High in vitamin C and sweetness, strawberries are one of the most popular native fruits. These delicious red berries are bursting with essential nutrients like potassium, folic acid, fiber and, of course, vitamin C. In fact, just one cup of fresh strawberries contains 160 percent of your recommended daily vitamin C intake with only 50 calories.

For many, one of the first strawberry recipes that comes to mind is strawberry shortcake; however, there are many ways to incorporate strawberries into courses other than dessert. Mix sliced strawberries with a spinach and top with walnuts and goat cheese for a fresh seasonal salad. Try adding the berries to your next batch of chicken salad or keep strawberries in your freezer for easy strawberry and banana smoothies.

Not only are berries fun to eat but picking your own strawberries at a local patch is a great family activity. At your local strawberry farm, you can fill buckets with as many berries as your heart desires. Peak strawberry season is April through June. If you want to keep strawberries around beyond the growing season, freeze them. To do this, place rinsed, dried and stemmed whole berries (cut side down) on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze the sheet of berries uncovered for six hours. Then transfer to a freezer bag. Berries can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

Creamy Strawberry French Toast Bake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups sliced fresh strawberries, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 loaf (1 pound) cinnamon bread, cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Directions

Toss two cups strawberries with sugar. In another bowl, beat the next five ingredients until smooth. Place half the bread in a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Spoon cream cheese mixture over bread. Layer with strawberry mixture and remaining bread. Whisk eggs and cream until blended; pour over top. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove casserole from refrigerator while oven heats. Bake, uncovered, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Let stand five minutes before serving. Top with whipped cream and remaining strawberries.

The Athens Farmers Market Café is a collaboration between the Athens Farmers Market, OU COMCorps (a local Americorps program), and Athens County Children Services. Athens Farmers Market hours are Wednesdays (April-December) and Saturdays (year round), 9 a.m. to noon at The Market on State parking lot, 1000 E. State St., Athens. To help increase fresh food consumption, the Athens Farmers Market vendors proudly participate in the following social service programs: the USDA Food Assistance Program, SNAP/EBT (food stamps), WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Participants can stop by the table at the southeast corner of the market to get SNAP tokens to spend at the market.

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