Category Archives: Family Adventures

7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.


3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.



6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!


Strawberry Picking and Green Strawberry Pickles

Strawberry Picking

Last weekend we celebrated Papa Bird’s birthday with a fun family day at Suzie’s Farm. They held their annual “Strawberry Jam” last Saturday and we all had so much fun, picking strawberries and eating yummy food. Little Bird loved apple picking as a tot and felt right at home with the plants and chickens.

strawberry picking

We started off picking organic strawberries. Every plant was filled with the most perfectly beautiful, sweet and flavorful berries. (At home, Little Bird tends to pick all of our strawberries while they are still green and small.) I did get some temporary hives from stinging nettles, but they went away.

strawberry picking

Next I sampled strawberry chutney, drank a strawberry and basil kombucha, and made green strawberry pickles with Austin from the San Diego Fermenter’s Club. Little Bird loves them. They are mild, slightly crunchy and have a hint of strawberry flavor. You can find the recipe for Green Strawberry Pickles here.

green strawberry pickles

Green Strawberry Pickles Recipe

After all that hard work, I was ready for a grass fed burger made with strawberry jam, and a beet and quinoa salad from Green Truck. The cold and windy weather discouraged our plans for eating ice cream from our friends’ Calexico Creamery, but we took home a pint of (what else?) Fresa and a pint of Mexican Cocoa. Little Bird and I hid out from the wind in a teepee and she gathered twigs and sticks to build a play fire.

organic strawberry jam

Check back tomorrow and I will share the best recipe for strawberry jam! It has hardly any sugar in it and no pectin. The only other ingredient is a lemon…

–> Update: Strawberry Jam now posted HERE.

Happy Birthday Baby Bird

Our little Baby Bird is 1 today. I can’t quite believe it.

Papa Bird brought her in to cuddle this morning and I told her the story of her birth… how she was in mommy’s tummy and wanted to come out and see us, so she kicky-kicked a hole in her bath in my tummy and then came out.

It made me realize that I never got around to writing up her birth story. I thought about it, but I guess having a newborn got in the way. If you are only reading this blog for seasonal recipes, feel free to skip ahead.

Well, there is a little bit of tomato preserving in the story…

One day and one year ago… I was settling into maternity leave. All the babies in my family were late (or induced) so I was getting mentally prepared to bide my time. I had stopped officially working a week before, but was still going in to work meetings. I filled up my social calendar with lunch dates and figured I would rather cancel a lunch date than sit around the house waiting. I went shopping for the first time and bought her a little outfit.

I wasn’t interested in having the doctor induce me early, but once I was full term and everything looked healthy, I was all for natural remedies for inducing labor. Walking, spicy food, eggplant, basil, evening primrose oil… basically everything but castor oil (which I don’t recommend.) I had been drinking Red Raspberry Tea (Iced) for most of the third trimester. I went to regular Acupuncture throughout the pregnancy. He was treating my common pregnancy symptoms and using Chinese “Pretty Baby” points. With my OB’s okay, he had started doing points to help induce labor and sent me home with a stick of moxa. If you are looking for a natural remedy to induce labor, my husband and I are convinced it was moxabustion that did it!

The night before Baby was born, my husband held a lit stick of moxa up to certain points on my lower back, lower stomach and feet. Little baby was a kicker, but right after the moxa, she started kicking like never before. It didn’t feel like anything was wrong, just like she was especially active and happy and excited.

Pregnancy insomnia and I were old friends, so around 3 am on the 17th I went into the nursery to read. I went back to bed at 5 am and before I fell asleep, I felt my water break! I knew that “was it.” Still, I decided to let my husband sleep a little longer and started packing last-minute items for our bags. There was some laundry to put away (the new “coming home” outfit I had bought–that didn’t fit her until she was 4 months old) and several pounds of heirloom tomatoes from the garden to process and freeze. Around 6 am I woke up my husband, and calmly told him not to worry but it was time to go to the hospital. “No rush, but let’s get ready.” I washed my hair (which if you know me is actually an event) and he watered the garden and told our neighbors to look after the chickens. Then I started feeling nauseous and told him to rush.

Around 8 am we checked in to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital. We were so lucky to have a hospital devoted entirely to women and newborns. I was also a Sharp employee at the time and somehow got flagged as a VIP. (We ended up getting a great private recovery room in a quiet corner.) Since the 18th was my father’s birthday, my husband was hoping the labor and delivery would take all night so baby would have his birthday. (I was NOT wishing it would take all night.) I was only half an inch dilated, so they started me on Pitocin. My little sister came by around lunch time to bring my husband food and visit. She ended up staying through the delivery.

Many of my friends have tried for natural child births. My mother delivered all three of us medication free. While I admire that, I was a realist that I don’t have great pain tolerance. I also have known a lot of people who had a lot of expectations in their birth plan, and nearly all were disappointed. I know that many do have completely natural child births, but lately, it seemed that all of my friends who tried for it ended up with C-Sections! So my philosophy was to go with the flow, request the least amount of intervention necessary, and trust in the medical team I selected. I think our birth “wish list” had only 4 items on it… including to have the least amount of interventions and that one of us was always with baby. I was, however, rigid on breastfeeding. I didn’t want any formula or pacifiers introduced and I wanted to be able to breastfeed her right away. The hospital, fortunately, was already on board with that, and did all of that anyway.

In any case, I hadn’t ruled out getting an epidural. After the contractions started getting quite intense, I asked them to check my dilation. I figured that if I was close, like a 7 or 8, I would skip the epidural. Turns out I was only at 3 cm, so I opted for it. Getting the epidural was actually the worst part of the whole experience. It made me feel shaky and throw up. But then I felt relaxed and took a little nap. Thankfully it was not so strong that I was numb, but it lessened the severity of the contractions so that they felt more like the Braxton-Hicks “false” contractions I was used to. I was also able to feel when to push.

Around 6 pm they told me to start pushing. It took about 2 hours. It was definitely work. Good thing I stayed active with exercise during the pregnancy. My husband was great throughout the whole experience but I did snap at him once when I thought he was playing Words with Friends between pushes. Halfway through it the doctor and nurse assigned to me switched, but it really didn’t matter. The new OB was female. She thought it was great that Baby had so much hair and gave her a mohawk as she was crowning.

At 7:56 pm on September 17, 2011 our Baby Bird was born. 18 inches long and 6 pounds 14 onces.


It hardly seems possible but we love her more and more each day.

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Here is another recipe we enjoyed camping last weekend. Our mint is abundant right now and there are only so many mint cocktails one can drink. I thought this simple little salad would be refreshing camping and easy to throw together.

Packing for the trip, I cut several stems of mint, washed them and then stored them damp, wrapped in a paper towel, in the fridge (and then the cooler). This, by the way, is my favorite way to store herbs and lettuces from the garden. Except at home I just as often use a clean kitchen towel instead of a disposable one. I also packed up the last of my homemade feta. (The feta is another recipe I plan to share, so feel free to subscribe to follow.)

This salad is great with figs, too. This year a little birdie we call Baby eats our figs as fast as they come off the tree. She has even full on shoplifted a fig! We were in Whole Foods and she was sitting in the cart. I turned my back for a second to pick out a peach and when I looked she had grabbed a fig out of a basket on the display and had started eating it! Baby also got into a shopping bag today, found an avocado and bit into it as though it were an apple.

Anyway, she loved this salad. It is a great way to showcase fruit at it’s peak. For babies, watermelon is a great first solid once they are ready to try venturing past purées since it is so easy to “bite into” with just gums.

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad Recipe

  • A large bowl of watermelon cut into large bite sized chunks, chilled
  • Mint, ripped or cut into smaller pieces
  • Crumbled feta
  • Balsamic vinegar glaze or reduction
  • Squeeze of lime juice (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)

I don’t have measurements for this salad, so just eyeball it. Cut up the watermelon and chill, if it isn’t already cold. Then add the rest of the ingredients, mix and serve immediately.

Family Traditions: Camping, Shooting Stars and Pancakes

We just took Baby Bird camping for the first time! She did great and had fun getting dirty, playing outside and spending time with Mama and Dada. I kept thinking about camping with my parents when I was little.

Camping out east we got away from the big city light pollution and had the treat of seeing a sky full of stars and the Perseid meteor shower. My dad loved being outdoors and took my sisters and I on major backpacking trips in Yosemite. He always timed them for mid-August so we could see the shooting stars. I remember sleeping out in the open, all in a row in our sleeping bags and counting how many we could see as he pointed out constellations.

These days I am content to “car camp” instead of carrying a heavy pack up mountains at elevation. But when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and planned a victory backpack trip for when he would beat it, of course I agreed to go. We never ended up backpacking again, but I most easily connect with him outside in the beauty of nature, visiting the waterfall where we scattered his ashes or catching a shooting star.

I’m so glad we could introduce our lil’ one to the joys of living outside and being with friends. I know her grandpa would approve.

So, anyway, pancakes?

As we were preparing for this camping trip, I asked my husband what food he would like me to buy as he does most of the cooking when we camp. I was a dutiful wife with most of his list but balked at “pancake mix,” figuring I could do better. I recently made these super light and fluffy pancakes with some of the excess kefir I have been making and they were delicious. I pre-measured and packaged up the dry ingredients and added the vanilla to the kefir. Voila! Instant “instant mix.” More affordable and infinitely more tasty. I also packed some of my cajeta, a traditional Mexican syrup made from goat milk that is a cross between dulce de leche and sweetened condensed milk. (Update: the cajeta recipe is now up.) Papa Bird manned the camping griddle and they were a huge hit with our friends camping.


I have to confess that making my own pancake mix was not my original idea but something I remember my mom doing when we used to camp. I clearly remember one camping trip when I was seven or eight. Before the campground we stopped to visit friends of my parents in Big Sur. I was petite and looked younger than my age, but I thought the lady was still a little out of touch when she said, in full on baby talk, “Maybe if you are lucky your mommy will make you pancakes.” I had to set the record straight and told her as a matter of fact, “No, but I will make crepes.”

Fluffy Kefir Pancakes

Recipe from Tammy’s Recipes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups kefir (homemade if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine kefir, milk, vanilla extract, and eggs. Add to dry mixture and mix just until moistened. Pre-heat griddle or skillet over medium heat (or just below). Lightly grease griddle or skillet, and spoon batter on. When many bubbles have risen to the top of the pancake (about 3-4 minutes), flip over and continue cooking until done (about 1-2 minutes). Serve immediately, or keep pancakes warm on a plate in the oven until all have been cooked. Serve with butter, fresh fruit, or syrup.


Baby loves the pancakes, with or without syrup, and can eat them as is. This recipe is very basic and unsweetened. While it is awesome simple, it would also be a good “base” for adding anything you like. I have added a few tablespoons of flax meal. I’d like to try adding lemon zest in next time, inspired by lemon ricotta pancakes.