What are some of the best things about summer? Sure you have sunbathing at the beaches, cookouts, swimming in pools, 4th of July, ice coffee, driving with the windows down, wearing shorts, sunflowers, gardens, jet ski’s camping and the list can go on. But sometimes it is the smallest of things that make summer the most fun.
This time of year the best fruits and vegetables are in full bloom and what better way to enjoy them than to grow them yourself or go out to the farm and pick them with your family. That’s when I get the phone call from my daughter and asks if I want to go strawberry picking with her and my cutie pie granddaughter on this beautiful summer day.
I can feel the hot blazing sun on my shoulders as I walk down the row carefully trying not to step on any berries. I bend down and a bead of sweat rolls down the side of my cheat and slowly drips and hits a bright green leaf below as I say out loud, oh look I found a perfect one. Then I hear a little voice behind me saying, “nana, nana berry”. I turn and my 19 month old granddaughter holds up her hand to me with a bright red strawberry in it, smiles and drops it in my basket. I say aww thank you and she turns to run back to her mother to pick some more. She picks up her basket that is as big as her with a few berries rolling around on the bottom and struggles carrying it a few feet down the row, drops it and bends down to pluck another strawberry. But, this time she wanted to make sure this one was good by taking a bite then decides it was ok and drops it in her basket.
After picking the biggest, reddest and the most delicious looking berries we could find, our baskets are quite full and my granddaughter can no longer carry her basket which is almost full of juicy strawberries as her mother follows her behind holding it. We say to her, ok let’s go, time to leave, come hold Nana’s hand. She reaches up with her red sticky fingers and grabs my hand. We slowly walk down the row heading towards the white and red canopy where young workers are cashing out everyone’s strawberries. But, of course we stop to pick a few more strawberries along the way. I hand my basket to the young boy behind the register to be weighed. I glanced over at the home made jellies and jams in mason jars for sale then hand him my money.
We get in the hot car, roll down the windows, take a drink of water and head home. I glance back at and my grandbaby with her binky in her mouth, head leaning against the side of her car seat her hair damp from sweat and a little strawberry juice on her shirt as she has fallen asleep before we even left the parking lot. These are the little things (which are many), the precious moments that make my summer great. The moments that make you forget everything bad in the world. For instance, riding bikes with my husband on a warm day, playing hooky from work to hand out with friends on the beach or watching my granddaughter’s smile on her face like picking a strawberry is the greatest thing on earth. Well to her it is!
Now that I have million fresh strawberries what am I going to do with them all? Well my husband and I could just sit there and eat them all but, that is a lot of strawberries at one time or I could bake something. I finally decided to make these delicious sweet strawberry jam bars with chocolate chips because everything goes with chocolate especially strawberries. They are sweet and made with healthy ingredients that can be enjoyed as a breakfast bar or a anytime snack bar. Even after making these bars there are still plenty of strawberries left. I will freeze some of them and simply enjoy the rest of them all on their own.
Sweet Strawberry Bars
½ cup pitted dates soaked
2 cups strawberries cut in pieces (can use frozen strawberries)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup old fashioned oats (plus 2 tbsp. extra)
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup mashed over ripe banana (about 2 medium)
¼ cup maple syrup
½ - ¾ cup chocolate chips
For the Jam: