The monthly envelope full of local ads and coupons arrived a couple days ago.  As I flipped through it, one summery dessert caught my eye:  a dessert pizza.  It was an advertisement for a local pizza buffet, "only" $5.99 for the buffet.  
Well, we have 7 people at home, so $6 x 7 is not something we're willing to spend very often.  :)  Instead, I could make this for under $4 with what I had on hand.  Frozen blueberries and strawberries are always in the freezer here; I get them at DollarTree in the frozen section.  Cream cheese stores way beyond its sell-by date, so I stock up when it's $1 for 8 ounces.  A local store recently had whipping cream at $.33, and it stores quite a bit past the sell-by date, plus it can be frozen.  And I stock up on butter when it's on sale, then keep it in the freezer.

What are some of your must-have-on-hand ingredients?

Cookie base
1 stick butter (1/2 c.), softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. buttermilk, kefir, OR sour milk (add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to fresh milk to make 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cream the butter with sugar; beat in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Combine baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour; stir in to the other ingredients.  Grease or spray a 10x17 rimmed cookie sheet or 14" or 15" round pizza pan.  Drop cookie dough on top and pat into an even layer; wet your fingers so the dough doesn't stick so much to you.  Bake for 14-20 minutes, until light golden brown on edges and underside.  Cool completely.  

Topping/Frosting 
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

2-4 cups berries or other fruit (I used 1 cup frozen blueberries, about 1 1/2 c. frozen strawberries)

Spread the topping over cooled cookie, cut into squares, and then sprinkle or decorate with fruit.  Serve; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.
 
 
This is a great fresh jam to eat fresh. It also freezes well, so is a good freezer jam.  Since the berries are not cooked and there's not enough sugar to help preserve it, its fridge life is fairly short.  If you're keeping it in the fridge, try to use it within about a week.  If left too long, it will get moldy (you'll know if it does!)   But it's SO GOOD fresh!  My eight-year-old made a batch two nights ago; we ran out yesterday.  I made another batch this morning, and between spreading it on our pancakes at breakfast, and using it on warm bread this afternoon, it's gone again!

Pectin-free Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled (green parts pulled off)
2 Tbsp. honey (or to taste; use any sweetener you prefer)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds, OR 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

Mash the berries with a fork, or chop in a blender until they're the consistency you want.  Stir in the honey (or other sweetener) and the chia.
 After this sits for about half an hour, the chia (or flax) will gel as they absorb the extra liquid.  Keep refrigerated or frozen.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Come to think of it, a drop or two of orange essential oil would be really, really goo
 
 
We have a favorite salad... at a local place called Zupas.  I found a recipe online that a lady had tweaked a little, and I've tweaked it a little more!   The original salad uses strawberries where I used blackberries, but I used what I had: blueberries and blackberries were $.99/cup at NPS.

Sometimes DollarTree has frozen mango chunks, 12 ounces for a dollar. The trick is to visit the store within a week of when they get their monthly frozen shipment.

Mango Berry Salad
Salad:
8-10 cups greens (I used green leaf lettuce)
1-2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (or other slightly sour berry)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 fresh mango, cubed, or 1 cup frozen mango, diced and mostly thawed
1/3 cup cinnamon honey nuts
 
Combine in a large bowl in the order given.

Creamy Mango Dressing:
1/2 c.Greek yogurt* (plain or something mild like vanilla) 
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1 fresh mango, pitted and peeled, or 1 cup frozen mango, mostly thawed
1/4 tsp. salt

 Combine in a blender until smooth.  If too tart, sweeten with a little honey.  Makes about 1-1/4 cups. Drizzle  about 1/2 cup over salad; toss to coat.  Serve salad with additional dressing on the side, or save the rest for another day .

*for a dairy-free option, use coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut, which is sweetened)
 
 
Saw this on the web and my daughter wanted it for her birthday cake...

It's really simple- one frosting tip (2110), one color, and the roses are nothing more than spirals.

The frosting I used was Strawberry Cheesecake Frosting and is naturally colored: use the recipe for Blueberry Cheesecake Frosting except double the batch and substitute 12 oz. strawberries, pureed, for the two cups of blueberries.  It tastes divine!
 
 
Are you craving a moist, flavorful cupcake?  Maybe you'd like gourmet cupcakes to serve your sweetie on Valentine's Day?
The 'extras' added here- coconut extract, shredded coconut, lime juice and zest- make these cupcakes Coconut-Lime.  Feel free to substitute whatever other flavors you like.  Any flavor cake mix will work.  You could make a pretty pink-speckled frosting for Valentine's Day by using one mashed strawberry in the frosting.  Since it's contributing liquid, omit the lime juice.


Cupcakes:
1/2 cup white cake mix
1/4 cup water
a little coconut extract (about 1/16th tsp)- or other flavor, optional

Put a paper cupcake liner in each of two custard cups or microwaveable mugs.  Beat the mix, water, and coconut extract together until smooth.  Divide between the two liners. Microwave each one for about 35-45 seconds or until there's just a small wet-looking spot in the center.  Let cool.

A very simple filling is a spoonful of vanilla Greek yogurt.  Poke a hole in the cupcake with a spoon, lift the torn part up, and drop about a tablespoon of  Greek yogurt.  Jam is a good filling, as is pie filling or frosting. Just use less of these because they're so sweet.

Frosting:
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. sour cream (or Greek yogurt, cream cheese, or butter, depending on the flavor you want)
dash of salt
a little vanilla (1/16th tsp)
about 2 tsp. lime juice (or lemon if that's all you have.  I used lemon juice and added a drop or two of lime essential oil.)
powdered sugar (about 1 cup)

Beat together the butter, sour cream, and salt.  Stir in the vanilla and lime juice.  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and stir until smooth.  If it's not thick enough yet, add more powdered sugar until it is.

Spread on the cooled cupcakes, then top with some toasted coconut and finely grated lime zest.

If you want chocolate frosting, simply add 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder to it.
 
 
One of my children is needing to avoid dairy for a while, but I found strawberries on sale and wanted a creamy salad using them.  Add some pudding?  Not an option.  Yogurt?  Nope. Whipped cream?   No, but... I had coconut cream.  The thick, creamy, good stuff you find at the top when you open a can of coconut milk.  So I used that.  It worked beautifully.  Everyone was happy.

It's super fast, too.  If you feel like making it fancier, you can whip chilled coconut cream (yes, it whips, just like dairy cream, but goes flat faster if it warms up).

Creamy (Dairy-free) Fruit Salad
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 apple, cored and chopped (I leave the peel on)
3 Tablespoons coconut cream
3 drops lime or orange essential oil, optional
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut

Combine fruit in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together the coconut cream and essential oil, until smooth.  Pour over fruit and stir gently to coat.  Sprinkle with coconut.
(If you like things sweet or if your strawberries are sour, add 1 Tbsp. honey to the coconut cream mixture
Serves 4-6


 
 
A local store (Winco) has fresh pineapples for $. 99 apiece.  What a treat!  They always remind me of watching my grandmother and aunts bottle jar after jar of pineapple in a hot kitchen.  The smell carried clear outside the house, and we grandchildren would sit, watching and chewing on pineapple cores until our tongues hurt.  There was also the time the caramel smell of baked pineapple wafted out of my great-grandmother's attached apartment... after shopping, she'd set her pineapples on top of the the cooktop, and somehow it got turned on.

Anyway, I made this salad for a family get-together yesterday; my grandparents were in town.  The tartness of the strawberries is tamed by the super-sweet pineapple, as well as the honey in the dressing, and the lime accents the bright flavors.  Banana tames the intensity just enough.

Pineapple-Strawberry-Banana Salad with Lime-poppyseed dressing

Dressing:
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
8 drops lime essential oil, or 1 Tbsp. finely shredded lime zest
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice (I used one lime ice cube)

    Whisk together and set aside.

Fruit:
1fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. strawberries, sliced
2-4 bananas

    Put in a large bowl, pour dressing over; stir and fold gently to coat.  Other fruits to use, either in addition to the bananas or instead of them, could include apples, pears, or mango. 
 
 
There is NOTHING like fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

If you start with a premade crust, you can make this pie in about 15 minutes.  The recipe is sized to fit in an 8-inch crust.  Almost all of the time here is hulling and slicing the berries.  The sauce is a cinch.  


There's also a simple variation for non-stringy Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

Ingredients:
1 8-inch pie shell  (for some good recipes, see Crash Course in Pies)
1 lb. ripe strawberries, washed
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. Instant Clear Jel*
1 drop orange essential oil, OR use 1 Tbsp. orange juice OR 1/16 tsp. orange extract

Topping: (optional but YUMMY!)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Instant Clear Jel*
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

For the filling: Hull the berries (remove the green leaves).  Put a small handful of the ripest berries in a blender; puree.  Add a little water if needed to make 1/2 cup puree.  Add the sugar, Clear Jel, and orange oil; blend about ten seconds.  (If you don't have a blender, you can mash the berries by hand.  Or you can use all water and no berries, but the flavor and color of your pie will not be as good.)   Slice the rest of the berries and mix it with the strawberry sauce.  Pour into the pie shell.   Store in the fridge until time to serve.

For the topping: in a medium bowl stir together sugar and Clear Jel.  Add the whipping cream and vanilla; beat to stiff peaks.  Spread or pipe onto the pie. 

*The Instant Clear Jel thickens the sauce and keeps the whipped cream from going flat.  If you can't find it for the sauce, substitute 1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour, then bring the sauce to a boil to thicken it.  Cool before adding sliced berries.  For the problem with the whipped cream, eat the pie quickly!  Actually, there are other things that you can use (yes, cornstarch works, but who wants to cook then chill cream again?), a couple include:
-1 tsp. unflavored gelatin softened in 1 Tbsp. water then melted and whipped in to the cream,
-or 1/2 package instant vanilla pudding powder (omit the 2 Tbsp. sugar)
-or whip with 4 oz. softened cream cheese and an extra tablespoon of sugar

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie: instead of using the handful of berries for the sauce, slice one stalk of rhubarb.  Cook it with the sugar, then puree with Clear Jel and orange oil.  If you want the pie with chunks of rhubarb, cook 2 stalks instead, use half for the sauce and half stirred into the filling.

Picture
Here I used a premade crust (found it at the dollar store!)- but I've got to admit the homemade ones taste better.  Our favorite was a crumb crust made with butter and then baked, this brought out a butterscotch flavor.  If you don't want to bake, just freeze it for ten minutes.  The crumb crust does fall apart when you serve the pie; if an intact slice is important to you, use a rolled-out crust.

 
 
Picture
Cold, sweet, and slightly tangy Strawberry Pops. 

Photo courtesy Anitra Kerr

Today I bought more strawberries, they weren't as cheap as they've been past years, but they're awfully good.  Meanwhile, I'm anxiously waiting for all the blossoms on my strawberry plants to become fruit!

I got this recipe in a newsletter (SimplyLivingSmart.com) and wanted to pass it on.  The original recipe called for powdered sugar or agave, but use whatever sweetener you like.


Strawberry Pops
1 1/2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled
sweetener to taste: about 1/4 c. sugar or agave, or 3 T. honey, or 1/2 c. powdered sugar, or 3-4 packets of stevia

Pulse strawberries with sugar and 1/3 cup water or orange juice (YUMMIER) in food processor until pureed, with some chunks of berries remaining. Pour half of mixture into a bowl.
Pulse remainder until smooth. Stir puree into mixture in bowl. Pour into 3-ounce molds or plastic cups, insert sticks or wooden spoons, and freeze until solid, at least 8 hours.

I'm going to make some strawberry-rhubarb pops: using one chopped and cooked stalk of rhubarb in place of a half pint of the strawberries.  There should be enough sugar in the recipe anyway (if not, I'll add 'til it tastes good), and the rhubarb with give it a little kick.  Kind of like the orange juice does, but a little more tangy.  And a dash of vanilla is always good.