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Carrie's Kitchen: Three great recipes for strawberry season

Strawberries have become one of those things that are available in grocery stores year-round these days, and I buy them a few times over the winter because my 2-year-old loves them, and apparently cannot yet distinguish between a big red fruit that looks like a strawberry and an actual, ripe-picked little berry that’s going to be full of flavor.

I guess it’s better than him wanting to eat strawberry Starburst candies.

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But real, Maryland-grown strawberries should be coming soon, give or take a week or two, and that’s when I plan to really indulge him in his passion. Not that I plan to cook with them, but I kind of use them as the appetizer to get him to slow down, sit at the table, and start to eat, then I slide some chicken or other more energy-sustaining foods on his plate.

But if you do have a bountiful supply of strawberries, or just like to bake and spread your love via food, here are three great recipes for using your strawberries. First, I went looking for a strawberry-banana bread. Strawberries and bananas are a common combination in smoothies and maybe even some candies, so I thought it would be a good idea to try adding the berries to banana bread. This is not a light version of banana bread, so maybe the strawberries can help you feel a little better about eating it, what with all their antioxidants and fiber. It makes two loaves, so think of a friend or family member who could use a little lift and make them a special delivery with this yummy treat!

Second, I found this recipe for strawberry lemonade beer cookie bars. Yes, I did a double take when I saw that listed, too. The author’s intent was to make a cookie that tasted like a strawberry shandy, and the recipe only uses 3 tablespoons of beer, so the flavor should be subtle. The strawberries are only included in the cream cheese frosting that ones on top, but you should get the overall effect in each bite. I haven’t tried these yet, but they seem quite playful and fun.

And finally, if you’re in a chill mood, try this iced chamomile tea with a strawberry honey infusion. I love making iced teas with non-traditional flavors, and this recipe gets a double-dose of strawberries as they are steeped in the tea and cooked into a simple syrup that uses honey instead of sugar as the sweetener. Plan to keep the syrup on the side and let each partaker set their own sweetness level for this tea.

Enjoy!

Strawberry banana bread

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 6 medium-size)

4 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 cups flour

1 1⁄2 pounds sliced strawberries, thawed if they were frozen

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Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Incorporate the bananas and scrape the sides of the bowl with the spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one; set aside.

In another bowl, mix together the salt, baking soda, and flour. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Add the strawberries and stir.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a rack before inverting onto a plate.

Strawberry lemonade beer cookies

1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated with a microplane

¾ cups white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup butter softened

1 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoon beer pale ale, pilsner, or wheat beer

¼ teaspoon pure lemon extract optional

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoons salt

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese softened

1/3 cup chopped strawberries

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the lemon zest, white and brown sugar, and butter to a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high until well combined and creamy.

Add the egg, beating until well combined and resembles frosting, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, beer and lemon extract (if using). The mixture may look a little curdled, this is fine.

Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.

Line an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with parchment so that it comes up and over the sides (this makes for easy removal).

Spread the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the edges just start to turn golden brown (do not overbake, the bars will set as they cool). Allow to cool before removing from the pan.

Add the cream cheese and strawberries to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high until the strawberries are well combined with the cream cheese and mixture is light and fluffy. Stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Add the cream, beating well to combine. Add the powdered sugar, stir until combined.

Frost the bars, cut into squares. Chill until ready to serve.

Iced chamomile tea with strawberry honey infusion

For the chamomile iced tea:

4 quarts water

10 stash tea chamomile flavored tea bags

1/2 cup strawberries tops removed

2 sprigs fresh mint

For the strawberry honey infusion:

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 cup strawberries, tops removed

Optional garnish:

Fresh strawberries

Fresh mint

For the chamomile tea: In a large pot over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add tea bags and reduce heat to low.

Allow tea bags to steep in simmering water about 10-15 minutes. Add strawberries and mint, turn off heat and allow to fully cool.

Strain tea into pitcher and set into fridge to cool.

For the strawberry honey infusion: In a small sauce pot, add honey and water. Turn heat on medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally until honey dissolves into water. Add strawberries and reduce heat to low, allowing mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain syrup into container.

Putting the iced tea together: add a tablespoon or two of strawberry honey infused syrup (or more if you like sweeter iced tea) directly into pitcher of iced tea. Stir to mix well.

Place ice into each serving glass, pour iced tea into glasses and garnish with fresh strawberry and mint if desired. Allow guests to add more strawberry honey infused syrup to their own glasses if desired.

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