Camping Desserts – Sugar Free Banana Boats

IMG_4190As camping season begins, I start to think about all the delicious camping meals and snacks that we enjoy. Planning carefully which ones to include, because we can’t go without the favorites, and which new ones to try.

Growing up we had many favorites, such as tin foil dinners, cinnamon apples, s’mores etc. But when we decided to modify our diets and go sugar free this made some of our favorite camping recipes a little more tricky to enjoy. Slowly but surely I have been figuring out how to adjust them to meet our needs, and not miss out on the delectable tastes!

One of the recipes I have been working on is banana boats. A delectable mix of banana, chocolate and marshmallows, warmed and melted over hot coals from the fire. Mmmm, that mix of melted chocolate marshmallow is to die for! I had figured out early on how to remedy the chocolate situation, having taken a raw organic chocolate making course a few years ago. But it was the marshmallows that stumped me – until last year – when I finally found a recipe to make marshmallows; completely healthy and sugar free!

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

Now that I had all my ingredients we were able to try it out. So one lovely and sunny fall afternoon we packed up what we needed and headed out to Bragg Creek Provincial Park to enjoy a short hike and a fire, where we would enjoy roasted hot dogs and try out the banana boats.

The kids were super excited to get things started! Luke and Chloe listening attentively to the directions on how to make their banana boat. First they needed to eat out a bit of the banana, then put in their chocolate pieces and marshmallows. Then wrapped it up in tin foil and place on the hot coals. Turning once, approximately 4 minutes a side.

Luke and Chloe watched in anticipation, asking if it was ready yet, hoping that by watching it it would cook faster. The trick with banana boats is you want them cooked long enough so that the chocolate and marshmallows melt but do not disintegrate and the banana is warm and soft. Depending on the heat of your coals the cooking time could vary slightly. Notice I said coals. You want those hot red embers, not flame and fire, in order to cook your banana boats. Flame will cause your dessert to burn and cook too fast, and who wants a charred banana? 🙁IMG_4191

Once they were ready we took them out of the fire, using tongs as they are very hot, and placed them on the table. Carefully we unwrapped them and Luke, Chloe and Matthew, spoons in hand, were ready to dig in! I warned them that it would be hot so to let it cool slightly and/or small bites blowing on it. They heeded my advice and tentatively took a bite.  Immediately their faces lit up with hugs smiles and exclamations of how yummy it was! Then quickly diving in for more. All done and faces covered in chocolate, they eagerly asked for another. Unfortunately I had only brought enough for one each, so said we’d have to make them again soon. But I was so pleased that they worked and were a hit! I cannot wait to get out there this camping season and have some more! And this time I will plan for 2 each!

What are your favorite camping desserts? Share in the comments below.

 

Banana Boats

*to make banana boats you will need one banana per person

Firm ripe bananas

sugar free chocolate pieces (either homemade or use unsweetened bakers chocolate)

sugar free marshmallows

heavy duty tinfoil

tongs

spoons

IMG_4188Cut peel of banana down the sides and across top of banana, creating a flap that you can open. Do not cut the bottom. With a spoon eat out part of the banana. Eat/ scoop out enough to create a space to put in chocolate and marshmallows, but do not eat down to the peel on the other side, you want to leave some banana there.

Place chocolate and marshmallow pieces inside banana. You can put in as much as you want but you do not want to overstuff it! The flap must be able to close over top, otherwise a lot of your fillings will leak out while cooking.

Place flap of banana overtop to close it. Take a medium size piece of heavy duty tinfoil (you want heavy duty as putting it in the fire is intense heat and regular foil will cause it to burn before actually cooking), wrap up your banana tightly.

IMG_4189Place tin foil wrapped banana on hot coals and cook for approximately 4 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on the heat of your coals). After first 4 minutes, flip over to the other side and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove tin foil wrapped banana from fire using tongs. Open foil very carefully, foil will be very hot! Check banana, if chocolate and marshmallows are melted, then you are ready to eat! If it is not melted as much as  you would like, rewrap banana in foil and place back on coals for a few more minutes.

 

Camping Desserts – Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

I love the variety of neat camping recipes there are. Especially ones that you can do over the fire that are yummy, sweet and delicious. Usually done over hot coals and in tin foil it makes for even less dishes and a delicious treat or meal.

Our family camping trips always involved TFD’s, or Tin Foil Dinners, which my father usually requested that we have at least twice. But I often enjoyed the dessert options, like s’mores, banana boats and cinnamon apples. Cinnamon apples have always been my favorite, as the brown sugar would melt and make a nice sticky syrup over the apples and raisins, so much that I would often lick the tin foil to make sure I did not miss one drop! Until recently, these camping desserts were something that I had to forgo – until I figured out how to do it sugar and dairy free.

Matthew enjoying his Cinnamon Apple

Matthew enjoying his Cinnamon Apple

As with any recipe I am ‘transforming’, my goal is to figure out how to make so that it is the same as the original, or only a slight difference in taste. My Mum was actually the one who figured this one out. A couple of summers ago she bought coconut sugar and tried it out with the cinnamon apple. It worked perfectly! (Coconut sugar is an excellent natural substitute for brown sugar. It melts just like brown sugar and gives you the syrupy juice.)

I have also figured out how to do banana boats sugar free, also very good, but have yet to try it out on the campfire. (Will post it once I do! )I believe though that it will turn out just as yummy.

Cinnamon apples are easy to make sugar free without compromising the taste! Worth a try on your next camping trip this summer.

Sugar Free Cinnamon Apple

1 apple

cinnamon

coconut sugar

raisins

spoon of Earth Balance vegan buttery spread

heavy duty tin foil

Tear off a large square of heavy duty tin foil. With the shiny side up do the following:

Using Earth Balance, butter middle of tin foil, spreading evenly around. A spoonful is good but if you like you can use more. Slice and core apple, put apple on top of buttered area spreading out slices so they are not on top of each other. Best to slice apples thinly as opposed to in chunks as they soften and cook more quickly. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste, add raisins. Sprinkle a couple of spoonfuls of coconut sugar over apple mixture. The more coconut sugar you use the more juice you will create. You may add a few dollops of Earth Balance on top also to create more juices.IMG_3357

Close foil by matching the edges and folding it down until it is tight.IMG_3361

Then fold over and close each side.IMG_3362

Place foil packet on top of hot coals. Important – ensure that there is no flame amongst your coals otherwise it will burn. Let cook for 5 minutes, then flip over using tongs. You’ll hear the apple sizzling. Check after a few more minutes. Apple should be soft and coconut sugar and butter melted. If it’s not ready wrap it back up and put it back onto the coals and cook for a few more minutes.Bed-Of-Hot-Coals

Once ready unwrap and enjoy! Caution Cinnamon Apple will be very hot. If giving it to small children unwrap and let it cool some before they enjoy.

Camping Essentials – Making your own Firestarters

IMG_3240I’m an avid lover of camping. All my family vacations growing up were camping and exploring different places in the Maritimes and I have many fond memories of those trips. Luckily my kids are also avid campers and when I introduced camping to the twins last summer, we kicked off the ‘rebirth’ of camping in our family (after a short siesta between when the twins were born and still quite little). We got out quite a bit last season and even snuck in one final night in mid September.

So when this season kicked off I started looking at the calendar to plan in as much camping as possible between my part time work schedule and other regular commitments. I’m pretty impressed with myself as so far in about 2 weeks we have done 3 different camping trips and places. Some old some new, but loving it all the same.

Drumheller, AB

Drumheller, AB

I think everyone in our household (and probably most campers) would agree that one of the best things about camping is having a fire. Whether you are cooking on it to make dinner or just sitting around and enjoying it, it really is essential. It’s so lovely to sit around the fire on a summer evening and relax, chat or just hang out.

Even when its raining, if you can get a fire going it just makes that camping experience so much nicer. When I was in Girl Guides growing up, of course one to the things I learned was fire building. There is the traditional log house or teepee style, some use newspaper or  dry moss to start the fire. But the best thing that I have ever discovered (and did learn how to make these in Girl Guides) is a firestarter. Made out of materials that you have around the home anyway, these firestarters will burn for 20 minutes and will work easily in the rain. They make starting a fire quick and easy and I won’t go camping without them!

IMG_3059All you need to make them is a cardboard egg carton (stryofoam ones do not work), some dryer fluff and some wax (you know all those candle ends and bits of wax you throw out? Keep them in a ziploc bag and save it for making firestarters). See easy. And you’re probably thinking wow that’s great that I can use dryer fluff for something other than just throwing it out!

Here’s how you do it:

  • cardboard egg carton
  • dryer fluff
  • melted wax
  • newspaper
  1. Cut top off of the egg carton.
  2. Place egg carton on top of a sheet of newspaper.
  3. Fill each hole in the egg carton with dryer fluff. Be generous and stuff them full!
  4. Then pour melted wax over the egg carton – ensuring that each ‘hole’ is filled with wax and has soaked through all the way to the bottom. This is very important as the wax needs to cover it in it’s entirety in order for the firestarter to work properly.
  5. Leave egg carton on newspaper and let wax dry completely.
  6. Once wax is dry cut between the holes in the carton to make 12 firestarters. Store in a large ziploc bag and voila! Done!

IMG_3062You can do more than one egg carton at a time depending on how much dryer fluff and wax you have available. I made 2 dozen last week and that’ll likely be enough for the summer.

I also recommend that you melt the wax slowly on low heat on the stove. And once you use that pot designate it as the wax melting pot and just keep it for when you make more.

I was amazed how easy and well these worked when I first discovered them. I don’t remember who exactly in Girl Guides came up with it, but thank you so much they are awesome!

IMG_3068

Completed Firestarter

So if you’re going camping this summer, or just like having an outdoor fire, make some of these and give them a try.

Party! Party! Party!

scaled_photoWelcome! I am very excited to be joining the Ultimate Blog Party 2014 again this year! I think this is a great opportunity to get out there and connect with other bloggers while sharing the things that you love, including your own blog! Thank you to Janice and Susan of 5 Minutes for Mom for hosting this fabulous event.

If you are new to Momma on the Move I’d like to thank you for stopping by and for those of you who are returning welcome back. It is a pleasure to have you all here.

8095971047_2a93f46d0a_bMy name is Carmen and I have 3 beautiful children, 4 year old boy/ girl twins and an older son. I grew up on the East Coast and have a deep love for the ocean. I love the outdoors, travelling, exploring new places and to getting out there to enjoy and embrace life!

The kids keep me busy with the twins now in preschool and our decision to eat sugar and dairy free at our house. When not playing with or helping the kids, I am in the kitchen trying out or modifying recipes to meet our needs. I have even been dabbling in some gluten free recipes over the past year as well.

IMG_2646We made the decision to remove sugar, back when my Matthew, my oldest was in grade 2, due to behavorial and sleep challenges with him. It was amazing the difference it made! Shortly after we went dairy free as I discovered both myself and my daughter had an intolerance and the gluten well, when I discovered I was still feeling tired after eating a dairy free/ sugar free muffin, gluten was the only thing left!

I have always loved to write but started blogging because I felt that I could share more faster and reach a larger audience. I find that there are so many things to share and explore, as life is a story. Everywhere we go I am taking pictures and thinking about how I make this into an informative, yet interesting blog post for my readers. Everything from crafts and activities for kids, our adventures camping and in the outdoors, to the many sugar and dairy free recipes, I like to blog about it!

I also like to include tidbits about the importance of taking time for ourselves, gratitude and being ambassadors for our planet.

I like creating a community where we can share, interact and learn from each other. Plus it’s stretched me in the world of technology as well!

IMG_2106Now that you’re here, sit down grab a cup of coffee and take a look around. Let me know what your favorite posts are, what you’d like to see more of. Leave a comment sharing with me who you are and where I can find you so we can connect and get to know each other. I’m looking forward to visiting everyone’s sites and making new friends.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

Firewalking

Rainy Day Activities

All Things Pumpkin

Natural Sugar Substitutes

RAK your Brain

Firewalking

Firewalking

 

Grasshopper Popsicles

Enjoy! See you at the party!

Let’s stay connected! Here’s where you can find me

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Google+

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

Bonding with Grandpa

I love camping with my kids. Even though the days are longer, bedtimes later and way too many trips to the bathroom (which is usually a long walk to get to), I love being in the outdoors with them, where we literally putz around, relax, have tea, sit by the fire and really just enjoy each other’s company.

Yes our trips are mixed with trips to the playground, or a walk to go and explore somewhere (other than the bathroom), but overall it is just a beautiful go with the flow couple of days where we eat well and hang out.

This year we had the pleasure of heading out camping 4 times for varying number of days, which is more camping than I have done in years. This is due to having a great man come into my life who loves to camp! I also had the pleasure of my parents joining us on one of our trips at Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park.

On this trip we visited Takakkaw Falls, went to the amphitheatre and learned about bears and sat by the fire drinking lots of tea! Both Luke and Chloe enjoyed just sitting and hanging out, which is so different than my oldest Matthew, who needs to be constantly on the move. And Luke, well he is always up for a conversation. Featured in the picture here is my Dad and Luke enjoying some great bonding time while hanging out at the campsite.

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!

Summer Tidbits

Summer is here! Hooray! It seems like we wait all year for this season and when it finally gets here there is so much to do. I always find that the summer is so short and chalk full of activities. Before summer even begins we have it fully planned out with lots of trips, adventures and explorations. I am often thinking about summer in April or May making the plans that I want to make as I know it fills up so quickly.

We do a lot of car travel in the summer, going to the mountains, camping and visiting my family in the Okanogan. It is busy but we have a great time as I like to make the most of the season and do and see as much as we can.

With these things in mind I am recapping my favorite summer posts, activities, recipes, games that help make the road trips easier, the hot summer days more enjoyable and keep everyone eating healthier. Of course I’ll add more as this summer goes on but here are some great tidbits to get you started – with my favorite Car Games for Kids! (I have to say Counting Cows is my absolute favorite and one that we play again and again)

Summer Road Trips – Car Games for Kids http://www.mommaonthemove.ca/index.php/archives/111

Grasshopper Popsicles http://www.mommaonthemove.ca/index.php/archives/44

Crunchy Broccoli Feta Salad http://www.mommaonthemove.ca/index.php/archives/1597

Hiking with Children http://www.mommaonthemove.ca/index.php/archives/295

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

Luke and Chloe’s First Hike

Giant Cedars Trail

One of the great things about children is that if you introduce things to them when they are little they usually just accept it. They approach everything with wonder and delight, curiousity and a willingness to try.

When you introduce it at a young age they do not have the fears or hang ups that we do as adults, the beliefs that we can’t or shouldn’t, or the stubborness to refuse what you are suggesting because they ‘don’t want to’. This is one of the beautys of being a child and spending time with a child. They remind us to try it all and to move forward fearlessly because you never know what joys you are going to experience.

We have introduced things early on with all of our children, in many things, but specifically in introducing camping and hiking to them; all at around the age of 2. Matthew’s first hike was the Fenland Trail in Banff, a 2 km loop through a lush forested area. He completed it easily and then we did another short hike after lunch that day. I think he did 5 km total that day and he was only 2 or 3.

Luke and Chloe’s first hike was a few weeks ago on our way to visit my parents in Oliver, BC. We had stopped for lunch at the Giant Cedars trail in Mt. Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia. There was a picnic area and washrooms to use and after our tummies were full, we went for a walk along the trail.

The Giant Cedars trail is an easy, self guided, 500 m loop with some of the oldest trees in the Columbia Mountains. Featuring the largest western red cedars and dark brown western hemlocks, this boardwalk trail is lush, green and alive. As soon as you enter the trail you can feel the warmth and comfort of a such an old forest.

Chloe taking the stairs at the beginning of the trail

It is a great trail for kids with lots to discover and explore. There are benches along the way so you can sit and relax, enjoying the serene atmosphere and the magic of an old growth forest. Both Chloe and Luke effortlessly went up the stairs that start the trail. Chloe was delighted by the little brook flowing by and would stop every time she saw water. She would scream in delight, “water!” and then bend over, hands on her thighs to take a closer look.

Devil's Club

We meandered along the trail checking things out, the Giant Devil’s Club, the nurse logs and fungi. We read the interpretive signs at different points along the trail describing the age of the trees (over 500 years old), the animals who live there, such as bats, bears and caribou; and how they all make up an important and healthy functioning ecosystem.

Luke was very excited about the fairies which he shared were in their houses; which he told me were the splits in the trees or under the lush underbrush. Both Luke and Chloe walked the whole way, with Chloe stopping to hug and kiss trees and Luke checking out the flowers. Matthew of course ran the trail, cause as usual he had energy to burn. It took us half an hour to do the trail, but is typically done in 15-20 minutes, depending on how fast you move along the trail and if you stop to linger.

Fairy Houses

It is a great place to relax and unplug for a while, to just sit and soak up the atmosphere. It is also a super easy hike for kids and will be a great first or early experience for them.

Hugging a tree

The key to hiking with kids to make their first experiences easy (short enough that they can walk it without feeling tired or have to be carried), achievable (something that they can do all by themselves without feeling discouraged at the end), interesting (lots of things to see, check out and explore) and in proper footwear. Now I would not run out and buy hiking boots for my 2 year old, but it is a good idea to ensure that they have sturdy, closed toed shoes, like runners. If you make their first experiences enjoyable and memorable than they will quickly and easily develop a love for hiking (and an appreciation for their natural environment) as they grow up.