Day 210 – National Strawberry Day

This day came along at the perfect time because I just happened to have a giant bowl of fresh strawberries sitting our fridge. I bought them after Valentines Day when, and here’s a tip for you, the price of strawberries goes down in the supermarket. That’s not a generally accepted trend in the produce buying world, just an observation from a guy who went to the grocery store on February 15th. I can only imagine the price reduction is because the supermarket bulks up on strawberries to entice romantically inclined Valentines celebrators into buying the world’s most sensual berry.  Maybe pair it with some chocolate, a little champagne?  The strawberry is the Barry White of the produce aisle.  But after Valentines Day, they go back to being an overstocked item on the shelves that only a quick sale will get them moving.  That’s when I bought them and they have been in our fridge ever since.  Thanks to modern chemical use in strawberry farming, they were still fresh and delicious.

Normally we go through at least a package of strawberries a week, sometimes two. Lola is a fan of having a nice fruit smoothie to start her day which she makes with strawberries, bananas, blueberries, peanut butter and yogurt.  That has been her steady breakfast food for months.  But recently, she has gotten tired of that.  That will happen after time.  She’ll start craving them again soon.  But because she went a smoothie hiatus, we have had uneaten strawberries in our fridge for over two weeks.  In any case, I was well stocked for National Strawberry Day.

My first thought for putting the strawberries to use was to make strawberry shortcake.  That’s one of Lola’s favorites and it’s so easy to piece together.  I would just have to slice up the strawberries, but them in a bowl and sprinkle in a little bit of sugar so the strawberries will start to break down and get nice and sweet and syrupy.  Then I would just buy some biscuits from the store and make some fresh whipped cream.  It’s that easy after you piece it all together, it tastes so good.  But I’ve made this before. It’s a summer staple. So I wanted to branch out just a little.  I searched for recipes and I found one for Strawberries and Cream Scones from my good friends at King Arthur Flour.  I have used their recipes before and they are always good stuff.  They are easy to follow and include extra tips to help the struggling baker, plus they are a New England based company out of Vermont. Lola is a fan of scones, so my plan was to make these so she could have them warm and fresh with her afternoon coffee.

I still have trouble with dough.  There’s something about making a good dough that doesn’t translate when you read it in a recipe.  I get impatient.  This recipe was pretty easy, but I knew when it said you had to add the cold butter to the flour mixture, it would give me trouble. It specifically said:

“Work in the butter, using a mixer, your fingertips, a fork, or a pastry blender; the mixture should be unevenly crumbly.”

What does work the butter in mean?   I tried doing this with a pastry blender, one of those tools in our kitchen drawer we have but never use, but that just clumped the butter together.  I tried to work it in with my fingers next and that seemed futile too.  I then tried the hand mixer.  That got the dough unevenly crumbly, I think, but there was still pieces of butter throughout the dough.  That’s when I just gave it the “good enough” and proceeded with the rest.  The next step was to add in the strawberry and cream mixture, and that was not easy either.  It got the dough super sticky, and it still wasn’t completely all together.  I folded in the fresh strawberries as best I could, then I scooped the dough out onto a baking sheet in little balls.  I then topped it with a glaze.  Glazes I get, so no problems there.  They went into the oven and in about 16 minutes, were ready to come out.

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First off, they didn’t have the scone triangle shape.  I guess you have to use a scone pan for that, although the recipe did say you can cook them on a regular sheet pan.  They looked were more like drop biscuits.  The edges were browning up and a quick peak at the bottom of the scones indicated that the bottom was done and close to turning towards a burn. I couldn’t have left them in the oven any longer.  But they seemed a little underdone.  I broke one open, and it looked a little doughy on the inside.  A quick bite and they seemed ok, but I wasn’t quite sure.  I figured I would let them cool for a few minutes.  In the meantime, Lola happened to pop in the kitchen and when she smelled and saw the scones, asked if she could have one.  So I made her a cup of coffee and had her be the official taster.

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Lola is a scone fan and I knew she would give me the straight truth.  One time, many moons ago, we stayed at a hotel in Provincetown and what Lola will always remember about that trip is that the hotel served the best scones she has ever had.  They were made fresh every morning and available throughout the day as a little snack.  I knew that was what my scones were going to be compared to, so I was ready for a let down.  To my surprise however, Lola said these were great.  They had a nice crunchy outside, like a biscuit, but a soft, doughy inside.  The strawberries added some nice sweetness, and the subtle glaze on top gave it a little extra.  She had two of them which is always a compliment.  I really thought I had messed these up, but apparently I did alright.  That was a nice surprise and I was glad I could deliver on an afternoon treat for Lola.

Today was also National Kahlúa Day. I thought that would be a fun one to celebrate as well. For those who don’t know, Kahlúa is a coffee flavored liqueur from Mexico. It was first produced in 1936 where legend has it that (according to Kahlúa) four guys came up with the idea of a spirit based on their love of fresh Arabica coffee and got to inventing and producing this now famous spirit.  It was an instant hit. They began importing to the US in the 1940s.  In 1949, the Black Russian (Kahlúa and Vodka) first made its appearance as the first signature cocktail for the company.  Soon after in 1955, the White Russian appears (Kahlúa, Vodka and Cream) which would later go on to great pop culture fame when The Dude from The Big Lebowski abided.  In 1977, the famous B-52 Shot (layered Kahlúa, Bailey’s and Triple Sec) started appearing at chic discos throughout the land, giving the coffee liqueur another boost in popularity. Kahlúa has grown to be one of the most best selling liqueurs in the beverage world and their name is now synonymous with coffee liqueur.  It’s great in coffee, in espresso martinis and kind of in everything.  It deserves celebration.

Knowing that it was also National Strawberry Day, I decided to make a drink that combined the two and there are no better examples of that than the Strawberry Mudslide.  The original Mudslide cocktail was allegedly invented during the 1950s at the Wreck Bar on Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. It was clearly made by someone that was craving a milkshake, because it has the same texture. It’s made with Kahlúa, Bailey’s and Vodka along with cream and sometimes ice cream. It’s blended together with ice so it comes out nice and thick with a little boozy twist. A Strawberry Mudslide is simply made by adding in strawberries. This would be prefect for the last of the strawberries I had, so when Happy Hour rolled in, I took out the booze and the blender, and made the drink.  When it blended, it was nice and thick, yet still pourable.  I had drizzled some chocolate syrup on the inside of a tall glass in a circular motion, then I poured the mudslide in giving the chocolate a fancy swirl look.  I just wished I had a bit of whipped cream to put on top.

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I didn’t know this, but a Strawberry Mudslide was the first drink Lola had at a restaurant when she was using a fake ID.  She was in Florida with her sister Katie (who was of legal drinking age at the time) at a Friday’s.  It must have tasted so sweet to her because the only thing better than a good cocktail is a good illegal cocktail.  Lola shared that with me tonight as I gave her the drink. It seems everything has a story.  I don’t think I have ever had a whole mudslide before. I’ve had sips and tastes, but never a whole one. I’m not one who goes for frozen drinks. I find them too hard. I end up sucking on a straw until my head hurts.  I’d rather drink it down at a nice clip. I will say it tasted great however.  I was still battling the suction of the straw because it was particularly thick, but it was tasty.  Definitely a boozy taste to it, but not too bad. Good sweetness from the cream and chocolate and a nice subtle strawberry flavor. It had everything. Very filling however. I don’t think I could have had a second.  Lola loved hers as well, although she wanted me to serve it to her wearing a red and white striped shirt with at least eight pieces of flair on my suspenders.

I like a nice celebration that takes care of an overstock problem I am having.  This day took care of some perfectly ripe strawberries that I thought I was going to have to throw out if they went another week without being used.  Plus I was able to enjoy them in two great recipes that made for special moments in the day.  That’s a pretty special way to celebrate. Some days, things just work out nicely.  Other times, I am scrambling all over trying to find the appropriate way to observe a day.  This day played right into my hand and it made for a great one.  I hope National Carrot Day is coming up soon – the carrots in our fridge are starting to look a little wonky.

Next Up: Mardi Gras

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