Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's Happily Ever After without strawberries? Red, sweet, succulent, lick-your- lips juicy berries are the best way to top off a rewarding romance. Strawberries and the happily ever after blog are a match made in food heaven.

So where do all those strawberries come from? The California Strawberry Festival! No, I'm serious... (Steph's Muse, Juliet, suspiciously eyes her author.) The California Strawberry Festival is stuffed to the bushels with strawberries. You can find these overflowing baskets in Oxnard, California near the coast in Ventura County. Ventura County is very agricultural and home to some of the state's largest strawberry farms. This year, the festival's 27th celebration will be held on May 15th and 16th.

There's all kinds of juicy fun at the festival. My muse, Juliet, loves to flitter around the arts and crafts section looking for candles, homemade bath bubbles, and hand made jewelry. Um, I wonder what she has in mind?

My husband, Brent, usually grabs a mug of strawberry beer and a bundle of hay in the live band section. His favorite is the Van Halen cover band. (He's stuck in the 80's just like me, but is afraid to admit it.)

I usually snatch up the boys and go trolling the snack section. We all share a plate of strawberry nachos, a couple of chocolate strawberries and a plastic cup or two of strawberry smoothies. Let me tell you, the best kiss I ever got was from my 3 year old when his little red lips were wet with strawberry smoothie. (It was also the messiest!)

As the boys and I are savoring our chocolate covered delight, my husband goes on the hunt for food like the mighty hunter he is. When he finally finds us, he usually has a plate of garlic fries, strawberry pizza, grilled corn and a couple of tacos. Just looking at his plate packs on five pounds. No wonder Juliet hangs out at the arts & crafts.

When Brent finally consumes that last fry, we head on over to "Strawberryland" so the boys can get on a couple of rides. Juliet usually hooks up with us after her shopping spree. Brent gets stuck with the bags while her and I hang out with our childhood idol – Strawberry Shortcake. Andrew won't pose with her, though. He says, "Aw, Mom, she's a giiiirl..."

Before we go, I have to troll the souvenir stand. After all, I want something to remind me of all the fun I had. A perishable little juicy fruit is here today, gone tomorrow.

The festival posters are my favorite souvenir. They're red, but without a mess. I slap a frame on that poster and I have wall decoration for Juliet's bathroom.
On the way out, Juliet tries to sneak in a bite sized shortcake with berries, but she never fools me. She always forgets the whipped cream on her nose.
Hey, What's a happening without a couple of strawberries to top it off? Didn't Pretty Woman have a couple of strawberries at the end? Thanks for letting me visit Happily Ever After.

Here's a recipe for Strawberry Pizza: (taken from the Official California Strawberry Festival Website)


Every year, the longest line at the California Strawberry Festival non-profit food booths is the one for the Rio Mesa High School Strawberry Pizza. That pizza recipe is a coveted secret, but here is a great substitute courtesy of a proud Rio Mesa alum:

• 1 quart fresh, ripe California strawberries, sliced
• 8 oz. Strawberry preserves
• 8 oz. Cream cheese, softened
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1/2 cup crushed pecans
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla
• 1/2 cup sugar
• Cointreau liqueur, optional
• 1 package yellow cake mix

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yellow cake mix, water, eggs, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and pecans. Mix well. Divide mixture between two foil lined pizza pans, pressing to form a crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let stand until cool and separate crusts from foil. Combine cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Using an electric mixer, beat until creamy. Spread mixture on cool crusts. Arrange strawberries on cream cheese layer. Warm preserves in a saucepan. Add enough Cointreau to thin to desired consistency and pour over berries. Serves 12.

For more delicious strawberry recipes, purchase the California Strawberry Festival Collector Recipe book, available Festival weekend at the souvenir tent. Link to the California Strawberry Festival page:

My short story, "Matchmaking Amusements" features a strawberry or two. You can find it in the "Be Mused" Anthology out with Desert Breeze Publishing. Here's a link: Amazon for Kindle:

Stephanie Burkhart


Bekki Lynn said...

Thanks for sharing with us today, Stephanie.

How fantastic to have a strawberry festival. We have one in a small community nearby, I think in late June. It's often chilly/rainy, but it's fun. I love looking at all the crafts, trying all the various strawberry delectibles.

I've never seen the strawberry pizza, though I was going to ask for a recipe and you provided it. I can't wait to make it. Sounds like a perfect Father's Day dessert.

Savanna Kougar said...

Oh, Steph, THANK YOU! strawberries are one of my fave foods of all times! Including Strawberry Shortcake, the way I make it.

Though, that Strawberry Pizza recipe looks sumptuous and I'd love to try it! Plus, I'd love to go the Strawberry Festival.

Unfortunately, where I am I haven't found any good strawberries since I was able to grow them, a lot of years back.

Maybe, I can find an organic grower this year. And indulge.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Thanks so much for another lovely blog, Steph! The festival looks wonderful and I've never heard of a strawberry pizza! This is something I'm going to have to try.

Strawberries are so summer, aren't they? Our strawberries are in flower at the moment - June and July is when the berries come. Your blog makes my mouth water!

Maggie Toussaint said...

yummie! strawberries. mmmm

enjoyed the post and the pics, Steph.

Julia Barrett said...

I've actually been there and camped with my kids in the middle of a strawberry field. The grower allowed us to go pick fresh, giant strawberries for breakfast every morning! The size of those berries is amazing!

StephB said...

*waves hi to all*

Bekki, I love the festival! It's really alot of fun.

Savanna, Strawberry Shortcake rocks, doesn't she? hehe. Let me know if you get those strawberries.

Lindsay, let me know how the Strawberries turn out.

Thanks for popping in, Maggie.

Julia! What an experience! It sounds like a lot of fun!


alym said...

The pizza sounds delicious! I love strawberry shortcake, one of my favorites! Wish I could be there!

Gina said...

Thanks for zapping me out of a cold and rainy New England afternoon and propelling me into a sweet and luscious strawberry celebration! This was a joy - well written, colorfully and beautifully designed, great photos - PLUS a recipe! Now I'm happy! Next, I'm moving to CA! :-) Hugs, Regina

Celia Yeary said...

STEPH--let me at that strawberry pizza!!! What a great concoction--no wonder the line is long. I loved your running commentary, as though you had a microphone and strolled through a festival looking for stories.Thanks for the treat, and I mean a real post for the senses. But...strawberry beer? Celia

Lindsay Townsend said...

Celia - strawberry wine is nice. My brother in law makes it and it's lovely, plus a lovely rose colour.

Savanna Kougar said...

Ooooh, I had some good strawberry wine once.

Lindsay, wish your brother had portal delivery... wouldn't that be cool as far as imports/exports?

There used to be a cosmetics product I loved that was made out of only strawberries... like petroleum jelly, but strawberry instead. Oh, that was the best stuff in the world!