Tag Archives: camping

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
salt
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

Dressing:
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Salad:
16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

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Love those Sunday mornings…

3 Oct

I love Sunday mornings. After sleeping in (a little), there’s nothing better than whipping up a big breakfast with eggs (or tofu scramble), vegan sausage, fruit, and muffins or scones. It’s a great way to start the last day of the weekend.

This past weekend, we squeezed in a camping trip to Maumee Bay State Park. Far enough away to consider it a vacation, but not so far away that we couldn’t get back this morning in time for some Hornets football action. Though the weather didn’t really cooperate — cold, rainy and very windy — we still had fun. I was nice to have some time with nothing else to do but take a nature hike, play games and watch movies with the kids.

Our big breakfast included these delicious muffins. My kids went nuts over them. Moist, not too sweet, and good for you! As for me…they were the perfect compliment to a piping hot cup of coffee (decaf, of course!).

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 Ener-G Egg Replacer (or 1 egg)
1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup agave (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

TOPPING:
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Earth Balance, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick spray.

Make the Ener-G egg per package instructions for 1 egg. Set aside.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, agave, coconut milk, lemon zest, vanilla and egg. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in blueberries. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.

Make crumb topping: Mix sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over muffin batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Enjoy!

Here are my cuties munching on the muffins while still in their jammies. It was too nasty outside to even have our awning open or eat at the picnic table!

Camping means s’mores…no matter what the weather.

18 Jun

We awoke to sunshine and beautiful weather on day two of our camping trip. We did some hiking, biking and croquet. In the afternoon, we headed to the Nature Center for a guided hike through the woods. The topic of the hike was habitats and our naturalist did a wonderful job of describing/pointing out the different types of habitats and what might live there. It was both educational and fun. 

Unfortunately, mid-hike, the lens of my camera decided to become stuck and the camera stopped working. We messed with it for a while, but no luck. I used Madison's little quick-snap camera for the rest of the trip. It saved me from a vacation with no pictures, even though it doesn't take the greatest quality shots.
Dinner was fantastic. My mom made an herb-marinated pork tenderloin which we grilled over charcoal. I had a marinated and grilled portobello mushroom. We grilled sweet potatoes in foil and topped them with caramelized onions. And we had grilled fresh asparagus and steamed fresh green beans on the side. Yum!
(Doesn't that grilled portobello look like grilled meat?! It tasted just as good, too!)
After dinner, mom and I walked the kids down to the beach to see the sunset. In case you've never been to Pokagon, the hike to the beach is a pretty long one and we hadn't been there in years, so we were kind of guessing at exactly how to get down there. We had the park map with us and followed it down to the beach, but once we got there, we realized there was a path through the woods that we could have taken, and it appeared to be a shorter walk that didn't include the gazillion steps to walk back up!
Not 10 minutes on the beach and we noticed a storm moving in (see background of above pic). I told the kids we wouldn't be staying long because it looked like rain. In a matter of minutes, the sky turned black and we saw lightning. It was time to RUN! We headed for the trail through the woods that I had seen on the map just as the skies opened up. I texted Jason to let him know a storm was coming in so he could secure stuff at the campsite. We hurried through the woods listening to the rain in the tall trees and watching it get darker and darker. It seemed like we were on the path forever and when we came out of the woods, we were right where we would have been if we had just taken the stairs! (Not good for the blood pressure…) I called Jason and told him to come and get us at the camp store and we ran through the rain and ducked into the store.
Back at the campsite, the guys already had a fire going. But it was raining pretty hard so we all went into our own campers to wait it out. I had promised the kids s'mores around the fire and they were begging for them. I grabbed 3 marshmallows, ran out into the sprinkles, slid them onto a roasting stick and toasted them quickly. Ducked back in the camper and slapped together the s'mores. Ahh…happy kids!
After the kids went to bed, we stayed in my mom and dad's camper and played Toss Up until way past our bedtimes. It was definitely an adventure-filled day!

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School’s out. It’s camping time!

16 Jun

You may have noticed it's been a week since I blogged. That's because the last day of school for my kids was Friday, June 11, and we left that afternoon for an extra-long weekend of camping at Pokagon State Park in Indiana. What a fantastic five days! My parents drove up from North Carolina and my sister came down from Romeo, Michigan, and we camped, hiked, biked, canoed, built sand castles, and enjoyed tasty food.

I think I mentioned that my sister and I go all out when it comes to birthday cakes. Well, my family kind of does the same thing when it comes to camping food. We all love to cook, so we don't generally go the burger/hotdog route. We've done everything from ribs to shrimp to crab legs over the campfire. This weekend was not much different.
Because we ate so many delicious things, I'm going to focus on one day's worth of food and recipes each day for the next five days. 
We arrived Friday night right at dinner time, so I brought my vegan cheesy mac and we just popped it in the oven in the camper so we could concentrate on getting the campsites set up and unpacked while it cooked. My mom made a fabulous salad that had tender greens, avocado, sliced radishes, cucumbers and a tangy vinaigrette (recipe to come). We also had a big bowl of mixed fruit. 
After dinner, we spent the evening getting organized while the kids rode bikes. Then we sat around the fire catching up with my parents and enjoying the fresh air. Once the kids had crashed in their beds, we hauled out a few fireside snacks. I brought a new recipe for a vegan cheese spread made with raw cashews, basil and cracked peppercorns. It was similar to goat cheese and pretty good on crackers, but I want to work on that recipe a bit before posting it here.
The other spread I made was Wild Mushroom Pate. It was so yummy! We spread it on sliced French bread and a variety of crackers. My mom had hers with a glass of wine, the guys had beer (of course!) and I sipped on a Zevia.
After stuffing ourselves and scaring off a handful of raccoons, we decided to call it a night and headed to bed. (If you've ever been to Pokagon, you know the raccoons there have no fear of people and love that they live in a campground!) 
WILD MUSHROOM PATE
makes about 16 servings
1 cup pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
12 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used 2 ounces morel, 2 ounces shiitake and 8 ounces cremini)
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Place toasted pecans and olive oil in food processor and puree to a thick paste. 
In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions and minced garlic until translucent. Stir in mushrooms, garlic puree and thyme. Cook until mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Stir in parsley and white wine. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon mushroom mixture into the food processor and process to desired texture. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate several overnight for best flavor. Enjoy!

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Birthday Fun

8 Jun

It’s hard to believe my oldest son is 9 years old already. Where does the time go?

On Sunday, we had the usual big birthday celebration with friends, family, pinata, games and fun. Brady chose a football theme and the boys had a blast seeing how far they could throw the ball, playing football cornhole, making pennants for their rooms and kicking the ball through the mini goalpost Jason made out of PVC pipe. One boy told Brady at school yesterday that it was the best party he’s ever been to!

Birthday cakes in our family tend to be a big deal. My sister and I both love cake decorating and we go all out. (See below for some of my past creations.) This time, though, Brady asked for one of those giant chocolate chip cookies from the mall that they simply decorate with vanilla and chocolate frosting. Someone had brought one to school a few months ago and he wanted that instead of a traditional cake. I’ve never made one before, but I found a recipe online and decided to give it a shot.

A few days before the party, one of the moms called me to let me know that her son was highly allergic to dairy. She usually sends a dairy-free cupcake and vegan ice cream with him to the party. The thought of a little boy not getting to enjoy what the rest of his buddies were having made me sad. I told her I was vegan and would make the cookie-cake dairy free. I also had three flavors of vegan ice cream in my freezer that he could choose from. She told me that Kroger’s value bag chocolate chips do not contain dairy so I used those and simply substituted vegan butter in the recipe. The recipe called for two eggs, which I used, making this not 100% vegan. The eggs came from our local farmer’s happy chickens and the cookie-cake made about 20 servings, so I’m not too worried about eating 1/20th of an egg. It came out beautifully, but I think I’ll attempt the egg substitute next time just to see if it works.

As for the frosting…piece of cake, as they say. I have a fantastic recipe for vegan buttercream frosting, but I discovered that Duncan Hines’ classic chocolate and vanilla frostings are accidentally vegan. I thought they would taste more like the actual mall cookie-cake, so I scooped those into piping bags to decorate.

On party day, as I was cutting the cake, the friend with the dairy allergy looked at me with a smile and said, “I can have a piece, right?” You betcha, buddy! Right alongside your vegan So Delicious Mint Chip ice cream. I love a happy face. And there were lots of happy faces here on Sunday.

Here’s the cookie-cake:

Here are a few past cake creations:

Brady’s “Camp Spears” Cake – everything on the cake was edible, including the camper, canoe and lake
Logan’s first (of 3!) Thomas Cake – everything on this cake was edible, including the Oreo cookie wheels
Madison’s Swan Lake Barbie Cake – I slid a naked Barbie into the baked cake and then added her dress with frosting and fondant

Here are some additional photos from Sunday’s big bash.


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