Friday, September 27, 2013

campfire donuts

A few people left comments or sent emails asking for my recipe for campfire donuts.  They are so ridiculously easy, I really just want to share with everyone.  I got the idea from my friend, Kelly, who made them for us in her home.  So you can make them at home, too!  And really, there is nothing better than freshly made donuts.  Nothing.  Don't argue with me, NOTHING.  Here is all you need:

2 cans Pillsbury biscuits
1/2 gallon to 1 gallon cooking oil
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar

You will want to find the biscuits that are NOT flaky.  I haven't actually tried the flaky, but I've been told they don't hold up as well.  These are the butter biscuits.  Let me just say right here that there is absolutely nothing healthy about these, and we only felt ok about eating them after 6 mile rambling hike the day before.  Oh, ok, confession: I'd feel ok about eating them after no hike at all.
First you'll want to get your oil into a dutch oven directly over the fire.  Then punch holes in your donuts.  We used a shot glass, since that's what we had on hand.  Save the holes, those are the kid's favorites!  Once the oil is slowly bubbling, drop in a donut or ball to test.  If it takes more than a couple minutes to brown, you may want to heat the oil more.  If the donut turns brown immediately, take the oil off the fire to cool a bit.  It will still cook the donuts off the fire.  We floated 4 donuts at a time, using tongs to pull them out.  Wait until they are a golden brown.

Have your cinnamon sugar spread out on a plate so that you can immediately roll the hot donuts in the sugar.  It will stick better that way.
And that is it my friends!  So easy!  Brian left the oil on and made a batch of scotch eggs, which are also really easy camp food, too.  Happy camping!  The Fall is the best time to get lost in the woods, as long as there are donuts back at the campsite.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

into the woods

Over the weekend we went camping with our friends.  Brian and I both grew up camping, and while he's, um, a little more passionate about it, we both want our kiddos to experience the joys of communing with nature.  And this camping trip was filled with joys and just a few lows.
My favorite part about camping is sitting by the fire.  Sitting by the fire drinking coffee, eating, roasting marshmallows, or just chatting.  Best part.  And we got lots of that in with the littles and our friends, Dan and Lacy.  The littles just adored them, and I think Fletcher may be just a little sweet on Ms Lacy.

The sleeping in tents went well, and the littles really like the novelty of sleeping outside.  There were a few wake-ups from Rowan, but it really wasn't too bad.  We stayed at St. Francois state park (in Missouri), and it really was a beautiful park.  We decided that a long hike was in order to fully enjoy its beauty.  And that is when the camping trip hit a snag.
At first all was well.  Rowan found pretty rocks in the stream beds on the hike, Fletcher enjoyed finding bugs and lizards, and it was just a gorgeous day.
But then it started feeling a bit long.  And we asked hikers coming the other way if we were close to the end.  They laughed and told us: NO.  It was a 3 mile hike, and we knew we'd by carrying littles through some/most of it, but we were really planning on it taking about 2 hours, tops.  As we stretched toward the 2 1/2 hour mark, the littles got a little cranky.  Snacks and drinks helped soothe the cranks.
 But then it happened.  The trail just dead ended at a creek.  The guys ran forward a bit, trying to get an idea of where the trail headed, and we all rambled through the woods looking for a path that seemed to run out.  At one point I just stopped, pretty certain that we were just going to get ourselves into trouble if we kept on going on a pathless path.  And then we were introduced to a new Missouri delight, the seed tick.  Fletcher and Lacy were COVERED.  I mean dozens upon dozens of teeny tiny little ticks all over their ankles.  Seed ticks are basically baby ticks, by the way.  A nuisance with really awful itchy bites, but not dangerous or disease carrying.  But really, just GROSS.  Luckily I had tucked my jeans into my socks, so I wasn't swarmed.  But at that point we all just really, really wanted to get the fuck out of there.  Excuse my f-bomb, but I really just need to convey how desperate we all were to find our way out.  At that point, Rowan started screaming, "I WANT TO GO HOME AND TAKE A BATH!!!"  And we all agreed with her.  Yes, a bath WOULD be nice.
We tromped back to the place where the path had ended at the creek, and there it was.  Not in plain sight, mind you, but the trail picked up on the opposite side of the creek.  We hurried on out of there and back to the campsite, where we picked off MORE ticks, and tried to drown our sorrows in beer and marshmallows.  The 2 hour hike had turned into a 4 1/2 hour hike.  Which is fine for adults.  But for a 3 and 5 year old, not so much.
The next morning was very chilly, and the littles were a little cold and grumpy.  Hot cocoa and campfire-made donuts helped the situation.
 Although Rowan didn't end up with the tick infestation that Fletcher and Lacy had (and later found Brian to have) she did get stung by a yellow jacket.  Poor little thing.  But she was a trooper, and didn't cry long.
Despite the hike gone awry, it was a really fun camping trip.  We all loved it, and the littles keep talking about doing it again!  So thanks to Dan and Lacy for inviting us and for making it all fun, even when we were lost in the woods.
Now let's plan the next one!  But with shorter hikes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

warm potato artichoke salad

I like September.  It is the month where two seasons collide in a very tasty way.  The days are still warm enough for your garden to produce tomatoes and basil in a huge way, but the nights are cool enough to run the oven.  Anyone else miss using the oven?  This salad included my first roasted vegetable of the season.  And I have a couple pounds of brussels sprouts in the refrigerator that will get their day soon.  Very soon.  This salad was really good warm, and pretty good once chilled, also!  So if it's still hot where you are, this will still hit the spot.  This recipe produces a huge amount, since I made it for a party.  Feel free to cut it in half or smaller if needed.

3 lbs waxy potatoes, cubed
1 large yellow or white onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 can quarted artichoke hearts
2 bunches fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon juiced
4 T olive oil
1 T honey
1 T brown mustard

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss potatoes and onions in 2 T olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Spread on a greased pan, and roast in oven for half an hour, stirring occasionally.

While potatoes and onions are roasting, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.  Set aside.

When potatoes and onions are finished, combine with tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a large bowl, and pour the vinaigrette over.  Toss lightly, adding the basil and parmesan.
Enjoy those warm days and cool nights that are so great about September.  And make this salad.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the beginning signs

 Honeycrisp apples in the stores and farmer stands.
Chilly mornings where littles beg to be swaddled in cozy blankets while they eat warm cinnamon rolls. Colorful leaves spotted and grabbed to be pressed into heavy books.  I have an intense urge to go wherever I can find pumpkins and/or apples to pick.  I want to wear scarves and sip hot drinks.  I always love the turn of the season, no matter which season is beginning.  Because that is what it always is.  A new beginning.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

botanic gardens

We decided spur of the moment-like to go to the Missouri Botanic Gardens this past Sunday.  If we ever planned an outing in advance, it would be shocking, really.  It was especially spur of the moment since we had meant to go to the butterfly house, which is on a different campus.  But we decided to stay and look around the gardens and save the butterfly house for another day.  It was a great decision.  The sky had opened up and poured rain earlier in the day, so some of the stifling heat was held at bay, and the gardens were all but empty.  The littles absolutely loved it.  Just loved it all.  And it made my heart feel so happy that they enjoyed it so much!  Brian and I have visited gardens all over the world, and this one ranked in the top 5, for certain.
 There was a lot of Chihuly art featured throughout the gardens, which I liked.  I do like how his art echoes nature, and it really doesn't detract for me.  I know others don't like his glass sculptures that well, but I enjoy them.
 Especially when I can use his sculptures for funny pictures of Brian.
 These are water lily pads.  They were about 3 feet in diameter.  Whoa.
These nymphs cavorting below really sparked an interesting topic of conversation with Fletcher after Brian told him that I used to be a nymph that he had "caught."  Oy.  Lots of questions about me living in the forest and dancing naked ensued.  Thanks for that, Brian.
 The littles really loved the Climatron, which was basically an indoor rainforest.  There were lots of waterfalls and tiny creatures to examine, and it was hard to get them to leave.
 Tiny creature alert:
 There was a children's garden that we didn't get to, but we plan on checking that out on our next visit.  The littles didn't mind missing out on it, since there was so much to see.
 Fletcher insisted upon running through this fun fountain.  Rowan just watched.  She didn't want any part of being wet.  I really resisted the idea of Fletcher getting soaking wet, since I assumed we'd never hear the end of how wet and uncomfortable he was the rest of the trip.  I was wrong.  He laughed and ran and enjoyed it so much, and then didn't say ONE WORD about being wet or uncomfortable later.  Proud moment for me!  And a learning moment for me to trust my littles a bit more.  They are starting to gauge what they can handle.
 The Chinese garden was a favorite.  Especially when we found a massive bullfrog singing away.
 I loved the box hedge garden, and I heard a tour guide say there was an actual labyrinth garden on the grounds, but we didn't get a chance to find it.
 The fruit and vegetable gardens were rife with fat bumblebees and butterflies, and we stayed for a while to watch them work.
 I think Brian's favorite garden was the Japanese garden.  We didn't get a chance to fully look it over since littles were complaining of tired feet and thirsty throats.
 Fletcher took off his shoes after running through the fountain, and didn't want them back on.  So we let him wander around barefoot and happy.  It gave him better access to splash in puddles and water anyway.  Both my littles are drawn to water.
 There were a lot of original structures all over the gardens, including this gate house.  So cute, right?
 My little peeping Toms.
We're planning on becoming members and taking advantage of all the campuses around St. Louis that are connected to the Botanic Gardens.  It was really an amazing day that we all could enjoy.  Once Rowan got past the fact that she wasn't allowed to pick any of the flowers, that is!  I can't wait to go back when the Fall foliage makes an appearance.