That being said, this unusually warm weather has me wondering if things will be coming a bit early this year. We have buds and blossoms on our fruit trees, daffodils in the yard, tulips popping up and green just about everywhere [including on the pond in the form of never ending algae]. This thought led me to take inventory of my freezer and, as it turns out, we have a few strawberries yet to eat. Not an unfortunate task if you ask me. And so this recipe was born to effortlessly dispatch 4 cups of those little red sweet beauties.
This week also happens to mark my birthday which is cause for an additional post highlighting a sweet birthday treat. So happy birthday to me [thanks mom for going through the trouble!] and spring blessings to all of you.
[THE STUFF OF STRAWBERRIES]
Strawberries are one of the first true fruits of spring [after rhubarb, which really swings in both the fruit and vegetable directions] and conveniently is a great spring tonic, aiding liver, kidneys, lungs, stomach, and spleen in the natural detoxification that occurs as the seasons change. Generally toxins build up in the liver throughout the winter and the diet demands richer, fattier foods to keep our bodies warm. Spring is the perfect time to rid the body of these toxins as we transition from heavy foods to lighter fare like spring greens, asparagus, sprouts, and fruits like strawberries. Seasonal transitions also happen to be a time of reduced immunity as the body is working overtime to eliminate excess toxins and acclimate itself to this new time of year. Strawberries boast clinically proven antiviral properties as well as potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents all of which are yet more examples that the earth is prepared to give us what we need exactly when we need it.
These berries are packed with vitamins A and C [as much as oranges!], some B-complex vitamins, along with silicon, potassium, and fiber. They also help improve brain function [bring on those ACTs!], reduce macular degeneration, benefit sufferers of arthritis, and help prevent colon cancer. Amazingly enough, the extract of this fruit may be an important factor in reducing the growth of cervical and breast cancers cells.
Strawberries are a prime example of a food to always purchase organically and locally [in season] if possible. If you have had a strawberry right off the plant you know why local is important. The flavor is bar-none. Strawberries are a crop that tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and lack a sufficient peel to help protect these harmful chemicals from entering the edible, fleshy part of the fruit. Instead, the applied pesticides and any hazardous material in the ground go right into the berry and directly into your body. It is best to purchase all food organically if possible [peel or no peel pesticides still get in], but this one should definitely top your list.
For the Crust:
1 c. hazelnuts
1 c. walnuts
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 c. honey or maple syrup
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
Lightly grease a 8 x 8 glass baking dish and set aside.
Grind nuts to a fine meal, one cup at a time, in a food processor or powerful blender. Pour into a glass mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix well [your may find it easier to use your hands] until a "dough" is formed. Add more oil if necessary.
Press crust mix into prepared baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust until lightly browned, about 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
For the Filling:
2 c. water
4 c. strawberries, frozen or fresh
1/4 c. honey or maple syrup
3 tsp. agar powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until strawberries are very soft and begin to pull apart [7 - 10 minutes].
Pour strawberry mixture over prepared crust. Allow to cool 15 - 20 minutes and then place in refrigerator for 3 - 4 hours or until strawberry "jell-o" has become very firm.
For the Whipped Topping:
1 c. soaked cashews*
1/4 c. maple syrup or honey
1 vanilla bean, scraped [optional]
2/3 c. extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil, melted
Place soaked cashews in a high powered blender and cover with water [the water should just reach the top line of the cashews]. Add maple syrup. Cut the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape out the seeds using a small spoon or butter knife. Add scraped seeds to cashews. Blend on high for 60 seconds or until very smooth. Pour in melted coconut oil and blend for an additional 30 seconds.
Pour the cashew cream mixture into a bowl and refrigerate overnight [this will allow you to scoop a dollop on top of your strawberry slice] or pour directly over firm strawberry jell-o and refrigerate overnight [this will make a nice clean whipped topping layer]. If you pour directly on to strawberry jell-o be sure that the jell-o is very firm first.
*To soak the cashews: Place 1 cup of cashews in a jar or glass. Cover with 2 cups of water and place in refrigerator. Soak over night. Drain and rinse cashews. Use immediately.