Camping Desserts – Campfire Pineapple Upsidedown Cake

campfire pineapple upsidedown cake

When I found this recipe for campfire pineapple upsidedown cake I was in heaven! Growing up pineapple upsidedown cake was always a treat in our house, my Oma being famous for making it.

My Dad absolutely loved it and every time my Oma came to visit she would make one for him (that and crumb cake, also delicious). So when I discovered this recipe we could make over the fire I knew that we had to try it. Plus I was excited to find a new camping dessert recipe, cause though I love banana boats and cinnamon apples I also like variety on the menu.

campfire pineapple upsidedown cakeWe made this recipe on our first camping trip this year on July long weekend. We actually made it in the afternoon on one of our days away, before we had supper. One of the things I find when camping is that because there is no schedule meals often run later than usual. Often we are not finishing supper til 7 or 8 and by that point not only am I full but I don’t feel like creating more food. So we decided – in the words of my father – that we would ‘eat dessert first’. Then worry about supper later.

I had made the pound cake at home and brought it with us which was easy enough to do. You can also buy a pound cake if you prefer but I needed a sugar free version. Plus honestly, regardless of if I was looking for sugar free or not, I usually bake cake from scratch no matter what it is. I am not one to buy cake from the store in general.

I had also experimented with the pound cake recipe using honey for the first time as the sweetener. Oh my it turned out well. Nice and moist. Yum! We had a hard time not eating just the cake before we made the rest of our dessert.

The recipe for campfire pineapple upsidedown cake is simple – pound cake, pineapple, coconut sugar (great natural alternative to brown sugar), Earth Balance and cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Baked in foil over the fire until the sugar melts and you get that nice googey syrupy liquid. You do need to be careful not to over cook it as it can burn, especially if you are doing it over the grate on the fire. Alternatively, you could burn your fire down to coals and bake it, but that would take longer!

Campfire Pineapple Upsidedown Cake (sugar free & dairy free)

pound cake, cut into chunks *recipe for pound cake belowcampfire pineapple upsidedown cake

fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

dash of cinnamon, nutmeg

coconut sugar

coconut cream for topping

1 healthy spoonful of Earth Balance Vegan Spread, plus a little bit to grease your foil so the dessert doesn’t stick

heavy duty tinfoil

Tear off piece of heavy duty tinfoil (about 12×12″) and place on table (or flat surface). Use a small amount of Earth Balance and spread evenly over the foil. Slice and cut pineapple and place on foil. Slice pound cake and cut into squares about 1 inch thick and place on top of pineapple. Put a healthy spoonful of both Earth Balance and coconut sugar over pineapple and cake, sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

campfire pineapple upsidedown cakeClose up the foil by brining two ends together and folding over then rolling down til tight. Then fold over and roll on each end. This creates a nice tight packet that keeps everything in and is easy to open when done.

Place foil packet on the grill over fire. (Also works well by putting into coals of fire, but no flame or BBQ). Cook for about 5 minutes and then check it (takes a little longer on the BBQ). It is ready when the butter and brown sugar have melted and formed that yummy syrupy liquid over pineapple cake mixture. Put a dollop of coconut cream on top if desired. Enjoy! It will be hot so be careful.

We loved these. Everyone inhaled theirs and then wanted more. And I loved how simple it was. The kids could make and put together their own (so making it as little or as big as they wanted) and it didn’t take long to cook as you are basically just melting the Earth Balance and coconut sugar. Then voila! it is ready at any time of day, whether you choose to have it before supper or not.

This is the recipe for the pound cake I made. It was also quick and easy and I really liked using honey as the sweetener. Make sure you sift the flour as though it takes a few extra minutes to do so, it makes the cake lighter and fluffier.

Honey Pound Cake

1 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

1 1/2 c. flour, siftedcampfire pineapple upsidedown cake

1 c. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Lightly grease a 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl beat Earth Balance and honey together until light and fluffy.

Add vanilla and then gradually add eggs, beating well. With mixer on low, add salt and the flour. Beat well to combine.

Transfer batter into loaf pan and bake at 350F for about 65 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let pan cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing.

Cake may be stored in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 weeks.

 

Camping Recipes – Potato Boats

potato boats

On my hunt for new camping recipes I discovered this neat recipe for potato boats (which honestly is a glorified baked potato but it’s still fun). I really liked the idea of the variety it offered and also found it similar to TFD’s (tin foil dinners, another favorite camping recipe in our family).

We tried it out potato boats this past week when we were camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park for my oldest son’s birthday (He’s 13 now a real teenager in my home – yikes:). It’s a beautiful park in a part of the Badlands with magnificient hoodoos along the Milk River. This park is also a sacred landscape that contains the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America.

I thought Matthew would really like this recipe and since it was his birthday I let him choose what he wanted to have for supper. When I offered potato boats his eyes lit up and he practically salivated all over me. He even got the fire going so that I could get them started.

They turned out really well and all the kids loved them, Matthew practically inhaling his. They were a little too big though for the twins, in the future I would make one potato and give them each half. I also found it a bit too much for me as the portion was just too large.

potato boatsThe other downside with this recipe is that you have to bake the potatoes first and pre-cook your bacon. Then slice them put in the cheese, bacon, ham, etc. and then heat. For me, this was too many steps for a camping dinner and took too long. When I am camping I like recipes that are hearty, filling and delicious, but that are also quick and easy. The fact that I had to cook the potatoes and the bacon first and then put them together and cook some more wasn’t really appealing to me. But I made them anyway to see how they would turn out. And as I said they were delicious. I can see this recipe being one that would work well at home over the BBQ.

When we were camping, we did them over the fire, which I love because there are less dishes! but the flipside is it did take a little more time. First you have to build your fire and let it burn down to nice hot coals. You do not want flame as this will burn your potatoes. This can take at least an hour or more to get the coals you need, and then at least an hour to bake your potato – great if you’re kicking around the campsite.

Potato Boats

(amounts are based on one potato per person and is dairy free – may choose to serve half depending on appetite and age)

1 baking potatopotato boats

1-2 slices of bacon, cooked

1-2 sliced ham

1 Daiya cheese slice

green onion, chopped for topping

Earth Island’s non-dairy sour cream

Wash and prep potatoes for baking. Poke holes with fork all over potato and wrap in single layer of heavy duty foil. Bake potatoes in hot coals of campfire, approx 1 hour, turning once. When potatoes are soft, remove from fire and open foil. Cut 4 slices along the potato, do not cut all the way through to bottom. In each sliced section put in cheese, bacon and ham. Rewrap in foil and place back on coals for about 10 minutes.

potato boatsRemove from coals once cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and green onions on top.

In making these and deciding there were too many steps for me making while camping, I came up with a couple of things that could make this dinner easier and a little bit faster if you don’t want to spend two hours making dinner.

If you were having this meal for your first night you could bake the potatoes and cook the bacon at home then simply stuff them and reheat them on the coals of the fire. You would still need to build your fire and get it to coals but then the actual cooking time would be cut almost in half as it would only take about 20 minutes on good coals to heat through.

It is definitely a hearty delicious meal and you could certainly change up what you ‘stuff’ into the slices. I had planned to serve grilled veggies with it but just ended up serving them raw in the end. You could also serve with a side of fruit if desired.

potato boats

Try it out and share your thoughts in the comments below? Did you stuff it with something else? How did you enjoy it?

 

Homemade Sugar Free Peach Pie

sugar free peach pie

Peaches are one of the wonderful fruits that are fresh and abundant in the summer months. Stock full of vitamins and minerals (like Vitamin E, K, A and lots of B’s), there’s nothing like biting into a fresh juicy peach on a summer’s day.

We often get our peaches fresh from the Okanagan fruit stands while out visiting Gran and Grandpa in BC, ok that is the only place we get our peaches. Once I’ve bitten into a fresh ripe Okanagan peach I just can’t bring myself to buy them in the store. They simply aren’t as good, not as juicy and not as flavorful. So once we’ve eaten them all I don’t get any more (unless I can go back to BC and get some).

Besides eating them fresh (my son sometimes eating 4-6 at a time!), I usually make peach jam, (which I love!), and make the odd crumble. It wasn’t until my neighbor went on one time about how much he loved peach pie that I even considered the possibility. I love making pies in the summer with all the fresh fruit, cherry pie being my favorite, but I had never made peach. So I set out to experiment.

sugar free peach pieWhen I originally found and made this peach pie recipe it was before we had eliminated refined sugars from our diet. So when I pulled up the recipe this summer (as my mother was asking that I share it with her) I had to make a few adjustments. I hadn’t realized that it still had white sugar in it.

I thought about using agave nectar, which I knew would work and is what I did originally when I transformed my cherry pie recipe, but I have heard a number of reports lately that agave is no better than refined white sugar. I had recently tried using honey in a pound cake recipe that turned out successfully so I decided to give honey a go for the peach pie.

As luck would have it, it turned out great, and everybody ate it up. With my oldest son even commenting that my pies are way better than Gran’s, as he inhaled his pie. My tip though is to make sure that you mix the honey in very well with the flour mixture so you don’t get any clumps of flour. The other option is to do the flour mixture without the honey, sprinkle it over the peaches, and then pour the honey over the peaches. It does produce a lot of juice regardless so I recommend a deep pie dish for sure.

Sugar Free Peach Pie

2 – 9″ pie crusts (store bought or homemade*)

1 egg beatensugar free peach pie

5c. sliced peaches, peeled and sliced

2 tbsp. lemon juice

½ c. flour

1 c. honey

½ tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. butter

Brush some of the beaten egg on crust to keep from getting soggy. Place peaches in a bowl and sprinkle with some lemon juice, mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix flour, honey, spices and pour over peaches, mix gently. Pour into pie crust, dot with butter. Put on top crust fold edges under. Flute or seal by pressing with a fork dipped in egg. Brush egg over the top crust.

Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is brown.

Enjoy! (And don’t forget the ice cream! We enjoy a delectable creamy non dairy vanilla ice cream by Rice Dream. It’s fantastic.)

* I make my own pie crust which turns out flaky and delicious every time simply by using Tenderflake and following their recipe on the box.

What’s your favorite kind of pie in the summer? Share in the comments below.

Camping Recipes – Campfire Lasagna

camping recipesI love camping! There’s just something about packing up your stuff and living with only what you’ve got for a while (either all packed into the car or the camper). It often makes me wonder why we have so much stuff in our houses when we can live happily with so little when camping? I love being outside all the time, not concerned about dishes or cooking as I’m outside; and the kids love it to to. We never run out of things to do, places to see or explore.

Camping is very freeing. Though there’s still a rough routine I find there’s no strict timelines, the kids play or ride their bikes, go to the playground or we happily all sit around the campfire watching the flames spark and pop and adding our wood as needed. Everyone’s always engaged in something, even if we are just sitting there.

camping recipesOne thing I have found with camping is that the food always tastes good. Maybe it’s just our ravenous appetites from being outside and active all day but whatever’s on the menu always tastes delicious. That being said we have our favorite camping recipes that we tend to make on a regular basis as I find that they are not only quick but satisfying (and usually contain a lot of meat – though we are not big meat eaters at home). This season though I was feeling that we were having a lot of the same old and though I enjoy our meals when we’re camping, I was looking to add a little variety and eager to try out some new recipes. What else we could create enjoy and add to the favorites (creating a little more variety in the menu)?

So as usual I went searching and found some great recipes which I am going to feature here over the next few weeks. From campfire dinners to desserts, there are some great things to choose from.camping recipes

The first one I found happened to be a recipe I’d had for years in a recipe book from my mother, but had never actually made, in fact I don’t know if she has ever made it. I loved that it was a one pot deal, throwing everything in the pot and just waiting for it to cook. This was the essence of easy and I hoped taste.

We tried it out earlier this summer when we went on our camping trip to Vegreville to see the Giant Ukrainian Easter Egg – which is definitely a site to see and worth the stop, if you are ever in Northern Alberta. And it was quite delicious! It was a great mix of flavors and a nice variety in a pasta dish, as opposed to the regular spaghetti and tomato sauce we typically had (not that there’s anything wrong with spaghetti!) This offered something yummy and different and got our ‘meat requirement’ in. Ha ha

This recipe can be made on the stove or over the fire and is literally ready in 30 minutes!

Campfire Lasagna

1 lb. ground chicken (or turkey or beef)camping recipes

1 tsp. oregano

2 c. spiral macaroni (we use brown rice pasta, gluten free)

1 pkg. onion soup mix *

1 – 796 ml can tomatoes

2 c. water

1/3 c. non-dairy parmesan cheese

1 c. Daiya mozzarella

In a large pot, brown meat. Add onion soup mix, oregano, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil and stir in macaroni. Cook uncovered, until macaroni is tender. Stir in parmesan cheese and mozzarella.

I often make my own spice mixes as well as I like to avoid the MSG and other preservatives they put into the pre-mixed ones in the store, so I did create my own ‘onion soup mix’ which turned out to be quite flavorful and definitely did the trick for the desired taste.

*Homemade Onion Soup Mixcamping recipes

2 1/2 tbsp. dried minced onion

1 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. homemade chicken boullion mix (or beef boullion if prefered)

Mix all spices together.

This recipe was such a hit that Luke asked for the leftovers the next day for lunch. That’s a really good sign.

Do you have a favorite dinner camping recipe? Share it in the comments below so we can try it out.

Rich Creamy Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

 

dairy free chocolate ice cream

One of the most popular frozen sweet treats in the summer is most definitely ice cream. It’s great to be able to stop and enjoy an ice cream cone on a warm summer’s day. In fact I was drooling over them yesterday at the zoo, as everyone was walking around with a yummy soft serve ice cream.

When we went dairy free I was sad to miss out on all the wonderful ice cream flavors and the sweet yummy treat it provided. (I really missed ice cream and also cheese when I went dairy free, cause at the time there were not any really good dairy free alternatives). Not only was ice cream a great summer treat it used to be a staple at my house! When we were little we’d often anticipate ice cream after dinner, with my Dad being the worst contender.

I knew there were ways though that I could still indulge in my ice cream fetish that were still yummy and delicious without all the dairy. My first step was to buy a ice cream maker. Though not a necessity to make ice cream, there is just something fun about watching your liquid concoction turn into yummy ice cream. I also tried out some of the non dairy ice creams on the market, which there are some good ones, such as Rice Dream and Coconut Bliss, but they are very expensive and making my own was a much cheaper alternative. Besides I could control what I put into my ice cream and could avoid all the preservatives present in store bought brands.

dairy free chocolate ice creamAnd honestly, making your own ice cream does not take long at all. It is basically the time to mix your ingredients in your blender and churn it in the ice cream maker (usually about 30 minutes tops). So if you time it right there really is no waiting at all (and even if there is, doesn’t that create anticipation and excitement therefore enjoying even more the result?)

Making ice cream is also fun and easy to do with the kids. My kids help mix everything up and also love watching it churn. So far we have tried a few dairy free ice cream recipes, such as Simple Vanilla and Strawberry Banana, but our favorite so far is Peanut Butter Ice Cream, oh so yummy!

But what I like about this dairy free chocolate ice cream is the fact that there is no milk in it whatsoever, not even non-dairy, and uses cashews instead to create the creamy texture, which really amps up the nutrition. Cashews are a great source of fibre and are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like copper, Vitamin E and magnesium. I love it when I get to enjoy a yummy sweet treat and it is super good for me and for the kids (nothing like sneaking in the good stuff right?).

The other element that is important when I am trying out recipes is that they are sugar free, using natural sweeteners to sweeten if needed. So not only is this dairy free chocolate ice cream without dairy, it also has no refined sugars or sweeteners. And believe me taste is not compromised. This is a rich creamy chocolate ice cream that you will not believe is sugar or dairy free. You can serve it to you friends and they will be none the wiser.

My kids of course, gobbled it up and asked for seconds. Chloe got chocolate all over her face and they both got a little creative adding raspberries that they’d freshly picked from our raspberry bush, which made it even more delicious.

You could also add in other ingredients to this chocolate ice cream, like coconut or chocolate pieces.

Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

1 3/4 c. cashewsdairy free chocolate ice cream

1 3/4 c. water

1 c. pure maple syrup

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. cacao powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions.

I found that our ice cream maker brought it to a nice soft serve consistency, which is what I believe most ice cream makers do. You can serve as is or if you’d like to have a firmer consistency transfer contents from ice cream maker into freezable container and put in your freezer til firm.

*If you do not have an ice cream maker don’t despair! Once ingredients are combined pour into a freezeable container with lid and place in your freezer for 6-8 hours or overnight. The advantage of an ice cream maker is simply that your ice cream is ready a little bit faster.dairy free chocolate ice cream

Do you have a favorite non-dairy ice cream recipe? Share in the comments below.

Frozen Sweet Treats – Peach Slush

peach slushA highlight for many in the summer is slushy frozen drinks. Often times we would simply pop to the 7-11 and grab a slushy, but once I started paying more attention to what actually went into these slushies (can we say mountains of sugar and artificial flavors?) I was on the hunt for a slushy recipe that I could easily make at home (and without all the sugar!)

When I started browsing for ideas I came across this recipe for a peach slush; which it turned out I had already saved a while back in my recipes to try. It was also the perfect time to try it as we had just returned from the Okanagan with a mountain of fresh peaches.There is nothing like using your fresh fruit to make your delectable treats! It was a perfect fit. Peaches are also rich in vitamins such as Vitamin A, beta carotene and Vitamin C, as well as many minerals so super good for you!

At first I was a little hesitant to make it cause though it was a quick mix of ingredients in the blender, it was the 1 to 2 hours of waiting and stirring that deterred me a little bit. I kind of like instant! Plus I sometimes forget when I have to pay attention to things to stir every so often. But I found a way to make it work and honestly it was not that bad. Plus it makes a great easy, healthy, naturally sweetened frozen treat that you can make and enjoy at home.

The original recipe did not call for any sweetener but I found it needed just a little bit so I added in a teaspoon of honey. Depending on your level of desired sweetness will depend on whether you opt in to add it yourself. I can also see this recipe working well with other fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, maybe even watermelon.

Of course the kids enjoyed it. They are great little testers of Mom’s new recipes and help me adjust it when needed. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Peach Slush

2 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped

1/8 c. waterpeach slush

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. fresh lime juice

Peel peaches by putting them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Chop peaches into chunks and put in a blender.

Add water, honey and lime juice. Blend until smooth consistency.

Pour into a 9×13 pan and freeze in freezer for one to two hours. Stir a few times so that it does not freeze into a solid block.

When ready stir and whip it up with a fork so it has a nice slushy consistency.

Serve immediately in a cold dish. Makes 2 small servings

Have a great slush recipe? Share in the comments below.

Frozen Sweet Treats – The Fresh Fruitsicle

frozen sweet treats

One of the things that is great about summer is the delicious frozen sweet treats that you get to enjoy on a hot summer’s day. Creamy fudgsicles, ice cream, freezies, slushies, popsicles and more all offer a refreshing cooling treat.

The trouble is with most frozen sweet treats is the amount of added sugar (and color) that is in them to make them ‘sweet’. Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweet treat just as much as the other guy, but in eliminating refined sugar at our house, we have learned not only how to naturally sweeten our treats, but also that we don’t need it as sweet anymore. Our tastebuds have adjusted and we enjoy the natural flavors and sweetness of fruit (and foods) without the added sugars.

frozen sweet treatsWhen I was growing up it was not uncommon for my mother to make popsicles simply by pouring fruit juice into popsicle molds and freezing them. As long as the juice was unsweetened we were already enjoying a yummy cooling sugar free treat.

When I became a mother I made these kinds of popsicles for my kids as well. The thing is, I often found that once you sucked on them for a while, all the juice was gone and you were left with ice on a stick. I was looking for a frozen sweet treat that would have flavor all the way through and of course, naturally sweetened.

My first discovery was Grasshopper Popsicles, a mixture of blackberries and spinach, yes I said spinach, and a few other ingredients to put it all together. For a while this was our staple popsicle, which the kids really enjoyed. It was my mother when visiting one summer, who introduced us to this simple creamy popsicle that has added a little more variety to our popsicle pickings.

The Fruitsicle, as she calls it, is a fruity, creamy, dairy free, sugar free popsicle that is super easy to make. You just put all the ingredients into the blender and mix, then pour into the popsicle molds and wait for it to freeze. (The waiting is the hardest part, my kids were continually asking me if they were ready yet).

The Fresh Fruitsicle

1-2 cups fresh strawberries, trimmedfrozen sweet treats

1 ripe banana, peeled and cut into chunks

½ cup coconut milk

1 to 2 tablespoons raw honey

Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for 6-8 hours or overnight.

*if you’d like your popsicle to be a little sweeter simply add more honey or more strawberries to the mix

Makes 8-9 popsicles depending on the size of your popsicle mold

Tips for Experiencing the Calgary Stampede with Kids

calgary stampede with kids

I love the Calgary Stampede! It is one of my most favorite times of year. The whole city comes alive with buzz and excitement, and the energy in the city is fantastic. When I had kids I knew that the Calgary Stampede would become one of our summer traditions. People looked at me like I was nuts wanting to take my kids to the grounds because it is busy, crazy and loud. But I have found over the years that going to the Calgary Stampede with Kids is not a difficult or horrible endeavor. In fact, with a little planning and awareness, you can have a fantastic day on the grounds with both you and the kids wanting to come back for more.

Tips for going to the Calgary Stampede with Kids

Pre-Plan

calgary stampede with kidsTake a look at the schedule and decide what events you would like to see and what days and times they are. Then plan the rest of your visit around them.

Go during the week

I always recommend you go with your kids on a weekday (omitting Kids Day and Family Day). The crowds are smaller and things are less busy. This will cut down on your waiting times and keep kids happier as they are engaged quicker.

Go early, leave early

Go early in the day, when the grounds open (typically 11 am – there are a couple of exceptions). You not only beat the crowds but head out with kids that are fed (give them a good breakfast), fresh and ready to go. Then when you’re ready to call it a day, for us it’s usually around 4 or 5, the evening crowds just starting to come in and you are on your way out.

Take your own food

Pack a lunch, healthy snacks and waterbottles for everyone. I find when my kids are fed and hydrated they are happier and last longer. I’m not saying don’t enjoy some of the fares on the grounds, but they can be quite expensive and add up fast. Also they are not always the healthiest choices and kids need good stuff to keep them going. When you have your own food, it allows you to feed the kids when they are hungry, without having to go find somewhere to eat, stand in line, etc. Also having water and staying hydrated is key. The grounds can get quite hot, so water is important.

Take advantage of the Free Kids Activitiescalgary stampede with kids

There are lots of free kids events like the Kids Tractor Pull, Chuck Challenge and Penning. There’s also Buckaroos with kids performances with their favorite characters, as well as a character performance on the Coca Cola Stage. There’s the Dog Bowl and the Corral show. Of course there’s the Kids Midway and new this year is the Indian Village Interpretative Program, where you can see daily dances, traditional Pow Wow and drumming. All free with gate admission.

 

Pre-purchase Ride Cards or other coupons

calgary stampede with kidsBefore the Stampede starts you can buy Ride n’ Play cards at Sobeys and Safeway. You cash them in on the grounds for either a ride all day wristband or 60 coupons and save about $20. They are only on sale though up until Stampede starts. Once it has started you cannot purchase them. You can also get deals or coupons on gate admissions. Kids to the age of 6 are free, but you can get free admission for 7-12 year olds when you buy a case of Coca Cola.

Don’t forget sunscreen and hats

It can get quite hot down there on a sunny day and the sun beating down on the pavement. Put sunscreen on before you go and take it with you to reapply throughout the day.

Dress for the weather

Weather during the Calgary Stampede can be unpredictable. Take a raincoat. Even though the prediction may be bright and sunny, thunderstorms are not uncommon this time of year. Also dress appropriately for the day. Bring layers or change of clothes for the kids.

Plan it into your Budget

calgary stampede with kidsThere are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it, the Calgary Stampede is expensive. I always plan it into my budget each year as well as take advantage of the deals and coupons that provide savings, making my dollar go a little farther. Another good idea is to decide what amount you are willing to spend on the grounds. Be realistic but cap it and stick to it so you won’t regret it later.

Know your limit

Don’t do too much and don’t overstay, know when your kids have had enough and it’s time to go home. Better to go home on a high where you all want to go back, talking about what you’d like to see and do next year, then one where you’re so relieved to be home and will never go again.

Last but not least, have fun and take lots of pictures. Relax and enjoy. Don’t stress about the lines or the crowds (I always go over with my kids the expectations when we’re on the grounds, stick together, hold hands, etc. I also register them at the Lost Child booth as soon as we get into the park). Go with the flow and be able to let things go. It’s ok if you don’t get to it all.

Going to the Calgary Stampede with kids can be easy and fun. With a little pre-planning and a backpack of items with you, you’ll create an enjoyable and memorable experience for all. I have used these tips with my kids over the years and as a result they love it and ask to go back every year.calgary stampede with kids

2 Fabulous Watermelon Salad Recipes

watermelon salad

Watermelon is such a refreshing snack in the summertime. Full of vitamins and minerals, it can be more then just a cut and serve option.

For some reason I had always thought that watermelon was just that, cut, slice and serve, that you couldn’t really do anything else with it. I have no idea why I thought that, maybe it was just the ease of preparing a refreshing summer snack. But lately I started exploring a few other watermelon recipes (like a watermelon smoothie, oh my so yummy!).

I had always heard of a watermelon salad but kind of thought it was weird. I’d often see them at an event or a buffet and pass it by as it just didn’t appeal to me. Well I had no idea what I was missing!

watermelon saladWhen I decided to explore watermelon recipes I knew that a watermelon salad was the first one to try! It turned out that I found two that are really good. Both are uniquely different and delicious, so I can’t really say that one is better than the other. It honestly depends on what flavors you are looking for in the moment. Both have the lovely addition of fresh lime juice, which is not only nice in the summer, but actually brings out the flavor and sweetness in the watermelon.

The first watermelon salad is the more common recipe with feta cheese and red onion (which honestly at first I thought it was totally weird to add feta and onion to watermelon), while the second is a nice crisp, refreshing fruit salad. Which I actually quite enjoyed, even though it called for blackberries. In general I do not like blackberries and usually buy them for the kids and skip them myself. But since it was in the salad I decided to try it. I actually found the blackberries to be quite lovely, they added a really unique flavor to it, and I enjoyed quite a bit.

Both watermelon salads were a hit with the kids! They gobbled them up and asked for more (I think they were quite enjoying my experimentation with these recipes). And I have to say myself, a watermelon salad is a very nice change in how watermelon is served (and it does not take long to prepare – I am all about ease, especially in the summertime!)

Both salads are best when made just prior to serving. When the watermelon sits for too long it tends to get limp and soggy. Make one hour or less before ready to eat.

Watermelon Salad

4 c. watermelonwatermelon salad

1/4 red onion, finely sliced

2 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

1c. feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 c. olive oil

3/4 of lime, juiced

1/4 tsp. pepper & a shake

Cut rind from the watermelon and cut into 1 inch chunks. Place watermelon into medium size bowl. Chop mint. Combine olive oil, lime juice and pepper to create dressing.

Pour dressing and chopped mint over watermelon. Toss gently to coat.

Pour crumbled feta over salad and stir gently to combine. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Watermelon Blackberry Saladwatermelon salad

3 c. cubed watermelon

1 1/2 c. blackberries

2 tbsp. fresh finely chopped mint

Juice of one lime

Cut the rind off the watermelon and cut into one inch chunks. Place watermelon into medium bowl. Chop mint and add to bowl. Add blackberries. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the fruit. Gently toss to combine and serve.

Serves 4

Have a fantastic watermelon salad recipe? Share in the comments below

Get Dirty! Mud Activities for Kids – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

mud activities

Mud glorious mud! I love mud. I love playing in it, building with it, digging in it, rolling in it, squishing my toes in it. No wonder kids are drawn to it, it is so much fun to play with. Whether you are covering yourself in it from head to toe or creating something with it, it just feels good. And it’s good for us!

Mud often gets a bad wrap because it can be quite messy and a huge job to clean up. But playing in mud is actually extremely healthy for us and is part of an innate need to not only ground ourselves (connect to the Earth) but a basic biological need for our growth and development. Plus it’s fun!

mud activitiesPlaying in the dirt and mud has many physical, psychological and emotional benefits. The exposure to natural organisms in the dirt actually builds strong healthy immune systems, decreases the risk of allergies and asthma as well as decreasing anxiety, depression, stress and obesity. It allows kids to get creative and explore their natural world. Whether they are building a mud house, making mud pies or just squishing their fingers through it.

And there are so many options when it comes to playing in the dirt. When I started exploring different mud activities I was surprised at how many things there were to do. Many of them quite simple (I’m sure a child would just come up with these things but as an adult sometimes I need a little nudge in the right direction).

Playing in mud certainly does not have to be a structured activity and there is a lot of value in free play, such as discovering limits, developing creativity and ideas, testing things. I find kids can play in mud for hours without any specific goal or purpose and in that they are learning. But there is also value in guided and structured play which helps a child focus on a specific goal, leading to deeper learning, development and expanding their exploration.

When I announced to the twins that we had a ‘mud project’ to do, Chloe was all over it, while Luke was a little hesitant and said he might not do it. I said that was fine but knew once he saw what was going on he’d likely get in there. (And I was right!)

3 Simple Mud Activities for Kids

What you will need:mud activities

  • big bag of dirt
  • water
  • buckets
  • shovels
  • old clothes

We used our sand table and started by dumping a big bag of garden dirt into it. It was the perfect height for the kids and kept it contained in one spot. I had put the kids in old clothes so that I didn’t have to worry about staining or washing. We added water and off they went, immediately starting to mix with their hands.

The first thing I did was just let them mix it, squish it, shape it, do whatever they wanted with it. There were lots of oohs and awes and screams of delight at how sticky and messy it was. Chloe soon started covering herself in it.

I had set out the materials for the two other mud activities I wanted them to try so they were ready for them to move to when they were ready. These were mud painting and making mud bricks. I had explained to them beforehand what activities we were going to do so they knew what was happening. This allowed them to move at their own pace and complete the activities.

mud activitiesMud Painting

  • paint brushes
  • large sheets of bristol board

This is simply taking mud and painting with it. Get a large piece of bristol board (you’ll want bristol board or something similar in thickness as paper will get soggy fast with the water content in the mud); and some paint brushes and let the kids go to town. You may find that they’ll quickly discard the brushes for their hands and that’s ok too.

Mud Bricks

  • egg cartons

We used an empty egg carton and packed the mud into the different sections. I explained to the kids that we did not want the mud to be higher than the top of the carton and that they needed to be levelled off. Once the carton was full, we put it in the sun to let them dry and set. Curious and excited the twins wanted to know how long it would take them to dry. I told them it would likely take a day for them to be ready, then we could pop them out and build with them.

Tips to make your mud activities successful (and easy clean up)mud activities

  • do it outside
  • set up the space you want them to do it in
  • go over expectations for mud play (where to do it, what activities they could try, etc.)
  • use a large tupperware, sand table or something similar to mix up your mud
  • use old clothes so you don’t have to worry about staining or washing
  • hose them off (literally) and clean them up outside

And get in there with them! Mud play is good for us adults to. Think about it, we go to the spa and spend money to get a mud wrap, willingly. Not that I’m saying don’t go to the spa, as it has so many other benefits, but playing in the mud at home is free! And it’s a great way to connect with your kids and share beautiful, fun, happy memories. So go ahead get dirty! Play in the mud!