aside to decorate the top of the cake.  Cut the other berries into slices, removing the leaves.

Then set one layer of the cake onto a plate and spread 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture over it.  Cover with a layer of  sliced berries.  Do the same for the 2nd and 3rd layers.  On the 4 layer, mound up all the remaining whipped cream and put it all into the fridge until dessert time.

Just before serving, decorate the top of the cake with the reserved strawberries, flowers, mint.  Dig in!

*The instant pudding mix is a favorite trick I learned from my Sis– use it every time I whip cream to stabilize it and to give a whisper of vanilla.

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And the best part of after Easter lunch– hunting eggs with those grand-girls!!
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Strawberry Ice Cream Shortcake

 

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Hi all– Had the grand-girls down a couple weekends ago and if you ask them what they want for dessert, it’s sure to be something Pink!  So this fit the requirement. They thought it was just fine.   And besides how can you not like a dessert than is layered with crispy biscuits, ice cream, berries and whipping cream??

STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM SHORTCAKE

Basic Shortcake:
1  1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp. vanilla

And on top:
Strawberries
a sprinkle of sugar
strawberry ice cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla instant pudding mix**

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or in a food processor).  Then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Drop the sticky batter by big spoonfuls onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. (makes about 8)  Set them at least 4″ apart because they will spread as they bake.  Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes until they are prettily browned and cooked through.

While they are cooking, whip the cream with an electric mixer, throwing in the powdered sugar and pudding mix.  Set aside.

Let them cool a bit and then slice the shortcakes horizontally.  Mix the cut strawberries with the sugar.  Fill the shortcakes  with the strawberries and ice cream and top with a generous dollop of whipped cream.  Viola!

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (like me), then just put a tablespoon of cider vinegar in the cup and add milk to make to cups.  Let it sit several minutes until it thickens like buttermilk.
**The pudding mix thickens the cream just slightly and acts as a stabilizer so it won’t wilt.  Makes it work to whip the cream ahead of time and just store it in the fridge til after dinner…

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Strawberry Watermelon Slushie

IMG_2840Hi all– well, last week around here the temperature was in the high 90’s!  Real summer easing into September.  And I had the remnants of a watermelon from when our melon eating grand-girls were here.  So it seemed like the right idea to, but to whirl up this fresh cold drink.

I got the recipe from one of the most beautiful blogs I read every week.  Serena in Italy is an artist with her food photography and she posted this yummy recipe.  You can find her at http://foodfulife.com  . I think you’ll love her work.

STRAWBERY WATERMELON SLUSHIE
IMG_28384 cups watermelon, cut in small chunks
3 cups strawberries, stems removed and cut in half
2 or 3 mint leaves

Cut up the watermelon and pop it into the freezer for 3 to 4 hours.

When the watermelon is frozen, then drop the strawberries, frozen watermelon and mint leaves into a blender and whirr it into a bright frozen slushie.  Makes two servings.

Pour it into a glass and drink it right on the spot!  So fresh and bright!

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Simple Strawberry Cake

IMG_1315 Hello all– Found this quick little cake and made it for the Monday night friends coming in last week.  It’s into the oven in 10 minutes and after it bakes, comes out tender and fresh and just sweet enough.  The little spots of berry are so bright and inviting and with a splash of whipped cream, it’s just about perfect– going to be my backpocket, go-to dessert this summer.

SIMPLE STRAWBERRY CAKE
2 cups strawberries, chopped to bits
1  1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1  1/2 tsp. vanilla or amaretto*
1 egg
3/4 cup canola oil
Powdered sugar

IMG_1277Rinse the berries (& pat them dry). Then cut them in nice polite little bits.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the amaretto, egg, and oil.  The batter will be stiff.  Fold in the berries.

Spoon the whole mixture into a 9″ springform pan (or a cake pan) and put it into the oven at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes– until it’s firm to the touch and nice browned on top.

When the cake is cool, sift on powdered sugar through a sieve.  Beautiful.

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Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

IMG_8519Hello all–  When our 3 grand-girls (and their parents) were packing to move to California from Shanghai, I emailed the girls and said, “I’m about to go grocery shopping to get food for when you come.  What should I buy for you?”  They emailed right back, “peaches, cookies and strawberries!”

Lucky for us strawberries are just coming into season here.  So strawberries in hand, Charlotte and I baked up these fruity muffins last weekend.  Hot from the oven, they were oatmeal homey and strawberry sweet.  We thought they were A-OK!

IMG_8514STRAWBERRY OATMEAL MUFFINS
1 cup oatmeal– regular oats or quick oats
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 to 8 large strawberries, cut to small chunks

Mix the oatmeal, milk, brown sugar, oil and egg.  then stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally fold in the strawberries.

Scoop the batter into the muffin pan lined with muffin papers.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes–until they are browned and firm to the touch.   Makes 10.

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Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

IMG_1517Hi friends– I don’t know about where you are– but with just one week of school left, we  are already living summertime here!  Last night Larry and I walked to our little “real Mexican food” place for canitas tacos and ended up at Yorgurtland next door for dessert.  Sitting outside with a cup full of mango yogurt– That’s summer!

So here’s a fruity ice cream cake to add to your list of summery things to enjoy.  Summer here we come!

STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM CAKE
2 cups crushed Oreos (about 20 cookies)
3 tab. butter, melted
1 1/2 cartons (1/2 gallon size) strawberry ice cream
1 pound box of strawberries
1 cup hot fudge sauce
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix

IMG_1485Set out the ice cream with the lids off so it will soften while you make the chocolate crust.  The smash those Oreos in a bag with a rolling pin. Mix the cookies with the melted butter and press them into a 9″ spring form pan (or any cake pan) sprayed with cooking spray.  Wash the berries and pick 4 or 5 of the prettiest ones to go on top of the cake.  Cut the rest of the berries into small bits.  Then cover the crust with half the ice cream.  Layer on the cut up strawberries.  And scoop on the rest of the ice cream over the berries.  Stick that in the freezer a couple hours to firm up.  Then heat the chocolate fudge sauce only 15 or 20 seconds (you don’t want it too hot!) and with an electric mixer, whip the cream along with the powdered sugar and pudding mix (to stabilize the cream).  Slice the remaining strawberries into pretty shapes.  To serve it all up, take the ice cream cake from the freezer and top it with the chocolate fudge sauce, whipped cream and strawberries.  Ready to eat!  Summer on a plate.

Banana Split Cake

IMG_0701Hi all– I have fond memories of banana splits with my mother when I was small.  We’d shop downtown and end up at the Woolworth’s lunch counter with for a 39 cent banana split lunch.  I was in heaven.  So this recipe combines two great desserts– banana splits and that old standby, cake!  Sweet and fruity and chocolate topped.  I think it would make a grand birthday cake!

BANANA SPLIT CAKE

Banana cake:
3 bananas, smooshed to a pulp
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Smash the bananas in a large bowl.  Mix in the oil, sugar and eggs.  Then stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Spoon the batter into 3  9″ cake pans sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

Filling and toppings:
1 pound box of strawberries, divided
1 pint whipping cream, divided
2 tsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. instant vanilla pudding powder
1 tsp. sugar
2 tab. butter
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds

IMG_0721Save out 5 or 6 pretty strawberries to top the cake, Then slice the other strawberries to flat rounds.  Whip 1 1/2 cups of the cream with an electric mixer, adding in the powdered sugar and vanilla pudding powder to stabilize the cream.

Cut the strawberries for the top of the cake into fourths and mix them with a teaspoon of sugar and set aside for them to form a little juice.

To make the chocolate ganache, bring the remaining 1/2 cup of cream with the 2 tab. of butter to a low simmer.  Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips, beating it until it’s glossy.  Let it cool to room temperature.

When the cake layers are cool, set the first cake on a pretty plate and top with half the whipped cream and half the sliced berries.  Add the second cake layer and do the same.  Top it with the top cake layer and pour the cooled ganache over the cake and sprinkle on the almonds and the quartered, sugared strawberries.  Serve it up in large slabs!

If you have leftover cake,  store it in the fridge to eat later because of the cream.

Simple Strawberry Cake

IMG_9223Hey there–  Finally, real strawberries are in town.  If you live in southern California, there are “strawberry shacks” in most cities, with berries right from the fields.  So baking up cakes for Michelle’s  baby shower, strawberry cake was on the list!  It’s so easy, using a cake mix and basic cream cheese frosting, with a carton of fresh strawberries thrown in.

SIMPLE STRAWBERRY CAKE

Cake:
1 strawberry cake mix
3 eggs.
1/2 cup oil
water
1/2  cup strawberries, chopped to bits

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound box powdered sugar
1 cup strawberries, chopped
whole strawberries to top the cake

Make the cake according to the directions on the box, stirring in the strawberries at the end.  Bake in pans sprayed with cooking spray at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch.  Let it cool completely before frosting it.

With the electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.  When they are all blended beat in the strawberry bits (this will turn the frosting a pale pink).  Frost the cake and top with more whole strawberries and (non-toxic) leaves from your garden.

Pretty and pink– just right for a baby shower!

P.S. We have lemon geranium growing in the side yard with these nice ruffly leaves that work great with food and are perfect with just about any cut flowers for the table.

Berry Cheesecake

Hi all– With berries ripening outside the kitchen door and a whole gaggle of people coming in for Matt and Andrea’s rehearsal dinner this weekend, it was the perfect combination for Berry Cheesecake.  Creamy, cool, fruity on a summer’s evening…

BERRY CHEESECAKE

CRUST:
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tab. sugar
1 1/2 cup graham crackers crumbs

Put about 8 graham crackers in a heavy plastic bag and smash them with a rolling pin.  Then stir them together with the sugar and melted butter and pat them into the bottom of a springform pan (or pie dish).  Refrigerate while you make the cake.

FILLING:
3 8oz. blocks of cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sour cream

Beat the cream cheese and sugar together thoroughly with a mixer.  Then beat in the eggs and sour cream.  Spoon the whole thing over the crust and bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes until the cheesecake is lightly browned and just a bit jiggly in the pan (it will firm up more as it cools).

BERRIES:
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup blackberries (or frozen blueberries out of season)
2 or 3 tab. strawberry glaze (sold in tubs in the produce section)*

Mix them all up and spoon onto the cooled cheesecake.

My sister taught me the trick of putting a pan of water on the bottom rack of the stove while the cheesecake is cooking to help prevent some cracking on top as it cools.

*At first I pureed my own strawberries and cooked them with cornstarch etc. to make the glaze, but it never came out as beautiful as that gooey stuff you get at the store.  Plus one carton of that stuff lasts forever (almost) in your fridge.

Mango Strawberry Avocado Salad

Flying to Texas to another fun-filled week with her 4 sisters (yes four!), my friend Norma flipped through a magazine to pass the time.  She came across a version of this Mango Strawberry Avocado Salad and ripped out the page.  When she met up with her sisters, she was ready with their plans for dinner!  Here it is:

MANGO STRAWBERRY AVOCADO SALAD
salad greens
1 small cucumber, peeled & diced
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, cut in chunks
1 mango, cut into bits
small box of strawberries, cut up
1 batch of sugared almonds/pecans/pumpkin seeds*
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. tarragon vinegar
tab. sugar
a few shakes of salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper

On a pretty platter, layer the lettuce, cucumber, cilantro, avocado, mango and strawberries.  In a sealed container, shake together the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until it’s all throughly blended.  Sprinkle on the sugared nuts and top with dressing just before you set it on the table.

Sometimes we like this with grilled chicken breast cup into bits to make it a little heartier for supper.

*SUGARED NUTS
1/2 cup almonds (or any other nuts you have on hand)
1/4 cup sugar

Drop nuts and sugar into a nonstick pan and stir on medium high heat until the sugar caramelizes and the nuts are toasty brown.  If it gets too hot, lift the pan off the fire and continue to stir.  When they are done– spread them on a piece of foil to cool.