now that we are in the thick of summer, i am reposting my favorite summer dinner… strawberry shortcake! ENJOY!
every summer when i was growing up, there would be one night where we had strawberry shortcake for dinner. no broccoli or pork chops or mac n’ cheese… just a heaping plateful of home-made(ish) strawberry shortcake. (i say “ish” because my mother always made the shortcake recipe right off the bisquick box… which is DELICIOUS, by the way.) there was nothing more exciting for me than having dessert for dinner. it literally felt like christmas in july.
i grew up in 1970’s berkeley. this was the era of wheat germ and carob chips (which are NO kind of replacement for chocolate) and alfalfa sprouts and kefir (i’m still not really clear on what that is…) luckily for my brother and me, we were only peripherally exposed to this stuff because we had midwestern parents who immigrated to california. my father did dabble in it… i can remember a period where he was spooning wheat germ (and bacon bits!) on everything. but my mother stayed true to her iowa farm girl roots and served up loads of comfort food: creamed chicken and mash potatoes, meatloaf with sugared ketchup topping, casseroles with pasta and cheese and ground beef and bright red jell-o. a lot of my friends were not so lucky. i remember being very stressed when i was invited to someone else’s house for dinner. this was obviously before cell phones and when given the landline to call home for permission to stay for dinner i would try and pull that curly cord as far away from my friend and her mother as possible so i could surreptitiously ask my mother what she was making. inevitably, it sounded better to me than what my friend’s family was having and i would whisper, “just say no!” and this was before nancy reagan was even on the scene. sometimes my friend would stay right next to me, clutching my hand and hopefully giggling throughout the call and i would be at a loss as to how to communicate to my mother that i wanted to come home to her familiar, yummy food. it was on one of these nights that i ended up eating borscht for the first (and last) time.
she did embrace some aspects of california eating - there was always a plate of cut up veggies and a bowl of whatever fruit was in season. and our jell-o was considered dessert, not salad. but she never made us eat things we didn’t enjoy. if someone didn’t like something, she took it out of the rotation. so i was a kid who actually looked forward to dinner… it tasted good. to this day, i don’t like to be in situations where i can’t choose my meal. i never do a “chef’s surprise” and i assume i will leave hungry from a wedding or charity luncheon where there is no choice. there are too many things i just don’t like (raisins, mayo, blue cheese and any kind of salmon are the top offenders.)
when we were living in amsterdam, i came across my mother’s casserole recipe in one of my old cookbooks. she must have written it out for me when i went to college. i immediately re-created it (some things i did update… i used fresh sautéed mushrooms and onions instead of the canned mushrooms and powdered onion the recipe called for.) as soon as i tasted it, i felt like i was eleven years old. it quickly became a favorite for kid/mom dinner parties with homesick ex-pats.
when we moved to boulder, my 1970’s casserole didn’t go over so well. between the pasta and the cheese and the meat i could hardly find a boulder who would eat it. everyone here is gluten free or no dairy or even vegan. sometimes they cheat when i bust out one of mom’s really tempting recipes, like her mushroom quiche that literally has crushed up saltines in the crust or what we call the “trashy easter buns” that you make with pastry dough that comes out of a can you smack on the counter to open. they repent with a juice fast or a massive hike up sanitas the next day i am sure.
juice fasting here is no joke. there is always a reason to do it… some injury has prevented you from exercising for a couple of days, or you ate too many cookies over the holidays or the (legal) gummies you’ve been snacking on gave you the munchies… but the biggest draw is spring break. there is hardly a mom at pick up who has eaten anything solid in the weeks leading up to bikini- clad trips to mexico or costa rica. these moms are weak and CRABBY from hunger and chewing a lot of gum just to give their teeth some activity. you do not want to mess with them. i try to stick with hug-n-go car drop off, rather than walking my kids onto the school grounds, during the month of march.
so last week when it was hotter than hades and i didn’t have a dinner plan, i surprised my kids with strawberry shortcake night. they were beside themselves. they helped with all of the preparation (especially licking the bowls) of the shortcake and “whup” cream (as my daughter calls it) and sliced strawberries. we taste tested homemade whup versus canned (i sometimes have trouble getting the whip cream to solidify in the altitude of boulder so had picked up a back up aerosol version as well) and we ate ourselves summer strawberry shortcake dinner silly.
* even hank managed to get a lick!
2 1/2 C bisquick
2/3 C milk
3 T sugar
3 T melted butter
preheat oven to 425 degrees. mix all ingredients in large bowl and make 4-6 big dollops on a cookie sheet. bake about 10 minutes or until shortcake is golden on top.
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 T vanilla
sugar to taste (i think we used about 3 T)
whip cream in the mixer until it solidifies to desired thickness (it took us about 4 minutes.) add vanilla and sugar to taste
2 cartons, cleaned and sliced