Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Camp Out!: S'mores Muffins

My kids get the short end of the stick when it comes to summer vacation.  Mostly, because they don't get one.  I'd feel worse,  but Thatboy and I don't really get summer vacation either.  There's no lazy days of summer, sleeping in, and lounging about.  For Thatbaby, Thatboy, and myself, the only thing that marks the difference between summer and the rest of the year is that it's warmer outside.  For Thatkid, camp takes the place of school.

But we try to give them a little bit of a summer in the activities we participate in.  As the summer drew to a close, I asked the kids if there was anything they wanted to do over the summer that they didn't get to do, and Thatbaby firmly answered that he wanted to go camping.


Camping last year was a disaster.  We were all miserable.  So I was a bit surprised that this was his request.  But last year's camping trip was planned by Thatboy, and I thought that maybe if I took a swing at it, I could figure something out that was more enjoyable for all of us.

I did some quick searching and found an open reservation for one night at a campground in Julian on Labor Day weekend.  We packed up the car and headed out.

Because we know Julian fairly well, we knew all the best places to stop.  Which puts everyone in a good mood.  First stop was lunch at Dudley's.  Since we had Thatdog with us, we ate in the car, but it didn't change the tastiness of the sandwiches.

Our next stop was Julian Station.  Where we got to drink mead, 

and cider.

Since the apple orchards weren't open yet, the kids used this time to get their own apple cider fix.

And play old school video games.

And ride quarter operated rides.

Our final stop before getting to our campsite was the Julian Mining Company.   My boys love love love love love rocks and minerals.  It's one of their favorite parts of the fair. So it made their entire weekend to be able to mine their own giant bag of gems.  

When we finished up with that, it was finally time to check in to our campsite.  

While Thatboy set up camp, I kept the kids busy.  Which was the second part of my plan to make this trip better than the last - a whole bag of crafts to keep the kids entertained.

Part three of the plan, which tied in to part one, was going someplace we knew there was food.  So we weren't reliant on the campfire, which proved to be a little much for my impatient kids.  It made the trip somewhere between camping and glamping, but was perfect for small children.  Our dinner was at the Julian Brewing Company.  Outdoor seating for families and dogs.

Jenga and cornhole to play.

And delicious pizza and beer.

In fact, Thatkid enjoyed his pizza so much, he wanted to come back the next day!

After dinner it was back to the campsite for some glowsticks and story telling around the fire before bed.  Which went so much better than bedtime last year!

The next morning we woke up, ate some granola bars, and headed out on a hike.  The location had several that started right off the campsite which made it really easy.

I had also made the boys scavenger hunts to do during the hike.  Which kept them both busy and interested.  

When we got back, Thatboy started taking down the tent, and I pulled out the craft bag again.  This time to help the boys decorate the walking sticks they'd found on their hike.

And give them sidewalk chalk while we packed up the car.

It was short, it was sweet, and it was a super successful camping trip. And of course, no end of summer campout is complete without the quintessential campfire food - s'mores.

Sure you can make these at home.  And we certainly have, but there's nothing like getting sticky and messy when there's lots of dirt to stick to that sticky mess.  At home, it's far easier to go with something cleaner.   These s'more muffins capture all the flavors of camping, without the smoke smell that clings to your hair for days.  Or the stickiness that you just can't seem to rinse off.  It's not quite the same, but it's a good way to relive it months later!

S'mores Muffins (From the Food Network)
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
 1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a muffin pan with silicone or paper liners.  Toss the chocolate chips with 2 tsp flour and set aside.  
  2. Whisk remaining flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the sugar, melted butter, milk, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl until smooth.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, just until they care combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, tapping the pan against the counter to smooth out the batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
  7. Top each muffin with 1 Tbsp marshmallow fluff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Peach and Blueberry Muffins

Back in February when we were visiting Horsewhisperer and her family, Thatboy pointed out that the Horsewhisperers had just moved and we were visiting them, but we still hadn't visited one of his besties, Grateful, who had moved to Washington several years ago.   

Which is a fair complaint, but it's much easier for me, the trip planner, to plan trips to my friends than his.  So I told him if he got some dates from his buddy, I would be happy to plan it.

Which is how we ended up flying to Portland in August.   We flew into Portland because Grateful lives equidistant from Portland and Seattle, and Thatboy's other bestie, Magski, just moved to Portland.

So when we arrived, we made a quick trip to check out her new digs.  Plus our kids hadn't seen each other in a couple of months, so they were super excited for the reunion.

After our visit we hit the road for a bit of a car trip.  The drive was beautiful and I got a kick out of pointing out landmarks from The Oregon Trail.

"Look guys!  It's the Dalles!  That's where you have to decide whether to ford the river or pay the toll!"

We also found the weirdest rest stop, with cows!  And baby cows!

And then, we were in Washington!

Grateful's son isn't as familiar with our boys as Magski's kids are (mostly because I haven't been good about planning trips) but it took no time at all before they were thick as thieves.

This wasn't our first time in Washington, but we never cease to appreciate the beauty it holds.

One of the highlights of the trip for me was going fruit picking.  

There were a bunch of fun things for the kids to do too.  All the boys were very impressed with the tire swings. 

And my kids loved the little train tour around the farm.

What was neat about the experience was the variety. Here in San Diego, there aren't many places you can pick multiple fruits and each fruit has its season.  Grateful took us to a place where we could pick berries, stonefruit, apples - it was amazing.

Our original plan was to do some peach picking.  I love fresh peaches, and my childhood summers in South Carolina and Georgia have filled me with the feeling that it's not really summer without them.  But I've never picked them before!

We couldn't, however, leave without getting some bona fide Washington apples.  And we decided that, given the later apple season in San Diego, that this trip would be our apple picking for the year.

I snuck home some of those apples and peaches.  We snacked on them on the road trip to the airport, and on the plane, and still had a couple of doughnut peaches left over when we got back.  Which I thought would be perfect for muffins.  Throw in a couple of blueberries and it was like extending our trip for a couple more days!

Peach and Blueberry Muffins
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 peaches, chopped
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a muffin tin with silicone liners. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  2. In a separate bowl whisk the sugar, oil, sour cream, eggs, and almond extract in a bowl.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Stir in the peaches and blueberries.  Divide among the muffin cups.
  5. Sprinkle the almonds on top and beak for 20 minutes.  Let the muffins cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a rack to cool.