Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Favorite: Strawberry Shortcake

A Guest Post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

Memorial Day means strawberry shortcake for me.   Who doesn't like it?  If you're raising your paw,  leave your address in the comment section and I'll gladly do away with your serving.  I'll keep it quiet. No one needs to know.

Celebrate the day your way

Memorial Day claims to celebrate those brave souls who served and died for our country, and though there have been some changes today, I'm sad to say in the past, this holiday didn't tradtionally include  K9 cadets, like those that served in Viet Nam and were euthanized or left in Viet Nam after the war.  Designated as military equipment, not one Viet Nam canine made it back to civilian life!  German Shepherds have served since World War II, but frankly the dark side of military K9s  is too much for me.  Consider this: German Shepherds were the first dogs to lead blind soldiers! And now assistant dogs help soldiers recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  It's a good thing these dogs can't be left behind in a foreign land.   I hope times are changing  for canines in the military, but I do wonder whether the canine status has changed from "equipment" to cadet?  

Maybe there is something good about being a breed that ranks on the bottom of a "dog intelligence" list.  No one expects much, and anything you do is applauded.  Plus you can get away with a lot of stuff. (If those tests were given with the nose in mind, bloodhounds and bassets would be rated the highest, but hound dogs are much too independent-minded for the military.)

As for Memorial Day, I give four paws up for strawberry dessert.  I love the first fruit of spring.  (I can't eat rhubarb; it's poison for dogs; so it doesn't count.)  I can smell the sweet strawberry blooms in our garden when I walk out the front door.  Berries aren't far behind, if the slugs don't beat us to them, that is.  

This weekend I was allowed to inspect the garden yard, and I saw these strawberry flowers.   It was a supervised inspection, but I was thrilled to smell the radishes, sugar snap peas, kale and lettuce growing just outside our door. 

Strawberry blossoms

No home grown berries yet, but the lady brought berries home from the market.  Sister Chloe and I nearly crushed them with our initial enthusiasm over the lady's return home.  Big mistake: we wouldn't want to crush something this pricey.

It's still early in the season and the early berries command higher prices, so if you can wait a few weeks, more local berries hit the markets and the price becomes more affordable.

I can't wait.  Thankfully neither can the management here.

I love berries as much as I love Satsuma oranges, which is slightly more than apples and bananas, but a little less than nectarines.  I am spoiled and I don't really care how much they cost,  but I hope management keeps them coming all summer long.  I've learned to just quietly keep pressing for another taste and adopt a look that says "I'm starving."   Why else do you think basset hounds have perfected the sad look?

 A Short Strawberry Story:

We walk by our neighbor's berries every day.  His  plants grow on a ledge a little higher than my head and I first smelled the blooms, and would stop and simply inhale. Later the green fruit came (not as intriguing a scent) and finally the berries which were heavenly. Every day I'd stop and inhale the sweet perfume, but I wasn't allowed to touch.  Though once I did sneak a berry before the lady could stop me.

One day the neighbor man told the lady that he'd been growing the strawberries for squirrels.  "Can you imagine that, Finn?" the lady said to me.  As if squirrels require strawberries!  After that encounter, the lady let me pick one or two berries whenever we stopped for a sniff.  She never took one for her self, but she encouraged me to pick my own, which I did until the berries were all gone.  

Chloe also picks berries.  

What does the lady expect to happen in our garden? 

This photo was just for show!  I have to beg and beg for berries after photos are snapped.  The stink-eye is required for this shot.  

Kitchen Prep Work

Another human peeve:  I'm often shown the door when it comes to prep in the kitchen.  I had a free pass for quite awhile until the lady suddenly grew annoyed when I waited at the refrigerator door for a carrots.  Excuse me, but who had been passing out carrots every time the refrigerator door opened?  It can be crazy-making around here.

The other day I overhead the lady say the knives make it too dangerous for dogs in the kitchen.   She is probably really afraid she will stab herself.  She is clumsy and trips over me and steps on my paws frequently when I lay at her feet. 

The lady took out  her ancient cookbook for this one.  It's so old, the mold on the pages is older than me.  It's all cracked and held together with old tape. 

I think she made up the marinated strawberries herself.

Marinated Strawberries
(Serves 4)

2 pints strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 to 3 tablespoons berry wine

1. Remove stems and wash berries.  Slice into a medium serving bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Stir and add a little berry wine.  

2. Refrigerate and allow to sit for about an hour.

Management's note:
This cake recipe originated in an old Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  The original recipe specified "cake flour," "shortening or salad oil" and an egg.  Cake flour in old cookbooks means pastry flour which is lower in gluten and gives the cake a better crumb.  Whole wheat makes the cake a little on the heavy side, but with fresh whole wheat pastry flour, the flavor is so good, you don't notice.  I'm a big fan of Nash's white wheat pastry flour.

Quick Cake
(Makes 1 8-inch cake)

1 1/2 cups soft wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg or 1/4 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup milk (dairy, almond, soy, rice or cashew cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F. 

2. Sift dry ingredients together.  Beat egg, oil and milk together.  Stir in vanilla.  

3. Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Stir for about a minute.  Bake in an oil or wax lined pan for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve cake topped with berries and coconut sorbet.

Cake is good, but something is missing.   

I prefer the berries to just about everything.  When given a choice between my saw dust cube dinner and berries, I choose strawberries every time.  

I'm putting my order in for seconds now.

No comments: