Connecting field to fork at our local strawberry u-pick

As frequent Simple Bites readers will know, we teach our kids about where their food comes from, and try to harvest nature’s bounty through u-picks as often as we can.  Aimee and I were married in an apple orchard, and so apple picking has been an annual tradition.

Strawberry season, however, is much, much shorter, and so this past Monday was the first time our family of five has gone strawberry picking since Clara has joined us.  Four of us absolutely love these seasonal, sweet berries, and the other one tolerated the outing by having races up and down the pathway (he’s not a berry believer).

Strawberry u-pick on www.simplebites.net

It was a deliciously cool and overcast summer morning and we hopped on the trailer for the requisite tractor ride out to the field.  Despite our boys’ need to run, run, run, we were told in no uncertain terms by several of the staff that the field was simply too far to ever imagine walking for adults, let alone children.  Oh well.  It was a nice tractor ride.

Although imported strawberries have been in stores for over a month, the unseasonally cool summer means the local berries are only just starting to ripen, and we were ready for them.

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Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

We’re celebrating. Again! I know, it’s been a very good spring. The festivities planned for today are both of the birthday nature, as we honor both Danny and Canada simultaneously on this first day on July.

This red and white strawberry ice cream cake is how this party gets started. It is equal parts of vanilla ice cream and yogurt blended together and layered with strawberry honey jam. It couldn’t be simpler and it looks pretty on the plate.

You should serve it with a drizzle of strawberry coulis, or a big bowl of fresh or roasted strawberries, ideally, straight from the berry patch.

Speaking of u-picks, we are taking advantage of our national holiday, and jumping out the door this morning to pick strawberries. This post will be short, like strawberry season. I have to preserve the fruit before it is too late.

But I leave you with ice cream cake.

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Whole Grain Strawberry Banana Bread

The one thing I’ve always been able to count on is Grandma Dorothy’s homemade bread. I don’t think I have ever crossed the threshold of her cozy kitchen, in all my thirty-one years, without a slice of bread finding its way into my hands.

The most incredible thing about Grandma Dorothy’s everlasting bread trick is that she is mother to eleven kids. Eleven! And she has enough grandchildren and great-grandchildren to populate a not so small town with only her own kin.

I can’t compete with Eleven kids, but I just doubled my brood overnight. Six kids!

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Clara turns one {recipe: Apple Spice Cake with Maple}

apple cake for baby birthday

Clara turned one yesterday, and after seven years of robot cakes, Cars pinatas, and Lego gifts, we celebrated our very first ‘girl’ birthday. There were spring flowers and garlands of pink hearts, cucumber sandwiches and strawberry cake, and the cutest little guests decked out in hair bows and pretty dresses.

Clara’s birthday party felt like not only a celebration of her first year and the bright light that she is in our lives, but a lingering farewell to infancy. I can see it plainly now, she’s ready to be a little lady, whether I’m prepared for it or not.

In the days leading up to the party, I keenly felt this milestone and the significance of it. While she was busy demonstrating her newest skill set to me, I was having flashbacks to the day she was born and the intimacy between a mother and her newborn.

first birthday party ideas on simplebites.net

I needed to say good-bye to those precious early days that I cherish so much. I needed to spend a few hours cutting hearts out of paper and stringing them onto garlands while I mourned the end of baby baths in the sink, cozy afternoon naps on my chest, and teeny, teeny pink sleepers.

I blinked back tears when I frosted the layers of her cake, and let them flow freely when I hung newborn images of her in a garland; photos where she was so tiny, she rested comfortably between my shoulder and the crook of my arm. I sighed when I cut cucumber sandwiches into hearts, and eventually made my peace with the milestone.

By Sunday, her actual birthday, I was ready to party. So, apparently, was she.

First birthday ideas on simplebites.net

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Strawberry Season Recap


They came and went in a flash. Not gone entirely, I suppose, as late varieties still linger at the markets, however when I pulled up at my local U-Pick I was told the strawberries were finished. That was the beginning of my raspberry picking adventure, and another story altogether.


Before the season was over, I did manage to get a few berries tucked away for winter, with the help of Mateo, who washed and drained the lot. He is most enthusiastic about this summer berry, and couldn’t care less about the rest.


Not all the berries went into the freezer; we made sure to feast on them along the way.

First up was a creamy, dreamy strawberry-buttermilk lassi: berries, ice, buttermilk, a sprinkling of sugar unless you like it tangy. Blend. Drink.


There must be roasted strawberries each season, jarred up in their own juices and frozen. For crepes. For cornmeal pancakes.


On they day the strawberries were roasted, I tucked several into a panini along with fresh basil and a few squares of chocolate. Summer lunch at its best.


Ice cream was made, strawberry-sour cream ice cream, at that. Two little boys pulled up stools and watched the pink cream freeze and take on shapes.

It was so good, I made two more batches that week.


And of course, jam. First a Honey-Strawberry Jam, then a Strawberry-Rhubarb Orange Jam from the new Food in Jars cookbook from Marisa. It will go down in history as the very best straw-rhub jam I’ve ever made, with its perfect consistency and balance of sweet and tart.


Strawberry season may be over, but I’m still canning. It’s Canning Week over on Simple Bites, kicking off with Sweet-Cherry Plum Jam, and continuing with Marisa’s sultry Peach Barbecue Sauce. Come join the party.


What are you doing with summer berries?