Archive for the ‘family vacations’ Category
One of the first things a cook learns when camping, when camp is a mile or more high, is it takes longer for things to cook. Fred is a meat-and-potato kind-ah guy and for a long time I just could not get the two done at the same time until I learned these tricks:
1. Peel your potato,
Cut in half,
Than cut the potato in quarters the long way,
than across in thin (about 1/4-inch) slices.
Toss in your pot and bring to a boil on campfire or campstove. The potato cooks in less than half the time. Leftover potatoes are ready for a breakfast.
2. Use pre-cooked or frozen potatoes.
3. Instant mash potatoes must have been invented by a camper. Lightweight and quick, requiring less water and minimal cooking time, they are my favorite and most trusted go-to potato product.
Avoid the “Are we there yet?” from the backseat by providing each child with their own map each morning at breakfast. (I would provide a map of our “before lunch” route to one child and an “after lunch” map to the other one.) You can print such a map from Google maps on the internet or from a mapping software you might have on your computer or use a road atlas map.
Briefly talk about the route, giving the child some idea of what might be waiting up ahead, such as a town with a funny name or a river with a history. You might want to highlight the planned route, may be not. Give the child a pencil and have them make notes on their map about what they see along the way. Maybe there is a 10-ft cowboy that waves at passing traffic, a herd of black cows with a white cream center (we called them Oreo cows) beside the road, or a really fun rest area they will want to remember.
Remind the child, they are the co-navigator and should let the driver know the name of any upcoming river or town and if there is some turn or change in the route coming up.
Some things to talk with the child about so they might be more aware of what they are going to see are:
Do the number signs look different for State, County, and US routes?
How does the map tells us if a route is State, County or US?
What are mile-marker?
Does every route have mile-marker? Why would mile-markers be important?
Are the mile-marker numbers going up or down? What do you think that tells us?
Whether heading to the grocery store or a favorite camping stop, the ride there can be really boring for little passengers. There are just so many times “She’ll be around the mountain” can be sung. A possible alternative is “The State License Plate Game.” Basically, you print out the Game “board”, hand a copy to the little passenger along with a crayon, pencil, whatever, and have them find and scratch out as many of the state licenses as possible. The one with the most states is the winner. The prize could be anything from picking a lunch stop to an extra 30 minutes by the campfire. You can also challenge the passenger to find the license plate for the state where Uncle Tom lives, or where Grandma and Grandpa live, or where they live, or where a special place is located.
It is suggested the “State License Plate Game” be attached to a hard surface, like a clipboard or clipped to a bookcover.
Thanks to www.thedatingdavis.com.
“We want to camp in June. We are a small family with two pre-school children and a big dog. What campground would you suggest?”
Okay, I am paraphrasing but you get the idea. We get this question, or some variation, almost every week. I know finding the “prefect” campground is a challenge but a key is to narrow down your selection criteria.
From the above I have a bunch of holes that need to be filled in such: Where, like state, do you want to camp?; What mode of camping will be used?; Are they tent campers, car campers, or maybe they have some recreational vehicle (RV); Is that RV a Class A, pop-up travel trailer or something in between? and, What are your “must-have” amenities?
I suggest making a list of what your “perfect” campground “must have” as a starting point. For Fred and I the requirements are different but we agree our top “must have” is a lack of crowds. So with this in mind I look for a campground without a lots of whiz-bang fancy attractions. In a private campground that means no playgrounds, swimming pool, restaurant or such. In a state or federal campground we stay away from places with big lakes, whitewater rivers, and super outstanding fishing and head for campgrounds off a paved road and less than 50 campsites.
For me (and this is my list only), a private campground must have full hook-ups, a laundry, clean bathrooms, hot showers and not be priced beyond reason. Fred would add wifi and enough separation between sites to put out the awning. In a state or federal campground, I want trees, at least one trail, potable water, a bathroom, and quiet. Fred wants a level parking apron, a good amount of sunshine, and a water spigot really close by. (Notice Fred’s wants are difficult to determine until we get to the campground.)
So what would be on your “must have” list? Okay, now you know what you want, which would you prefer — public or private campgrounds? Do I need to say we tend to opt for campgrounds in national forests and grasslands? But a lot of folks go for private campgrounds while others are happy with a Walmart parking lot campsite.
Okay that’s a good start but where does one go to locate information about campgrounds? The problem with answering this question is there are so many places to go for campground information. You can use one of the telephone book size directories like the one published by Trailer Life and Woodall. And then there are numerous websites, like ours, ForestCamping.com, that list hundreds of campgrounds. Toss in “word-of-mouth” suggestions and you can be completely overwhelmed even before you take a look at what’s available via today’s technology and apps.
We are getting away from those phonebook directories and going more with an app Fred has on his smart phone. One reason is it includes reviews and another reason is the app will actually guide us to the campground. However, on problem with Fred’s campground app is huge. I would like it better if I could use some filters so my choices would be limited to campgrounds with, say, a laundry and are dog friendly.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will confirm it – I’m a messy baker and not thrilled with cleaning up the mess. May be that’s why I have a whole series of one pan cake recipes. My Lemon Squares recipe is almost mess free, so easy and yummy. Perfect for summer picnics, school lunchboxes, or for company. An added bonus to this recipe is it is a great introduction to baking for children. The only trick is to make sure all the flour in the corners is mixed into the wet ingredients. I don’t think you can overmix the batter and it is a yummy sponge for soaking up ice cream.
First step, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now, put all the dry ingredients in an ungreased square pan. With a dinner fork, mix the dry ingredients to combine. All the wet ingredients are in the measuring cup on the right of this photo, waiting to be added in just a minute or so.
The recipe calls for grated lemon peel but I like to use a bartenders tool that makes lemon peel threads and add them now so they get coated with the flour. When you serve a square it looks like happy yellow threads of sunshine are in the cake.
Add the wet ingredients (plus a tablespoon of water if you are above 5,500 feet elevation) and mix thoroughly. Note: I’m using a glass square pan so there is no need to increase temperature to compensate for the elevation but if the pan is metal, the oven’s temperature would be increased by 25 degrees). If you are baking this recipe below 5,500 feet elevation, no adjustments are necessary.
Slip pan into preheated oven and clean up. See the yellow threads of sunshine?
Here are all the dirty dishes I had – got to love it!
The lemon syrup give the top a crunch while the cake is so moist and tender. The strawberries are so good this year and compliment the Lemon Squares nicely.
Lemon Squares- one pan
1-1/2 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 C milk
1/3 C. oil
2 t. grated lemon peel
In 8 or 9″ square pan with fork mix well flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and peel; mix well. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven: pour syrup over top. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes. If necessary, baste top with any syrup that collects around the edges.
Lemon Syrup - Mix 2/3 C. sugar and 3 T. lemon juice and set aside until needed.
Actually, this is good for skin that has suffered abuse from winter or summer.
February was a long stretch of freezing temperatures, high wind, and super low humidity as my skin’s condition can verify. After all the abuse, I made the decision to try my old standby skin conditioning treatment – yogurt with a little ground oatmeal. The results were fabulous.
Here’s what I did: First, I scooped out a generous 1/4 cup of plain yogurt;
Using about a tablespoon of yogurt from the 1/4 cup, I mixed in a scant tablespoon of finely ground old fashion oatmeal;
Next I draw a delicious hot bath, mixing in the remaining yogurt;
Once in the bath, I applied the yogurt and oatmeal mixture to my face, shoulders, and elbows and just soaked.
After the water cooled, I rinsed all the yogurt and oatmeal off. Although it probably isn’t necessary, I do rinse again using fresh, warm water. A brisk toweling to dry and my skin is radiant, soft, and flake-free. Now, I am ready for Spring and my short-sleeved outfits.
PS-This is great for skin that has had too much sun and wind from summer time fun.
Need something quick and easy, not too sweet, but not bland, good with dinner or as a dessert, this is what you are looking for. It’s called 5-cup but I rarely limit myself and nor should you. Got some fresh strawberries, crushed canned pineapple, or a handful of raisins? Toss them in. It only makes the final dish better.
5-cup Fruit Salad
- 1 cup minnie marshmallows
- 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut
- 1 cup yogurt or sour cream
- 1 cup fresh orange section or drained canned mandarin oranges
- 1 cup fresh grapes
Toss everything in a large bowl and mix together. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 5 to 10.
We are off for a long weekend in Tucson, AZ and do a presentation Saturday afternoon on camping in the Forest Service’s Southwestern Region at the REI on Wetmore. (If you are in the neighborhood, please come by.) We’ll stay at the Catalina State Park. I think this will be our menu for the weekend – easy and pleasing.
First, a disclaimer – breakfasts are not included in this plan – I hoping for having that meal at one of the many yummy eating places nearby, like Beyond Bread and Bob Jerry’s.
Dinner first night – Chicken Kebabs (serves 6 but I’m using leftovers for two lunches and another dinner)
Mix ½ cup canola oil with ½ cup lemon juice (about 3 whole lemons), 4 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp paprika, and 4 cloves of garlic (smashed if you want a stronger garlic flavor in a large ziplock plastic bag). Put 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast that has been cut into 1-inch pieces In a separate ziplock bag. Pour half of the marinade over chicken, seal bag, and toss to coat. In the original bag, add 2 bell peppers (red or green), 3 small (each about 6-inches long) zucchini cut into 1-inch pieces, and 3 small (same length as the zucchini) summer squash cut into 1-inch pieces, seal bag and toss to coat. Put both bags in ice chest for no less than two hours.
Bring grill to a medium-high temperatures (coals should be gray and ashy looking, then spread out in a single layer). While waiting for the grill, soak 12 wooden skewers and prepare instant brown rice. Remove the chicken and vegetables from their bags and pack dry. Throw out the marinade. Thread chicken, vegetables and, if desired, half an onion layer and mushrooms, on skewers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly oil grilled just before placing the kebabs on it. Grill kebabs, turning every now and than (remember the chicken will tell you when to turn it when it no longer want to stick to the grille) until cooked through, about 6 minutes at sea level. Serve half over brown rice and set half aside to cool for later meals.
Lunch – Grilled Chicken Salad (serves 6 but I’ll reduce it by half since it is just Fred and me)
Place 8 cups of greens (your choice) in a large bowl. Arrange chicken and vegetables, holding about half the peppers and zucchini aside for the next day’s lunch, on top of the greens. Scatter 4 ounces of crumbled feta cheese, one cup of drained and rinsed beans (black are a personal favorite but use what you like), and a handful of olives over the greens. In a separate small bowl or big coffee cup, use a fork to whisk together 1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar and 2 tsp Dijon mustard. Continue whisking while drizzling 3/4 cups of olive oil into the vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper if desired. Toss salad with half the dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread. Serve remaining dressing on the side.
Dinner second night – Pseudo Chicken Fried Rice (Serves 6 but again I’ll reduce it by half since it is just Fred and me)
Make 4 cups of brown rice according to the package directions. (Save one cup plus any leftover rice to tomorrow’s lunch.) Put one-and-half pounds boneless, skinless chicken cut into 1-inch piece in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp soy sauce. Place large skillet over high. Heat 1 Tbsp oil to almost smoking and add half a slice onion. Stir-fry until edges start to brown than add chicken. Stir-fry until cooked through, about 6 minutes at sea level. Transfer cooked chicken and onion to a plate. Add another Tbsp oil to skillet and stir-fry 1 pound bag of thawed stir-fried vegetable (pat dry to reduce splatter) and cook about 2 minutes (to heat through). Add chicken and onion mixture and 1/4 cup soy sauce to skillet and cook one more minute. Serve immediately over cooked brown rice. Option: Substitute one pound pork tenderloin for chicken.
Lunch – Rice and Bean Burritos (serves 6)
If you make breakfast burritos, this is a good way to use up leftover flour tortillas.
Wrap six flour tortilla in foil and set over warm part of the grille to heat through. Meanwhile, in a skillet saute one finely diced onion in a tablespoon of oil until translucent. Add 1 tsp cumin along with leftover zucchini and bell pepper and stir to heat through. Stir in one 15-oz can of beans (either black or pinto), 1 cup of thawed frozen corn, ½ cup enchilada sauce (I substitute with salsa from my breakfast out – most place graciously provide extra if asked), and one cup plus any leftover brown rice; heat through. Remove the flour tortilla off the heat and carefully open. Put one tortilla on size plates and divide the bean and rice mixture between the tortilla, sprinkle with grate cheddar cheese and wrap the tortilla around it all. Service immediately. Love fresh pineapple on the side.
I *love* Crookpots (a.k.a. slow cooker) and this pot roast recipe is the best and easiest thing in my cookbook. There is more risk a failure when toast than in this recipe. All you need is in this photo; a can of Cream of Mushroom soup (although Cream of Celery or Cream of Chicken works, too), a 2 to 4-pound chunk of inexpensive beef that was on sale, and Crookpot. Put beef and whole can of soup into the Crookpot and cover with a lid. I’ve been known to toss in some old mushrooms and a splash of wine in, too, but it’s totally unnecessary.
One of the highlights of our travels in 2011 was a Guided Auto Tour through Picketwire Canyon (available starting 3/1/13). It is a recommended “Must Do” for anyone visiting the Comanche National Grassland in southeast Colorado. A personal favorite stop on that tour was at the meandering dinosaur tracks near the Purgatoire River.
What I have just learned is, within the area covered during Picketwire Canyon Auto Tour, there have been upwards of 50 locations bearing dinosaur bones discovered since 2001 and four of these areas have been excavated. The discoveries were made by Passport in Time volunteers and a task force of volunteers selected by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a Forest Service partner, is taking on the task of stabilizing and storing the fossils.
So far, the remains of Ceratosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Allosaurus, and a limb bone possibly from a Stegosaurus have been found at what is called the “River View” quarry. FYI: Ceratosaurus and Allosaurus are meat eaters while Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Stegosaurus are plant eaters. Apparently, meat eating dinosaurs shed their teeth, like sharks, and a bunch their teeth have been found. The theory is bones were washed in and stacked up on a gravel bar in the river, thus the “toss dinosaur salad” image. It is thought many of the dinosaurs dead up river then either their partial skeletons or full carcasses washed down river, became lodge on an ancient sandbar, only to be chewed up by carnivores (meat eaters), thus, accounting for the tossed and strewn about fashion of the bones.
And to think we were there and, besides walking in dinosaur footsteps, we could have been walking on dinosaur bones! I want to go back!!!!
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