From the strawberry fields you also get an amazing view of the valley. This year, I wisened up. Kneeling on the hay and ground for an hour while picking does a number on my knees. So, I brought a chair pad, you know, the kind that you sit on at the dining room table and covered it in a plastic bag, so the strawberry juices didn't change the color. It may have looked silly, but it was the best strawberry picking experience ever! haha
So, after heading toward the field to pick (by myself may I add as the elders sat in the car and watched - hehe), the first several rows of strawberries were extremely slim pickings and I thought, well, I must have missed the season this year. As I walked further down the rows where no one was, well, let's just say GOLD MINE!
So I get them home and it's like, hmm, what do I do with all of these strawberries?! Originally I thought that I was going to make jam. Nothing like homemade jam, but when I read the recipe and it first said 2 cups of sugar, I thought, that' isn't sooo bad, but then kept reading and it says add another 6 (yes 6!!) cups of sugar, I just couldn't do it. The berries are so sweet, why the heck do you need 6 cups of sugar?!
My grandmother had suggested Strawberry Cream Pie and although it sounded good, while watching my calories, I thought "can't do it." Until I opened up the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and saw that the "cream" is actually made with milk! So, I was very exciting as figured well, I can use skim milk! I was also worried about the crust, because my crust is usually made with a large amount of shortening, so I looked for an alternate and made it with Vanilla Wafers instead - Graham Crackers was another option, but the crust recipe called for more butter, so I skipped that one too. So, here is the recipe I made with my substitutions. I tell you the pie was amazing (more on my review below)!
Strawberry Cream Pie
1 9-inch baked pastry shell
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds, toasted (optional)
1 recipe Cream Filling (below)
2.5 cups fresh strawberries
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1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Few drops red food coloring (optional)
Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually stir in 2 cups of (skim) milk.
Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook and stir till thick (consistancy of warm pudding). Stir a little of hot mixture into 1 slightly beaten egg; return to remaining hot mixture. Bring just to boiling, stirring constantly. Cool, then chill mixture.
Beat well; fold in 1/2 cup (Fat Free Cool Whip) whipping cream, whipped, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Cover bottom of cooled pastry shell with nuts. (I opted not to do the nuts, but think it would have been better to keep the crust less moist.) Fill with Cream Filling. Halve 2 cups of the strawberries (reserve 1/2 cup remaining). Pile atop filling.
Crush remaining 1/2 cup berries; add water; cook 2 minutes; sieve (strain strawberry juice, keeping the juice and squeezing everything out of the crushed berries). Mix sugar and cornstarch; gradually stir in berry juice. Cook and stir till thick and clear (mine never got clear, which was fine by me! =). Tint to desired color with food coloring (didn't need this step since it never was clear). Cool slightly; pour over halved strawberries. Keep refridgerated till serving time. Pass (Fat Free) whipped cream, if desired.
Vanilla-wafer Pie Crust:
Combine 1 1/4 cups fine vanilla-wafer crumbs (about 38 wafers) with 1/3 cup melted butter. Press firmly against bottom and sides of buttered 9-inch pie plate. Chill in refridgerator till set.
Review: Like I said, this pie was delicious! So, I made a few mistakes, like I didn't butter the pie plate and it was hard to scrape the crust off the bottom of the pan. I didn't add the almonds (didn't have any), but I think that would have kept the crust more firm. The cream filling was delicious (and I am not the Boston Creme kind of girl). The "gelatin" like topping that went over it was good - sometimes in the bakery, this is kind of jello-ish, was happy that this one stayed softer and just brought the whole pie together. I absolutely loved it and would definitely make it again. I'm not sure if I would serve it for company as it kind of fell apart - maybe because of the skim milk and fat free Cool Whip?! Or maybe I just need a stronger crust. Either way, so good! Enjoy! (All items in italics are what I changed in the recipe.)
Side note: A cousin, Gene Yazzetti, of mine passed away on Monday unexpectedly. May he rest in peace and look over dear Celeste and his kids and grandkids. Gene was a great person and I am thankful to have know him.