Whether you find it inspiring or nauseating, whether it makes you wear red – or see red – Valentine’s Day is here once again. All over town today in the Capital City, couples met for lunch, women wore red and guys scrambled for last minute roses and dinner reservations. Personally, I’m a low-key girl when it comes to this particular holiday, always opting for a crowd-free dinner at home with my hubby and our three kids. And this year, with Val’s Day on a weeknight, Cupid is going to have move along while two exhausted parents deal with sports practice, homework, an obnoxious Spanish project and work deadlines. We need a drink a lot more than a box of chocolates.
Mmm….homemade syrup made from fresh local strawberries — how great does that sound drizzled over ice cream or poured over waffles or pancakes? It’s easy to make, is preservative-free and is a super use of fresh Louisiana strawberries.
I live with four people who love gooey, chocolate-y, creamy desserts, dense cookies and brownies and oversized bowls of ice cream. No shortage of SweetTooths in this house. But I admit to preferring the palate cleanser, something cool, light and nuanced that rounds out a meal without making me lose consciousness. And as the weather has started to warm up, I’m thinking sorbet is the thing.
I’m a huge fan of salsa. I love a green salsa with tangy tomatillos. Gimme fresh tomato salsa, heavy on the cilantro and garlic. And I’ve always loved fruit salsas. Mango is the workhorse and is one of my favorite toppers for cedar-roasted fish. Pineapple salsa also works great on grilled fish, pork and fowl. And now with strawberries in full seasonal swing in Louisiana and elsewhere, it’s a great time for strawberry salsa.
This past weekend, I had a chance to sample fresh strawberry salsa made with local berries at a pop-up event held outside Alexander’s Highland Market, a gourmet grocer here in Baton Rouge. World renowned obesity and nutrition research center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC), also located in Baton Rouge, had a booth at the pop-up along with several local food entrepreneurs. I was there signing copies of Hungry for Louisiana. PBRC Communications Director Alisha Prather and respected research pathologist Jennifer Rood were handing out samples of this healthy fruit salsa, which you can also make with fresh blueberries. It’s light, flavorful and versatile and was developed in-house at Pennington.
Louisiana Spring Salsa
Makes 2 cups
1 pint strawberries, washed and diced, or ½ pint blueberries, washed and sliced in half
¼ of 1 medium red onion, finely diced (I used ¼ cup)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice from ½ lime (about 1 tbsp.)
Combine all ingredients and serve on salads, fish, chicken, chips or cheese and crackers. Use within a day.
Nutrition facts per ½ cup serving
Protein: 0.5 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Fiber: 2 g
Maggie’s variation with avocado and jalapeño
Being an avocado junkie and a fan of heat, I added the following to Pennington’s recipe.
Half of 1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper
Juice from remaining half lime
For additional healthy recipes developed by Pennington, click here.
I love to use local strawberries in homemade sorbet, on spinach salads with bacon and feta and with farmers market teacakes topped with fresh whipped cream. I also love to make strawberry oatmeal bars to serve for breakfast or as an after school snack.
My version of strawberry oatmeal bars uses fresh berries in a quick filling rather than strawberry preserves. I also like to top them with sliced almonds. And, I use white-whole wheat flour and less butter than many recipes so they’re a little healthier.
This is an easy and tasty use of the season’s bounty. Enjoy!