This is the first year Roberta and I won’t be making strawberry squares together. Yes, even during last year’s Covid Christmas, we managed to make them together thanks to the magic of zoom. Roberta died unexpectedly a few months ago and I kind of dreaded facing this tradition. I’m still a bit cranky at her for leaving so soon and suddenly, but she made a clean exit at the age of 84 and is reunited with her beloved David, so my sadness is purely selfish. She had been one of my best friends for over 30 years and I still reach for my phone to call her. ugh. Now I’m all weepy again.
But the last time we were in her kitchen doing this, my daughter Mary was with us and Mary is here with us this Christmas time, so she and I will carry on this whacky tradition with more laughs than tears I suppose.
I hope you have a friend like Roberta. She could hear any of my nonsense and laugh at me and somehow instead of pissing me off, it was a relief. As soon as I heard her chuckle at me, I knew all was well and I was probably being overly dramatic. We each supported each other through some very tough times and had enough history to help each other gain perspective quickly. And boy did we laugh… We both shared a pretty dark sense of humor and could not be trusted at a funeral together. Age was never really an issue. We would periodically marvel at the almost 30 years between us. She never really looked or acted her age. Her sons were my age. I would’ve loved to have her as a mom (not that my mom wasn’t awesome), but I’m glad she was my friend. I hope I am someone’s Roberta. This year’s strawberry squares will be bittersweet, but much loved as was my Roberta.
Okay. This recipe may not be the healthiest most sustainable, seasonal, vegan dessert or even what most people would consider traditional holiday fare. However, it has become a regular christmas staple in our household and like most traditions, it has a story attached to it.
Nothing dramatic really, but about 25 years ago, I was experiencing one of those ‘blue’ christmases that Elvis sang about – all lonely and weepy and not much fun. My friends took turns trying to keep me from total despair and I found myself slumped on a stool in my dear friend Roberta’s kitchen a couple of days before christmas. I was a bit like a dry sack of flour so she put me to work as she was busily preparing her family’s favorite holiday dessert, strawberry squares.
Maybe it was the sugar, but I perked up and my entire holiday spirit shifted to one of good cheer from that moment on and without much discussion or fanfare, we have gotten together in her kitchen every year (none missed so far!) a few days before christmas. Now we make a double batch of these delicious treats and my family has adopted a love for them now too.
Cheer-Up-Any-Scrooge Strawberry Squares
1 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. butter (melted)
1 c. whipping cream
2 egg whites
2/3 c. sugar (1 c. if using fresh strawberries)
10 oz. frozen strawberries (or 2 c. fresh)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Crust & Crumbly Topping
Preheat oven to 350. Combine the first 4 ingredients to a nice semi-dry crumbly consistency (add flour if needed), which is best done by using your hands to mix. Then spread on a large cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until crumbs are golden brown. Put 2/3s of the crumbs in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. (my family LOVES the crumbly bits, so I usually increase this part of the recipe so I have a lot more for the top)
Whip up your cream. In a separate bowl whip egg whites, sugar, strawberries and lemon juice for about 10 minutes till you get stiff peaks. (yes, strawberries can still be frozen – they usually break up)
Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry whip and then put into pan. Even out as best you can and distribute rest of crumbs on top.
Cover and freeze. It keeps nicely for a week or two.
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