In my family we’ve always valued the gift of time over material gifts when it comes to things like birthdays, Christmas, etc. Don’t get me wrong: we definitely enjoy getting nice gifts, but it’s never been a requirement to make holidays or birthdays “special”; in fact, we preferred giving OF ourselves on our special days. When I was little, my parents & I would go to Colombia every year for summer vacation, and since my birthday is in August, we would always celebrate it there. Being an only child, I was naturally thrown a pretty large party; but being an unconventional family, we did things a bit differently. Instead of having the huge party JUST for me, we would lug everything – party favors, food, a giant birthday cake, extra kids – to the local orphanage and celebrate my birthday there with about a hundred kids my age who had absolutely nothing except for the clothes they wore. Though I was the birthday girl and definitely spoiled, I was taught to share my special day with those less fortunate. And at the end of the day, it was the looks of pure joy on those poor kids’ faces that I remembered as “the bestest part of the day”. For most of those kids, that was the only party they’d ever get to attend, and it touched me even then to see them enjoy their party favors & big slices of cake.
I think – actually, I know – that because of this type of upbringing, I have learned it’s okay not to spend a ton of money on things for others, and that the best gift one can give is one’s time and consideration. My mom’s the queen of this and for her belated birthday celebration this weekend, she gave me more in the way of stuff than I gave her. I wish I could have competed with her in the “stuff” department, but I was still pretty confident in my gift of a special brunch recipe I made just for her. And because she’s such a difficult person to surprise, I made sure to come armed with most of my special recipe already made so that it could be easily assembled during one of her “down” moments. (Seriously, the woman never stops!)
Despite the difficulty I have surprising her, food-wise Mama’s pretty easy to please. She’s a fan of most foods but is quite adamant about what she LOVES. One of those loves would be the lovely strawberry, so I wanted to take that love and create something different for her. Since she’s always complaining that I never save her a portion of most of the dishes I feature on PGEW, particularly the crepes, I thought it would be nice to make her some fresh strawberry crepes. But you know me… why be ordinary when you can take things to a whole other level, right? Fresh strawberry crepes are all over the place, so I made them extra special for her by creating a fresh strawberry sauce and a special strawberry-goat cheese base to go along with the fresh strawberry filling. About the only thing that was completely berry-less on its own was the actual crepe! This was sinful but light, familiar but different, and I’m happy to report that Mama LOVED her birthday brunch!
I’m rather proud of the whole thing because I managed to pull everything together while she actually slept in for the 2nd or 3rd time in her entire life. I didn’t have to kick her out of her own kitchen or anything! The best part? She actually asked me, “What did you PUT in that stuff?” thinking I’d added some sort of addictive substance because she couldn’t stop savoring it after she was done. Those of you who know my mom know she’s an extremely harsh critic who minces no words, so to get that type of response was pure gold to me! Sure, this isn’t a genius recipe or anything, but it just goes to show that properly combining simple ingredients with a bit of imagination will always get winning results. Happy Birthday, Mama!!!
The Ultimate Fresh Strawberry Crepe (makes 4-6 filled crepes; total cost per 2 crepe serving: $3.00)
1/2 c all purpose flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c milk
1 T butter, melted
1 T sugar
1/2 T butter, for cooking
1 16 oz. basket of fresh strawberries
3 T sugar
8 oz goat cheese (if you don’t have access to goat cheese, cream cheese will also work beautifully)
(Note: this recipe is a little time consuming, so it’s best to prep the strawberries & goat cheese the night before if you’re able to.)
Begin by thoroughly rinsing the strawberries and slicing them into 1/4″ – 1/2″ slices. Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl, add the sugar, and toss to coat completely. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for at least an hour; this will allow the strawberries to release their natural juices and create their own “syrup”. When the sugar has completely dissolved and your strawberries have made their syrup, set aside about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the sliced berries w/syrup in a separate bowl. Using a hand blender, purée the remaining strawberries until almost smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine the goat cheese (or cream cheese) and about 1/3 cup of strawberry purée until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour or so, until the mixture is slightly set (it will be slightly softer than no-bake cheesecake consistency). In the meantime, combine about 3/4 cup of the reserved sliced strawberries with 3/4 cup of the strawberry purée and mix together. This will be your “sauce”, or the topping for the final dish. Set aside. When the strawberry prep has been completed, combine the crepe ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth. Follow the cooking instructions for the basic crepe recipe here.
To assemble your crepes, add about 1 tablespoon of the strawberry-goat cheese mixture to one of the freshly made crepes and spread around in a thin layer (you can add more if you like). Add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of the remaining sliced strawberries and roll the crepe together. Top with the strawberry sauce, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, garnish with extra fresh strawberries, and enjoy!