Tag Archives: Kids In The Kitchen

Campfire Cooking with Kids

Campfire Cooking With Kids

The kids are learning to cook over a campfire.  This has been an ongoing learning adventure for several months now.   We have tried several different methods for starting fires, making our own camp stoves, as well as different ways of making the campfire pit.

After trying several different arrangements, we came up with one we like the most and have kept for several months now. We use it once or twice a week as the weather and time permits.  We really enjoy afternoons and evenings around the campfire.

We started off with simple learning techniques like where to build a fire safely, how to start a fire (matches, lighter, flint, feroconiom rod), how to use different tinders (wood chips, small sticks, dead leaves, tree bark, dead grass and dry plants, cotton balls, cordage, clothing, etc) to get the fire going strong, locating where to gather wood safely, and learn how to split wood into small sizes for burning,  etc.

We built fire starter kits for the kids to keep and learn to use.  This has been a wonderful resource.  Our first kits were made with a salvaged bottle for storing, a few types of tinder, matches, and a feroconium rod and striker.  When they used up all the stuff in their first kits, we built new kits that include more of the first, but also added in a lighter, additional versions of strikers, fatwood, etc.  By far my son’s favorite method is starting a fire with his striker and a cotton ball.  We hope to build a bow drill and learn that method soon.

Once they mastered the art of starting a fire, we learned how to build a firepit.  Over time we built a few different arrangements of campfire pits.   This whole process has been a great learning experience for the kids and a fun way to spend family time together.

The current campfire pit version we are using is our favorite so far.  We found some old bricks someone had left behind from a construction project.  These are not the usual bricks you would want to build an outdoor kitchen with, but we are using what we have on hand and getting by with them for now.   We dug an “L” shaped hole in the ground and built a loose brick wall around the back side of the hole.  The back wall is tall, and the sides come part way around, then we have a short wall of bricks across the front as a fire stop and safety zone.  Safety is very important to keep in mind when you have an outdoor fire.

We also found some metal and an old grate someone had thrown away and used them as cooking surfaces by connecting them into the loose brick system above the fire to give us more ways we can cook food.   We also put a separate small wall about half way at the back.  This additional wall was needed to help support the grill top on one side and the metal bars on the other side and it also allows us to use either 1 side of the fire or both sides for cooking so we can make a bigger or smaller fire as desired.

Using a brick or rock wall on one side of your fire makes a lot of sense.  The bricks make a nice windbreak and help to retain the heat from the fire, and then help reflect the heat back towards the people sitting around the fire.   I plan to upgrade the pit with some special tiles for baking bread and pizzas on one side soon.  I found a local store that carries the fire tiles for break baking.  I am very excited about baking nice breads over the campfire. Maybe someday I can make a real outdoor pizza oven too.

The arrangement is large enough that we can choose to cook on the grill, the metal bars, flat rocks or bricks, or over the open fire and coals with roasting sticks or pans.  So we can cook up high or down low with several options as needed.  We made the pit so we can have a fire on one half, or just move hot coals over on one half while a hotter fire burns on the other half, or use the whole entire thing in a bigger campfire if desired.  With 8 people in the family, this arrangement gives us all enough room to gather in front of the fire and benefit from the heat being reflected back in our direction.

We let the fire die down and put it out before going into the house.  The next morning when the pit is nice and cool, the kids remove the ashes from their fire and sprinkle them on the location we plan to build our garden. The ashes will provide wonderful nutrients already broken down and released from the organic matter they were bound in for our plants to use.  We learned this trick many years ago when we used to heat our home with wood.

His New Wrought Iron Pan

Our 12 year old loves cooking on the campfire and would truly cook on it every day if he could.  He is the reason we got into the habit of cooking outside weekly.  He wants to try new things and master various skills.  After he gets his fire going, and his coals nice and hot, he usually cooks tea and different kinds of soups with his own stainless steel pot.   He has made potato soup, rice, chili, cheesy potato bacon soup, chicken noodle soup, and Ramon noodles.

He recently bought is own wrought iron skillet to expand his cuisine options. To start with he learned how to oil and season his new pan and care for it properly.  He also has his own knife and cutting board so he is ready to make lots of different things.  He is getting great practice and is learning to cook with his new skillet over the open fire.

This day we were cooking turkey burgers, beef hotdogs, sliced potatoes in foil packets, and he was making his own Cowboy BBQ Beans in his new iron skillet.

He had placed a brick over some coals next to the fire to hold his pan level while it cooked.  It took them no time at all to come to a rolling boil.  He had to pull his beans off the fire a few times and stir them to prevent them from sticking and burning in the pan.  His beans turned out very nice, the sugars caramelized and the beans had a hint of smoke flavor of the fire.

Almost everything was done cooking at the same time.  That is one of the blessings to having a large working space in this campfire with various spots to set the different foods we were cooking.

When his food was done, he combined his hotdog with his bbq beans for his own version of “beenie weenies”.   This was new for him as I haven’t fed the kids beenie weenies before, and he was excited to try them.

He was very pleased with how his “cowboy meal” turned out and thought he could handle making and eating this out on the open range bringing in the cows or up the side of a mountain while on a hike someday.  I hope to teach him to make either biscuits or bannock (old fashion cowboy or Indian bread) and chop up some wild greens to go with his meal next time.  He found some wild garlic growing in the yard that was already seven inches tall in February.  The plant looks like fresh chives and has a small bulb at the bottom when you pull it out of the ground.  He brushed the dirt off and tried it fresh.  It was spicy!  We also found a couple of violets in bloom in the front yard.  Soon the dandelions will set on some nice leaves for making a raw salad base or to use as a sauted spinach.  The pine trees are also budding and the baby pine buds are nutty and delicious and the needles make a nutritious tea.  We have a book he will be using this spring to locate various wild edibles that he can include to improve the nutrients in a meal such as this.

I am very proud of this young man’s achievements.  He gets an idea, puts his mind to it, and is not afraid to work toward his goal and see it through.  He is currently making a homemade longbow.  He has found the branch of wood, removed the bark, and carved it into the shape he desired.  He has yet to soak the wood and increase the arch slightly and locate the cordage he will be using.  I have no doubt he will reach his new goal.

Learning to cook over a campfire is a fun experience.  The skills learned and self confidence gained will benefit kids the rest of their life.

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Potato Mushroom PepperJack Quesadilla

These yummy sandwiches were delicious!

3 Ingredients stuffed inside a toasted tortilla.  How simple and easy is that?This is a great sandwich to let your kids make in the kitchen.

We sauted sliced mushrooms in olive oil until done.  Then removed them from the heat and added a little more olive oil and diced potatoes. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook them until soft.  Then combine mushrooms and potatoes together.  Place a slice of pepper-jack cheese on a tortilla and add the potato mushroom filling.  Toast on each side.  Served with a side of Jalapeno Kettle chips or tortilla chips and salsa and this sandwich is a win win!  Even my teen boys enjoyed it and asked for seconds.

Optional: The only thing I might add next time to my sandwich is a slice of avocado and some spinach leaves or  I would like to have a slice of fresh from the garden tomato would be a great flavor combo with the cheese.

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Banana Nut Yogurt Sundae

This is a nutritious, fun and easy to prepare snack or desert for kids.  It makes a fantastic breakfast too!

 

Kids can be picky eaters.  Setting them up for success with good nutrition is key to maintaining good health.  Including a variety of foods, like yogurt, fruits, veggies, and nuts in their daily routine lays a great foundation in good nutrition choices.

Adding nuts (for those who are not allergic) is a great way to boost nutrition. There are so many different kinds of nuts to choose from.  The most popular nut used, peanut, isn’t even a nut but is actually the seed of a legume.  But there is a huge variety of nuts and seeds that are seldom included in the standard American diet for kids that are great options.

A few of the nut and seed varieties to try out with your kids are:

Cashews

Almonds

Walnuts

Pecans

Macadamia

Coconut

Hazelnuts / Filberts

Hickory Nuts

Hemp Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

Pine Nuts

A fun way to get nuts like walnuts in your kids diet is putting them into special treats like a sundae.  If you grind the nuts, they hardly know the nut is there.   Walnuts have a stronger taste and most kids don’t usually choose to eat them on their own.   If I leave out a big bowl of nuts of different varieties, my kids would eat all the cashews! Next they might finish of the peanuts.  Then the rest of the nuts would sit there until Dad and I ate them.   So to get more variety of nuts into their diet, a sneaky banana nut sundae piled high with lots of yummy ingredients is a win win!

Walnuts are great for brain food.  They also help to purge parasites from the body.  They contain essential fatty acids that are needed by the body

Banana Nut Sundae

Set out your ingredients out on a table or counter and let the kids fix their own sundaes.

Yogurt

Banana

Nuts

Optional: Syrup, berries, chocolate chips, chocolate covered nuts, ground nuts, whole nuts in the shell that they must remove before using, nut butter, ice cream, angle food cake, cookies, pumpkin cake, etc.

We used vanilla yogurt,  ground and halved walnuts, bananas, chocolate covered peanuts, and chocolate syrup.  I also set out some grapes and nut butter covered pretzel crackers in case they wanted to experiment with some other ingredients.

 

Desert:

We have made similar treats for desert too. This is a fun and delicious way to eat nuts and eat healthy!

Similar ingredients with pecans and whip cream.

Substitute angel food cake for the yogurt.

Serve as a fancy desert for company.

We also made homemade nut butter with a mixed nuts.  We ground some smooth and some chunky and mixed it together for a delicious spread for our pretzel crackers.

You can add mini chocolate chips and these will taste like Reese Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Treats!  Even Daddy likes these treats!

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Kid Approved Egg Burritos

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Our chickens have been on egg production overdrive this summer.   I am not complaining though.  We have enjoyed having an abundance of eggs because they were on strike all winter and I would have given anything for some fresh eggs then.  So I will take it while it’s available and not complain!

There are many ways of preserving eggs to keep them into the winter such as freezing out of the shell, boil them and pickle them in a sweet pickle or even beet juice, or storing whole eggs in buckets of sand in a cellar, and you can also crack them and dehydrate them to use in baking or smoothies later.  I have tried freezing them in the past and may put up some this way before winter arrives again.

I may put some eggs under a hen too and try to get her to hatch out some babies too.  It takes 5 to 7 months for a chicken to start laying eggs, so it is a long waiting process when you get started.  Then they usually lay 1 egg a day for a few months.  Then many stop laying for at least a month and up to three months in the winter depending on temperatures and the amount of daylight.  They also use this rest time to shed their feathers and grow new feathers each year.  Usually by their second or third year, the hens don’t lay every day, but maybe evey second or third day.  Most people butcher the hens for soup by their second season when they are less productive.

Lots of eggs

With farm fresh eggs, it is best to store them unwashed but wash them just before using.  This way they keep fresh longer. In the photo above you can see how the eggs look right out of the nest, some are very clean and some have a little dirt on them.  This won’t hurt the egg because they naturally have a protective barrior on the outside of the shell that protects them.  But once you wash them, you also wash away the protective barrier too.

Fertile egg yolk

Another wonderful thing about farm fresh eggs is that if there is a rooster around, your eggs will be fertile.  The yolks are also more yellow orange colored than store bought eggs and this is due to all the grass and insects the chickens eat all day and it creates an omega 3 richer egg.

I am thankful my kids love eggs and their favorite way to eat them is in Egg Burritos.  This is one of the fastest main dishes I make for my large family.  It cooks up in just a few minutes and is ready to serve.

Kid Approved Egg Burritos

Eggs (2 per person)

Butter for cooking

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Tortilla (any soft kind will do, there are many options for different diet needs)

Add In Options: cheese of your choice, sauted veggies, meat, salsa, guacamole, rice, leftovers, etc.

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Place a tablespoon or so of butter in a nonstick pan and add your eggs.  Scramble and continue to stir as they cook until desired doneness.

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Fill tortilla shells.  I find it very handy to place them in a cake pan while I am filling them as it helps hold up the sides of the burrito for me to fill.  Add cheese and even salsa if you wish and serve.  You can make these ahead, then cover and set in a warm oven until ready to eat.  They are also great frozen and reheated when needed.

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Eggs are such a great source of complete protein and easy to digest for most people.  They are delicious served anytime of day or night.  Eggs are very satisfying and help you feel full while nourishing your body.

Be blessed!

Melinda

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Apple Pie at Homeschool Coop

My kids had a great time making homemade apple pies at the homeschool coop! They love to see friends and play games, but baking has a special place in their heart. They absolutely love to cook (not clean up dishes though), and I think baking is their favorite. When they heard we were going to bake apple pies, the were so excited, it is all they talked about for days.

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They washed and peeled lots of apples.  They peeled the apples with both a hand peeled, and a machine peeler.   For the hand peeler, they stood over the sink and their peelings dropped away as they scraped the peeler against the skin of the apple.  This was a lot of work, and fun to do with one apple, but their arms quickly became tired to do very many this way.   The machine peeler does three actions all at once as the children turn the handle.  It peels, cores, and slices the apple into long spiral slices and is called an Appel Peeler Corer Slicer.  It gets right to the point!  It seriously cuts the work of preparing apples into an easy task of just putting the apple on and turning the handle!

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The kids learned to make homemade pie crust from flour, water, and shortening.  They blended these together with a hand-held cutter.  As they pressed the cutter into the flour mixture, it broke it down into itty bitty pieces like small crumbs.  Eventually the whole thing works into a soft ball of dough almost like play dough.

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Next the kids rolled the dough out on the counter with a rolling-pin.  They placed extra flour on the surface of the counter so the dough would not stick and was easy to flip and turn to roll again.

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When the dough was thin enough, they placed the dough over their pie pan and cut away the excess that hung past the edge of the pan.  Then they learned to crimp the edge of the crust to make it look pretty and also to prevent shrinkage.

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Next they filled their pie shells with sliced apples, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, salt, and butter.  They rolled out more pie dough, and cut it with a pizza cutter into strips.  They topped the pies with strips of dough and made designs.  Some made a lattice design, others made their initials of their name, or some made hearts and others made butterflies, and one also topped their crust with a crumb topping and more cinnamon and sugar.  They could design the top however they wanted too.

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The pies baked in a hot oven at 375 degrees for about 35 to 45 minutes until they were golden brown. All of the pies turned out beautiful. Each one had a unique personal touch made by the kids.

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I loved seeing and smelling all of these pies baking at once. Thankfully we had two ovens available to bake all of these pies so they could finish about the same time.

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While the pies baked, the kids got all hot and sweaty in the gym. They actually took turns peeling apples, making dough, making pies, etc and the kitchen adjoins the gym, it so the kids played in the gym off and on between turns in the kitchen. This worked out perfectly! Man I wish I had a gym at home adjoining the kitchen! Just imagine all the pies and exercise we could get done!  Ha, ha!  I could go for a double oven baking area too!

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