grape ice cubes, frozen bananas and strawberry cream cheese muffins: making the most of your summer berries (and other fruits)


i do love the fresh fruit this time of year and between all the u-pick locations, farm stands and sales at the grocery stores, i tend to get a bit overzealous in my enthusiasm to eat and bake with it all. i often find that my fridge is stocked with more of it than i can consume before it begins to take a turn for the worse. i try to catch my berries at their peak and freeze some if i know i will not be able to finish them. this is a simple process that can make in-season delicious berries available to you, even when they are not in season.

strawberries frozen at their peak

strawberries frozen at their peak

freezing fresh berries (and other fruits)

  • thoroughly wash your fruit in a colander under cold water
  • remove pits from fruit like cherries if desired  and skins from fruit like peaches (this will make it easier to use them later on)
  • cut into smaller pieces if desired or freeze whole: this is an important thing to consider, especially with something like bananas (i know, i know, they aren’t a summer fruit in western, ny but i love them so i might as well work them into this too). if you freeze bananas whole and in the peel, you can save extremely ripe bananas from the garbage and for a delicious batch of bread later on (if you can wait that long). if you cut the bananas into chunks, you have a convenient alternative to ice cubes in your next smoothie 🙂  if left whole, the skins will blacken in the freezer but the fruit inside will remain perfect and delicious
frozen bananas

frozen bananas

  • place fruit on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a non-stick mat (i love these things) and allow to dry thoroughly at room temperature. make sure fruit or pieces of fruit are separated and not in clumps
  • place baking sheet in the freezer and allow the fruit to freeze up in individual pieces
  • transfer to desired storage containers (i use zip locks) and label with description, date and/or weight of contents
frozen red grapes

frozen red grapes

grapes are excellent to snack on in their frozen state. they firm up but not to the point you would think. they have a wonderful crunch and are very refreshing- give it a try! and if we continue on that train of thought you could see how they would make excellent ice cubes! frozen berries and/or grapes are wonderful ice cubes that will not dilute your beverage: think grapes in white wine or a mixture of frozen strawberries, raspberries etc. in a fruit punch or sangria. also great in plain old water and a healthy snack to boot!

grape ice cubes :)

grape ice cubes 🙂

using your fresh or frozen fruit in smoothies is a no-brainer (i’m sure “smoothie” will turn into a hyperlink to a recipe somewhere down the line but for now i think you can use your imagination…).

nearly every morning i use berries to top plain 0% greek yogurt with a drizzle of agave nectar over the top. i work a lot of early mornings and have trouble eating much that early but find that if i don’t force myself to, a few hours in i want to go on a feeding frenzy! either that or i totally run out of energy. greek yogurt is full of protein and is a perfect solution for me (strawberries are my favorite companion for this, although i have been quite enjoying my fresh cherries lately).

of course you can make sherbet or jam, pies or tarts or any number of other wonderful desserts… nothing wrong with that 🙂 (jam is actually a great way to use up large amounts of berries that are on the verge on turning)

here is another recipe that is PERFECT for those strawberries you’re not sure if you should eat anymore that have not quite gotten to the point of growing mold, but are otherwise a bit on the decrepit side. i assure you these are quite nom nom…

an eager hand reaching for a strawberry cream cheese muffin

an eager hand reaching for a strawberry cream cheese muffin

see? you won’t be able to keep your hands away from them fresh out of the oven 😉

strawberry cream cheese muffins

ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 3/4 + 1/3 cup granulated sugar (some for the batter, some for the filling)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine kosher salt
  • 1 cup half and half (whole milk will also work)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp vanilla extract (batter and filling)
  • 2 large eggs, brought to room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, chopped into very small pieces
  • 4 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
  • muffin liners (please use these, it will make removing from the pans so much easier)

directions:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • line muffin tin with muffin liners (you should only need one standard 12 cup pan- this will not even fill them all, depending on the size you make them)
  • in a medium bowl whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt
  • in a smaller bowl combine the eggs, melted butter, half and half and 1 tsp vanilla
  • make a well in the dry ingredients and gradually fold in the wet mixture. gently fold in 1/2 cup of the finely chopped strawberries. do not over mix or the muffins will be tough
  • to make the cream cheese mixture: in the bowl of a stand mixer cream the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and softened cream cheese until fluffy (about 2 minutes). if you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a wooden spoon but make sure to mix well. add in the remaining 1 tbsp vanilla and mix to fully incorporate
  • spoon batter into the prepared tins, filling them only half way
  • layer a tsp or so of the cream cheese mixture onto each one along with a few more pieces of diced strawberry
  • top cream cheese/strawberry layer with the remaining muffin batter, dividing it up evenly between the muffins (about a tablespoon more for each)
  • sprinkle the tops with the remaining strawberries (it’s ok if your tins are very full)
  • bake the muffins for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. they should be light golden on top
  • let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to finish cooling on a rack
strawberry cream cheese muffins

strawberry cream cheese muffins

these are great warm or at room temperature. a go-to recipe for a quick morning treat: easy to mix-up and quick to cook. my first batch didn’t stand a chance at lasting through the morning at my house! 🙂

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3 responses to “grape ice cubes, frozen bananas and strawberry cream cheese muffins: making the most of your summer berries (and other fruits)

  1. Pingback: fluffy pancakes from scratch with cherry syrup | therapy bread·

    • i don’t have much experience with vegan cooking but i’m not thinking it would be too difficult! let me know how they turn out, and what you changed to make them! thanks for your comment

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