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I’m not one to waste fresh Tennessee strawberries on something that requires them to be consumed any way but raw and mostly naked, but I got a couple of quarts that were good but not great. So I thought, “Why not try something baked?” with these berries. I wasn’t feeling ambitious enough for a cake (mmm…strawberry cake…) so I remembered getting an email with a recipe for strawberry bread in it. Couldn’t find the email, so I just poked around the internet a bit and (once again) came up with my own from the best of other recipes. Because I had a lot of strawberries to use and I really wanted a strong strawberry flavor.

Strawberry Bread
Yields 2 9 x 5 inch loaves

2 cups fresh strawberries sliced
2 cups pureed strawberries
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in large bowl and blend well with a fork. Place strawberries in a medium size bowl and blend in oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the strawberry mixture to the flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Divide batter equally into pans and bake for one hour or until done (insert a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it‘s done). Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Well? This bread is MOIST. Probably too moist. And not quite strawberry-y enough for me. I suppose I should have made strawberry cake to achieve that level of strawberryness. But the bread is good. I’m thinking though that instead of pureed strawberries, a strawberry jam might be better. About 8 ounces instead of 16 (and increase the oil if the batter’s not loose enough). However, strawberry season is just about over here, so I suppose I’ll have to wait until next year to try it out. I'm also thinking some lemon in here somewhere would brighten it and add a nice tang. Hrm.

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It was a challenge for me to figure out what to bake for the Sweet Relief bake sale. 1) I'm not much of a baker and 2) I wanted to do something vegan. And finding something that was portable, packageable and non-perishable that was not a cookie or cupcake was difficult. Also, I didn't want to deal with an egg replacer.

So I finally settled on scones. Next challenge? Vegan "butter." I was surprised to see that nearly every margarine available contains whey (a dairy product). What's the point? Seemed my only option was Earth Balance and while it's fine, measuring 3/4 of a cup is kind of a pain since it's not in sticks. Luckily, I remembered Crisco makes sticks and they're over in the baking aisle. Whaddya know...vegan. So, along with my organic sugar (organic sugar is not processed with bone char like most refined white sugar), and soy milk, I was ready to bake! Well, almost. I needed to settle on a recipe. I ended up looking at about 15 different recipes and took the best from all. Because that's what I do (or don't); I don't follow recipes. Anyhoo...

Cranberry Orange Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (plus about 1/2 tsbp)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon orange zest (~the amount from a standard size orange; more is better)
1/2 cup slightly reconstituted dried cranberries
3/4 cup vegan butter (I used Crisco sticks), cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (the juice of a standard size orange is about 1/4 cup; if you have more, just reduce the amount of milk so that the total liquid is one cup)
3/4 cup vegan milk (I used Silk Vanilla Light soy milk)
Dash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Cover the cranberries in water to soak while you prepare the dough.

Sift your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add the "butter" and mix together between your fingertips or cut with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal (or you can dump everything in your food processor, hit pulse a couple of times and you're done). Drain the water from the cranberries and mix in the orange zest and cranberries with a fork. Combine the orange juice, "milk, " and vanilla and slowly pour it into the mixture, tossing with a fork until moist clumps form.

Form a ball in the bowl and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it briefly to mix the dough well (add more flour if it's too sticky). Form the dough into a ball and pat down into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Use a large a knife to cut into 8 equal wedges. Place the scones as far apart as possible on the lined baking sheet (for crispy sides). Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Let the scones sit on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

For lemon poppyseed scones, substitute "lemon" for "orange" above (you may need extra lemon juice or lemon extract, which I think would be a wonderful idea but I really LOVE lemon flavor) and replace cranberries with 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds.

So how are they? Well, they're a tad dry and not sweet enough...which means they're perfect (I was reminded of why I'm not a huge fan of scones; they're never sweet--you know, because they're really just flavored biscuits). The taste is really good and Mr. Eats liked them a lot. The Crisco helps get a nice crunch on the crust, I think. All in all, I think they're a huge success. So much so that I just pulled a muscle patting myself on the back.

Two and a half dozen of these little guys will be for sale (for a small price!) tomorrow between 1:30 and 4 at 1100 Forrest Avenue (The Green Wagon) in Nashville. Come on out and buy some and support the Second Harvest Food Bank!