I created this recipe because I wanted to do something different with the beautiful, sweet, red ripe strawberries from our garden. It's a cool, creamy, fruity dessert that tastes as good as it looks! Please note that It needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 6 hours before serving (overnight is preferable,) but the wait is worth it! We love it.
Into medium bowl, slice 1/2 of the berries (about 3 slices for medium-size, 4-5 for large.)
Sprinkle with 1/2 of the granulated sugar.
Slice and add remaining berries.
Sprinkle with remaining granulated sugar; mix gently with large spoon, lifting berries from bottom to top; cover & refrigerate for 1 hour.
In mixing bowl, using electric mixer, beat cream cheese until light & fluffy.
Add sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, salt, lemon juice, lemon extract & vanilla extract; mix until well combined.
Using spatula, fold 1/2 tub whipped topping into cream cheese mixture until well combined; set aside.
Gently mix berries, drain juice into rimmed dish or pie pan; set berries aside.
Place lady fingers, one at a time into strawberry juice; roll lady finger twice to cover with juice. (Do not let the lady finger "soak" in the juice or it will fall apart.)
Place in an 8"x8" glass dish (if doubling recipe, use 9"x13".)
Repeat steps 10 & 11 until 1/2 of the lady fingers are moistened with juice and cover the bottom of 8"x8" dish.
Evenly spread half of cream cheese mixture over prepared lady fingers.
Evenly cover with half of sliced berries.
Repeat layers: moistened lady fingers, cream cheese mixture, strawberries (if there is juice remaining from rolling lady fingers, pour over this layer of cookies before adding cream cheese mixture. End with berries.)
Cover with plastic wrap & refrigerate for minimum of 6 hours (24 hrs. is preferable) before serving. When ready to serve, garnish with remaining whipped topping and fresh mint leaves, if desired.
Cover & refrigerate leftovers.
Recipe may be doubled. (Photo: My scribbled notes from developing the recipe)