Red, White, and Blue Berries
The Fourth of July is a major holiday. Food, family, friends and fireworks all converge for a day full of excitement and celebration. A lot of thought goes into what will end up getting grilled, finding some interesting side dishes, and proudly displaying the red, white, and blue. We love this day and all it represents so much that we literally start planning for the next year on July 5th, as we are cleaning up the debris from the night before. We take our celebrating seriously!
It is “berries gone wild” in my garden. I am spending a lot of time picking, rinsing, washing, freezing, and yes, eating, but I am always on the lookout for fast, easy, fun ways to put the berry bounty to good use, and these cheesecake stuffed strawberries are just the thing. They look so patriotic and will disappear in a flash, because they can be eaten with one hand, on-the-go, which leaves your other hand free for a sparkler. A big plus for squirmy kids (old and young) who can’t be slowed down with the fuss of a plate or a fork.
There were so many recipes for stuffed strawberries on Pinterest, it was hard to pick just one. What follows is an adaptation of a Pampered Chef recipe, with a few minor changes. Use clear vanilla to keep the cream cheese filling a crisp white. Regular vanilla will also work, but it will make the filling an off-white color. I wanted to be sure to have plenty of medium sized strawberries, so I bought 2 containers at the grocery store before I checked what was growing in my garden. I ended up with a lot of strawberries! If you have strawberries, you can try using what you have, but depending on the variety, the store bought ones may work better. They are firmer and will hold up longer after being stuffed, plated, and held until serving. Try to use strawberries and blueberries that are all the same size for a neat, regimented, stand-at-attention look. Make a nice bowl of mixed berries for your fridge with what’s left. (Guaranteed to disappear, because it’s ready to eat!)
Like most everything I make, I tried to use what I have on hand, and I always keep a bottle of whipped cream in the back of my fridge. (You never know when you’re going to need whipped cream!) Use whatever you like in the whipped topping department, but be sure to add it gradually, so as not to thin out that cream cheese too much. You want it thin enough to pipe out of a bag, but not so thin that it won’t hold a star shape.
1 8 ounce reduced fat whipped cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
3/4 cup (approximate) whipped light cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar or sugar substitute
20-30 fresh medium-sized strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 graham cracker
Put cream cheese in medium sized mixing bowl and let warm to room temperature. Line a half baking sheet with paper towels. Rinse strawberries well. Use a strawberry huller or a sharp knife to remove stem and create a small cup for filling in top of strawberries. Cut a small piece off the bottom of each berry so it will stand up.
Rinse blueberries well and let drain in colander. Break graham cracker into 4 pieces, put in Ziploc bag and crush finely with rolling pin.
Blend cream cheese and vanilla at medium speed using a hand mixer. Add 1 generous squirt of whipped cream from aerosol container, approximately 1/2 cup. Blend well with mixer. Add more whipped cream, approximately 1/4 cup, being careful not to make cream cheese too thin. Add powdered sugar to taste, or substitute sweetener of your choice (honey, maple syrup, Splenda, stevia…) Feel free to use whatever you like, and use as much, or as little, suits your taste, being mindful that the cream cheese may take on the tint of your sweetener.
Transfer cream cheese mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a #32 Wilton star tip. Fill top of strawberries with a neat shaped white star of cream cheese. Sprinkle with a small bit of graham cracker crumble. Transfer to serving plate and top with a blueberry. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
These held up well in my refrigerator overnight, but I would probably make them up on the morning of the 4th just because I want them to look crisp and neat by serving time.
Take time to celebrate our country. Spend the day with your family and friends. Fire up the grill, take advantage of the opportunity to use paper plates and not be judged for it, and make something festive for desert. Most of all, have fun. Make sure you take time to enjoy the fireworks, feel all the excitement, and just be grateful for all the wonderful things you have in your life because you live in this great country.