Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad

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This salad. I have been obsessed with this summery salad since it first debued at Panera. Berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and grilled chicken. I’ve tried for years to re-create it at home. Even posting a similar one here, although I never have been able to get the dressing quite right at home.

So, you can guess how excited I was a year or so ago when I found the Panera poppyseed dressing in the refrigerator section at Target (note: I can also buy it at Kroger, although it is usually slightly less expensive at Target).

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I now have the hubbs hooked on it too. I’m not kidding when I say we ate this weekly until we had to retire the grill for the winter. Now that the warmer weather is creaping back and berries are creaping back into the stores, we’ve picked that habit back up. It is now at the point where I prefer our homemade version — we add WAY more fruit!

The recipe is pretty quick and easy. Washing berries, draining the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and grilling the chicken. We use a variety of berries depending on store sales/which ones look better, but the traditional is strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You’ll notice blackberries replacing the blueberries in this photo. Use whichever berries you like! As for the salad, you can cut up an entire head of Romaine lettuce or you can buy the pre-mixed salad mixes. We honestly do both depending on the time we have available. You could even use pre-grilled chicken to make this a layer and go type of dinner.

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Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Panera/The Cookin’ Chemist Original

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce (or other pre-mixed greens), washed and chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 (6 oz) pkg. rasberries, rinsed
2 (6 oz) pkg. blueberries, rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pineapple tidbits (or pieces), drained
2 (8 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. feta cheese
Panera Poppyseed Dressing

Preheat the grill. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Grill until cooked through. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice.

Divide the salad greens between 4 plates (we usually do 2 plates and 2 bowls for lunches). Top with the berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and feta cheese. Top with the sliced chicken. Add dressing in desired amounts.

Triple Berry Crisp

triple berry crisp close with ice cream

With this blog and simply just feeding the two of us, I have spent my fair share of time in the kitchen. Cooking is something I enjoy. It’s fun, it is stress relief, and the best part is you (*usually) get to enjoy the results of your experiment. While I’ve cooked/baked for several years, I almost always follow a recipe. I blame the pharmacist in me. Too Type A. Too precise.

I say that to tell you this. I made this crisp recipe on a whim, mostly on my own, with only a little recipe inspiration. Certainly, it is hard to screw up a fruit crisp, but I am still excited to report that I am getting to the stage of spontaneity in the kitchen. In fact, this crisp came about because the grocery store was out of zucchini (yes, I had to buy zucchini), and the berries there were so good that you could smell them as you walked by the stand. Recently, I have made a couple more dishes where I’ve found myself inspired by an ingredient, and I hope to share them soon.

triple berry crisp

Back to the crisp. Who doesn’t love fruit crisp/crumbles? Ripe, juicy fruit at its peak combine with a topping that is really nothing more than an oat-filled streusel. I made ours in ramekins for individual-sized servings. As much as I like crisp, leftover crisp just isn’t quite the same, and a whole pan is just too much for 2 people. The fruit in question here is strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but you can really use any fruit that speaks to you (or needs to be used up in the fridge). I’m sure peaches or other stone fruit would be wonderful here as well. So grab some ice cream (or whipped cream if you prefer) and make this before berries are gone for the summer. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe) 

Triple Berry Crisp
Loosely inspired by Pioneer Woman

Ingredients: 
2 cups total of raspberries, blueberries, and chopped strawberries
1 tsp. cornstarch
2-3 Tbsp. sugar (more or less depending on how sweet the fruit is)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
heaping 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp. cold butter
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease ramekins.

In a medium bowl, combine the washed berries, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla. Stir and divide evenly between 2 ramekins. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and oats. Cut the butter into the mixture and combine until crumbs form. You can add more butter and/or more oats/flour until it is the desired consistency. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit in the ramekins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is light brown and crisp. Serve while still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Fruity Coconut Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Since September hit, I have been seeing a lot of fall-themed recipes across the blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I still love pumpkin, apples, soups, and stews, but I am not quite ready to give up on summer. The weather has been gorgeous here the past week since we’ve dropped to right around or just below 100 degrees for a high. It’s also been cooling off better at night – I actually saw a reading in the 70’s in my car on the way to work the other morning (granted it was 5:30AM). I haven’t been able to enjoy the weather on an outdoor run yet since I’ve been on call this week, but I assure you that I will be out there as soon as I can.

Since stone fruit and berries have still been on sale around here, I thought this salad was appropriate to share. The inspiration for this salad came from finding this berry poppy seed dressing on Our Best Bites. I am amongst the group that enjoys fruit in my salad, and I thought that the coconut chicken would pair well with the berries to make a great lighter meal. I didn’t have any pineapple when I made these, but I think that this would make a great addition to the flavors here.

One note, I actually ended up using chicken tenders rather than chicken breasts as that is what I had stocked in the freezer. Chicken breasts would work just fine. You may need to adjust the ratios of coating, and just be sure to cook them to the appropriate temperature as gauged by a meat thermometer. The dressing does need to be made ahead of time, but it can certainly be made the night before to help speed up the cooking process when it is dinner time. Overall, we ended up really enjoying it, and it’s definitely a recipe I will continue to make for as long as I can get my hands on good fresh fruit this fall 🙂

(Printable Recipe)

Fruity Coconut Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Viniagrette
Dressing recipe from Our Best Bites

Ingredients:
3-4 chicken tenderloins
4 Tbsp. unsweetend shredded coconut (can use sweetened if preferred)
1/4 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
pinch of salt
1 egg white
6 cups preferred salad greens (we love spinach, but a lettuce mix would work well too)
1-2 cups berries – blueberries, strawberries (sliced), raspberries, blackberries
1 nectarine, pitted and sliced
fresh pineapple, chopped (optional – I think this would be a great addition!)

Dressing:
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1-2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. grated onion
1 tsp. kosher salt or other coarse salt
10 cracks of freshly ground black pepper (1/4-1/2 tsp)
1 cup raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries
2/3 cup canola oil
1-1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

For the dressing, combine the vinegar, honey, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and berries in a blender. Blend until smooth and then, with the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Turn off the blender and whisk in the poppy seeds. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

For the chicken, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray. Combine the coconut, panko, and salt; place in a shallow dish. Add egg white to another shallow dish. Dip the chicken in the egg white, then coat in the coconut mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Divide the salad greens and fruit between 2 plates. If desired, slice the chicken and add on top of the salad. Dress individual plates with the dressing. There will be extra dressing. It should keep in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 dinner-sized salads

May Cookie Carnival: Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars

This month’s Cookie Carnival was guest hosted by Krista from Meet the Swans. I was really excited to get the recipes for this month because they both looked great. When you are choosing between these strawberry-rhubarb bars and homemade ice cream sandwiches, it can be a hard choice! In the end, I probably will not get around to making the ice cream sandwiches before the end of the month, but I am definitely saving that recipe for later in the summer!

The bar recipe is originally from Better Homes and Gardens, and I went with this one since I love rhubarb in desserts! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate any fresh rhubarb since moving to Arizona, so I went the frozen route and it worked just fine although I had to boil my mixture for much longer than 10 minutes to get it to thicken. I stayed true to the ingredients called for in the recipe, but used my food processor to mix the dough together because I was feeling a bit lazy. In the end, I think this “chopped” up the oats a little more than the recipe intended, but the crumb layer still turned out really well. 

One thing that is unique is that the recipe calls for ground ginger that is mixed in with the filling and into a ginger glaze that tops the bars. I sneaked a taste of the glaze before I added it to the bars and wasn’t a huge fan, but on top of the bars, all the flavors melded together wonderfully. In fact, my husband’s exact comment was, “Wow. These are good. Really good.” Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Strawberry-rhubarb Bars
From Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients:
Bars:
Non-stick cooking spray
1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Ginger Glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3-4 Tbsp. orange juice or milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 inch baking dish with foil, allowing the foil to extend over the edges of the pan. Coat the foil with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the oats, flour, and 3/4 cup sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (alternately you can use a food processor). Remove 1-1/2 cups of the oat mixture; set aside. Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake 20 minutes.

For the filling, in a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, water, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Cook and stir over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until mixture is thickened and bubbly (May take longer. Just keep going until the fruit starts to break down and the mixture begins to thicken). Stir in chopped strawberries. Remove 1/2 cup of filling. Cover and set aside. Spoon remaining filling over the hot baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture (you may have to crunch this with your hand to make “crumbs” if you used a food processor). Lightly press the mixture down into the topping. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes more or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool in a pan on a wire rack. 

For the ginger glaze, in a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, ground ginger. Add the orange juice/milk slowly until it reaches drizzling consistency. Set aside. Lift the bars from the pan using the foil and carefully pull the foil away from the sides. Cut into bars. Just before serving, top each bar with a spoonful of filling and drizzle with the ginger glaze. 

Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream

Last but not least, my final strawberry recipe for a little while around here! While this is the last strawberry recipe that I’m posting, I have to admit that strawberry ice cream is one of the first things I thought of when deciding how to use my strawberries. In looking for a recipe, I knew that I wanted to find one that included pureed strawberries rather than chopped strawberries added as a mix-in. We’ve tried the chopped strawberry version before, and neither of us like how the fruit turns into hard ice-nuggets once frozen.

This recipe is another from David Lebovitz’s, The Perfect Scoop, but I had saved it since last summer from Annie’s Eats. It is different from many other ice cream recipes in that it includes sour cream in place of some of the milk and heavy cream. While Annie noted that she couldn’t taste the sour cream in the final ice cream, I noticed a little bit of tang in mine but loved the flavor that it added. A definite benefit of the sour cream was the texture of the ice cream. This is one of the creamiest versions I’ve made yet. 

As for our overall opinions, we are a little split. I really enjoyed it. My husband thought it was good but noted that he liked many of my other ice cream versions better. I think his exact phrase was, “The berry flavor is just too much.” At least around here, I’ve noticed that strawberry ice cream is one of those foods that you either love or hate, and while he ate it, I think my husband may fall into the later group. If you’re a strawberry ice cream fan, too much berry flavor shouldn’t be a problem 🙂 Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Creamy Strawberry Ice Cream
From David Lebovitz’s, The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vodka (optional)
1 cup full-fat sour cream  
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sliced strawberries in a medium bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and add the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Pulse briefly until almost smooth but still slightly chunky. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (I always chill overnight). Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

White Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream

Since Easter is now behind us, I have decided to fully shift my attention to “warmer weather” recipes. With that idea in mind, I’m finishing up my string of strawberry posts with two different versions of strawberry ice cream. I don’t think the fact that temperatures have been hanging around 90 for most of the last week has anything to do with it 🙂 I am actually not complaining. I love it!

To be completely honest, I this is one of the first ice creams I made earlier in March before our surplus of berries. Nevertheless, it still ranks as one of my husband’s favorite ice cream recipes, and it fits right in with the strawberry theme. The recipe for the base ice cream is adapted from David Lebovitz’s, A Perfect Scoop, but I ran across the strawberry version here on Gimme Some Oven. In the book, David recommends either topping the ice cream (without the strawberries) with candied cherries or adding them as a mix-in. To me, the cherry idea also sounds awesome, but I also think it would be great with a swirled raspberry ribbon. I will share it if we end up making one of the variations.

As I said earlier, this is my husband’s favorite ice cream that I’ve made to date. I changed up the ratio of milk to cream from the base recipe using 2 cups of whole milk to 1 cup of cream because I was trying to use up some milk that was getting close to it’s date, and I thought that it ended up being plenty creamy in the end. One thing I would change in the future is my choice of white chocolate. I have always heard that using chips instead of bar chocolate in recipes that call for it to be melted can result in a “chalky” texture. I have never noticed this before but could definitely tell in this ice cream. Next time, I will be sure to use bar chocolate instead of white chips. My other change would be the strawberries. I wasn’t crazy about the chunks of strawberries included in the ice cream because they end up as little frozen chunks after it has set in the freezer for awhile and you lose the flavor they would add. I think they would be great instead as a topping, and I would include them this way in the future. I’ll include the recipe as we made it below (but written for bar chocolate), and you can adapt the strawberries as you please. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

White Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop and Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients:
8 oz white chocolate (finely chopped)
2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups strawberries, finely diced

Put the pieces of chocolate in a bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top. Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, the scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.  

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as  you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer over the white chocolate. Stir until white chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath. 

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (I usually leave it in overnight), then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Add the strawberries about 5 minutes before the ice cream cycle is completed.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing

I am getting towards the end of my strawberry posts. One more in line for tomorrow, and then we can return to the typical variety of recipes that find their way to my site. When I was searching for recipes to use my strawberries, I noticed that there are relatively few recipes that use fresh strawberries in a savory nature. I am not sure why this is, but I knew that I needed to find some non-baked ways to use a few berries so that we didn’t end up with WAY too many baked goods.  

This recipe from Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod was my starting point. While I have heard lots of good things about spinach and strawberry salads, I had never tried one before. Many of them have a sweet poppy seed-like dressing and use the strawberries primarily as a topping, but I liked how Maria used a strawberry puree on hers. Knowing that strawberries pair quite well with balsamic vinegar, I adapted the dressing to include balsamic vinegar and added a little bit extra sugar to offset the tartness of the vinegar.  

The result. We loved it! We usually have a small salad prior to eating our main dish for supper, and this was a great way to switch things up a little bit. Since this was a spur of the moment recipe, I didn’t have any almonds in the house like Maria used, but I think toasted almonds would make a great addition to this salad. It would also be great with different fruits including other berries or mandarin oranges. If you are still looking for a last minute Easter side dish, this would make a great light addition to a dinner spread. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Strawberry Dressing
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh spinach
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted if desired
2 ounces feta cheese

Strawberry Dressing:
7 large strawberries, cut in half
juice from 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1-2 tsp. honey (to taste)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Place the spinach in a bowl. Top with sliced strawberries, almonds, and feta cheese. 

For the dressing, place strawberries in a blender or food processor. Squeeze lemon juice into the blender. Add balsamic vinegar. Drizzle with honey to taste. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over spinach and strawberry salad just before serving. 

Yield: 4 servings

I am linking this to Saturday Swap

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

One of the “foodie-goals” that I set for myself this year was to venture more into the world of cakes and cupcakes. While cupcakes are definitely something that I enjoy eating (come on, the frosting to cake ratio is much higher than many cakes), they aren’t something that I commonly make. There probably are a couple reasons for this. One being that there are only 2 people in our house to eat them, but the second and probably larger reason is that I have no experience in decorating cakes or cupcakes.

With my aforementioned abundance of strawberries, I decided that now was as good of time as any to give cupcakes a shot. After looking through several recipes, there seemed to be a fair amount of praise for a Martha Stewart recipe seen on blogs both here and here, among others, so I decided to give it a shot. The process of making the cupcakes went really smooth. As Tracey mentioned in her blog post, the cupcakes bake up with a flat top. Mine were also really fragile when I first removed them from the muffin pan due to the chunks of cooked strawberries in the cupcakes. At least we got to sample the one below that fell apart 🙂

Both Tracey and Annie mentioned that Swiss Meringue Buttercream can be a little temperamental to make. Basically, my impression from them is that you put everything together and beat the heck out of it with your stand mixer until it looks like a frosting. I have actually made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream once before for a SMS cake, and the frosting has always came together okay for me. Maybe I’m liberal with the mixing times? My only problem with the frosting process is that I didn’t have enough. I halved both the cupcake and frosting recipes, and after piping it on a few cupcakes, I realized that I was only going to have enough for about 2/3’s of my cupcakes (I told you I really liked frosting). Rather than go through the process of making more, I mixed up a different strawberry cream cheese frosting from Annie’s site to see which we liked better.

 Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Strawberry Cream Cheese

The process aside, the cupcakes were really good but if I were to make them again, I would change a couple of things. The cake stayed really moist and had a nice crumb, but the chunks of strawberries made the cupcakes fall apart really easily. In the future, I think I would to try a recipe that includes pureed strawberries to fix this problem. As for which frosting we preferred, it is a toss up. We liked the cream cheese version for the taste, but the Swiss Meringue Buttercream definitely made prettier cupcakes! I even let the cream cheese version sit in the refrigerator overnight, and I still couldn’t pipe anything with it. I am going to go against the mainstream here because I don’t think Swiss Meringue Buttercreams are really my thing. Whenever I’ve tried them, I feel like I’m eating straight butter (which is prominent in the ingredient list). I just think it is too “greasy” seeming and not sweet enough for my tastes. I am still looking for a great tasting frosting that will pipe well enough to make pretty cupcakes, so if anyone has a great recipe, please let me know. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Strawberry Cupcakes with Two Frosting Choices
From Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes and Annie’s Eats (also seen on Tracey’s Culinary Adventures and Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white (to halve this use 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, 1/2 egg yolk)
1 cup milk
2-1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries (8 oz.) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 cup strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions alternating with the milk, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula. 

Divide the batter between the paper liners, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 28 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, place the strawberries in a food processor or blender. Puree until completely smooth. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until stiff peaks for and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch). Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes or more until it comes together. Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost cooled cupcakes as desired. Garnish with fresh berry slices if desired.

To make the strawberry cream cheese frosting, puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a mesh sieve to remove seeds if desired and set aside. Beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and strawberry puree. Adjust the amount of puree to achieve your desired consistency. Frost cupcakes when completely cool. 

Note: Half the Swiss Meringue Butter cream recipe frosted about 12 cupcakes for me. Half the cream cheese recipe would have been plenty.

Yield: full recipe makes 34 cupcakes

SMS: Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

This week’s SMS was hosted by Tracey at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. The group has made the master preserves recipe from the book a couple times, but this was my first time cooking along. With the surplus of strawberries that have been around our place lately, it certainly was a timely recipe for me! What can I say? I ended up with two of these after stopping by the market after a hard gym session. They just spoke to me =)

While I had no problem finding strawberries, the rhubarb was a tougher search. Having lived most of my life in the Midwest, rhubarb is something that I have never had to buy from the store. You can usually find someone with a plant in their yard who is begging people to take some, and while I never had a plant of my own, I usually had a bag of it hanging in my freezer. I ended up calling around to most of the stores in the area, but no one here has any fresh rhubarb yet. Thankfully, a couple of people suggested looking for it in the frozen fruit section. Success. Now, I know where to look if I can’t find any fresh! 

As for the recipe, I never knew that making preserves could be this easy! Melissa’s recipe uses apples as a source of natural pectin, so the recipe consists entirely of fruit and sugar. The texture ends up a little less “jello-ey” than store purchased jellies, but it still thickens up nicely. In fact, I enjoyed the change in texture as it made the preserves much easier to change. While the recipe called for a little more sugar than the master recipe, the resultant preserves did not end up too sweet. I halved the recipe and also froze half the resultant preserves. If it says anything about how much we’ve enjoyed it, the portion that I kept in our refrigerator is almost gone. Check out the SMS page to see how the other bakers did, and a big thanks Tracey for a great, seasonal pick!

Strawberry Sorbet

Have you ever wondered what type of a reaction you would get by calling your husband asking if he would stop to pick up a bottle of vodka on his way home from work? Not that I would know, but he may respond by asking if everything is okay. No, it wasn’t the fact that I had a really bad day. I was wanting to make this sorbet with my new batch of strawberries but couldn’t run to the store myself because I was already elbow deep preparing dinner.

The chemist in me finds the purpose of adding alcohols such as vodka to different recipes interesting. See, alcohol has both a lower boiling and freezing point than water. When you use it for this pie crust, it evaporates earlier than water would in the oven leaving you with more dry ingredients which creates a flaky crust. It has the opposite effect in cold recipes. Since it freezes at a lower temperature than water, it keeps this sorbet from getting too hard in your freezer. See, chemistry can be fun and delicious =) Vodka or no vodka, this sorbet is delicious! While the vodka serves the purpose of helping keep the sorbet soft, it is an optional ingredient if it is a concerning ingredient for you. Unlike my pie crust above, it will not “cook out” of the recipe since the sorbet mixture is never heated. If you leave it out, you will just want to plan ahead and set the sorbet container out at room temperature for a few minutes before serving. 

Enough about the texture. How did it taste? Absolutely delicious! We made quite a few recipes with those strawberries, and this sorbet is one of my favorites. It was the perfect way to showcase the flavor of the fresh berries and has me searching for other recipes using different fruits. One thing I noticed in searching for a recipe was the large variation in sugar content.  I found recipes varying from 1/4 to 1 cup of sugar for 1 pound of strawberries. I ended up using about 1/3 per pound of berries for our sorbet, and it was plenty sweet for the batch of berries that I had. My other change – lime juice instead of lemon juice. Strawberry-lime is a classic combination. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Strawberry Sorbet
Adapted from Group Recipes

Ingredients:
2 lbs. strawberries
1 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. vodka (optional)
pinch of salt

Puree the strawberries and cold water in a blender until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds if you want a smooth sorbet (I did this roughly to remove most of the seeds but not all). Stir in the remaining ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Place in a resealable container and refrigerate until cool or overnight.

When ready to freeze, pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to package directions. Serve immediately or transfer to a resealable container and freeze until ready to use. If desired, remove the sorbet from the freezer for a few minutes before serving to allow it to soften. 

Yield: My 1 qt ice cream freezer was not full. Maybe 6-8 servings

I am linking this to Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for Saturday, and Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms