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Finally!

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Guess what time of year it is everyone? I wait for strawberry season every year now for ... years. Although the fresh strawberries you can get in the supermarket are adequate, that's their downfall as well: mere adequacy. I want to taste fruit that is local, just-picked and still warm from the sun it grows under.

My kids look forward to them as well. For over 10 years, I hand-picked and sold these gems at my farm stand, with my children right alongside me. They earned extra money picking and selling, learning important lessons along the way. They learned the hard way when they wanted something special at the store, but they had eaten five out of the eight quarts they picked - they were going to have to settle for something else. And no, I didn't cave in! But I always made sure they had their fill of strawberries both in the field and at home. It worked. After the third or fourth day, they wanted nothing more to do with strawberries. I learned a lesson as well: Not only didn't they want to eat any more strawberries, they didn't want to help pick anymore either. Tough love bit me right in the strawberry patch.

Here is a recipe I make for the kids all the time. It is called junkyard clusters because they look like a pile of junk and are messy to eat, but the combination of salty and sweet just makes you want to eat and eat and eat. I think these will remind the readers of haystack confections, but so much more pleasing.

Junkyard clusters

  • 3 T. butter or margarine
  • 4 1/4 c. mini marshmallows
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. broken pretzel sticks
  • 3/4 c. your favorite peanuts
  • 1 c. chopped , fresh strawberries
  • 1 c. chocolate chips

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in 3 1/4 c. marshmallows and continue cooking and stirring until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix pretzel sticks, peanuts and strawberries. After cooling 5 minutes, add the marshmallow mixture, remaining marshmallows and chocolate chips. Blend well. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or film wrap. Roll heaping tablespoons of the mixture with your hands into "haystack" clusters (but we fall them junk piles). Place on prepared pan and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until firm and jump into the junk piles.

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