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People all over our area are now enjoying harvests of fresh strawberries, savoring every bite because they are so flavorful and add so much color to any salad, dessert, or side dish.

Strawberries are packed with nutritional value, providing plenty of vitamins, especially vitamin C, plenty of fiber, plus antioxidants and phytochemicals known to prevent certain diseases. Berries of all kinds provide folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and colon cancer. Berries can also help lower LDL cholesterol, a contributor to heart disease, stroke and arteriosclerosis. Strawberries and other berries are high in ellagic acid, which has been shown to help reduce colon and cervical cancer and leukemia.

As strawberry season progresses, you may want to consider adding strawberries to your cereal, snacking on them, topping your bowl of fat free ice cream with them, stirring them into your yogurt or tossing them into your dinner salad.

Here are some of my favorite recipes featuring strawberries.

Strawberry salad

2 small boxes strawberry Jell-O

3-1/2 cups boiling water

1 can crushed pineapple, drain and reserve juice

2 cups strawberries, washed and cut into small pieces

1-1/2 cups hot water

1 large tub Cool Whip

8-ounces cream cheese

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

3/4 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pour boiling water into a large bowl. Pour the Jell-O in and stir it until it is well dissolved. Add the strawberries and pineapple. Pour this mixture into 13x9-inch glass or plastic dish. Refrigerate until firm. To make the second layer, mix Cool Whip and cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread on top of the Jell-O layer. For the third layer, use a small saucepan to mix and cook (over low heat) the reserved pineapple juice, eggs, flour, sugar and lemon juice. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Allow this mixture to cool almost completely. Spread it on top of the cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with finely chopped pecans if you desire, or top with strawberry pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Light 'n creamy strawberry pie

1 large graham cracker pie crust

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups water

2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups fresh strawberries, cut in chunks

1 small box (3-ounce) strawberry Jell-O

1 large tub of Cool Whip

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; reduce heat to medium and boil, stirring frequently, until mixture is clear and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in dry Jell-O. Refrigerate – in the pan – until slightly congealed. Stir in the strawberry chunks and pour into pie shell. Chill until firm. It’s actually best when chilled overnight. Top with Cool Whip a few minutes before serving. Those of you who are trying to cut calories may want to use sugar-free Jell-O and fat-free Cool Whip.

Mom’s easy ice cream

(Before beginning, wash the churn, can, top and dasher with hot soapy water and rinse well. Dry everything, and put the can in your freezer to chill.)

2 cans evaporated milk

2-1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 to 5 eggs (beaten)

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Pour into the churn can. Add whole milk until the contents reach the “fill line” marked on the can. Put the dasher in. Attach it to the churning mechanism, and churn for 40 to 45 minutes or until the electric churn stops. Remove the dasher and allow the ice cream to “set” in a churn filled with ice and rock salt for 30 minutes to an hour. (You may want to add bananas, chopped peaches, chopped strawberries, etc. to your ice cream. Just be sure to add the fruit before you add the extra milk to the fill line.)

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