Vacation Time

Remember when we went camping with @essieburns and family last summer? Well, it has been over a year since I’ve seen my dear friend. We communicate nearly daily, but we only get to squeal in person once a year or so.

This year we are sharing a lake cabin, and we are not exactly roughing it. A dishwasher, washing machine and real beds and indoor plumbing will change the flavor. We will probably take in some side by side blogging, but this time we won’t have to blog by camping lantern in a screen tent.

My return to work has shortened our summer vacation window, but Essie went back to work too. We’re both ex-sahm trying to navigate the work/life balance. So, instead of a week, we’ll share a long, loud weekend.

I’m looking forward to Dakotapastor piloting the Pontoon boat, seeing old friends, visiting our last congregation, and doing touristy things like buying fudge and candy downtown.

When Essie and I lived closer to each other, we would venture out with six little boys, and I think people wondered about our family dynamic. Now we have six BIG boys and have added three little girls to the mix. Now we’ll look like we’re herding kids when we go out!

I’m looking forward to the chance to recharge . . . And I’ll need it, school starts he day after we return home!

Chime in! Do you vacation with friends? What are some of your best friendcation memories?

Camp Cooking

healthy camp cooking

healthy camp cooking

Everyone has been asking what we ate, and how I managed food on our camping trip. Food is always my favorite part of every vacation, so I’m glad to share with you!

I heavily relied on the book, The Family Camping Handbook, Real Food in the Big Woods.

My bloggy pal for the first week of the trip, Essie, posted about how she handles food on a camping trip. We share some similarities and differences. The main difference between the two of us is that she brought nearly all of their food with them, which can work for a smaller family on a shorter trip. We knew that we would be camping for at least two weeks and would be feeding at least 8 people and 11 people on the second week. That is A LOT of food. So, I packed some nonperishable foods and we purchased all of our fresh foods in town. By the end of our trip, the good folks at Glen’s IGA knew me! I consider it doing my part to support the local economy.

On this trip, I decided to simplify what I brought to cook with. I’ve been guilty in the past of packing up my entire kitchen to take camping. While that may be convenient…it is a devil to clean up, and we had pretty limited space to pack. So I bought some essentials.

  • coffee percolator (of course)
  • large cutting board
  • 1 good knife
  • 1 large bowl for mixing and serving (I could have used one more, plus a serving platter)
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • colander
  • 2 wooden spoons, 1 whisk, spatula and grilling utensils
  • stockpot
  • 12 inch cast iron skillet
  • 4 quart cast iron Dutch Oven
  • 8 quart cast iron Dutch Oven
  • 10 melamine coffee mugs
  • and I cheated and used all paper plates and plastic utensils
  • 2 burner Propane gas stove (this time we brought a large propane tank instead of little individual ones, it saved us a lot of money, and was less wasteful and far more convenient.)

With all of this equipment, we made some fabulous meals.

One of my dirty little secrets is that I don’t care for hot dogs and I only mildly enjoy bratwurst or sausage. My kids tend to share my feelings on this. So, we did grill some hot dogs and brats on our first and last days, just to be traditional!

The grill grate was clean enough to grill on, however, the grates were too widely spaced! Aluminum foil to the rescue!

I’m not a fan of doling out snacks all day long (though my kids are fans of snacking) so I made sure that they had three complete (usually cooked) meals a day, and then I kept a variety of fruits on hand for snacking. (Nectarines went on sale mid-trip so we ate a lot of those!)

Breakfasts were almost always cooked by my husband. and were usually eggs (fried or scrambled) or pancakes, or both. I brought a large Sam’s Club package of Krusteeze Pancake mix and we finished that and started a new three-pound bag from the grocery store partway through our stay. We love pancakes. We usually added fresh fruit; blueberries were a favorite, and we also added chopped apple, chopped pear, and chopped nectarines on different days. All of the kids, including the twins, loved helping make pancakes!

At lunch, I still cooked, but I did rely on convenience foods for speed. Sandwiches generally don’t cut it for our crew, and let’s face it…cold cuts can get expensive for 8 or 11 people! We usually had macaroni and cheese, canned ravioli, Spam (once for the few Spam lovers in the family) or canned soups.

Dinners were delicious! We had the two hot dog meals, and one desperate, rainy day take-out of Sven and Ole’s Pizza. Other than that, I cooked (with help, of course!). We had chili, grilled pork chops, steaks, and even a beef stew …with a story.

July 4 started out sunny and warm. We went and hiked Devil’s Kettle, we got home and relaxed, and then it began to rain…I had planned grilled steaks for the evening and was going to attempt to “bake” some potatoes in the Dutch oven. But the rain began coming down harder and more intently, so I began to chop the potatoes, then some carrots, then some onions, I crumbled in some ground beef, added a can of corn, a can of tomatoes, some water, some salt and pepper, and popped the lid on. I added some coals to the lid just as the storm finally began to let us know it was really here and I got everyone in their tents. We waited in tents for 3 hours!

When we got out, my “stew” was not very cooked. The coals extinguished early on. So, we transferred it to the stock pot and finished cooking it. Then, my husband decided it needed some thickening…so he added (a bit too much) flour. So we had July 4 porridge stew, but we were hungry, and it was good!

We made a camping version of my stir fry and served it over ramen noodles (with scrambled eggs, as we had had a clumsy egg mishap!)

I made this excellent pan fried zucchini and potato dish several times. I just began the baby reds, chopped up, frying in some butter, then added sliced zucchini near the end. Hearty and delicious!

But my favorite meal, by far, was the roasted chickens! I was determined to master my Dutch ovens. I kept picturing us eating yummy roast chicken for dinner! Then, I was I was in the store and the whole chickens were on sale for $3.99 each. So I picked up two. I was so confident that it would work out that I also picked up some egg noodles to add to chicken noodle soup the next day!

I tossed my chickens in the 8-quart pot, added some quartered red potatoes, wedges of onion and baby carrots. I liberally seasoned with salt and pepper and I added a half cup of water to the pot. I arranged 12 hot charcoal briquettes underneath and another dozen on the lid and I let it sit. I added more hot coals halfway through. After about 2 hours we smelled some great smells! I also made some refrigerated biscuits in the 4-quart Dutch oven…I stacked it on top of the larger oven to save space and to share heat! I should have taken pictures during cooking  . . . but this bad blogger forgot!

We moved the chicken into the stock pot for serving because it was fall-off-the-bone good! Then we stuck the whole pot in the cooler and I made a huge pot of delicious chicken noodle soup the next day!

I even baked a few cakes! The 4-quart Dutch oven is the perfect size for a boxed cake mix! I mixed up the cake according to the package directions and then baked it in the coals. My first cake, which I was making for Essie’s family was a fail! I over-baked it (but the middle was good!). The next one was perfect!

You can see some of our favorite camping pins here.

I think we ate pretty well!

Chime in! What is your favorite camping food?

Healthy Camp Cooking