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This is the very beginning of the strawberry season here in Houston, the time of year when juicy, plump strawberries make their way off the grocery store shelves and into your appetizer, breakfast and dessert recipes. February to April is prime strawberry season here in Texas, so make sure you grab some soon. Everyone seems to love these yummy berries, the only ones with seeds on the outside, especially the kids.

This temperate plant can thrive in mountainous and chilly regions all over the world, so it makes sense that they aren't too bothered by our local winter weather since it isn't (usually) too cold. Although we can buy imported strawberries throughout the year here, it's nice to enjoy the local ones while they're in season rather than berries that have been flown in.

The Appeal of Strawberries

Ask a few people to name their favorite berry and odds are that several will name strawberries. After all, this fruit is extremely popular. Rich in vitamin C, manganese and fiber, strawberries are incredibly versatile. Slice them over your morning cereal, blend them with bananas, milk and honey to make smoothies, use them to decorate cakes and cookies or use them to make mousse or ice cream.

If you're looking for a savory use, how about a spinach, strawberry, walnut and feta cheese salad with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil drizzled on top? If you have too many strawberries, you can make a batch of jelly or jam, or even freeze them.

Where to Buy this Tasty Fruit

You can get these delicious berries at any grocery store or farmers market. Keep them refrigerated, preferably in the crisper drawer. It's a good idea to keep the humidity up so they stay moist and fresh. If you line the container with paper towels, your strawberries should stay fresh for about 5 days, maybe even a week. Strawberries should be washed and de-stemmed just before eating, or they will get mushy. Any moldy ones you spot in the container should be discarded immediately so they don't make the others around them go moldy too.

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Strawberry-Chardonnay-lavender cupcakes at Celebrity Cupcakes.

In a Starring Role at: Celebrity Cupcakes

The hardest part of buying cupcakes here is deciding what to have! When we visited recently, we opted for the apple cupcakes as well as the strawberry-chardonnay-lavender ones. The latter cupcakes, made with chardonnay sourced from the Messina Hof winery, are excellent, from the soft, moist cake filled with strawberry and lavender to the strawberry buttercream frosting.

If that doesn't appeal, consider the strawberry truffle cupcakes—dark chocolate cake topped with strawberry buttercream. The simple strawberry cupcakes are also great, and they are freshly made with organic ingredients and topped with strawberry buttercream frosting.

Although it's not quite summer here in Houston, we are having the occasional warm day, and biting into a freshly baked cupcake is like tasting a bite of summer and dreaming about the balmy days to come!

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Recipe: Simple Strawberry Empanadas

This recipe is really simple. Five ingredients simple. These empanadas can be served warm from the oven or cold, either by themselves or with some cream or ice cream. This recipe makes eight empanadas and it's a great way to showcase this season's most delicious berry.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup diced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup softened cream cheese 
  • 8 ounces crescent rolls dough
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the strawberries, honey and cream cheese together. Unroll the crescent roll dough, divide it into eight pieces, and place a teaspoon of the strawberry mixture on each one.

Next, fold the dough over, crimping the edges with a fork. Brush the empanadas with honey and sprinkle them with sugar, then bake on a foil-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Stay tuned every week to discover more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and find out where you can enjoy the delicious bounty of the season.

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