Reach & Read: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down


, , , ,

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures – By Anne Fadiman

Remember my list of great books from my law professor? Here is another off the famed book list (see the December review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).

Anne Fadiman pens an eye opening book taking a mile deep plunge into Hmong culture, with intense focus on its intersection and collision with Western Medicine. This book should be a graduation requirement for ALL working in the health care industry. Beyond the exemplifying the Swiss Cheese model, the book highlights the immense impact culture beliefs and norms bring to definition and pursuit of health. Anne provides a very detailed desscription of Hmong culture and belief, all of which was new information for me, despite some misdrawn parallels between Hmong and Vietnamese (the hub’s story). She also provides a different view of several social issues that should be extrapolated beyond Hmong including foster care, child protective services, end of life, literacy, race, discrimination, family and immigration.

From personal experience, it is challenging to incorporate different ideas and cultures into Western Medicine, in part because of rules and regulations that make accommodation challenging if not a liability but also due to lack of scientific “rigor” around long held belief systems and practices, especially when they are so difference from our own. This book will definitely challenge your thinking and while I could wax poetic on the subject, I will spare you. Short of it: I still believe in the need and practice of evidence based medicine, in fact more scrutiny and value and less industry and money is needed, however, we as a system need to find a way to allow for some art, take time to step back and reflect if a plan/practice makes sense (example: antiseizure regimen for Hmong child) or if there is another way to achieve the same end and continue to work to meet closer to the middle with patients.

This book does have themes of handicrafts, urban farming and chickens, albeit as sacrifices, but as per usual, lead me to wonder what connection might be out there between the Hmong and bees? Well the internets do not disappoint, granted I was looking more for a legend. I came across the “Yellow Rain”. In the early 1980s, the US accused the then Soviet Union of supplying chemical warfare agents (t-2 mycotoxin) to Vietnam and Laos. Refugees from these countries, which include Hmong, reported a yellow liquid falling from the sky, presumably planes, hence yellow rain. The US purported thousands have been killed, yet the Soviets denied the allegation and the UN found it inconclusive evidence. Eventually samples made their way to some independent scientists who deduced that Yellow Rain, was in fact honeybee poop. Honeybees poop do not defecate in their hives so some of the first days they are out and about, in particular after an extended stay in the hive, they take much needed “cleansing flights”. As a result, with my bee jacket to prove it, yellow rain falls. It is plausible that a large number of bees flying overhead could generate Yellow Rain and panic, consider the effects of warfare in Laos and Vietnam at the time.

Resources to learn a little more:

There is also mention of honey and beeswax as part of the funeral ceremony, a passage describing how the deceased is leaving this world.

[…]When the columns of life crumble, my veins and vessels sever.

My flesh disintegrates, melting away like honey and bee wax;

My bones decay, becoming as fragile and brittle as the stalks of dry hemp.

In this way, the road has opened up for me to be on the way.

Her V. Hmong Cosmology: Proposed Model, Preliminary Insights. Hmong Studies Journal, 2005, 6: 1-25.


So what else is on this great medical law and ethics reading/viewing list?

DIY Painted Jars, Bottles & Vases


, , , , , , ,

Upcycle, repurpose and be penny wise with this simple decorating DIY. Painted jars, bottles and vases make wonderful centerpieces for weddings, parties or everyday viewing pleasure. By painting on the inside, you get the illusion of colored glass, smooth to the touch and results in cleaner look. Rest assured that this is not a complicated craft but it took me a very long time finish due to several “craft-astrophies” along the way. I am confident the next time I make a set of painted glass jars, it will be a breeze. Apologies upfront that this is a long post but I feel it is my blog-ly duty to share the fails. Here is my tutorial of how to make your own painted vessels, COMPLETE with lessons learned and thoughts on the various paint options.

Filled with a few stems of flowers, they were the perfect centerpieces for the hub’s birthday party.


  • Paint (recommend 1-Shot Lettering enamel)
  • Newspaper
  • Paper towel
  • Muffin papers
  • Plastic spoons or oral syringes
  • Disposable cups
  • Wine corks (optional, great for bottles)
  • Toothpicks, cotton swaps
  • Towels that you can toss when done
  • Acetone
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper plates
  • Assorted glass vessels: jars, vases, soda bottles, mason jars


  • Prepare the vases by removing the labels, washing inside and out and rinsing with rubbing alcohol. Let them dry fully before applying any paint. This might be good to the night before to decrease temptation.
  • To remove labels, I submerge in hot water, soak and then rub the label off, sometimes using cooking oil on paper towel. The labels on the soda bottles peeled right off and rubbing with oil removed the glue. BE CAREFUL! Glass + oil = slippery … but your hands will be soft.
  • TIP: Pour rubbing alcohol into the first clean bottle, swirl around and then dump into the next one. CONFESSION – I used the dishwasher as a drying rack; a tad Asian-momish. My MIL has an extensive collection of plastic dishware stored permanently in her working dishwasher.
  • TIP: I used soda bottles (Fever Tree, Jones and Fentimans, if curious), a few Mason canning jars, other random glass around the house (the rice wine vinegar bottle is my favorite) and rounded it all out with some inexpensive vases from Value Village. Don’t be afraid to scrounge in your recycle bin – the hubs had some friends over a few nights before I started for Moscow Mules but “forgot” to save me the bottles. I fished them out.
  • Cover your work space with several layers of paper and set up for painting.

  • Start painting! Pour, spoon or drizzle in some paint and then start swirling, tilting, turning and inverting the bottle to coat the inside with paint. The wine cork is handy when inverting the bottles. If pouring the paint, spoon the paint out of the can into the cup and then pour. You will have to invert, swirl etc. several times. I rested some of the bottles propped upside down in an empty cup and started applying paint to the others. Here is where having an oral medication syringe would have been helpful. Why I didn’t buy some at work? I don’t know…

  • TIP: Do not rush and put a ton in. I started with about 3 spoonfuls. The less you use, the longer (and more patience) it will take to cover the inside but if you use a lot you need to leave them upside down to drain and dry. Out of the small 1-Shot cans, I was able to paint at least twenty pieces, probably more like thirty, as some were done twice (see below) and a few others just bombed (see below).
  • After the inside is completely coated, invert the bottle to start draining out the excess. You could use a cup for each of these but I used a muffin paper per bottle. I was then able to pour excess paint back into can/cup. Let this drain for a while (?30 minutes). When you go to lift it up be ready, more paint will come out. Switch out the muffin paper and invert it again. You do not have to wait as long this time.
  • Invert the bottle again this time though it needs to be elevated so that the paint can drain completely out of the bottle. I set mine up on tooth picks on newspaper. Leave the bottles alone. After a while, you can move them to a clean spot on the newspaper to check if paint is still draining out. Do not knock over causing a domino show – not that I would know.

  • After most of the paint has drained out or you have grown weary of waiting, go ahead right the bottles, clean off paint on the outside and rim (or leave the rim painted) and let them dry. This will need to be at least overnight. I suggest drying them outside.

  • TIP: If you google hard enough you will come across some 1-Shot recommendations to speed dry by placing in a 150 oven (page 33/37), DO. NOT. DO. THIS. I tried, granted my oven’s lowest setting was 160F, but I propped the door open! A few dried but the rest it was like the paint evaporated, gone, vamoosed and left me with something spooky. So, basically, I repainted them repeating step 3-5, at midnight.

  • TIP: The can will mention that it dries to touch pretty quick. I did not find this to be remotely true for this project, due to application technique and lack of air flow inside the bottle.
  • Once good and dry they should hold water for quite some time. My paint held up and I know for a fact not all of them were 100% dry in time for the party, since it took me eighty nine times longer to complete this project..
  • Decorate to your heart’s desire, or leave them plain, maybe in clusters. For the birthday party, I used some honey bee ribbon, various stamps and tags, bakers twine and ribbon scraps.

Paint Selection for DIY Vases

  • I tried four different kinds of paint. I am not endorsing over the other, just telling you my experience. Of note: I couldn’t located the enamel Martha Stewart line but I would hypothesize it would perform the same as the Folk brand, in terms of thickness, based on feedback from others.

  • The Folk Art enamel line was thick and hard to cover the inside of the bottle without using a ton, meaning you could only paint a couple jars and had to wait a very long time for it to drain out the excess. Despite the pretty colors, I would only use this for onesie, twosie projects or using a brush. I also tried thinning it out with enamel paint thinner. Yes, it made it thin but dried really weird when I tried popping into the low heat oven (I swear it recommended the heat drying as an option) after air drying overnight.

  • Pebeo Vitrea Glass Paint (at art supply stores) comes in a nice variety of colors. The jars are small but paint is a little thinner than Folk Art, so it was a little easier to apply but still really slow to cover and drain out the excess. It also pooled in the base of the bottle, even after being upside down over night. This paint is supposed to be heat set (not me just being impatient) but came out streaky, not opaque and with surprise bare spots. I think this paint would be best for painting, faux stained glass versus covering a larger surface.

  • My recommendation for this project is clearly the 1-Shot Lettering Enamel. It might seem more spendy up front than Folk Art and you will not find it at Michael’s or JoAnns (try Amazon or art supply stores) but it will apply like a dream, cover several times more of the surface area and leave you with an even layer of color. You could probably blend colors if need be (e.g. add white etc). Do not dry in the oven, drying outdoors on a warm day but not in super hot or direct sun worked great.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comment section!

Conclusion: not all stories have a happy ending, but don’t worry this isn’t one of those… only bummer is we were having too much fun at the actually birthday celebration to get good photographs of the centerpieces in action. Just this one lame shot that required cropping and zooming….. oh well! We had a blast!


Other tutorials – because there is always more than one way….

Plum Dandy Fruit Leather


, , , , , ,

Fruit leather (or “fruit roll-ups”) make a great snack for full-size and tiny humans. Inspired by an abundance of frozen plums from backyard, impending bumper crop and recent success with a strawberry fruit leather, I created a batch of plum fruit leather with honey and plums. I know exactly what did and did not go into this snack. Very little work all the way around, except the honey bees. Our plum tree is several decades old and therefore little to no effort and I am a devotee to the lazy beekeeping method. To jazz it up a bit, I incorporated candied ginger into half of the batch. All in all a very easy recipe!

Plum Dandy Fruit Leather

  • 3 – 4 cups chopped, pitted plums
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 heaping tablespoons honey (add more if you want them sweeter)
  • ½ cup chopped candied ginger, fresh would work too, but use less *OPTIONAL

Heat plums and water over medium low until soften and starting to simmer. Blend up a bit using an immersion blender or potato masher, just to get it to start liquefying more. Add honey and continue to simmer, mash/blend until it is the consistency of apple sauce. Now blend it up really well. It would be a-ok to use a regular blender as well, just transfer back and forth. If it seems too thick add more water, a tablespoon at a time. You do not want to add too much or it will take longer to dehydrate but you need it to be spreadable into a thin layer.

Prepare your jelly roll pan with parchment paper and pour in plum sauce, smoothing it out into a thin even layer. Pop into the oven at 175 F for about 2-3 hours depending on your oven. Goal is to dry it till its tacky. I use the convection option on my oven, which I think speeds it along. Caution to not over dry or it will be brittle and crack.

When done, remove the pan and slide the parchment paper with fruit leather onto a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature, 10-20 minutes. Trim off the extra paper on the side, but do not unwrap. Roll the sheet up and then cut with a knife or scissors into 1-2 inch sections. I taped them with washi tape to keep together and differentiate the plum-ginger version. Store in an airtight container or refrigerator, if it lasts that long. I think I might also trying cutting with cookie cutters for a playful snack and definitely will be trialing this with other fruits. Based on my back yard, there will be an Asian Pear version later this summer. Yikes!

Other Fruit Leather Versions: Original 50 Mile Strawberry Fruit Leather

Other Plum Recipes:

Peking Duck Pizza: Fresh, Savory & Simple


, , , , , , , , , ,

We have started a new tradition at our home – #pizzanight (I like throwing a # in for em-phas-is). The goal is to use up food in the fridge or pantry when possible. To keep it more “dynamic”, we use premade frozen dough from either Essential Bakery or Whole foods, although pizza dough is super easy (here is another leftover upcycled pizza with dough recipe). The most recent pizza idea was inspired by the jars full of homemade savory plum sauce and another looming backyard bumper plum crop this year. We also drive past a Chinese BBQ place every. day. and smell those delicious roast ducks….. I did think my idea was original, until I googled it only to a slight bit of dissatisfaction found that California Pizza Kitchen beat me to it (but hey! I have only ate there maybe once). There was a small amount of “discussion” that stinky cheese could go on this pizza with the hubs…. “but there is nooo cheeeeeese on Peking Duck at the restaurant”, ” I know, this is an interpretation”, “I am putting it on anyways and you can pick it off”. [Cheese was perfect btw and Chairman Mao did not rise from the dead.] Ignoring all that, here is our version of Peking Duck Pizza.


  • Pizza Dough (buy or make) or premade naan or other flatbreads
  • ½ to ¼ roast duck – could use left overs or take out or even a nice BBQ or rotisserie chicken
  • ½ cup of savory plum sauce
  • 2 – 3 green onions, cut into 2 inch “matchsticks”
  • Approx.. 1 cup loose Thai basil leaves, whole (regular basicl is a-okay)
  • ½ cup crumbled or shredded nice pungent cheese: Seastack, blue, gorganzola etc
  • OR mozarrella or brie cheese would be great too.
  • Extras: cup of arugula leaves, crispy duck skin, zucchini, mushrooms (all sorts – shitake, portabella etc)


Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove the meat from the bones and shred into reasonable pieces, bite size but not to small. Prepare the pizza crust. I roll and pull mine out as thin as I can on a piece of parchment paper. It is always a strange shape, this time it looked like Ohio. Cover with sauce, add duck and cheese (add mushrooms and zucchini at this step). We first baked the pizza with the greens on it but then added more on fresh when done. Just do it at the end. Bake at 450 for about 10-12 minute until crust is golden brown. We like to finish for a minute or two under the broiler to get some char (it’s a thing with us). Remove pizza from oven, add the fresh toppings like basil and green onion, drizzle with a quality olive oil (if you want) and enjoy! We did an extra step and took the duck skin and pan fried (no oil needed) separately to make it crispy and then sprinkled it on top. A Sinful treat… not as good the second day, as it wasn’t crispy. But the left over pizza was great! You could also add cooked and crispy bacon crumbles.


Share some of your pizza ideas!

Savory Plum Sauce: Canning Recipe


, , , , , , , , , ,

This is simple yet versatile savory plum canning recipe from The Complete Book of Home Preserving. Makes a great sauce or marinade for a variety of foods. We love it on meat! Think chicken, duck or pork. Delish.

Ingredients: Makes about 4 pints, suggest canning or freezing in 8 oz portions

  • 2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion (I’ve used yellow, white and purple)
  • 2 tablespoons canned chopped green chilies (you could do fresh too!)
  • 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 10 cups chopped and pitted plums


  • Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the plums in a large pot/pan over high heat. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add the plums, return to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring every once and while. Goal is a thick but still fluid sauce.
  • Prepare your jars and lids as you would for other hot water bath canning recipes. Fill the jars leaving ½ inch of head space and process for 20 minutes. If you have never canned using hot water method, be sure to go learn about it. I do not regurgitate all the really important steps (air bubbles, prep, safety) – do your research. J Here is a great site for more details.

How can you use this tasty plum sauce?

  • Chicken marinade (see below)
  • Peking Roast Duck Pizza (coming soon)
  • Duck Banh Trang (J) Sauce
  • Pork loin or chop marinade or sauce

Chicken Drumsticks with Spicy Plum Sauce

A simple recipe using the bounty of your back yard plum tree. Adjust the spicy to your liking. Enjoy! The best part is the char…. You could do them on a grill or in the oven. Enough for 6 drumsticks, drummettes (plus/minus wing) or 2 full legs. We love the drumsticks and leave the skin on! More meat, still some skin and finger friendly. But you could really use any cut of chicken.


  • ½ cup of savory plum sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (you can omit and just dip it in Sriracha or other favorite hot sauce when eating) – adjust accordingly!!!
  • If you don’t have a hot sauce, use some red pepper flakes (1 tablespoon) and canola oil (3 teaspoons)

Mix marinade with chicken pieces and let sit for at 30 minutes. Prepare the baking sheet by lining with foil and spraying with cooking spray or rub with oil. You will hate this recipe if you don’t line the pan. Trust me.

Roast in a preheated over at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Feel free to baste while cooking with remaining marinade, but totally not necessary. Finish under the broiler for a few minutes to get the skin crispy and charred. Warning: have napkins at the ready.

Baby Royalty Quilt Tutorial


, , , , , , , , , ,

Fit for royalty and inspired by a soon to enter the world Baby Girl King, I designed this simple but darling baby quilt featuring a sparkly crown and soft modern tones. The pattern is simple with the most challenging part being choosing your color and drawing the crown. This can easily be made with a variety of color schemes, fabric remnants and the applique accent can be modified to just about anything: nursery theme, favorite animal or name. While I state this is easy, I don’t provide you with specific instructions for some of the basics, like ironing (just do it, don’t get weird of which direction), applique, quilting the sandwich and binding. There are some really great tutes out there that cover these steps.


1. Think about your color scheme and how much fabric you have available. I had five fabrics, most ¼ or ½ yard cuts with the most out of the concentric circle pattern. In the photo above you can see a key at the bottom for how many strips of each I cut and in the drawing the finished dimensions. Sew with a ¼ inch seam. Here are the pieces and blanks for you to denote your fabric choices

  • 2 ½ x 40 inch (WOF) #2 : taupe circles ____________________
  • 4 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: white with brown floral ________________
  • 2 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: pink checkers _______________________
  • 4 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: pink checkers _______________________
  • 4 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: pink checkers _______________________
  • 6 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: tan sparkles ________________________
  • 4 ½ x 12 ½ inch #2: tan sparkles ________________________
  • 4 ½ x 40 inch (WOF) #2: taupe circles ____________________
  • 12 ½ x 12 ½ inches #2 : off-white _______________________
  • 2 ½ x 40 inch (WOF) #2: solid pink ______________________
  • 4 ½ x 4 ½ inch # 3: tan sparkles ________________________
  • 4 ½ x 4 ½ inch # 4: pink checkers _______________________
  • 4 ½ x 4 ½ inch # 6: solid pink __________________________
  • 4 ½ x 4 ½ inch # 2: off-white __________________________
  • Fabric for binding. You could use up scraps in 2 ½ inch width and varying lengths or full pieces.
  • Fabric for backing: need something that is at several inches bigger all the way around than the final measure of 40 x 64 inches
  • Batting – I pieced some large remnants together using a zig zag stitch to join

photo 2 (5)

2. Assemble the 4 ½ inch squares to form two 8 ½ x 12 ½ rectangles. One for top half and one for bottom half of quilt. Sew the remaining three squares end to end to form a horizontal strip 12 x 4 ½ inches for the middle of the quilt.

photo 5 (3)

3. Working left to right: Sew a 12 ½ x 2 ½ inch strip to the 12 ½ inch square. Then sew two of the 4 ½ x 12 ½ strips to the other side of the square. Sew on the 8 ½ x 12 ½ piece and then sew another 4 ½ x 12 ½ strip and a 6 ½ x 12 ½ piece (sparkles!!)

photo 1 (4)

4. Repeat step three only this time work in reverse, from right to left, starting with a 12 ½ x 2 ½ inch strip sewn to 12 ½ inch square etc etc.

photo 3 (3)

5. For the middle three rows: sew one of the 4 ½ x 14 ½ strips on each side of the three –squares piece from step one. Now sew a 4 ½ x WOF strip (circles) to the top of this piece and the bottom. This creates the middle section that is 12 ½ x WOF.

photo 5 (2)

6. Attach the top 12 ½ inch row to the middle and then sew on the bottom. Almost done!

7. Sew on the outer strips by attaching 2 of the 2 ½ x WOF strips to the top and the bottom of the quilt top. For my quilt these were the dark solid pink (on the outside) and the taupe circles.

photo 4 (3)

8. If you like to applique on the crown or other focal object, you can do that at this step, which is easier IMHO. Or wait until you have the back and batting in place. Either way is fine.

9. Trace out your focal item onto the wrong side of some iron on interfacing. Use a pencil or ball point and remember that depending on what side you trace you might end up with a reversed (mirror image). Roughly cut out your object, iron to wrong side of fabric and then cut out precisely around the lines.

photo 2 (2)

10. Attach using the machine satin stich method. Basically a really tight and narrow zig zag or button hole stitch. I still finish the edge over the stitching with some fray check. photo 4 (2)

11. Finish your quilt! Piece the backing and make the sandwich. Quilt with your favorite method.

photo 1 (6)

12. Attach binding, again your favorite method, and Viola! You are all done….now you just need to muster of the strength to give it away. Sigh…… pictures last forever. Share pictures of your version too!

photo 2 (6)

Here are some shots. I just couldn’t get a good straight on picture, so don’t judge me….






In the Hive – Summer is Official!


, , , , , , , ,

Continuing my resolution to be a better beekeeper and bee steward, 2014 marks my fourth season of bee herding and while earning my Apprentice Badge adds a nice bit of flare, beekeeping and stewarding is more about doing than passing a test, a lot like life and career …. There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). This year I am only running one hive due to some upcoming “competing commitments”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises. The In The Hive tasks for Summer (June/July) are all about letting the girls do what they do, keep them and nearby humans safe and make some scholarly observations.

Worker Bee Tasks

  • Inspect the Hives: When inspecting on a nice warm sunny afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and the honey stores building up.
  • Watch for grasses, flowers etc growing up and blocking the entrance to the hive. Remove them (I like to do this early in the morning before they are active).
  • Take note of brood versus drone cells. Drone cells look like pencil erasers. You do not want a bunch of loafing drones. You need strong female workers to forage and raise brood. You might need replace your queen (or let the hive do it for you) if it looks like she is only laying drones.
  • Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!

Queen Bee Ideas

  • Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size pick up in spring and by now your hives should be pretty busy. Swarming is still a risk but perhaps a little less than springtime. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
  • Do not panic if you see lots of bees covering the outside of the hive. They are probably just hot and helping to regulate the hive temperature.
  • Know what nectars and pollens are available: Not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out – remember Junuary, although for sure there is a much greater variety of flowers and plants this time of year. My lavender is in full swing but just like the past years, the honeybees do not frequent it, only the bumbles…. Here is what the science says about this, other than we don’t live in Provence. Sigh.
  • You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.

Drone On

  • Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. Great way to stay on top of the bee season.
  • Busy time of year for beeks!

Pollinator Champion

  • Make a simple Bee Waterer: just place some marbles in a dish and fill with water (picture below). The bees will be able to land on the marbles and drink, without drowning. You can use rocks and sticks as well.
  • I hope you celebrated National Pollinator Week! It is never too late and I try to celebrate them every week. If you are even the tiniest bit politically inclined there are several government actions recently set in motion to save the pollinators. Learn about them, maybe sign in support.
  • Enjoy this quick video of a honey bee emerging from its cell.

 Remember that while the Summer Solstice is the beginning of summer it is in a way the beginning of the end of bee season……

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.

Sunshine Strawberry Oven Jam


, , , , , , , , ,

Sunshine strawberry oven jam comes to us from the Small Batch Preserving book. The “sunshine” comes in as reference to the throwback process of placing the cooked berries out in the sun for several days to evaporate the liquid and thicken up the jam. I can only imagine the bugs, primarily bees in my yard, that would be highly interested in supervising the process. Good thing you can use the oven instead, with convection as a bonus option. Feel free to use lemon juice or balsamic vinegar in the recipe. However, the balsamic brightens up the flavor (perhaps the new “sunshine”?) but is not overpowering in this recipe’s ratio. I was able to make this 100% organic – look for quality berries, organic cane sugar and I even found some certified organic vinegar.


  • 8 cups of halved or quartered (if larger) strawberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (get a good one) or lemon juice.


  • Combine berries and sugar in a large sauce or preserving pan. Let them sit and mingle (aka macerate) for 2 hours. Wander by and stir it every so often.
  • Add vinegar and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and boil gently for about 10 minutes, stirring.
  • Pour into two 13×9 or jelly roll pans and place in oven at 170 F. If you can go lower in temperature, do it! I lined my pans with parchment paper for easier clean up. Bake until the mixture thickens up and forms a gel (use your standard preserving tests). This will take about 10 hours with a regular oven and 3-4 hours with convection. Do not try to cram it all in one pan…… trust me. Stir every so often.
  • Ladle into prepared glass jars ( ½ inch headspace, hot, sterilized, ready to go) and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. You could also freeze or eat it all in one sitting.
  • Makes about 4 cups. I left my berries in larger pieces and did not crush or blend them up. The berries will break down and spread, despite being whole. I also found that as I filled the jars, I wanted to put more fruit in and less liquid…. So I did. I reserved the remaining liquid and am using it as syrup.
  • You can add fresh herbs to the jars before processing. Mint, basil or thyme would be delightful.

Serve on a spoon, yogurt, ice cream, bread or cheesecake.

Other Strawberry Recipes:

50 Mile Pure Berry Leather Recipe


, , , , , , , , , , ,

No, this recipe does not turn a quart of berries into 264,000 feet of fruit leather. And yes, it is just fine if your fruit leather is not uber local, I just put in a little extra effort, by picking the organic strawberries and harvesting the honey from my backyard. Actually, the challenge and truth of 100 mile or 50 mile cooking is valiant, yet sobering for sure, and something everyone should try. This wholesome DIY “rollup of fruit” recipe is easy with no funky additives, three ingredients: fruit, honey and water. If you do not have honey handy, sugar would work just fine.

Pure Berry Roll-Ups (adapted from S. Vinton’s Put Em Up)


  • 4 – 5 cups berries, any kind or combination, washed and dried
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ honey or sugar


  • Combine berries and water in large sauce or fry pan and bring to a boil. If using strawberries, you will need to hull them. Here is my simple method.
  • Turn down the heat and simmer until the berries start break down. This does not take too long, maybe 5-10 minutes, they are berry delicate.
  • Puree, mash, blend or strain the fruit if you like. This will remove seeds etc. I didn’t do anything extra, just left it a bit “rustic”.
  • Simmer the berry slurry until it thickens up to honey-like consistency.
  • Meanwhile, heat your oven to 170 F. If you have a convection oven, feel free to use it. This will speed up the process a bit. This would work in a toaster oven as well, albeit the batch would have to be smaller. Of course, this will work in a food dehydrator. I am trying to avoid accumulating one, however.
  • Pour the berry slurry into a jelly pan lined with parchment paper (go well up and over the sides) and spread evenly.
  • Place pan in the oven and dry for about two hours until tacky to the touch. Do not over dry or the leather will be brittle.
  • When done, remove the pan and slide the parchment paper with fruit leather onto a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature, 10-20 minutes.
  • Trim off the extra paper on the side, but do not unwrap. Roll the sheet up and then cut with a knife or scissors into 1-2 inch sections.
  • Store in an airtight container or refrigerator, if it lasts that long. I think I might also trying cutting with cookie cutters for a playful snack and definitely will be trialing this with other fruits.

Other Strawberry Recipes:

Other Fruit Leather Recipes:


Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberry Sauce


, , , , , , , ,

Once you try the pairing of balsamic vinegar and strawberry, your life may never be the same. Strawberry Balsamic sauce is simple and versatile. The best part (other than flay-vore) is that at the end of the recipe you actually end up with two products: the chunky fruit sauce and the strained strawberry vinegar. The fruit sauce is amazing on cheesecake, ice cream, biscuits or with a nice cheese. Feel free to dribble dabble the strawberry vinegar as a salad dressing or as an addition to a fine olive oil for dipping, among many sweet and savory applications.

Balsamic Strawberry Sauce


  • 4 – 5 cups hulled and halved (unless small) strawberries
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar (don’t go cheap)
  • ½ – 1 cup honey (or sugar if you like)


  • Combine the balsamic vinegar and half of the honey in a sauce pan.
  • Heat to a boil then simmer until reduced by about 25%. This might take 10 minutes or so. Stir periodically.
  • Add in the berries and simmer again for 30-60 minutes. This will help the berries break down and more of the vinegar tang dissipate.
  • Near the end, taste your sauce and if you want sweeter, add more honey. Stir to combine.
  • After nice and simmered and thickened up a bit, you could mash the berries with a potato masher, if you want. Or just leave whole – they are probably falling apart by now anyways
  • Pour the sauce through a sieve/fine wire colander with a bowl underneath to catch most of the liquid. Let it sit and drain for a bit.
  • Once the sauce has drained, it is ready to serve. If for some odd reason, any remains, you can store in refrigerator or freeze for a future date. You could also process in a hot water bath and preserve it for the long haul (~ 10 minutes, following good canning practices)
  • Pour the remaining strawberry vinegar into a jar. This can be stored in the fridge. I put half away in the freezer.

Makes about 2 cups of sauce and 1 cup of vinegar

Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberry Sauce

Amazingly good, not complicated and well worth the from scratch effort. Besides a homemade cheesecake really is the most respectful thing you can do for the strawberry sauce after all. Thank you to Tyler Florence and the Food Network. Here is the link to their recipe. No sense in me repeating this one…. I made it as directed, save for the sauce. The cinnamon in the crust is a must and be sure to choose a good full fat cream cheese and sour cream – none of that fake low fat business. Mine turned out a bit yellow, because my hen’s eggs have such vibrant yolks.


Other Strawberry Recipes:



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers