Strawberry Cool Whip Cookies

In the battle between “homemade with help” and “homemade from scratch” I make every effort to fight on the scratch side.  It’s clearly superior in taste, nutrition, and personal gratification…however…sometimes I gladly accept a little help.

Don’t we all?

Sometimes you don’t want to haul out the digital scale and cake flour.  The paddle attachment.  The measuring spoons.  You’re out of eggs.  You’re out of cinnamon.  You’re out of time.  You just got home from work and it’s already 7:00 and you’re supposed to bring a dessert somewhere and suddenly Betty Crocker is winking at you…and at only $1.29 a box!

Hello, Betty.  Have a Diet Dr. Pepper with me before we start. 

Cake mixes were first introduced during the late 1920’s…the latest in a line of convenient dry-mixes that included custards, gelatin, biscuits, and pancakes. 

It took until the post-WWII years for cake mixes to catch on.  Sales were slow in the beginning because the mixes honestly just seemed too simple.  There was a feeling that you couldn’t trust a cake that only required the addition of water.  Betty Crocker market researchers paid attention and responded by removing the powdered eggs from the mix so the home cook would have to add them herself.  This slight modification made a big difference in the overall feeling of “freshness” in the finished cake, and sales soon skyrocketed.

These Cool Whip cookies are a perfect example of the enduring versatility of the cake mix.  They are a quick and easy treat for someone who doesn’t want to be the hostess, but still wants to go to the party.   All you need is a cake mix, an egg, a container of Cool Whip, and some powdered sugar.  I got the recipe from Melissa, who got it from Matt and John’s cousin Shannon.  Since then I have given it out twice.  It’s easy to do this when you don’t even need to write anything down!

I have had both lemon (thank you Melissa!) and spice versions of these.  Both were soft and chewy and yummy.  I decided the next batch would be strawberry, because I have also been wanting to make something pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is rapidly coming to a close. 

I have to say the strawberry version is my least favorite of the bunch so far, but it might have been the “deluxe” mix.  Who knows.  Just keep recipe in the back of your mind for those “help” moments – these cookies are a hit!

Cool Whip Cookies

Ingredients
1 8 oz. tub Cool Whip
1 box cake mix
1 egg
1 cup powdered sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.
  • In a bowl, mix together the Cool Whip and the egg until smooth.
  • Add in the cake mix until well-blended, and chill for 15-20 minutes in the fridge.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a bowl and drop teaspoons of dough into the powdered sugar, 4 or 5 at a time.  Roll to coat in the powdered sugar and form small balls, around the size of a walnut.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just barely golden around the edges.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Proud participant in the Beantown Baker “Power of Pink” Challenge!

Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

I bought a tart pan over a year ago after I saw a recipe for a Tomato Mozzarella Basil Tart on Annie’s Eats.  I am still going to make the tart (I AM) but in the meantime, I decided it was time to break it in with something sweet.

Something with strawberries.

I know they are out of season now, but when they were in season my stuffy 3rd floor kitchen was too hot to breathe in, never mind cook in.

I decided on a Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart because I also love almonds.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family, and are arguably the world’s most popular berry.  I was delighted to learn that all the different varieties grown all over the world can trace their ancestry back to the marriage of the Virginia strawberry and Chile strawberry in Europe 250 years ago.  I love the idea that these 2 varieties fell in love far from home and produced the large, firm, sweet strawberries we think of today.

All 50 states grow strawberries, which is a testament to their adaptability.  California grows the most, around 75% of the US supply.  Because they are so delicate and highly perishable, strawberries cannot be machine-harvested and are almost always picked by hand.  They are snooty like that.  They also are unique in that their seeds are on the outside, and do not serve to grow new plants. Strawberry plants multiply by sending out runners along the ground when the fruit is developing, and these runners develop roots and form new plants.

Originally strawberries were called strewberries because of how they grew.  The berries appeared to be “strewn” among the leaves.  Its official species name is Fragaria, and the French, Italian and Spanish word for strawberry is fraise, which means fragrant.

And they are!  Fragrant and delicious.  Stirring strawberries into non-fat vanilla yogurt and adding a sprinkle of Fiber One is one of my favorite sweet snacks.

Okay, let’s make a tart!

Beautiful pressed crust made from shortbread cookie crumbs and honey – thank you KitchenAid.

Vanilla almond creamy pudding filling.  Yes, I see those little lumps.  No, I do not care.

Layered strawberry slices ready for their red currant glaze.

The sun literally shone on the finished tart.  The glaze really makes it look heavenly.  I am  glad my lobster chair also made an appearance…those lobsters don’t get enough camera time.

This is a Cooking Light recipe, but they also have another version of this same dessert using honey graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese in the filling.  I think next time I will try the graham crackers in the crust, but also use less almond extract in the filling, and instead add ground almonds to the crust itself. 

Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart
Adapted from the Cooking Light Holiday Cookbook

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs
3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 cups small strawberries, sliced
1/3 cup red currant jelly
1 tbsp water

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 10 1/2  inch round removable-bottom tart pan (mine was an inch or so smaller but it was fine).
  • Break the shortbread cookies into crumbs either in a food processor or by hand.  Add the honey and pulse or mix until combined. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and 3/4 inch up the side of the tart pan.  Bake for 8 minutes until lightly browned.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • (First make sure your egg is beaten and within close reach of the stove top)  Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Slowly add milk and stir with a whisk until well blended.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir around 1/4  of hot milk mixture into the beaten egg, and add that to remaining milk mixture, still stirring constantly.  Cook an additional 2 minutes until thick and bubbly.  Still stirring. 
  • Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice and extracts.  Pour mixture into a bowl, and cool for 20 minutes.  Still stirring…but now just occasionally. 
  • Pour mixture into prepared crust and arrange the strawberries however creativity moves you. 
  • Combine red currant jelly and water in a small saucepan, and cook mixture over medium heat until jelly melts, stirring occasionally.  Drizzle melted jelly over strawberries and allow jelly to cool.

8 delicious servings at 250 calories each is pretty darn good!

If I am going to talk about strawberries I should also give a shout out to my fabulous big sister Courtney.  Every year she picks a million berries and makes jam for the whole family.  We used to save a jar and have it with our Christmas breakfast.  Here we are in the early 80’s.   

 

Look closely and you will see there are actual strawberries on her dress, so she can’t be mad at me for posting this.  I mean…I’m the one with the excess chub and a seemingly deformed right hand.

And Mom is the one who allowed us to be posed in front of that “mountains and daffodils” backdrop.

Okay, one more strawberry photo to bring it home.

YUM!