It’s Strawberry Season, Now What’s a Shortcake?

It’s strawberry season, now what’s a shortcake?

The farmers market in my neighborhood just opened for the season with a strawberry festival. I love strawberries! As a child, I picked tiny wild ones from my great aunt’s yard. Now I enjoy medium sized locally grown or gigantic shipped-in berries. My favorite way to eat them is right off the stem, but strawberry shortcake makes me happy as well.
My grandmother and mother called traditional pie crust sprinkled with sugar shortcake. Thin, flaky, and crisp, it played well against partially mashed, sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. There’s a restaurant in my area that serves this style of shortcake two layers tall. It is divine!

I can’t say crust-based strawberry shortcake is widely known. My grandmother’s house, my mother’s house, and that one restaurant are the only places I’ve eaten it. I suppose in the strictest sense, sweetened crust fits one of the original requirements of shortcake in that it contains fat that has been cut into the flour. The only problem is that it’s not really a cake.

But is shortcake really cake or is it a scone or biscuit? The first recipe for shortcake appeared in an English cookbook in 1588, but I don’t know what it said. That makes it difficult to determine exactly what sort of crumb it had.

A quick scroll through several culinary guides failed to find mention of shortcake. Shortbread is often included, but not shortcake. Perhaps that’s because there are too many versions to narrow down a definition. Or perhaps it’s because perfectly ripened strawberries sweetened and topped with whipped cream are so good they don’t really need any sort of biscuit, cake, or crust. Anything that absorbs and delivers that scrumptious juice will be appreciated and well received.

When shortcake is mentioned in culinary articles, it is often differentiated from sponge cake. This is sort of amusing because I’ve probably been served strawberry shortcake made with sponge cake more often than any other kind.

So what’s a shortcake? Whatever vehicle you prefer to deliver sweetened strawberries and whipped cream. Most of us probably gravitate to the version of shortcake that is most familiar. I prefer pie crust to squishy cake. I’ll take a sweetened biscuit in a pinch. You may prefer a butter-rich cake or corn muffin.

Whatever you place it on, a combination of fresh strawberries and cream sweetened or not, whipped or not, will provide a delicious summer treat!

Travel Tip #13 – Don’t Forget to Order Dessert!

Vacation is the perfect time for a little indulgence, so don’t forget to order dessert even if you’re gluten-free! It’s easy to assume that the dessert menu will pose too few options or require too many questions to make it worth your while. That’s an assumption that would prevent you from devouring this delicious Pistachio Nougat that combines a semifreddo, pistachio praline & caramel sauce. The praline added crunch to the light semifreddo making it a satisfying bite and the whipped cream on top took the whole experience over the top.
pistachio nougat

I’ve been traveling for the past few days with friends who love to eat some gluten. Without any extra effort, we found numerous sharable desserts that worked for all of us just by asking to hear the dessert choices. Ah, you skeptics are probably thinking, yeah that may be true in a big city, but not where I vacation.

You may be right, but before you dismiss the idea that it pays to ask the question, I should tell you that we ordered the Pistachio Nougat in a town with a population of less than 4000. Of course, I’ll admit that won’t happen in every restaurant or in every small town, but you get the point.

The next night, in a larger town about 10 miles away, we sampled a Blondie served atop a cranberry compote with a side of salted pecan ice cream and sprinkled with candied pecans. Sunday brunch included gluten-free biscotti and donut holes.

When you eat in locally owned restaurants, you’ll often find tasty gluten-free dessert options right on the menu – creme brûlée, gelato, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, ice cream, panna cotta or macarons. Of course, you’ll always want to verify that their particular recipe doesn’t include some unusual problem ingredient.

While having dessert is not essential to any balanced meal plan, it can add enjoyment to the times you’re away from your regular routine. After Sunday brunch, we refused to even consider dessert because we’d indulged enough for one trip, but I have to say, it was great while it lasted!

Next time you find yourself away from home, don’t forget to order dessert!

You are how you cope!

Don’t you mean you are what you eat?  After all, this is a cooking blog, right?

Well, yes, Cooking2Thrive® is about cooking, but it’s also about thriving.  Don’t worry we’ll tie it all together for you by the dessert course.


It is no secret that our intimate relationship with food sometimes takes on a life of its own. When we vow to modify our diet, eat healthy, lose weight, reduce our intake of sweets or carbs or protein or gluten, we can suddenly feel out of control, or obsessed. It feels like the vow has taken control of us.  Why is that?


Take a moment to crunch on this idea:  Long before we were ready, some of us had to perform tasks that were much too advanced for our age and ability. When things didn’t turn out well, we blamed ourselves or someone else blamed us. Through this process, we learned to cope in a manner that encouraged the overdevelopment of an inner critic. This critic became such an integral part of us that we do not feel like ourselves unless we are thinking: “I’m too fat!”; “I ate too much!”; “I should have eaten slower!”; “If only I had planned in advance, I wouldn’t have had to eat that doughnut at the office, but I was just so hungry!”  As we begin to eat more healthily, this monologue no longer fits, but when it’s turned off we don’t feel like ourselves.  When we don’t feel like ourselves, we begin to feel anxious. Anxiety leads us to seek comfort.  We feel comforted when we eat carbs, so we pick up a cheese roll, criticize ourselves for choosing the food we have vowed to avoid, and breathe a sigh of relief because our familiar coping pattern has been restored.

C. Thriver


Our inner critic may be alive and well and keeping us from doing our best, but it can go relatively unnoticed while our lives roll predictably along. Enter a stressful disruption, and the war we are constantly fighting within can keep us from making changes that are critical to our health and longevity. For instance, let’s say that we’re suddenly served a huge heaping portion of diabetes. Now the carbs we run to for comfort can literally be our undoing. If we continue to cope in our old way, we will significantly decrease our lifespan. And yet, the added stress we feel may pull us even more strongly toward a familiar coping strategy. We want to become more healthy – it just feels as though we can’t. We may begin to feel ashamed or defeated or that critic may pipe up and say, “You’re not worth the trouble anyway, loser.”

Whatever the specifics of your situation may be, when you go back to coping through the use of strategies from the past that do not allow real change, you are stuck. 

Many of us remain stuck for a very long time while our health and quality of life slowly deteriorate. We begin to believe that we’re destined to be sick and then sicker. We focus on alleviating symptoms rather than controlling, healing, or curing an underlying disease process. This seems sane and normal because we’re surrounded by a host of other people who are following a similar path.  But if sane and normal actions cause us to live more limited, painful, or shorter lives, how sane and normal can they really be?

A part of us may sense that this is a question worth asking, but when we are in a weakened or pain-filled state the asking may feel beyond our reach. Without a side dish of support and encouragement, we may be left to cope in the usual manner.


Now for the sweet part! Cooking2Thrive can help support healthy change. Don’t feel like challenging the status quo? That’s okay; we love a good challenge.  Don’t feel you can make progress because you don’t have enough support?  That’s okay; we’re here to encourage you.  Know where you want to go, but don’t know how to get there?  Don’t worry; we will provide a roadmap of practical tools you can use in order to progress.

At Cooking2Thrive, we believe that good health begins with nutritious, fresh food. We believe that with proper nutritional and emotional support, many disease processes can be reversed. We also believe that we all need encouragement and practical tools to develop new ways to process our feelings so that we can discard the coping mechanisms that hold us back in order to live a more rich, full life.

If you currently feel stuck and can’t seem to avoid your inner critic, don’t worry. Things can change.  You can heal!  We can help.

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Dessert First! Day Seven.

I find myself at the end of this week in which I have deliberately savored the rich, sweet moments of every day BEFORE I rushed off to fill an obligation, achieve a goal, or take care of something for someone else feeling as though I’m at the crossroads of two realizations that seem paradoxically at odds with each other. First I feel as though this practice of Dessert First has resulted in additional insight and positive momentum. It has also begun to soften the edge of my communication with others. Because of these positive results, I feel as though it is important to incorporate this practice into each day going forward.

This belief is juxtaposed against the realization that one of the reasons for the positive effects of Dessert First is that it was an interruption to my previous habits and patterns. If I begin to make Dessert First a habit, it will lose the power of the interruptive effect.

So what should I do? This might be a true dilemma for me if I were asking the question two days ago, but as is often the case, the universe has stepped in to assist me with discernment. Last night I was in a state of deep, sound sleep when I was awakened by the phone. It was the alarm company summoning me to meet the police at the office. The drive takes less than 10 minutes. I usually spend that 10 minutes feeling increasingly frightened about the possibility of what I will find when I get there. I know what a break-in feels like. I’ve experienced 3 successful and one attempted break-ins at my home in the last 6 years.

This time, I was awaking from such sound slumber that I threw a ratty flannel robe over my mismatched pjs and headed out struggling to get fully awake. There was no time for fear to take hold. The event turned out to be nothing more than a simple interruption to perfectly comfortable rest. There was no visible reason for the alarm. I could ignore the interruption and stick with my previous plan.

But I made a different choice. I allowed myself to sleep late and refocused my day away from the to-do list and back to taking care of myself. As I made that choice, I realized that the universe often assists me with unexpected interruptions that give me a chance to learn. I need not fear incorporating a positive practice into my day. Whenever repetition becomes a limit to insight, something unexpected is sure to come along to assist me in shifting my focus. I can relax and continue to enjoy the rich, sweet moments of each day.

I am grateful for this week’s insights, grateful for the alarm, grateful that the alarm didn’t mean a real break-in, and grateful for all the beautiful moments each day brings. It has been a fantastic week.