Last week, I got a sweet treat: two days of frolicking in the strawberry fields of Carmel Valley care of California Strawberries. I called it my summer straw-cation. And I know. Is this real life? Turns out, it is. And yes, I wore strawberry pink pants. Obviously.
From the fields to the bar to the dinner table, this “work” trip was all about strawberries all day long. We met multi-generational farmers, toured strawberry chilling facilities, stood inside huge strawberry trucks, and even had a strawberry “Iron-chef-like” smack down (which my team won, salt-free, NBD).
And while I learned some really amazing facts about these ruby red fruits, the number one lesson I came home with was that strawberries deserve to be paired with way more than whipped cream and shortcake. Like crisp romaine lettuce leaves and succulent chicken.
But before we get to the recipes, let me talk to you a little bit more about these heart shaped nature candies and your health.
Fact: Strawberries and people (like my mom) have a lot in common. They they both love warm but not too hot climates. Which is why there are over 400 strawberry farms in California. And why mom has never moved to the East Coast.
Fact: Strawberries are literally picked and packaged for the store right in the field. Right. In. The. Field. And after a quick chill are sent to a location near you as quickly as possible. They are best 7 to 10 days after being picked. But if you get them from a farmers market, just remember that they probably weren’t cooled first, so you’ll want to wash and eat those right away.
Fact: Eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. WHOA. They are also listed as one of the super foods for a diabetic diet. They help decrease inflammation, increase heart health because they are packed with potassium, and they help delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. Meaning more brain power with every bite and a lot of sudoku puzzle success.
Which all adds up to this Fact: A super healthy strawberry recipe makeover is the best gift you can give dad this weekend. And when it comes to my pop, there are two things I know he loves that could use some strawberry remixing: wedge salads and BBQ chicken.
Both recipes traditionally rely on high sodium, store-bought sauces (BBQ = over 1,000 per half cup, depending on brand) and dressings (blue cheese = 200mg per tablespoon, depending on brand). Plus, they contain very little nutritional value — sorry dad, iceberg lettuce does not count as a vegetable.
So to give it a boost of vitamins and a huge slash in sodium, I traded the salad dressing for a mix of Greek yogurt and dill, the bacon bits for chipotle spiced and roasted strawberries, and the junk and sugar-filled BBQ sauce for a version made with stewed strawberries and jalapenos.
And you know what? I’m pretty sure these recipes are not only more beautiful than the original, but I think they taste a lot better too. A little surprise for your palate and your papa. Thanks, strawberries.
So this father’s day, forget about violets or even roses. Fire up that man grill. And give your papa bear a meal bursting with strawberry goodness.
STRAWBERRY “WEDGE” SALAD
- 1 cup strawberries, washed and sliced into halves or thirds (depending on size)
- 1/4 tsp salt-free garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt-free chipotle powder
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil (or olive oil)
- 1/2 cup FAGE 0% Greek yogurt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful dill, finely chopped
- Head of romaine or butter lettuce, leaves washed and separated
Are you ready for a crazy, easy recipe? Great. Then, set your oven to 375 dg F.
In a small bowl, mix your strawberries with one tablespoon of oil and the garlic and chipotle powder. Use your hands to gently combine until the strawberries are slicked and spiced. Then cover an oven sheet with parchment paper and lay out your strawberry slices in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast for 12 to 15.
Meanwhile, let’s make our dressing. In another small bowl, add the yogurt, the pepper, the other two tablespoons of oil, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a fork or a small whisk (fun!), giving it a hearty stir until everything is combined and you have a milky dressing. If it is still too thick, just add a little splash of water until it has the desired dressing consistency. Then, add in the dill and give it another gentle whirl until all the green bits are mixed in.
Place your leaves on individual plates or on one large serving platter for family style. Drizzle your dressing over the leaves and place the chipotle strawberries on top.
Serve. Enjoy. Be well.
+ Sodium Count: Plain Greek yogurt: 60mg per 6-ounce container, depending on brand
LOW-SODIUM STRAWBUFFALO CHICKEN
- Vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 shallot or half a red onion, chopped
- 3 cups strawberries, stemmed and washed
- 1 jalapeño, chopped
- 1 to 2 tsp salt-free chili powder
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp salt-free garlic powder
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 4 chicken legs and thighs (bone-in and skin-on) or a bunch of wings
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
In a medium-size sauce pot, heat up a tablespoon of oil and when ready, add the garlic and the onions. Cook until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Then add your strawberries, jalapeños, about 1/4 cup of water and lower heat to soft boil. Allow the strawberries to soften and break down into a slushy sauce, about 15 minutes. Add the chili and molasses and let it cook another 10 minutes. Then, using a handheld or standing blender, give the sauce a whirl until it is pureed and smooth. Transfer the sauce back to the pot, add the vinegar, and continue cooking on medium-low heat for another ten minutes.
While the sauce is going, place your chicken on a roasting pan and drizzle some oil on all the pieces, rubbing it so they are all slick. Then in a small bowl, mix together the cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper and give all the chicken pieces a good rub down with the mix until they are covered. If you are using a bbq and it is ready to go, then place the chicken on the grill on a cooler part of the grill, skin side up. If you are using an oven, heat it to 375dg F and throw that pan of chicken pieces (laid out in a single layer or even on top of a roasting rack on the pan) into the oven.
If you are using breast/leg pieces, let them cook 25 minutes. If you are using wings, let them cook 15 minutes. Then, slather your chicken pieces with sauce and then continue cooking another 10 minutes, putting the sauce back on the stove on low to keep warm. If you are BBQ’ing, then you can move your chicken to a hotter spot on the grill.
Serve chicken warm with an extra drizzle of sauce. And if you have leftovers, slice up for a salad or strawberry tacos the next day.
+ Sodium Count: Chicken leg (with skin) 95mg per 1/4 pound; Chicken thigh (with skin): 87mg per 1/4 pound
Disclaimer: My trip to the land of strawberries was paid for and hosted by the wonderful California Strawberry commission. Many of the pictures were provided by California Strawberries. And I was compensated for this post. However, the opinions and recipes and some of the photography are my own. If you’re craving more strawberry recipes, the other bloggers and their posts include: Savory Simple, Playful Cooking, My San Francisco Kitchen, Muy Bueno Cookbook, Garlic Girl Blog, Pinch My Salt, Uknown Mami.