Tag Archives: Strawberries

No-Bake Dessert: Strawberry Vanilla Icebox Cake

Sometimes my inspiration for a blog topic comes from ingredients already on hand; today it was fresh strawberries and a plump vanilla bean.  We all know how hot it has been so turning on the oven to bake something sweet just wasn’t going to happen.  I came across a recipe for a mocha chocolate icebox cake from Barefoot Contessa that requires no cooking, which I used for inspiration.  I know, I can hear you exclaiming: “How can you possibly pass up something chocolate in favor of something vanilla?”  It was the strawberries that stretched my culinary creativity and the silly fact that I do not like chocolate and fruit together – gasp!  If we’re talking chocolate fondue then I’m all over it but for some reason my taste buds revolt when the two are combined otherwise. Originating from Nabisco, the traditional icebox cake is made with layers of chocolate wafers and whipped cream.  I borrowed two things from Barefoot Contessa’s recipe: adding mascarpone cheese to the whipped cream and using a springform pan, which makes for an easy assembly and snazzy presentation.  Here’s how I made my Strawberry Vanilla Icebox cake for our 4th of July celebration.

Whole Vanilla Bean (for the filling):
Whole vanilla beans have a beautifully fragrant paste inside that adds tiny little specs of flavor to your dish, a visual cue that you are about to enjoy pure vanilla. To remove the paste, make a slice down the middle of one side of the bean and scrape out with a paring knife. I like to cut the bean in half for easier removal. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, use a good quality pure vanilla extract.

The Filling:
Four ingredients make up the filling: heavy whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla – Yum! Whip until firm, stiff peaks form and the mixture has some body.

Another Layer of Flavor:
After the mixture is whisked into blissfulness, fold in the chopped strawberries.

Using either an 8 inch or 9 inch (what I used) springform pan, line the bottom with vanilla wafers and fill in any big holes with pieces of broken cookie.  Add one quarter of the filling on top of the cookies, spread out and repeat the process. You’ll end up with four layers of each, finishing with the whipped cream mixture.  Smooth out the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 12 hours.  It’s that easy!

The vanilla wafers soften from the whipped cream and soak up the flavors for a light and sweet dessert that is hard to pass up. The strawberry vanilla icebox cake is perfect for a dinner party and transports well. Thankfully the cake stays fresh in the refrigerator for several days, so any leftovers are a great way to indulge your sweet tooth. There are many ways to make an icebox cake and I have some ideas for future tasty combinations. This was the first time I tasted this treat – did you have one as a kid?  What was your favorite?

Best wishes for a sweet-filled summer!

Eat well and share the love!

Strawberry Vanilla Icebox Cake (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Refrigerate: 12 hours or more

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups chopped fresh strawberries, about 16 strawberries
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon for chopped strawberries)
1 vanilla bean – paste removed from pod, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
One 12 oz. package of Vanilla Wafers

Directions:
Filling: Add the chopped strawberries to a medium bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar; mix and set aside.

To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla (if you don’t have an electric mixer, use a large glass bowl and hand mixer).  Mix on low speed until the ingredients are combined and increase speed to medium (speed #4); mix until stiff peaks form.

Remove bowl from mixer, scrape off whipped cream from whisk attachment, and gently fold in the chopped strawberries.

Assemble: Arrange the vanilla wafers in a single layer in the bottom of an 8 inch or 9 inch springform pan, covering as much of the bottom as possible; if needed break some cookies to fill in the larger spaces.

Add ¼ of the mixture (a very generous cup) on top of the cookies and spread out evenly, making sure the edges are well covered. 

Repeat with remaining layers (4 of each) and finish with the whipped cream mixture. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

To serve, release the clasp on the ring of the pan and gently run a knife along the edge of cake.  Remove the ring, slice and serve cold.

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Murphy, on the lookout for anything amiss!

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Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins, Christmas Tree Cutting & Tailgating in the Rockies

Yesterday we tagged along for another year of Christmas tree cutting with the Bergman’s.  They have carried on the tradition for over ten years in the Pickle Gulch area, about an hour northwest of Denver (elevation 9,100 feet!) and we’re glad we get to tag along.  It was only about 25 degrees warm but we had a great time with lots of fun moments.  I’m not sure what we looked forward to more, hiking through the snow in a beautiful area to find that perfect tree and taking it home, or the smorgasbord of food that was waiting for us to unpack after the hike.  To make sure we had enough energy before the hike, I made some strawberry chocolate chip muffins and simple fruit skewers which we enjoyed on the drive up.  The muffins are dense but with a fluffy texture, and studded with sliced strawberries and chocolate chips – such a great combination that is different from the typical muffin!  For the fruit, I cut some fresh pineapple and watermelon into cubes, tossed them with wildflower honey and fresh mint and added them to skewers to make them easier to eat; they were a huge hit too.

One of my highlights: A photo op with Smokey the Bear before we headed up the trail.

It took five people to carry the Bergman tree back to the car; thank goodness they have high ceilings back at home because it is a TALL tree!

We were all starving by the time we got back to car, and ready to get the tailgate started.  I forgot to take a picture of the table of food because I was so cold and hungry and had a one-track mind: EAT FOOD.  I did remember to get a shot of my plate though, notice it has olives – yeah!  We feasted on cheese and sausage from Oregon (thanks, Kristen!) Sloppy Joes (Holly made her Mom’s recipe and packed it in a thermos to keep it warm – brilliant), potato salad, mocha coffee with peppermint schnapps and whoopie pies for dessert.  Everything was devoured and it was a great way to kick off the Holidays with friends!

Eat well and share the love!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe adapted from High Altitude Baking
Makes 16 to 17 muffins, recipe is easily halved for two foodies

Ingredients:
2 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup milk (1 %)
1/2 cup half & half
1 3/4 cups sliced fresh or unsweetened partially frozen strawberries
1/3 cup 60% cacao chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (topping)

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease muffins cups well, or add paper cups.  In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt – set aside.

With a hand-mixer on low, cream butter and sugar together in a medium bowl, about 1 minute.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing well each time.  Add the flour mixture and milk mixture in 1/3 increments into the butter mixture and mix well with each addition.

Fold in the strawberries and chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.  Pour batter into muffin cups (about 1/4 cup each) and sprinkle tops with some turbinado sugar.  Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until muffins are firm and finger pressure does not make an impression.

Let cool slightly and remove muffins, let cool on a cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store any leftovers in an air tight container, will last for a few days.

Life still thrives amidst the snow…

Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend – it’s time to start thinking about a menu and isn’t dessert the logical place to start?  We are always full after eating the barbecued and homemade treats during the weekend so I wanted to try something light and refreshing for dessert.  Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream is the perfect finish.  It is very simple to make with just a few steps.  Your freezer does most of the work which means you can spend more time outdoors having fun.  This is a surprisingly decadent combination.  When you add the whipped cream to the granita, the whipped cream’s texture becomes like a soft ice cream because it gets slightly frozen!  It’s almost like eating fresh strawberry ice cream but with lots more strawberry flavor.

There are only four ingredients that you’ll need for the Strawberry Mint Granita: water, sugar, strawberries and mint.  I let the strawberries soften in the warm syrup (see below) for about fifteen minutes on very low heat.  Then I puréed it in the blender and strained it through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and large pieces.  That was most of the work and the freezer did the rest.  The recipe is versatile because almost any of your favorite fruit can be used in place of strawberries.  Try experimenting with flavors, like blueberry/thyme, peach/basil or mango/orange.

Granita is just frozen flavored ice and similar to sorbet.  The fruit and simple syrup mixture is frozen in a shallow pan and scraped with a fork to form large ice crystals.  There are many recipe variations and flavors, and I decided to go with the original recipe in my head – make a simple syrup, add fresh fruit, purée, strain, freeze and scrape every few hours.  It was that easy.  I of course had to add a twist to the simple syrup and infuse it with mint.  It is super easy to make.  After lightly heating the water and sugar, I added two mint sprigs and lightly mashed them with the back of spoon to release the oils and then let it steep off the heat for about ten minutes.  The mint added another layer of flavor that was just a hint in the background, which I am so fond of. 

At first you may question whipped cream with granita.  I had seen a photo of a fruit granita with this combination and was intrigued about how it would taste.  I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, creamy and decadent it makes every bite.  I love using fresh vanilla beans for cream dishes, not only for the authentic, fresh flavor they impart but also for the wonderful little black flecks they leave throughout.  The flecks are a wonderful visual reminder of the flavors yet to come.  I didn’t want the vanilla flavor to be too dominant in this recipe so I only used half the bean.  The fresh vanilla bean paste is perfect to use in fresh whipped cream because the pure flavor stands up to the rich, fluffy goodness. 

Here’s to many sweet treats for your Memorial Day Weekend!

Strawberry & Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, plus extras (makes about 3 cups granita)

Ingredients:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cups sugar
2 mint sprigs
1 pound strawberries, stems removed and cut into thin slices
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Half of one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon sugar
Garnish:
Strawberry slices
Fresh mint

Directions:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  When sugar is dissolved, turn off heat and add the whole sprigs of mint.  With the back of a spoon, lightly mash the mint leaves to release the oils.  Let steep for 10 minutes.  Return heat to medium-low and add the sliced strawberries.  Stir well and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the mint sprigs and transfer the mixture to a blender; purée mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour through a fine sieve into a 13 x 9 glass dish.  Press most of the fruit through the sieve with the back of a spoon until just solids are left (be sure to also scrape the bottom of the sieve – where all the good stuff is) and stir to combine.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and freeze mixture for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.  Scrape with a fork every few hours to form crystals (otherwise it will be a frozen block). 

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Add the whipped cream, vanilla bean paste and sugar to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low until soft peaks form, about 1 ½ minutes.  Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.  Can be made one day ahead.

Assemble:
Place some granita in the bottom of a parfait glass and add a good dollop of whipped cream.  Add another scoop of granita and finish with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Garnish with a slice of strawberry and fresh mint.