Camping Recipes – Campfire Nachos

campfire nachosOne thing about exploring new camping recipes this summer is that it has definitely expanded my horizons and opened up my thinking; as well as adding more variety to our camping menu! For instance I had never thought of making nachos while camping. It just never entered my mind. And really the question is why couldn’t you?

Campfire nachos adds great variety to the camping menu and is almost a treat. It is also a quick easy, healthy, and well balanced recipe (ok except maybe the chips), but it’s another one of those quick ‘one pot’ deals that I love while camping.

campfire nachosWe made it on one of those lazy and enjoyable camping days where we had floated down the river in the morning and were just hanging around the campsite in the afternoon. I had precooked the ground turkey that afternoon, knowing that we were having the nachos for supper and saving me that step when it came time to actually put them together.

Matthew made the fire as usual and I prepped dinner. The thing that I like about this recipe for campfire nachos is that you do not need a bed of coals to cook it. Simply a good fire and cook on top of the grill. It also does not take very long as you are literally heating through and melting the cheese. Saves your hungry campers drooling over it and constantly asking when it is ready!

I did mine in two batches due to the size of our grill, but I would recommend doing it in two batches regardless. Doing it this way makes it easier to move on and off the grill without spilling it and carrying it to the table.

Everyone gobbled it up of course and asked for seconds. The beauty of nachos as well is you can really put any ingredients you like on them. I’ve even heard of people putting on fruit or pickles! Whatever ingredients you choose you know they are going to be delicious.

Campfire Nachos

1 lb. ground turkey meat (may also use chicken, beef, pork)

1 – 500 g bag tortilla chipscampfire nachos

2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 pepper, chopped (choose your color green, red, yellow, orange or a mix)

green onion, chopped

1 pkg. Daiya cheddar cheese shreds

Earth Balance Vegan Spread for lightly greasing foil

1 container Earth Island Vegan sour cream for topping

heavy duty aluminum foil

Brown meat in a frying pan either on camping stove or over the fire (this step can be done in advance and stored earlier in the day if you wish).

Chop tomatoes, peppers, green onion and set aside. Tear off 2 large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil (approx 22 x 12 inches) and place shiny side down on table. Lightly grease both pieces of foil with Earth Balance.

Make two batches by doing the same for each or you can make two different kinds if you like.

campfire nachosPlace tortilla chips in a single layer on top of the foil, then sprinkle turkey, tomatoes and pepper evenly over chips. Sprinkle cheese and then green onions on top.

With a second piece of foil place shiny side in, lightly over top of nachos, tenting it so that it does not rest on top and stick to your toppings. The second piece of foil helps the cheese to melt faster and prevents any pieces of ash that may spark up from getting into your nachos. Place prepared nachos on top of grill on fire and cook, approximately 10-15 minutes. Check nachos periodically to make sure they do not burn. They may also be ready sooner depending on the heat of your fire.

Once done – heated through and cheese melted, remove from grill of fire using oven mitts and serve with sour cream. Enjoy!

Serves 4 

campfire nachos*a quick tip to help you transfer the nachos from table to fire is to use a wooden cutting board. I just slid them onto the board and took them over to the fire, then gently slid the nachos onto the grill. I did the same when taking them off, aligning the cutting board with the grill and then sliding them off using oven mitts onto the board. I recommend a wooden board because you can get it close to the fire even top the side of the grill without melting or damaging it.

Missed out on our other camping recipes this summer? Check out Campfire Lasagna, Potato Boats, Campfire Corn on the Cob, Cinnamon Apples, Banana Boats, and Pineapple Upsidedown Cake.

Camping Desserts – Campfire Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

campfire pineapple upsidedown cake

When I found this recipe for campfire pineapple upsidedown cake I was in heaven! Growing up pineapple upsidedown cake was always a treat in our house, my Oma being famous for making it.

My Dad absolutely loved it and every time my Oma came to visit she would make one for him (that and crumb cake, also delicious). So when I discovered this recipe we could make over the fire I knew that we had to try it. Plus I was excited to find a new camping dessert recipe, cause though I love banana boats and cinnamon apples I also like variety on the menu.

campfire pineapple upsidedown cakeWe made this recipe on our first camping trip this year on July long weekend. We actually made it in the afternoon on one of our days away, before we had supper. One of the things I find when camping is that because there is no schedule meals often run later than usual. Often we are not finishing supper til 7 or 8 and by that point not only am I full but I don’t feel like creating more food. So we decided – in the words of my father – that we would ‘eat dessert first’. Then worry about supper later.

I had made the pound cake at home and brought it with us which was easy enough to do. You can also buy a pound cake if you prefer but I needed a sugar free version. Plus honestly, regardless of if I was looking for sugar free or not, I usually bake cake from scratch no matter what it is. I am not one to buy cake from the store in general.

I had also experimented with the pound cake recipe using honey for the first time as the sweetener. Oh my it turned out well. Nice and moist. Yum! We had a hard time not eating just the cake before we made the rest of our dessert.

The recipe for campfire pineapple upsidedown cake is simple – pound cake, pineapple, coconut sugar (great natural alternative to brown sugar), Earth Balance and cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Baked in foil over the fire until the sugar melts and you get that nice googey syrupy liquid. You do need to be careful not to over cook it as it can burn, especially if you are doing it over the grate on the fire. Alternatively, you could burn your fire down to coals and bake it, but that would take longer!

Campfire Pineapple Upsidedown Cake (sugar free & dairy free)

pound cake, cut into chunks *recipe for pound cake belowcampfire pineapple upsidedown cake

fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg

coconut sugar

coconut cream for topping

1 healthy spoonful of Earth Balance Vegan Spread, plus a little bit to grease your foil so the dessert doesn’t stick

heavy duty tinfoil

Tear off piece of heavy duty tinfoil (about 12×12″) and place on table (or flat surface). Use a small amount of Earth Balance and spread evenly over the foil. Slice and cut pineapple and place on foil. Slice pound cake and cut into squares about 1 inch thick and place on top of pineapple. Put a healthy spoonful of both Earth Balance and coconut sugar over pineapple and cake, sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

campfire pineapple upsidedown cakeClose up the foil by brining two ends together and folding over then rolling down til tight. Then fold over and roll on each end. This creates a nice tight packet that keeps everything in and is easy to open when done.

Place foil packet on the grill over fire. (Also works well by putting into coals of fire, but no flame or BBQ). Cook for about 5 minutes and then check it (takes a little longer on the BBQ). It is ready when the butter and brown sugar have melted and formed that yummy syrupy liquid over pineapple cake mixture. Put a dollop of coconut cream on top if desired. Enjoy! It will be hot so be careful.

We loved these. Everyone inhaled theirs and then wanted more. And I loved how simple it was. The kids could make and put together their own (so making it as little or as big as they wanted) and it didn’t take long to cook as you are basically just melting the Earth Balance and coconut sugar. Then voila! it is ready at any time of day, whether you choose to have it before supper or not.

This is the recipe for the pound cake I made. It was also quick and easy and I really liked using honey as the sweetener. Make sure you sift the flour as though it takes a few extra minutes to do so, it makes the cake lighter and fluffier.

Honey Pound Cake

1 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

1 1/2 c. flour, siftedcampfire pineapple upsidedown cake

1 c. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Lightly grease a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl beat Earth Balance and honey together until light and fluffy.

Add vanilla and then gradually add eggs, beating well. With mixer on low, add salt and the flour. Beat well to combine.

Transfer batter into loaf pan and bake at 350F for about 65 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let pan cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing.

Cake may be stored in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 weeks.


Camping Recipes – Potato Boats

potato boats

On my hunt for new camping recipes I discovered this neat recipe for potato boats (which honestly is a glorified baked potato but it’s still fun). I really liked the idea of the variety it offered and also found it similar to TFD’s (tin foil dinners, another favorite camping recipe in our family).

We tried it out potato boats this past week when we were camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park for my oldest son’s birthday (He’s 13 now a real teenager in my home – yikes:). It’s a beautiful park in a part of the Badlands with magnificient hoodoos along the Milk River. This park is also a sacred landscape that contains the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America.

I thought Matthew would really like this recipe and since it was his birthday I let him choose what he wanted to have for supper. When I offered potato boats his eyes lit up and he practically salivated all over me. He even got the fire going so that I could get them started.

They turned out really well and all the kids loved them, Matthew practically inhaling his. They were a little too big though for the twins, in the future I would make one potato and give them each half. I also found it a bit too much for me as the portion was just too large.

potato boatsThe other downside with this recipe is that you have to bake the potatoes first and pre-cook your bacon. Then slice them put in the cheese, bacon, ham, etc. and then heat. For me, this was too many steps for a camping dinner and took too long. When I am camping I like recipes that are hearty, filling and delicious, but that are also quick and easy. The fact that I had to cook the potatoes and the bacon first and then put them together and cook some more wasn’t really appealing to me. But I made them anyway to see how they would turn out. And as I said they were delicious. I can see this recipe being one that would work well at home over the BBQ.

When we were camping, we did them over the fire, which I love because there are less dishes! but the flipside is it did take a little more time. First you have to build your fire and let it burn down to nice hot coals. You do not want flame as this will burn your potatoes. This can take at least an hour or more to get the coals you need, and then at least an hour to bake your potato – great if you’re kicking around the campsite.

Potato Boats

(amounts are based on one potato per person and is dairy free – may choose to serve half depending on appetite and age)

1 baking potatopotato boats

1-2 slices of bacon, cooked

1-2 sliced ham

1 Daiya cheese slice

green onion, chopped for topping

Earth Island’s non-dairy sour cream

Wash and prep potatoes for baking. Poke holes with fork all over potato and wrap in single layer of heavy duty foil. Bake potatoes in hot coals of campfire, approx 1 hour, turning once. When potatoes are soft, remove from fire and open foil. Cut 4 slices along the potato, do not cut all the way through to bottom. In each sliced section put in cheese, bacon and ham. Rewrap in foil and place back on coals for about 10 minutes.

potato boatsRemove from coals once cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and green onions on top.

In making these and deciding there were too many steps for me making while camping, I came up with a couple of things that could make this dinner easier and a little bit faster if you don’t want to spend two hours making dinner.

If you were having this meal for your first night you could bake the potatoes and cook the bacon at home then simply stuff them and reheat them on the coals of the fire. You would still need to build your fire and get it to coals but then the actual cooking time would be cut almost in half as it would only take about 20 minutes on good coals to heat through.

It is definitely a hearty delicious meal and you could certainly change up what you ‘stuff’ into the slices. I had planned to serve grilled veggies with it but just ended up serving them raw in the end. You could also serve with a side of fruit if desired.

potato boats

Try it out and share your thoughts in the comments below? Did you stuff it with something else? How did you enjoy it?


Camping Recipes – Campfire Lasagna

camping recipesI love camping! There’s just something about packing up your stuff and living with only what you’ve got for a while (either all packed into the car or the camper). It often makes me wonder why we have so much stuff in our houses when we can live happily with so little when camping? I love being outside all the time, not concerned about dishes or cooking as I’m outside; and the kids love it to to. We never run out of things to do, places to see or explore.

Camping is very freeing. Though there’s still a rough routine I find there’s no strict timelines, the kids play or ride their bikes, go to the playground or we happily all sit around the campfire watching the flames spark and pop and adding our wood as needed. Everyone’s always engaged in something, even if we are just sitting there.

camping recipesOne thing I have found with camping is that the food always tastes good. Maybe it’s just our ravenous appetites from being outside and active all day but whatever’s on the menu always tastes delicious. That being said we have our favorite camping recipes that we tend to make on a regular basis as I find that they are not only quick but satisfying (and usually contain a lot of meat – though we are not big meat eaters at home). This season though I was feeling that we were having a lot of the same old and though I enjoy our meals when we’re camping, I was looking to add a little variety and eager to try out some new recipes. What else we could create enjoy and add to the favorites (creating a little more variety in the menu)?

So as usual I went searching and found some great recipes which I am going to feature here over the next few weeks. From campfire dinners to desserts, there are some great things to choose from.camping recipes

The first one I found happened to be a recipe I’d had for years in a recipe book from my mother, but had never actually made, in fact I don’t know if she has ever made it. I loved that it was a one pot deal, throwing everything in the pot and just waiting for it to cook. This was the essence of easy and I hoped taste.

We tried it out earlier this summer when we went on our camping trip to Vegreville to see the Giant Ukrainian Easter Egg – which is definitely a site to see and worth the stop, if you are ever in Northern Alberta. And it was quite delicious! It was a great mix of flavors and a nice variety in a pasta dish, as opposed to the regular spaghetti and tomato sauce we typically had (not that there’s anything wrong with spaghetti!) This offered something yummy and different and got our ‘meat requirement’ in. Ha ha

This recipe can be made on the stove or over the fire and is literally ready in 30 minutes!

Campfire Lasagna

1 lb. ground chicken (or turkey or beef)camping recipes

1 tsp. oregano

2 c. spiral macaroni (we use brown rice pasta, gluten free)

1 pkg. onion soup mix *

1 – 796 ml can tomatoes

2 c. water

1/3 c. non-dairy parmesan cheese

1 c. Daiya mozzarella

In a large pot, brown meat. Add onion soup mix, oregano, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil and stir in macaroni. Cook uncovered, until macaroni is tender. Stir in parmesan cheese and mozzarella.

I often make my own spice mixes as well as I like to avoid the MSG and other preservatives they put into the pre-mixed ones in the store, so I did create my own ‘onion soup mix’ which turned out to be quite flavorful and definitely did the trick for the desired taste.

*Homemade Onion Soup Mixcamping recipes

2 1/2 tbsp. dried minced onion

1 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. homemade chicken boullion mix (or beef boullion if prefered)

Mix all spices together.

This recipe was such a hit that Luke asked for the leftovers the next day for lunch. That’s a really good sign.

Do you have a favorite dinner camping recipe? Share it in the comments below so we can try it out.

A Little Indulgence – Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icingI have a secret to share with you. It’s one of those don’t tell my kids or I’ll never live it down kind of secrets. I have a bit of an addiction. You know that chocolate icing that I made to ice the cupcakes? Yeah there was some leftover…there’s not anymore…

When I found this recipe for dairy free sugar free chocolate icing I was in heaven. It’s super simple to make and totally delicious! One would never know that it was anything near the sugar free area, let alone no dairy. It is creamy, smooth and definitely chocolatey! It is so good I sometimes eat it with a spoon. Hence, why there are no longer any leftovers in my fridge. Once in a while, when I have that craving for sweet I just dip in and take a spoonful or two…ok sometimes three. I often think to myself I will just freeze the rest and then when I need icing I can just pull it out and use it without having to make a whole new batch (the recipe is quite big – even when I half it I have generous leftovers). But unless I pop it into the freezer right away, yeah, I eat it, in big heaping spoonfuls and hope that my kids don’t find out (because I don’t want them to do it to! I know hypocritical).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

This simple recipe requires only 4 ingredients and your food processor or blender. I use cacao powder for that extra superfood boost – as cacao is high in magnesium, B vitamins, protein and fiber – but you may also cocao, though not as beneficial nutritionally. And I use this icing recipe for all kinds of things, not just cakes and cupcakes. We put it on ice cream, fruit and last summer we discovered that it is a great substitute for some of those good old camping recipes, like s’mores, or the new one we discovered at Scout camp – a combination of banana, nutella (we use the chocolate icing instead), butter and toasted on a bun – yum!

So regardless what you are going to use it for, whether it be a little indulgence eating it with a spoon, cake or a camping treat, enjoy this quick easy dairy free sugar free chocolate icing guilt free.

Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icing1 cup cacao powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance vegan spread

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pure maple syrup (high in minerals such as maganese, zinc, potassium and no artificial ingredients compared to imitation syrups containing high fructose corn syrup, added and artificial ingredients, contain no minerals)

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

Use immediately or may be stored in fridge for up to one week or frozen (unless you eat it all first).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

Fabulous Baked Beans

IMG_2839Growing up I always loved a can of baked beans. They reminded me of sitting around the campfire and enjoying them usually with hot dogs. But when we changed our diet canned baked beans was another thing that had to go! 🙁 Usually made with brown sugar and molasses (molasses being the worst culprit; which is 50% sucrose and is actually a by product of making refined white sugar, with the added chemicals) I had to forgo baked beans for awhile.

In fact, I never thought that I could make my own. Funny enough I thought they come in a can so how could I? Yet one day we went for supper at my neighbors house and he had made them from scratch. Thinking nothing of it, a little while later my mother said she wanted to make baked beans for the camping trip that she and my father were taking my oldest son Matthew on. I then remembered that my neighbor had made them and kindly asked for his recipe.

eden-foods-barley-malt-24412By this time I knew enough about different natural substitutes to make the necessary changes in ingredients. Barley Malt is often substituted for molasses and we had found a ketchup, that was not only organic but sweetened with honey. It was perfect!

And of course I love using my slow cooker, putting something in in the morning and let it cook slowly all day, the sweet smells wafting through the house as it cooks. By the time they are ready to eat our mouths are watering in anticipation!

The recipe turned out beautifully and so delicious! I often make them myself when we go camping and just reheat when we get there. I even make them at home from time to time and they are always gobbled up! I have a friend who I introduced them to, who now says that he will never be able to go back to the canned ones. Which I guess is good and bad 🙂

True, this is not a recipe that you can whip up in 30 minutes, but it is totally worth the time it takes to make them. And really it only takes a little prep and preplanning.

IMG_2836Now the original recipe calls for only 1/3 pkg. of bacon but I use the whole thing. In fact I buy the cheapest and fattiest brand I can find, which is probably why mine are better than my Mum’s even though we are using the exact same recipe! (sorry Mum)

So whether you are looking for something around the campfire or warm comfort food at home these beans will not disappoint! Once you’ve tried this recipe please return and share your comments about how they turned out.

Baked Beans

2 cups red kidney beans (soaked overnight)

1 pkg. bacon

1 onion chopped

1/2 c. Honey Bunny Bodacious Ketchup

1/3 c. pure maple syrup

1/4 c. barley malt

1 tsp. dry mustard

Soak beans overnight in water. Use a large container and add in generous amounts of water as beans will soak up quite a bit of it. Cover with lid.

Boil gently soaked beans until soft. Put beans into crock pot. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl and pour over beans. Cover and put on low. Cook all day (for a minimum of 8 hours)

*if you prefer a sweeter recipe you can adjust maple syrup and barley malt to taste

Tips for Camping with Kids

Camping is one of my favorite summer activities. Growing up, that is how we spent our family vacations, each year going somewhere different, though we did have our favorite spots; looking forward to it each year.

I always found that our trip was never long enough and that we never got enough camping in for the summer. I could have stayed out there for weeks, even the whole summer. There is something about being out in nature, with just the basics, playing and hanging out that I love.

I find there is a whole different mentality when I’m out camping, no matter what is going on it is more relaxing, more go with the flow and even in some respects ‘lazy’. Routine goes out the window and I just enjoy the fact that we don’t really have to be anywhere at any particular time.

Relaxing at the campsite

This is not to say that we don’t do things while we are camping. Growing up we would often go on a hike or an interpretive walk, or sometimes go and explore a local attraction or historic site. But the whole pace of it is different. There’s no rush, no deadline.

Naturally, I wanted to share and continue these experiences with all of my children. Matthew’s first camping trip was when he was 1 year old, for 1 night and it poured rain. But we have since ventured out again and Matthew loves it. He is quite the good little camper, will help around the site when asked and even learned how to safely chop wood last year (under the supervision and guidance of Grandpa Blue Eagle).

With Luke and Chloe I did not take them out as early, though I wanted to. So they went out camping for the first time this year (and like their Mom and brother), love camping as well. Up until recently I did not have another responsible adult to go with me and I didn’t feel it was prudent or safe to take the kids out by myself (and yes I am a little spooked after reading The Shack, very good book but tragic beginning).

I knew this was the year to go, I had already asked my parents to come with me one weekend and introduce the twins to the camping world, so the intention and plan was there. Interestingly though, I took them out a little earlier then planned, as one day I picked up and packed up at the last minute, when my friend at the time invited me out camping. Literally in 3 hours I had us all packed up and ready to go. When I told the twins we were going camping they were so exicted! Asking when we were leaving. I found this so interesting as they had no idea what camping even was at that point, and yet here they were clapping and excited waiting in anticipation for their trip.

We only ventured out for one night, which I think was smart considering they are still young and it was their first time. We drove out to a Provincial Park near Carseland and joined some friends in their trailer. The kids loved it, though it took them quite a while to settle when I put them to sleep, it being almost 11 pm before they went to sleep.

Bison at Elk Island

Recently we went out again, this time for 3 nights and in a tent. We camped at Elk Island National Park (where Bison are a plenty), just east of Edmonton as I wanted to make a side trip to the Jurassic Forest – a prehistoric park I learned about and wanted to check out (it was fabulous btw and I would recommend for any dinosaur lovers, young and old)

D’Wayne braved it and came with us once more (what a wonderful man!). It still took til 10 or 11 each night for the twins to settle and go to sleep, though I put them down about 8 each night, and usually with them asking to go to bed because they were tired. And though I stuck to a similar bedtime routine from home, pyjamas, brush teeth and story, they still bounced around and played no matter what we did to try and get them to sleep.

And honestly I found the same with Matthew when he was younger. There was no way we could get him to go to bed, and it was even worse because he was by himself and would come out of the tent (at least the twins play with each other and stay in the tent, well for the most part). So we ended up just keeping him up with us and all going to bed together.

The blessing was though they went to sleep late they would sleep in til 9 or 10 in the morning, which threw everything off, but isn’t that what camping is about, throwing routine out the window?

Overall though we had a great time, though all a little tired when we came back and brave enough to head out again one more time in August!

Other than the sleep challenges I think camping in general can be easy with kids with the right attitude, the right support and person to go with. Here are some tips to make not only the kids first camping trip successful but any future ones as well.

Tips for a Successful Camping Trip with Kids

Keep to a routine – I know I said above that one of the things I love about camping is that there is no routine or deadline but even if it is not your regular routine at home I think having some kind of routine, even if it is a loose one, will help the kids and you to have a good time. Keep it somewhat predicatable so they know what’s coming i.e. breakfast, clean up, walk, lunch, play at the beach(or other activity), supper, clean up, hang out at the campsite, bed (and I would recommend keeping whatever bedtime you choose the same while you are out camping, even if it is a later one)

Breakfast time

Feed them on a regular basis – this may sound silly I know but I myself get kind of lazy when camping about meal times. Keep meal times predictable and consistent and provide more snacks (I find I am more hungry when I am out camping and we eat more in general) – don’t give the kids lunch at 4 in the afternoon, and if you’ve just finished breakfast and they say they are ready for lunch, feed them, or at least give them a snack and have lunch sooner rather than later

Plan meals that are fast, healthy and easy – there are lots of great camping recipes out there that are fun, easy and nutritious. You can get creative with those or use some of your regular ones. Make it easy on yourself by ensuring that they are not overly involved and they can be prepared quickly for hungry kids. This will reduce stress on yourself and prevent you from having grumpy children simply because they are hungry.

Have them drink lots of water – when they are outside they tend to burn more energy, are spending more time in the sun and are just more active all around. Keeping them hydrated will make a big difference in their fatigue and hunger levels, as well as preventing them from overheating or getting sick.

Have a consistent bedtime – whether they are sleeping in a tent or camper and end up playing before they actually go to sleep, at least they have a predictable bed time (even if it is later than usual) and wind down before sleep. They will also be contained and even though they might be up the adults can have some kind of adult time. And you never know they might go to sleep sooner… ha ha

Pick a site close to the bathroom and a playground (or as close as possible) – this is especially important with toddlers who need to go to the bathroom more frequently. This will save you making long treks back and forth to the bathroom (I can’t tell you how many times I went to the bathroom with the twins and then went back again what felt like minutes later). Being close to the playground is also a God send as the kids can play and be entertained and you can still keep a close eye on them as you do things around your campsite. My parents always got a spot close to the playground when we went out and it made it easier for everyone.

Bring some outdoor toys and toys that they love (things that make them feel secure – favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed toy)- my son Luke loves to play with his trucks in the sand, so when we go camping I always bring his sand toys. On our last trip our site was close to a big sand pit which he would just go and play in for long periods of time. It was great cause he was within eye sight, not too far away and engaged for a long time. We also bring other toys like a ball and glove, soccer ball, plastic horseshoes.

Start small – for the first few times out do not go on a week long camping trip or a with a long drive to get there. Take the kids out in little bits, one or two nights at a time with shorter drives, not only for the kids to get used to it but for yourself as well 🙂

Bring a nature bag – include crayons, paper, magnifying glass, plant or flower book. Kids love to explore and play in nature, some of these simple tools will enrich and enhance their experience and keep them occupied.

Mom this is a huge dandelion!

Go for a walk/ hike – Take a short walk on a nearby trail. Bring your nature bag and explore.

Do a Scavenger Hunt – you can create one yourself for around the campsite or you’ll find some campgrounds that have some pre made for you to just pick up and follow

Sleep – do your best to get enough sleep not only for the kids but yourself as well. Although tempting to stay up once the kids are finally asleep, if you are well rested you will be better able to handle the kids regardless of their moods. Maybe stay up a little but not so late that you are exhausted the next day

Patience – Be patient with yourself and the kids. You are out there to relax and enjoy yourselves. It is a time to be together and enjoy and appreciate nature as well as each other. You get to know each other on a different level when you are out camping, it is a unique and rich experience. You can adopt a go with the flow attitude and still keep the kids fed and rested so you can all have a wonderful time!

Mmmmm… Chocolate Brownies (and oh yes sugar free)

Usually at this time of year I start preparing for Christmas, decorating and transforming the house into that cozy little sanctuary that is filled with love and laughter, children screaming in delight, sharing meals and good conversation with friends and family.

It is also the time of year that we are bombarded with sweets and treats and many of us tend to overindulge (a little) because there are so many good things to choose from. I usually start baking about now too, getting the treats ready and putting them in the freezer ready to take out when I need them, when company arrives or if I’d like a little treat myself:)

The challenge over the last year has been making some of my favorite recipes, which are full of sugar, and finding the appropriate sugar substitutions still getting the same taste and result. One of the absolute favorites in our house has been Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal squares, which after a year of figuring out how to adjust it, I perfected the recipe. It was quite challenging as there were a lot of required ingredients that I had to find sugar free replacements for, such as cereal. The recipe calls for both cornflakes and rice crispies which are sweetened with added sugar. But more on that recipe next week when I post it. (Yes I am going to make you wait for that one)

Today I am going to share with you a delicious and very easy brownie recipe. It is a recipe from my Grandma that I used to make all the time, but hadn’t yet figured out what the appropriate substitution for brown sugar was. I had tried date sugar, and though sweet enough does not melt, so does not work in a lot of recipes where you require the sugar to actually melt. My mother was the one who actually found and tried coconut sugar and said it was a great substitution for brown sugar.

I had heard of coconut sugar but for whatever reason had not picked it up and tried it myself. In the summer when my parents took Matthew camping, my Mom was on a mission to adapt a good old camping recipe that we make on the coals of the fire, called a Cinnamon Apple. Delicious, it’s a baked apple with raisins and cinnamon and the brown sugar creates this wonderful sweet syrupy delight. Mmmmm. Anyway, she had found the coconut sugar and tried it in the Cinnamon Apple and it turned out perfectly; because the coconut sugar was not only sweet enough, it melts just like brown sugar. In fact, when you look on the package of coconut sugar, it says right on the package that you can substitute it for brown sugar.

So I started using coconut sugar in more of my recipes and all the ones that I had been ‘waiting on’ a brown sugar substitute. My first trial was with the chocolate brownies. Not only did they turn out, I found them to be more delicious, lighter and fluffier than the original recipe. In fact they are so good that you don’t really need to put icing on top of them, they are delicious all by themselves.

If you would like to put icing on them I am including an easy chocolate icing recipe that will do the trick. So make, enjoy, eat and freeze (so that you don’t eat them all! though that does not always stop me as I Know they are in the freezer).

Chocolate Brownies

1 c. coconut sugar 

1/2 c. melted Earth Balance

1/2 c. flour

2 tbsp. cocoa

2 eggs, beaten

Mix dry ingredients. Add butter, then beaten eggs. Grease 9″ square pan, pour batter into pan and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Chocolate Icing

1 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup 100% pure maple syrup

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

Happy Baking!

Coming soon… Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Squares