Michigan Wine and Steak Dinner

Here is a painting that I did a few years ago during a "Wine and Canvass" event.

A painting that I painted a few years ago during a “Wine and Canvas” event.

Being from Michigan’s wine country, there’s nothing better than a good red wine with a seasoned steak cooked over an open fire. We tend to choose a steak with extra fat marbled in the meat for tenderness and flavor when we grill.  Maybe you do too.  People often know how to choose a good steak, but they aren’t sure which bottle of wine will go well with their meal.  Yes, I said a bottle.  I’m not a fan of the plastic wine bags and boxes, although they do travel well and keep the air out of the wine.  We take a real bottle and cover it in a mesh bag to keep the bottle from breaking.  Wine will add depth to the flavor of your meal, and impress your wine loving friends (many whom don’t drink beer.)

Here’s an easy to remember rule of thumb.  According to Wine Folly, the fattier the cut of steak, the darker the wine (color=the amount of tannin).  Though I often limit myself to packing from the wine choices we have on our shelf, we do loosely follow this wine rule.  If I’m hitting the grocery store (Meijer’s) on the way to camp, I give some thought to what will pair well with our Saturday night BBQ.  Read on for a few really tasty Michigan wine recommendations.

Fall is a wonderful time to take a color tour in our area, and we often end up at a new winery for a tour and tasting.  Now that Mike has restored our vintage Mustang, we always want to take a drive – anywhere!  Lemon Creek Winery is one of our old favorites.  They make an award-winning, dark red Cabernet Franc that my husband loves.  It pairs really well with rich, red meat dinners.  If you like a dessert wine, their Cherry Wine tastes just like cherry pie so I serve it as a dessert.  Or with a dessert.  It went REALLY well with some not-too-sweet dark chocolate truffles last Valentine’s Day.

Tabor Hill is another favorite, local winery of ours.  They are known far and wide for their demi-sec red and white wines, which are both semi-dry.  People who say they don’t like wine, and those who are just starting to develop their pallet, often like these two wines which are served at the White House.  For those who have developed an appreciation for drier wines, the affordable table wines we like are Red Arrow Red and Pinot Gris.  The downside to camping with a white wine, like a Pinot Gris, is chilling it.  Pack your white wine in a “wine-cozy” to keep it from breaking.  This will also keep it cold when it is out of the cooler on the boat, or at the beach!

79300_a1_gSo how do I serve the wine in on a camping trip?  Our answer is plastic, collapsible wine stemware.   We have also packed the little wine glasses that you get during a winery tour, but they add weight and can break so we “rough it”.   You’ll need to pack a tool that includes a wine bottle opener and a separate pour spout cork.  If there is, by chance, any left overs the next day, add it to a stew.

Meijer stores carry all of the wines mentioned above. While you’re there, pick up some Faygo pop for the kids!  It’s fun to try new foods, so I’m always looking for something new to try.  Today, I happened to see a California wine called Happy Camper, and it sounds delicious!  Maybe it’s just the name?  Having watched this video, I’m ready to have a taste.  The owner says that KOA campgrounds and others carry it in their store.  I may give our local KOA a call.  Have you ever tasted Happy Camper wine?  If so, how did you like it?

I love to hear how people live.  Let me know what wines you like to bring on a road trip, or to the campground.  Do you use a river to keep the wine chilled?  What do you serve it with at camp?  Don’t forget to follow my page.  Happy Camping!


South In Your Mouth

South In Your Mouth 2014-02-18 007It’s a dip, or a cheesy skillet meal, or whatever your family likes best!  Cheese is the main ingredient to this wonderfulness, and everyone loves it.  Make it in a skillet at camp, or at home and warm it up at camp in a crock pot.

This is an easy recipe to make, as it uses pre-cooked chicken.  You can whip it up in no time with a rotisserie chicken or leftovers turned into something you’ll love.

South In Your Mouth 2014-02-18 002South In Your Mouth 2014-02-18 001


If you are making this ahead of time, and have a Kitchen Aide mixer, here is a trick: use the paddle to shred your fully cooked chicken in seconds!


South In Your Mouth

2 cups of uncooked rice
2 cups cooked chicken (more or less is fine), shred or dice
1 jar Salsa Con Queso
1 bag frozen Broccoli or California Vegetables, thawed
1 bag of Scoops tortilla chips

In a skillet, cook rice according to directions. Add chicken and heat through. Stir in a bag of vegetables and heat for several minutes. When everything is steaming, stir in the jar of Salsa Con Queso. Stir constantly for 3 minutes over low heat. Serve as a casserole or in a bowl with tortilla scoops. Enjoy!

Let me know if you like it.  Happy Camping!

Oatmeal Travel Packets

I grew up on my mom’s oatmeal.  She believed in a hot breakfast every morning.  Whether or not I was awake enough to eat it before school was another matter altogether.  I’ll admit that I usually have a piece of peanut butter toast and coffee at home, but when I’m camping I LOVE to eat oatmeal.  Something hot in your stomach feels wonderful in the morning, and all you need is hot water to make it.  I cheat when we have our camper by running water through the coffee machine and using that to make the oatmeal before I brew my coffee.  It’s easy, and it works!

The individual packages of flavored oatmeal from the store are too small for my teens.  Even I add regular oatmeal to the package stuff when I’m at home.  When I am packing up my pantry for camping, here is my recipe for oatmeal.

Creamy Homemade Fruit Oatmeal Packets

1-cup quick cooking oatmeal
3 tablespoons powered coffee creamer
2 tablespoons dried fruit or (2 tablespoon fruit preserves)
2-3 teaspoons confectioners sugar – more or less to taste
Optional: Add a little cinnamon, pumpkin spice, salt or brown sugar

Directions for Each Oatmeal Packet:
Place 1/2 cup of the oats in a blender and grind until powdery. Then place in freezer zip-lock bag along with all of the other ingredients.
To Make: Open the bag and pour 1/2 cup into a bowl.  Add 1/2-cup boiling water, mush and wait.  If you like thick oatmeal, use less water and if you like thinner oatmeal use more water.

Instant Oatmeal Travel Packets

3 cups Quick-Cooking Oats
1 teaspoon Salt
Small sized Zip Baggies
Put 1/2 cup oats in a blender and blend on high until powdery. Set aside in a small bowl, and repeat procedure with an additional 1/2 cup oats. If you’re using a food processor, you can do the 1 cup of oats in one batch. Put the following ingredients into each zip baggie: 1/4 cup un-powdered oats, 2 Tbsp. powdered oats, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Store in an airtight container.
To serve: Empty one travel packet into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir and let stand for 2 minutes. For thicker oatmeal, use less water – for thinner oatmeal, use more water.

  • Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal  – To each packet add 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp. chopped dried apples.
  • Sweetened Oatmeal  – To each packet add 1 Tbsp. sugar or 1 packet ‘Equal’ artificial sweetener.
  • Brown Sugar/Cinnamon Oatmeal – To each packet add 1 Tbsp. brown sugar & 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • Oatmeal w/Raisins & Brown Sugar – To each packet add 1 Tbsp. packed brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. raisins.
  • Health Nut Oatmeal – To each packet add 2 Tbsp. any kind of wheat germ
  • Fruit & Cream Oatmeal – To each packet add 1 Tbsp. non-dairy coffee creamer and 2 Tbsp. dried fruit
  • Fun Fruit Oatmeal – To each packet, add 6 or 7 pieces of ‘fruit snack’ type dehydrated fruit.
  • Confetti Oatmeal – To each packet, add 1 tsp. decorative cake/cookie sprinkles.
  • S’More Oatmeal – add 6 miniature marshmallows and 1 Tbsp. Milk Chocolate Chips to each packet.
  • Cookies n Cream Oatmeal – add 1 crushed Oreo cookie and 1 Tbsp. non-dairy coffee creamer to each packet.
  • Exploding Oatmeal – add 1 tsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. ‘Pop Rocks’ candy to each packet. This one is fun for celebration days, such as birthdays.
  • Bart-man Oatmeal – add 2 Tbsp. ‘Butterfinger B.B’s’ candies to each packet.
We especially like raisins, chocolate chips and dried apples in our mix. I’ll add some other flavor combinations below.   Enjoy!

REI YouTube Video Review

Click Here for Camping Meal Tips

Have you ever played Nintendo’s Animal Crossing?  Listen closely.  Do you hear that tune in the background music REI used in this “Family Camping” video?  Maybe not, but it’s close.

This camper is spot-on with his advice about keeping the meals simple, easy to pack and I love that he used a list.  It’s much harder to improvise in the woods when you only have a weekend’s worth of food.

Farm markets, road side stands and “living off the land” are great ways to make your food taste a bit more fresh and “gourmet”.  However, I don’t count on finding a maple syrup stand or a pint of fresh blueberries when I must have a topping for the ready-made flapjack mix.

I’d also avoid picking berries when you are back country hiking or camping in an area with bears.   I know, that’s a “Duh Tip” for most of you, but I’ve watched people do it.  With kids.  Eek!

Back to the video, this hungry camper seems to be cold weather camping and mentions one of his meals: ham and sauteed onions with ready-made polenta.   I’ve never tried it.  Have you?  I’ll put it on the list of “Big Breakfast” recipes to try at home this winter.  Everybody wants to be the “camp hero”!


Fall Euchre Snack Mix and Festive Campsites

Are you looking for festive campout ideas?  I always start by looking around our house.

Fall Mantle
Fall Buffet


What can I borrow from the mantle or buffet to make my camper feel like home?

How about taking along Mr. Owl and setting some fall leaves around him on the table?

A couple of small ghosts set amongst gourds, or the ceramic pumpkin full of candy?

If you are looking for a crafty idea, maybe something to do with the kids, Frankenstein is easy to paint and adds a wonderful glow to the picnic table.  All you need is the correct size mason jar, or any jar you’d like to up-cycle, glue, two nuts that look like the correct size for “ears”, and a candle.  Super cute!

My Fall Euchre Mix looks festive and is loved by everyone (especially me, because many of the ingredients can be purchased at the Dollar Store).   It can be easily put together at the campground.  A perfect job for the kids!

Fall Euchre Mix

5 cups Oatmeal Squares
5 cups Pretzels
5 cups Chocolate Animal Crackers
1 bag of Indian Corn
1 small box of Fiddle Faddle
Mix and enjoy!

Camping Recipes From Bloggers You’ll Love

I really do love to read blogs.  Especially foodie blogs.  And cottage decorating blogs.  And, oh I guess I should stop.  Anyway, I read them because I love to read happy news and because they have so many great ideas, insights and personality.  I never feel bad about deleting a blog that is unfocused or has poor information.  Sorry, folks.  Life’s too short.

Today I’m excited to share some of my favorite blogs with you!  OK, BuzzFeed at the bottom is more of a bonus than a Blog, but the rest of them are blogs.  I am able to follow all of these foodie blog authors on my page at BloglovinClick here to access my easy list, then simply click to follow as many authors as you’d like to enjoy their regular updates.

If you like these, there are plenty more camping and travel blogs listed on my blog page.  Feel free to critique these, as I’m looking to edit my list for variety and examples of the very best in camper blogging.  I hope you’ll comment and link to other blogs you read to love.  It’s always fun to try something new.

And now here it is.  The camping recipes your family will love!  Click on the link below the photo to grab recipes for some great grub.

 The Camp Gal

5 Fantastic Fall Camping Recipes - Dutch Oven Pumpkin Corn Bread, Apple Cider Toddy, Campfire Baked Apples, Salted Carmel Hot Chocolate, Veggie Chili

 Six Sister’s Stuff

25 Delicious Camping Recipes

Rachael Ray

Add caption

Serious Eats


Dirty Gourmet


Camping Cooler Ice Blocks

The photo says it all. I freeze two or three refilled Tropicana containers a few days before we leave. They are usually filled with water, but sometimes I make one with sun tea or gatorade. Remember to leave a few inches of air at the top for expansion.

Commercially bottled water bottles can be tossed into the freezer unopened, as can go-gurts. On day two of your get-away, you’ll have a nice supply of iced cold water from home. They do a nice job keeping picnic supplies cold, but you might want a big bag of ice to cool uncooked meat.


Grocery Store Stops

Go into the store knowing what you’ll be eating for the next few days.  I write a few “one liner” menus.  Below’s example is from a Boy Scout Troop 579 hiking menu I put together for the Appalachian Trail in 2011:

Breakfast   Base Camp Breakfast Burritos: pre-cooked bacon, eggs, cheese, seasoning; walking 
                  apple salad (core and apple and fill with peanut butter that’s been mixed with dried fruit),                               Sunny D/Tea/Coffee

Lunch         Hiking: BLT Wrap w/ Ital. dressing, mustard, cheese, sliced like an appetizer pin wheel

Snacks       Turkey Jerky, string cheese, Planter’s Nut-rition Energy Bars GORP + left-overs

Dinner        Base Camp Victory Dinner:

Carrots with ranch and celery w/ peanut butter appetizers.  Main course: Steak, mushrooms and onions, baked potatoes (pre-cooked before the hike, covered with foil and warmed in the fire), grilled corn on the cob, Banana Boats (make a slit in the banana, fill with marshmallows and pieces of chocolate, wrap in foil, set on a grill over the fire until they are warmed through), Coke and Gatorade

My best on the road grocery shopping tip:

Always make a beeline to the frozen food section.  Say you need potatoes.  In the freezer section they are already diced, slightly cooked and you can buy them mixed with another ingredient needed in your recipe, such as diced onions or peppers.  These tidy little bags are already frozen and will pack neatly out of your way in the cooler, unlike a fresh bag of potatoes or a bag of smelly onions.   If you want roasted red potatoes and onions in a dutch oven with olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary, by all means hit the fresh veggies isle.  But chances are you’ll appreciate the frozen convenience of at least some of your veggies being prepped and ready to quick-cook at meal time.


OMG Cookie Bars!

Is it wrong to lie to yourself about a long walk tomorrow in trade for another chunk of dessert? How about lying to your family about where you put the rest of those gooey chunks of OMG richness?
I started out with healthy baking intentions. Really, I did. I wanted to make something like Quaker’s “Oatmeal To Go” bars.  But frankly, the “Baked Oatmeal To Go” was disappointing. The kids used verbs I won’t mention. . .
So, I made a new recipe from Eat Run Read I had pinned on Pinterest. These bars are OMG awesome! Think salty Carmel between warm chocolate chip cookies. . . The only way the are going to make it to next week is if I hide them.   In Alaska.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Yield: 16 cookie bars

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips
10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Fleur de sel (or other sea salt), for sprinkling over caramel and bars


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, mix together the melted butter and sugars on medium speed until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave on high until the caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes.

5. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Pour the hot caramel over the dough cookie dough and spread into an even layer, leaving some empty space around the edges. Sprinkle the caramel with the sea salt. Drop the remaining cookie dough in spoonfuls over the caramel and gently spread the dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.

6. Bake the cookie bars for 30 minutes, or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool the bars on a wire rack to room temperature, then refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the caramel layer to set. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.