Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Camp Cooking: The Abbi Bar

Abbi Bar is the name we use for our version of Lara Bars. I got the recipe from a dear gal, Abbi, who is super smart and super aware of allergies. These bars are gluten free and casein free. They are also very simple and easy for all ages to eat.

I use my Ninja blender. A sturdy food processor should work.

I don't think the cheapo blenders will do the trick and I would hate to have you burn out your appliances on something that it just couldn't handle but - you're a big kid and can probably figure out what you want to do. 

The basic ingredients are simple:

1 cup whole nuts
1 ¼ cup whole dates

My happy Ninja with almonds & dates.

From there you blend & go.

After a minute.

Finished enough for me at about 3 minutes.  Note that it's not all uniform.  The very bottom is quite smooth but there are still lots of nut & fruit pieces clinging to the sides.

Scraped out onto a plate.  You can see the variation clearly here.

Oops!  I forgot to add the cocoa powder I wanted.  It's ok.  Just put some on and knead it in.

A little bit of cocoa swirl packs a great flavor punch.

Roll two ounces at a time into logs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Flatten to stack better.
This batch made eleven bars, 2 ounces each.  And one 1 ounce snack.
Three ingredients?  Can't beat that with a stick.

Because we use these a few times over the course of a camping trip, I like to make a couple different varieties. Here's what I've done but - if you keep about the same ratio, you can do any dried fruit & whole nut combo!

almonds & dates

almonds, dates, cocoa & almond extract

almonds, apricots, & coconut (pulsed in at the very end so it's still visible)

cashews & mixed dried fruit (pineapple, mango, coconut)

raisins, peanuts & a little vanilla

Any combo of nuts to make one cup and any combo of fruits to make 1 ¼ cup. A small shot of extract if you like. That's it!

Editor's note:  Also find the Fabulous Abbi over at OneSock Pictures and - if you are in the 574 area code- CALL HER for your next photo session!  Let her show you how your ordinary really is extraordinary. She can.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Camp Cooking: Meal Making

In September, we will celebrate 10 years of camping with children.  We've made a variety of changes in our plans and equipment over the years.  Meals have had to change as time has gone on as well.  Three things have driven our meal choices:

  1. Must be able to serve MANY eaters of ALL skill levels.  When we started, we had seven children ranging from 8 years to 8 months.  In June of this year it was fifteen of us from adults & teens to 2 yrs old.  That's a lot of different skill levels.
  2. Must be CHEAP!  Camping can make vacationing less expensive for a family our size.  I want to keep it that way.
  3. Must be EASY! When camping, so many things are unpredictable.  Add children to the mix and... well.  It doesn't get more predictable.  Making meals should be simple without any hassle at any step of the process.
I'm going to drag out my menu from last post and show you how I put these three are put into practice at our campsite.

Day 1: AM
Breakfast Blobs (use 5# sausage)
sliced peppers
Really called Sausage Cheese Biscuits, these little wonders have made
a great "departure day" meal for several years now.  They are warm, filling, and
full of carbs AND protein AND fat.  Managed by toddlers to adults with a
bunch of last minute jobs on the run, they are my goto for Day 1.  I serve
with something fresh and easy with natural moisture and crunch.  This time
it was peppers I had sliced the night before.
Day 1: Road Meal
Kettle Korn
sliced peppers

I bagged up the extra peppers from breakfast.  
Kettle Korn is easy-peasy if you have a stovetop popper like mine.  I use1/4 cup popcorn kernels, <1/4 cup sugar and ~1 TB oil. Pop, cool and bag for the road.  DONE.  To serve, I use #4 Cone Coffee Filters.  They pack flat, are easy to fill with dry 
finger-foods, cheap and disposable. 
I also drug out some bags of apples and we were
all set when we pulled into a rest area on the way north.  We polished off 3/4 gallon
peppers, 2 1/2 gallons of Kettle Korn, and 5# of apples here.  **The order of serving 
is significant here.  Eat the raw veggies first, kids. If you are hungry, you will eat 
them.  if you aren't hungry enough to eat them, you don't 
need Kettle Korn either.
Day 1: Evening Meal
last of the peppers
2# raw carrots
Beans & Burger
2 bags Twizzlers
This is an easy to eat, feel-good meal that I heat in my large stockpot on
our two-burner LP stove.  All ingredients are pre-cooked. Serve in mugs
 with shredded cheese (1.5lb) and eat with Sporks.
4# burger, browned & frozen for transport
1 qt bag of fried onions, frozen for transport
four 28oz cans baked beans
two 28 oz cans pork-n-beans
one XL can pinto beans, drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained
3 cans black beans, drained
3 cans butter beans, drained
Day 2: AM
leftover Breakfast Blobs
hot chocolate
We had over 50 biscuits left on our departure day.  I plan it that way and
pack the extras for this first breakfast.  Fresh bananas are an easy
 food for everyone here.  Hot chocolate is a powder that we 
add to heated water:
11 cups dry milk powder
~16 oz chocolate milk mix

1/2 cup baking cocoa
(I add the cocoa to make it darker flavored.  The original recipe

I had also had non-dairy creamer & powdered sugar in it but I'm cheap.)
I use about 1/4 cup for evey cup of hot water.  About.

Day 2: Snack
Abbi Bars
Abbi Bars are a home made version of Lara Bars.  Gluten Free &  Casein Free,
these little gems are a power house of flavor and energy in a package that
adults and toddlers can both eat and enjoy.  Find the recipe in my next
post and the variations are many.  They deserve their own post.  We ate 24 bars
and 8# of apples for this snack time.
Day 2: Evening Meal
Once I get someone handing out fresh celery to the circling vultures, I get some
 water boiling for pasta.  But it's not just regular pasta cooking that I do at camp.  I 
cook my pasta at home and dehydrate it so I can quickly rehydrate it instead of boiling
 and draining.(I have never found a way to do that trick without almost scalding
 my toes.) I used 5# small shells this time.  Orzo works great but costs more.
  I choose a variety that will fit easily on our Sporks and will work well for small mouths.  I heat a scant gallon of water to boiling and add the pasta to the pot.  Once it's ready, the rest goes in. For this meal, we used 3# Italian sausage with 
onions & zucchini, fried and frozen. To this we added 7 cans Hunt's spaghetti sauce (because it comes in a metal cant that won't break in transport).  We like to serve with parmesan cheese and, for camp, we don't hold back 
much.  We use a full pound of that.
Day 3: AM
Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is an easy one for us now that all of us
can chew nuts.  Sometimes I add M&M's if I'm feeling generous.  Bananas
are still fresh and cappuccino is considered a treat (and a convenient
 warm beverage.)
Day 3: Snack
dry fruit
cheese sticks
We dehydrate fruit for our trips and general snacks.  Here I served a couple
gallons of dry apples in coffee filters and 24 string cheese sticks.
Day 3: Evening Meal
This is a favorite meal for my troops (except maybe the carrots). My
apologies for calling it "mexican" when it is so clearly an upper-midwest hotdish
sort of meal.  It is what it is and I needed a name for it.
I start by reconstituting cooked, dehydrated brown rice.  This trip I used two boxes
from Aldi.  I'm not super close on measuring at camp because the meals are
planned to have moisture.  Rice that ends up a little wet is not a problem.
Once that's done, I just start dumping in ingredients:
4# ground meat (We have our own Chorizo!) Frozen for transport.
2-3  onions, chopped and fried. Frozen for transport.
2 cans whole kernal corn, drained
2 cans hominy, drained
3 cans black beans, drained
5   24 oz jars salsa
Heat through and serve over tortilla chips (we use 3 bags) with shredded
cheese (1.5lbs) and sour cream (4 pounds).
Day 4: AM
dry apricots
hot chocolate
Just as easy as it sounds.  This is NOT a great meal for tots that don't chew
nuts, but mine are nut grinders, so we're good.
Day 4: Snack
dry bananas
From here, it's pretty much repeats and leftovers.  We're camping.  It's exciting
every moment of the day!  Live with repeated meals.  It's ok.
Day 4: Evening Meal

Day 5: AM
(no hot beverage)
On the last morning, we're all packing the last of our goods and getting ready
to hit the road.  I want the last of the fresh fruit & veggies gone by now.  The last
of whatever snack I have?  Pass it out and get it all eaten.  We all don't
eat the same things but we all get fed.  
Day 5: Snack
We usually drive straight home w/o stops to run around very much.  We're tired.
The kids are tired.  We just wanna eat when we are hungry and put the miles
behind us.  It's a time for debriefing and resting.  Eating is an afterthought.