Friday, September 18, 2015

Camping Food and Other Rambles


After a busy summer, we took a few days off this week to go camping at Canoe Creek State Park.


A canoe strapped on top, two kayaks on the ceiling of the trailer, bikes below, plus food and luggage in every spare corner - we were loaded down with all the necessities for four days of fun.


We rented a cabin, much to the relief of this mom who didn't think she could handle another rainy tenting experience right now. But even though we had access to a kitchen, when we go camping, Ed wants to cook all our food on the campfire.

(Only exception: his morning coffee. It was just too tempting to make coffee in the kitchen each morning before going out to start the campfire.)

I have trouble thinking of ideas for camping food so I'm sharing what we ate in hopes that it will give future camp chefs some ideas.


After we unpacked, we roasted hotdogs, warmed up a can of baked beans, and made bread-on-a-stick.

For bread-on-a-stick, at home I had mixed up some Miracle Bread dough and froze it. While we settled into our cabin, I allowed the dough to thaw. To bake the bread, Ed pulled off a piece of dough and rolled it into a long"snake." Then he wrapped it around the stick. We tried using metal hotdog sticks and also sticks picked up from the nearby woods that the boys scraped the bark off of. The wooden sticks worked much better then the metal since the dough stayed on better.

The bread was not baked perfectly. the outside well-toasted and the inside raw;  but it was fun to make and was all consumed. It tasted a little like soft pretzels.


In the morning, Ed fried sausage  and scrambled eggs on the griddle and cooked grits in the dutch oven.

Feeding his family enough calories to fill a day full of activity!


We spent the morning exploring some of the hiking trails in the park. For a while I had company that kept my pace before she decided that dad's backpack was a better option.  I was the plodder on all our adventures this week, usually behind the others, whether on foot or bike.


But I usually had time to catch up and get my breath when there was fascinating sites to explore, like the remains of an old lime kiln.


We found a limestone quarry to climb, strange tree formations, some great overlooks, several geo-caches, a bat cave, and even a large black snake.


By the time we got back to the cabin, we had good appetites for lunch. I had planned lunches that we could take on our excursions, not knowing what we would do each day. But this day we ate chicken salad wraps, chips, and sliced apples at the cabin.


In the afternoon we headed down to the lake at the park. Our little girlie was excited about her first ride in the canoe. Until she got in. Then she screamed her displeasure. Ed dropped the two of us onto the nearest bank.


I put her in the stoller and within minutes, she was sleeping. The poor thing was just too tired for fun on the lake.


But the other children (and dad) made up for her lack of enthusiasm.


Even I had a chance to paddle the kayak. It had been a while since I dipped a paddle in the water. Brilliant  blue water and warm sunshine - a perfect September day.


For supper we made baked potatoes in the coals and chili in the dutch oven. Ed fried out the ground beef, added beans, water, and my homemade seasoning mix which included homemade tomato powder.


We went back to the lake to try our hand at fishing. We had  few nibbles, but mostly just enjoyed the perfect evening.


I think this was the only moment that I caught Ed standing still and enjoying the view. Mostly he was kept busy baiting hooks and untangling lines.


Back at our campsite, we toasted marshmallows and popped corn over the campfire. Perfect ending to the day.


We began Tuesday with a pancake breakfast.



A few miles from the park is the Lower (rhymes with Flower) Rail Trail. We decided to try a few miles. It was prettier than we expected, following the river, and almost completely level. Round trip, we biked nine mile.


At our turn-around point, we stopped in the little town of Williamsburg where we found a nice park along the trail to eat our ham sandwiches. Some cold drinks from the store next door were appreciated too. 

In the afternoon, the children and Ed went down to the lake for more water sports. I'm not sure how much time was spent in kayaks and how much in the water, but they came back soaked.

I attempted to nap with the 20-month old but apparently she had slept enough in the bike trailer to make that impossible. You moms may have experienced the scenario. Lay down for 30 seconds, sit up, adjust your blanket, lay down, sit up, find your dolly, lay down, suck on your fingers, sit up, ask mom to cover your feet with your blanket, lay down...and so on. After an hour of that, I chose to appreciate the few minutes of semi-quiet that I had enjoyed and go join the rest of the family.


For supper, Ed sauteed carrots, onions, and peppers in the dutch oven. Then he added water, rice, seasonings, and boneless chicken thighs. I thought we had prepared a large pan-full but the fresh air must be prompting good appetites as there wasn't many leftovers.


While supper cooked, we played some loud games of Pit.

In the evening we went back to the lake for more fishless fishing. None of the other fishermen seemed to be having success so we didn't feel too badly.

Back at the campsite Ed made chocolate brownies for a bedtime snack. It was too dark for pictures, and there were no leftovers to photograph in the morning.



For breakfast Ed made a wonderful whole wheat coffee cake in the dutch oven. I had prepared dry mixes for most of the food we made such as pancakes, coffee cake, and brownies. I placed all the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag and added a note with what ingredients were needed such as milk, water, eggs, or oil. This made super easy cooking while camping.

Some of you have discovered the secret: camping with children is not a vacation for mom. We take our work with us. But I do think that I'm learning a few things to make camping less stressful. Easy food prep is obvious.

And it is worth camping to see the children's enjoyment. Maybe the best part for me is that Ed gives his undivided attention to the children. Most days, I'm the sole parent. I have no idea how single parents do it because I'm always ready to turn the responsibility over to Ed when he gets home from work each evening. But to have his 24-hour parenting is a break for mom even if camping itself isn't.

And Ed says that all this exercise is keeping us young.


But back to breakfast. We added bacon, leftover baked potatoes fried with some onion and peppers and scrambled eggs to our coffee cake. We feasted well this morning.


The morning was still cool and foggy, but just like the other days, it warmed up to perfect 70 degree weather once the sun came up.


We had enjoyed the Lower Trail so much that we went back to bike another section, this time starting six miles below Williamsburg. A kind-hearted biker offered to take our family picture.


Again the trail ran along the water with many benches to enjoy a break and the view.


We stopped at the same park at Williamsburg to enjoy what our children call a "snackie" lunch - baloney, cheese, crackers, and apples. We have loved these Contigo Trekker water bottles. They do not leak and go with us on every trip and bike ride.


In the afternoon, back at the park, we tried our hand at disc golf.


We didn't do so well, but it was our first attempt and something we will probably try again.


Ed toasted quesadillas for supper.


I like to end a vacation with a meal that can use up leftovers. Quesadillas were perfect. I layered tortillas with chopped chicken, sausage, rice, chili, and beans. Add a sprinkle of mozarella cheese to hold it all together. Toast each side. Serve with salsa. Yum!

We went back to the lake for the evening. This time, Ed tried taking our littlest girl in the kayak. Whether she felt more secure on dad's lap than mom's or just wanted to have fun like the big children, she loved it. She spent the whole evening in the kayak. But I had not brought the camera to capture her grin.

We paddled until nearly dark and reluctantly pulled into shore. The two kayaks and canoe, plus all the life jackets and paddles had added to our load but but also our enjoyment.

We enjoyed more toasted marshmallows and popcorn before scrubbing off the dirt layers and heading for bed.


Our last morning, Ed made yummy cinnamon french toast which we slathered with peanut butter and syrup. Then we got to work packing, loading up, and cleaning the cabin.


By ten o'clock we were back on the Lower Trail. We had decided to finish the last five miles, making a ten mile round trip. This part of the trail was even more rural and for most of the trail we could hear nothing but the gurgle of the stream.


We stopped for another snackie lunch at one of the benches along the trail - digging through the leftovers to find more baloney, cheese, crackers, cookies, apples, and other random items.

Then we loaded up our bikes for one last time. We spent the afternoon at the Allegheny Portage Railroad Historical site near Altoona. I enjoyed it more than I expected.

Having a ten-year-old got our family into the site without charge. If you are visiting a National Park in the next year, bring along a forth-grader for free passes thanks to the "Every Kid in a Park" program.

After a short but steep hike at the Portage Railroad, there was no complaints about an air-conditioned ride home.

Today, all we have left are memories, photos, and a huge stack of laundry.

23 comments :

  1. You did really well with all that food and prep. I would love for my husband to help with cooking but he just doesn't seem to like it. Love the pictures, your children are adorable, and you look very well. Cheryl

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  2. Thanks for sharing about your camping trip with so many details! It is great to see how another family does it. We went camping for the first time since we only had one child, then a toddler. It rained and rained...and I gave up camping for the next 8 years after that! I wish I hadn't, now that we took all 3 of our children this summer and had an amazing time. We loved it so much we would have liked to go again this fall, but we are moving and renovating before we move in fully, so there has been no time. Another fall. Its great to see how you do it, since we also take bikes and trailer etc etc.

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    Replies
    1. It isn't too late to make memories! Your children are probably the age now to really enjoy the effort of camping.
      Gina

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  3. Sounds like you had a lovely time and boy did you guys eat well!

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  4. Sounds wonderful. Our family loves camping, and as it is the start of Spring here in Australia, and the start of the school holidays, we hope to go camping next week! I can't wait.

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  5. Great pictures. Everyone looked as though they were really enjoying the trip. You certainly had the food organized. Thanks for sharing and have a blessed day.

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  6. What a wonderful trip!! I am impressed at how well you pre-prepared your meals..what a time saver! I never cared for alot of food that folks take camping because of the preservatives. You have shown that you can eat healthy and have fun,too!! I love your photos!! I have a granddaughter that cried in a rowboat earlier this summer..kids are so cute!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I struggle to have vegetables in our diet when we are camping. My children get weary of carrot sticks very quickly. It seems harder to steam vegetables or have a salad. But I figure a few days with few vegetables won't kill us!
      Gina

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  7. I'm ear-marking any of your camping blogs...I need all the tips. we aren't campers, but the children want to go, and we want to take them. :-) It just looks like so much work for this 'lazy' mom! Loved the tip about the "Every Kid In A Park" pass....we have a 4th grader this year, and we have plans to go 1-3 National Parks in the coming months!!

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    1. Have fun with your pass! It is a great deal - especially if you were already planning to visit some National Parks.
      Gina

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  8. My husband and I used to motorcycle camp with a one burner back pack stove and a tent, etc. for 2 weeks every summer. I would pack the perishables in the cooler to use first, such as eggs, cheese, and frozen meats, along with a gallon of frozen milk (pour out a little before freezing so the jug will not burst). You can use a little at a time, as it thaws. I had to figure out how to cook one thing at a time on the one burner, as we did not take the time for a camp fire to get coals going. If you plan how to use fresh veggies/fruits that transport well (potatoes, onions, apples, etc), you can add pasta or rice, and some meat you pick up as you go, if needed. I enjoyed trying to come up with ideas for meals that relied on a small number of transportable ingredients. It is fun to see how others do this, especially with children to consider!

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  9. Some of my best memories are of camping with my Dad. Mom went once and that was that! She loved the week all 5 children were gone with Dad having a great time. Both you and Ed are wonderful troopers and it shows on the faces of beautiful lil campers! Great food ideas and thank Goodness Ed is all in on these trips! As always I love your photo journals.

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  10. It looks like we camp in similar ways. I'm wondering how you figure out all those bike trails? We are looking at the bike trail close to Johnstown PA, and I wonder how we could figure out how to do it, before we get there? We love to make good food when camping. We often make fajitas for a dinner. I have steak or chicken breast marinating before hand, then chop and fry- delicious! This summer when camping, we made doughnuts, heated tallow in a skillet, then dropped in canned biscuits with a hole punched in the middle. (Yes, I could hardly buy them, and how good could they be?). When they browned on one side, we flipped them, and when the other side was browned took them out and drained them on towels a bit. Then we rolled them in a bag with cinnamon/sugar mixture. The children declared they were the best donuts they ever had, and even I thought they were delicious for canned biscuits!! I think we have a new camping tradition!
    We often make breakfast burritos. Fry peppers and onions, sausage or bacon, eggs, and have cheese there, then everyone can put on what they want. Great with salsa and sour cream. Your quesadillas sound great!
    Your post makes me want to camp again!

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    1. Wendy-
      Thanks for the food ideas! The donuts sound yummy!

      Ed always makes our biking plans. I just go along for the ride! I think he just looked online, printed off a map, and figured out how many miles we could reasonably do in one day (which depends a lot on how steep the grade.) Sometimes you can even find reviews online of different parks and bike trails. A visitor's center, state welcome center, or even park rangers can be a good source of information of activities in the area.

      Hope you have fun biking,
      Gina

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  11. What a lovely spot.

    Have you done a blog post on your seasoning recipe? The one you mention here with the homemade tomato powder?

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    1. I haven't. But maybe I should add that to my list of future posts.
      Gina

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    2. And could you add your recipe for the rice and chicken meal too. I would love to have that. We use to camp all the time when our children were little now the 6 are ages 36 to 21. We all still go to cabins together once a year. Hopefully next summer my husband and I can do come camping again. Thanks I love all your post.

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    3. I didn't really have a recipe. We just sauteed chopped onion, pepper, and carrots. Then added two cups of brown rice and four cups of water. I added my homemade onion soup mix (I could share that recipe) and some extra salt. We laid chicken thighs on top of the rice and left it all simmer for an hour until the rice was tender.
      Gina

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    4. thank you. I would really like to start using "real" rice but have never tried it. That is the next thing on my list to do on our way to eating healthy. I guess I am just kinda afraid to try it.. Can this be made in the oven or stove top in the house too. yes I would love to have your home made onion soup recipe as I am sure lots of your readers would too.

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    5. I think you will find rice a simple next step. The biggest thing I need to remember is that it takes longer to cook. I do make this on the stove and in the oven also. If I am pushed for time, I sometimes bring the water to a boil, before pouring it in the baking dish and sliding it in the oven. It seems to cut the baking time.
      Gina

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  12. Darn, Gina. You make the camping look like so much fun that I am ready to go again. However my daughter is 9 hours away at university so I can get over that feeling and all the accompanying work pretty quickly. We do have good memories of our camping when she was younger though and I'm sure your children will as well.

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  13. Your food looks delicious! Your husband is quite the accomplished outdoor cook, and of course, you did a great job doing all the preparations forehand. It looks like a very nice trip, and I am glad you took the option of a cabin.

    I have never heard of or seen the game PIT. I will take a look for it.

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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