Strawberry season just starting in North Georgia and I can’t wait for it to be in full swing. This past weekend, I took the tinies to our local strawberry patch for some fun in the sun. It was such a glorious day that we couldn’t resist getting outside and letting the kids run a bit. I love taking them to farms and farmers markets so that they see where their food comes from. I grew up on a working peach farm and remember the many many hours in the fields, working side by side with my Dad, sometimes talking, sometimes not. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade a single minute of that time with him, just being. He passed away almost 20 years ago (I was 24 when he passed) and I would give anything for one more day of thinning peach blossoms in the spring (for those of you who have ever worked in peaches, you know that it is hard work!) just to be with him. I was blessed, I had such a good father – he didn’t say it much until his later years, but he loved me. My last words to him were “I love you” and his to me were “I love you too, baby.” God blessed me with that experience – free from the knowledge that just minutes after I walked out of his hospital room, he would go into a coma that he would never wake from. I think of it as one of God’s little gifts to Carly. There is little that is more cherished than the sincere expression of love between a Father and Daughter – especially when it isn’t forced, out of fear, or out of grief. It was a moment that I cherish – and will until I see him again.
Not unlike our last moments together, I cherish many of the moments working in the orchard with him. I cherish the life lessons, the work ethic, and the appreciation I have for those who labor on farms and in fields so that we can zip to a grocery store and casually select the items we want without thinking. I want my children to know what goes into producing the tasty treats they have. The tinies had to work for their dinner that night. 😊
When we got home, we immediately started planning the use of our bounty. We settled on delaying gratification for a bit and planned stuffed French toast for brunch the next day – we love to have brunch on Sundays. To prepare the French toast, I make an egg mixture of 1 cup of milk and 3 eggs, along with 2 tablespoons of Mexican vanilla and 3 tablespoons of cinnamon. I like to grate a little fresh nutmeg as well, but you can leave that out if you don’t like nutmeg. One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is a microplane nutmeg grater. You can store the nutmeg in the top of the container, grate as much as you need for a single recipe (it falls into a tiny reservoir) and close the container again to keep the nutmeg fresh. Mix all of the ingredients in a shallow bowl or pan. I like to use an 8 by 8 pyrex dish that I have is perfect for the bread to soak up the mixture. With your burner set to medium heat, cook the French toast until it is golden brown.
The stuffing can be made the morning of, or the night before. I use a 16 ounce container of ricotta cheese, ½ cup Splenda (or sugar), and strawberries to taste. Be careful, the strawberries are liquidy, so too many and you will have a very loose stuffing. I like mine a medium consistency – I want some body to it, but also want it to coat the toast when I spread it on. Place those ingredients in a blender and pure until smooth.
Spread the toast with vanilla Oui by Yoplait French style yogurt. This stuff is divine! It is almost a custard consistency. Add your strawberry stuffing and top with another slice of toast/yogurt/strawberry mixture until you have the desired height. Papa Bear likes about 3 layers. Top with whipped cream and fresh slices of strawberry. Perfection!
We had a ton of the ricotta mixture, so I added a bit of almond milk to create a smoothie consistency out of it. My tinies love popsicle, so we used our popsicle tray to turn the leftover stuffing into smoothie pops. For the grown ups, I spooned the filling into graham cracker mini crusts and popped into the freezer. Instant frozen strawberry pies – top with cool whip and dessert is done!
My absolute favorite way to eat fresh strawberries is sliced, covered in Splenda and topped with freshly whipped cream. I could bathe in this stuff! A close second would be the classic strawberry pie. It is the perfect dessert for a spring or summer day.
Enjoy strawberry season, I’ll post photos on Instagram when there are enough berries in the field to make jam!