Fresh from the Strawberry Patch

You know the problem that I had with thieves in the strawberry patch? The netting worked, and now I have plenty of berries for fresh eating, preserving and freezing. Here are some delightfully fresh recipes for early-in-the-summer days.

This delicious and healthy salad uses early summer greens and strawberries. (Other summer berries can be substituted) Sometimes I add a cooked chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs or Gorgonzola cheese on the top for a light summer dinner. Experiment by adding your own fresh vegetables to the salad. It is the honey-mustard-poppy seed dressing that makes it so good. I think this dressing would be great on any salad!

- about 1 pound lettuce or spinach (or combo)
- 1 avocado, peeled and sliced or chopped
- 1/2 pint strawberries, halved or sliced if they are larger
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup walnuts

- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously. Mix with salad just prior to serving.

Hot Strawberry-Pepper Relish
I made this relish to use up what remained of the strawberries. It has a sweet-hot-tangy flavor and the peppers tend to stay crunchy. It is great on a cracker with Gouda cheese, or heated in the microwave as a dip for shrimp or chicken fingers. Easy to make, it will be a welcome preserve in the winter.

-1 box "no sugar needed" fruit pectin mixed with 1/4 cup sugar
-3 cups strawberries, mashed (including juice from berries)
-2 cups finely diced green bell peppers
-1 cup finely diced jalapeno pepper
-1 cup finely diced onion
-3/4 cup cider vinegar
-1 1/4 cup sugar

Mix the first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan/stockpot. Bring to a rolling boil. Add 1 1/4 cup sugar all at once, bring to rolling boil for 1 minute. Take off heat. Ladle into prepared canning jars with 2-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Now, this is decadent! 
Strawberry Cake with Strawberry-Pecan Icing by Christy at Fudge Ripple
The cake is heavenly made from scratch and the strawberry-pecan icing is perfection! Time doesn't permit me to follow as many blogs as I would like, but this one has too many good recipes and cooking ideas to pass up. Check it out if you get a is the link to the recipe and blog...

Sweet Summertime

Summer is exalted with many glorious attributes, but one of the most delicious has to be summer fruit. I noticed a few green berries turned ruby red yesterday morning as if the strawberry patch knew that tomorrow was the first official day of summer. After waiting a year for the juicy berries, the first fruits are eaten fresh off the vine as I do chores outside and pass the patch to and fro. When I've had my fill and the entire patch is more red than green, I'll make strawberry jam and shortcakes and strawberry ice cream.
So, imagine how surprised I was when, at waiting over 9 months for the first sweet, juicy strawberry, I went to the patch and there were no ripe berries. "Darn birds!" I went to check the rest of the garden when I caught the strawberry thief. A bright spot of red caught my eye as a quick squirrel carried his dessert  to a safe branch half way up the fir tree to not only enjoy my fruit, but then scold me to get out of his way so that he could have seconds!

Somehow, you can't stay mad at a cute squirrel licking a big strawberry. However, today I'll place netting over the patch to keep thieves out and hope to be the one eating a sweet, juicy red berry tomorrow in celebration of summer. (ps...I may share with my friend.)