California Strawberry Commission: Paint Chicago Red
Upon entering The Chopping Block in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, we were greeted with an array of strawberry themed bites and cocktails. For a foodie like myself, I was interested to see what recipes we home cooks can make at home that’s simple, easy and in this case, new and exciting.
The first thing that caught my eye (that’s me taking a pic!) were the freshly muddled strawberry cocktails, made very simply with…you guessed it, freshly muddled strawberries and Proscecco and garnished with a mint leaf. What a refreshing cocktail that can be easily made as non-alcoholic drink by substituting the Proscecco with sparkling white grape juice. Proscecco is a sparkling wine from Italy and very similar and often compared to and against Champagne from France.
The strawberry themed hors de vours were greeted with tons of “Oooohhhhs” and “Aaaaaahhhhs” from a room full of women who adore these beautiful berries. Strawberries are mostly associated with desserts like the classicly delicious, Strawberry Shortcake (pictured above) or ice cream. But on this day, I was excited to try the Strawberry Gazpacho (left) which I pressumably thought was going to be sweet, but instead greeted the complex flavors of jalapeno, cilantro, jicama, garlic and cucumber. What a great surprise. Other great recipes included Fresh Crab Tostadas topped with Strawberry Mango Salsa, a Goat Cheese & Strawberry Pizza topped with a balsamic reduction, and even a Strawberry and Cheese Panini that would be great for a baby or bridal shower and even a little girls tea party!
The Commission brought in George Chavez, a strawberry grower who answered our questions about growing techniques and freshness.
*It takes about 3-4 days from strawberries in California to arrive in various parts of the Midwest.
*Because of the CSC standards in irrigation and growing, California strawberries have been free from health hazards.
*DO NOT wash strawberries after you buy them. Wash them when you are ready to eat them to keep them fresh in the refrigerator.
*Try freezing strawberries, first on a cookie sheet, then transfer them to a zip locked bag and use as “ice cubes” for Sangria or lemonade. Good for up to one year in the freeezer.
The CSC also brought in local Registered Dietician and author of “101 Optimal Life Foods”, David Grotto to talk nutrition.
*One serving of strawberries – about 8 strawberries – is an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, a serving of strawberries provides more vitamin C than an orange!
*Strawberries increase blood flow.
*Fiber is considered by the American Heart Association to be important for heart health. Epidemiological studies report that people who eat higher amounts of total fiber have a lower risk of heart disease.
I learned tons about strawberries at this event. They are a complex fruit that can be used many different ways.
Instead of buying your kids “fruity” snacks…why not do the real thing? They are sweet, delicious and healthy.