Special Occasions

We have one family camping trip under our belts.  If I included the nights spent in a tent in the backyard, the number would be closer to twelve- a more impressive number.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a camping newbie.  Before the kids, we’d toss our clothing, toothbrushes and a tent into the car on a Friday night, drive north for two hours, and camp through the weekend.  With kids in tow, I’d suggest something less carefree.

My Camping with Kids Essential Plan

Camp Essentials, Activities, Menu

Camp Essentials

Camp Essentials

  • folding chairs
  • table top insect screens
  • tarp
  • tent
  • camp pots
  • camp stove
  • bucket (at least one)
  • dish towels
  • biodegradable soap
  • tin foil (the “heavy” stuff)
  • spatula (long handle)
  • tongues (long handle)
  • cutting board
  • mess kits (one per camper)
  • glow sticks (not for light, just for fun)
  • flash lights
  • gallons jugs of drinking water (one per camper)
  • sleeping bags and pillows
  • matches (store them in a tin or jar)
  • small broom
  • cooler
  • firewood
  • good bedtime books


We camp because it’s fun.  What’s more, taking kids out of their day-to-day environment can be step one toward expanding their sense of what is possible, and what they are capable of.

When I planned this camping trip for my elementary school aged kids, my goal was to provide activities that kids could do with little or no help from adults. Ideally, the time spent at camp should provide a safe environment where kids can be creative and learn to take calculated risks; what adults call “out-of-the-box” thinking.  All of the activities in this post require preparation.  Not because they are complex, because you want to give your kids the best chance to experience success.  If their success becomes confidence, what could be better than that?

Build a simple kite

Our kite design is the simple to build and easy to fly!
Things you’ll need:

  • Sail fabric (30″ x 20″)
  • 2 dowel rods, 1/8″ X 18″
  • packaging tape
  • scissors
  • kite string

>>Click here to download a measured template<<

To prepare, draw the pattern onto the cloth and cut the dowel. Once prepared, kids can build this kite without much help.

  1. Cut out the kite shape (see template).
  2. Make small holes where indicated, insert dowel rod.
  3. Fold 3/4 inch cloth over the end of the dowel (top and bottom). Tape to secure.
  4. Before cutting holes for the kite string, reinforce the area with packaging tape. Make small holes (indicated on template) and insert a 30″ piece of sting between the two holes; use knots and tape to secure the string.
  5. Using strips of packaging tape, attach a strip of sail cloth (approx. 2.5″ x 36″) at the bottom of each dowel -these are the kites tail, necessary for balance.
  6. Using a slip knot, attach a ball of kite string to the center of the 30″ string that spans the width of the kite.


Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt takes just minutes to put together, and provides more than an hour of fun.  My boys wanted to hunt solo, but were eager to share the contents of their bags, along with their stories.
>>Click here to download my printable list<<



Giant bubbles







Things you’ll need:

bubble wand:

  • 2 dowel rods, 1/2″x15″
  • cotton rope, 40″ or more (I use “piping” available in fabric shops)
  • 2 eye hooks
  • 1 washer
    I drilled a small pilot hole in the ends of each of the dowels so that the kids could easily twist in the eye hooks.
    After attaching one eye hook to each of the 2 dowels, measure and cut the rope. Thread the rope, first, through each eye hook; lastly through the washer. Make a knot, creating a complete loop.

Giant Bubble soap:

  • 8 cup distilled water
  • 2/3 cup Polmolive dish soap
  • 3 Tbsp glycerin
  • large bucket
    Mix all ingredients, allow to rest at least 24 hours



Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookie
The trouble with Breakfast Cookies is once you’ve said the word, “cookie”,  you’ve set the bar too high. While the recipe produced a soft, yummy, whole grain breakfast, in hindsight I would not have called it a cookie.

At first, I rejected this recipe, too many ingredients. I’m drawn to recipes with very few ingredients. Once I realized I could freeze half for future breakfasts or school lunches, preparing these “breakfast Bars” (as they will be named henceforth), seemed like time well spent.

  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 3/4 cup fruit juice


  • 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon apple sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla


  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 2 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup ground flax seeds

Soak the oat bran in fruit juice for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together; flour, baking powder and baking soda and combine with remaining ingredients.
Add to wet ingredients. Stir in oat bran/juice mixture.
Bake at 375º 12-14 minutes depending on size.

To make “Breakfast Bars”, I’ll shape large rectangles and slice after baking.

Eggs & Sausage
Breakfast sausage is simple to cook over a campfire, whether you use a pan or foil hobo pack. Eggs can be tricky. The easiest, most certain way is to hard boil them. Set a few eggs in the bottom of a pot. Cover the eggs with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat. Leave covered for exactly 22 minutes.

Taco Salad
Families eat differently on vacation, that includes my family.  Of course there is a real food way to make a taco salad, but it wouldn’t be as much fun as this Boy Scout recipe.

  • snack size bags of Doritos
  • cooked, shredded, chicken (I packed prepared chicken, and stored it in the cooler)
  • lettuce, shredded
  • green pepper, diced
  • cheese, grated

Open the Doritos (one bag per serving).  Let the kids add the ingredients to their bag of Doritos. After adding chicken, lettuce, peppers, and cheese, fold over the open end of the bag to close/seal the bag. Let the kids crush and smash the bag.  Wear your, “Coolest Mom Ever” badge proudly.

Hobo pack Potatoes
Take the time to parboil the potatoes before roasting them in foil. (I boiled them at home and then kept them in the camp cooler)

Rough cut potatoes. Boil in salted water for 5-8 minutes depending on the size and type of potato. Drain parboiled potatoes in a colander. Allow surface moisture to evaporate, 1-3 minutes. Add olive oil and mix thoroughly. You want them to break up a little; it will help them to brown when roasted. (At this point in the recipe, I packed the potatoes for camp. They’ll be roasted over the fire)
To make hobo packs; use heavy foil. Add potatoes and fold the foil to seal. Over the fire, the potatoes will steam and brown.  Carefully open to check for color; you want them to brown, not burn.

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  • 1 dozen for recipes
  • 2 dozen for dying


  • broccoli
  • onions
  • celery
  • 4 lbs. organic carrots for juice
  • [vegetable tray suggestion; carrots, asparagus, small potatoes, tomatoes, peas]
  • 3 lemons


  • dry yeast
  • whole wheat flour
  • all purpose flour
  • sugar
  • canola oil
  • white chocolate
  • dried fruit (cherries, golden raisins, apricots)
  • pistachios, pine nuts, pepitas, sliced almonds
  • bottled apple juice
  • bottled tomato juice
  • prepared horseradish
  • mayonnaise
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • whole milk
  • butter
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • vodka


  • salt
  • celery salt
  • white pepper
  • cinnamon
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Easter Brunch

  • Fresh EggsI've received a lot of advice regarding the best way to cook hard boiled eggs. Seems everyone has a strong opinion on this—"cold eggs, room temp eggs, cold water, warm water, vinegar, salted water, sauce pan frying pan, covered, uncovered." Descriptions are so complex and specific—like practicing voodoo.

    I can make a HB egg that is soft, not dry or green in the center, and it's very simple. Place eggs in a sauce pan in a single layer. 
Cover the eggs with water (warm or cold)
 Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, cover the pan and turn off the heat.
 In 21 minutes the eggs are done.  

    Deviled Eggs

    Mix in a small bowl:
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp white pepper
    • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
    • 2—3 Tbsp mayonnaise
    Add the yokes of six hard boiled eggs, mix with a fork just till combined. Pipe yoke filling into each half egg white. Store refrigerated in air-tight container. My eggs are garnished with shredded carrots dressed with lemon juice to retain color.
  • spring vegetables I chose vegetables that reminded me of spring, or at least did not remind me of winter. Broccoli and cauliflower were intentionally left out.


    The carrots made me smile, they look like some Jack pulled from our garden in July. There will be no Michigan carrots for months, these are organic from CA.spring potatoes


    I've never met anyone who enjoys raw potatoes, mine are par-boiled (cooked, but not soft). Likewise the asparagus. After they've cool, I tossed the potatoes in a puddle of olive oil and salt. All the other veggies are undressed.


    To make certain that the tender tips of the asparagus are al dente, I cook them upright in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. I untie them and let the tops fall into the simmering water, count to 30, then take them out. I quickly put them into ice water, because I think it makes them greener.asparagus


    Admittedly, cleaning vegetables for Crudités is time consuming. I always do this ahead. I clean, slice and cook the vegetables, and store them in the fridge in separate containers.
  • I like the bread in bite-size pieces for the buffet; I bake this bread in the style of Monkey Bread. When I say, "in the style of," I mean just that. This will not BE Monkey Bread. It will come apart in single serving pieces, but it will not be gooey or sticky. Okay, it will be a little sticky, but definitely not gooey.


    Begin by preparing your favorite bread recipe. I use a wheat dinner roll recipe. After the dough has had a chance to rise, (usually 1 hour) divide the into pieces the size of walnuts.


    Drop each piece into melted butter, roll in cinnamon sugar (1/3 cup granular sugar, 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 4 tsp cinnamon)


    Arrange in two layers inside an eight inch round or square baking pan. Or a tube pan. Or a couple loaf pans. Really, any pan will do. Cover, let rise 30-40 minutes.


    Meanwhile prepare oven: Heat oven to 400º


    Bake 5 minutes, then lower heat 350º and continue to bake 15-20 minutes longer. Turn out of pan, while still warm (the sugar releases easier when it's warm)


    Wheat dinner rolls

    • 1 cup warm water(about 110º)
    • 1 T sugar (or honey)
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 T. oil
    • 2 egg whites
      In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, salt and yeast. Proof yeast 15 minutes.


    Add  whole wheat flour and oil; beat 5 minutes.


    In a separate bowl beat egg whites until stiff, add beaten egg whites to batter. Gradually add a cup of  all-purpose flour. Really, take your time. The more mixing the machine does, the less time you'll spend kneading.


    Continue adding flour until the dough is too stiff for the machine. Turn dough out onto floured surface, adding flour as kneaded to prevent excessive sticking. Knead(10-15 minutes)


    Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place till doubled(1 hour) Punch dough down, cover and let rise 15 minutes.
  • My kids call this, "Blue Ribbon Quiche", because it  won  me a fancy blue ribbon once. It was a very fancy ribbon.  

    Broccoli Cheese Quiche

    • 4 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 baked 9" pie shell
    • 3-4 cups steamed chopped broccoli
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1  cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp white pepper
      heat oven to 375 degrees


    Steam the broccoli first; it can dry and cool on a kitchen towel while you prepare the other ingredients.


    Saute onion in 2 Tbsp olive oil.


    Beat eggs.


    Add milk, cooked broccoli, onion, salt and white pepper, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.


    Sprinkle remaining cheese into baked pie crust (the cheese adheres to the hot crust and prevents it from getting soggy while the quiche filling bakes)


    Pour egg mixture over cheese.


    Bake 50 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350º and continue to bake until center is thoroughly cooked.


    Quiche reheats nicely in a microwave oven, so use a non-metal pie pan.


    I'm serving Kielbasa along side my quiche because…it's a holiday, and my ancestors are Polish. My family never celebrates a holiday without Kielbasa.
  • Carrot & Apple Juice

    • 4 cups carrot juice = 4 lbs organic carrots (Earthbound Farm)
    • 2 2/3 cups bottled apple juice
    • 5 tsp lemon juice


    Juice the carrots into a cup. I've added a tsp of lemon juice to the bottom of the cup first, be retain the bright orange color.


    Continue juicing the carrots in this manner. Add apple juice. Serve immediately or refrigerate.



    Bloody Mary

    • 3 center stalks of celery, diced
    • 1 tsp grated yellow onion
    • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
    • juice of one lemon
    • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • 12 dashes Tabasco sauce
    • 1/2 tsp celery salt
    • 36 ounces tomato juice
    • 1 cup vodka
    Puree diced celery in Vitamix (or blender) Add onion, horseradish, Worcestershire, Tabasco and celery salt. While machine is running, slowly add tomato juice blending after each addition. Pour into a pitcher. Stir in vodka. Chill. Serve over ice.
  • Mixed fruit Candy

    Drop mixture of dried fruit and nuts into puddles of melted white chocolate. Allow to cool. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.


    Suggestions; dried cherries, golden raisins, turkish apricots, chopped pistachios, pine nuts, pepitas, sliced almonds

Easter Brunch Shopping List

A complete shopping list for the Easter Brunch can be found here: Real Food Easter Brunch Shopping List

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