March 11, 2019

Homemade Crispy Apple Chips

Looking for an easy to make healthy snack that the whole family can get on board with? Craving that crunch that only a chip can fix? Want a good snack for the trails? Well, have you tried apple chips?

We recently found out that my kids and husband really like apple chips, but we never buy them because they're either not to be found or they are priced too high for a bag of dried apples. My husband put me up to the challenge of making some myself, and that's exactly what I did!

I followed a "recipe", but the amount of time that was stated was NOT enough to give these apples a nice crisp so I thought I'd share what worked for us. By the time they were done in the oven, they were so sweet and had that crunch that could curb any potato chip craving! You can adjust the amount of apples used based on your needs, but for this recipe I used 4.
*4 is enough for a family of 4 to snack for 1-2 days, next time I'll buy a bag of apples and make more.

What you'll need:
Apples (I used Granny Smith and Fuji)
Spiralizer (or a knife and patience)
Parchment paper
Baking pan

I didn't peel our apples, but you definitely could, I didn't want the extra step so I washed them really well instead.

Preheat oven to 200°. The key to a nice crisp is low and slow, and you don't want to overcrowd the pan. Luckily we have double ovens and had plenty of room.

If you're using a spiralizer, cut the bottom of the apples off to make them flat...this makes it easier to place correctly making sure you are cutting off of the core.

Place onto spiralizer (I used my Kitchen Aid attachment) and let it do it's job. Once cut, use a knife to cut the spiralized apple into slices and make sure all the seeds are out. Evenly place onto parchment paper on baking pan.

At this point you can sprinkle them with any seasoning of your choice...cinnamon, sugar, etc., but I left mine plain.

Pop them into a preheated oven and leave them alone. The recipe I used had me flip them after 1.5 hours and cook for an additional hour, but they were still soft!

I suggest cooking them for 4 hours, then flip, and cook for an additional 5-6 hours. I know. A looooong time, but so worth it. Resist opening the oven until you see in the last couple hours that they're getting crisp. I cooked them on Saturday and once I had my oven turned off I let them sit in it over night, then turned it on again in the morning. (This was because I followed a recipe that didn't work.) You can easily see the apples changing with the oven light on, so track the progress that way.

I promise they will be so crispy and you'll please your whole family! We put them in snack baggies for the next day and they stayed nice and crunchy.

March 6, 2019

Kind Heart - Kids Night In Box

Kind Heart - Kids Night In Review
*This post does contain affiliate links. I do make commission when any purchases are made using these links.

There were so many great aspects about the February Kids Night In box, Kind Heart, that made it the perfect follow up to Valentine's Day. From teaching kids what it means to love and be loved, to taking care of our Earth and their very own heart. Kids Night In Box even teamed up to raise money for the American Heart Association!

If you're heart is set on trying out a box this month, the order cutoff is March 13th to get the Mission Space box!

What's Included:
Night In Itinerary
Included book - Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Plastic cup to decorate
Bird seed
Heart cookie cutter
Baked apple snack
2 Heart Hero wrist bands
American Heart Association Kids Heart Challenge
Magic Black Hearts with drawing tool
Jump rope

Kind Heart Themed Menu:
You can't go wrong with fruit or yogurt, at least with my kids who LOVE both. This month had a delicious yogurt bowl snack complete with kiwi, blueberries, honey, and any other fruits you may want to add. The kids could help make a blueberry honey sauce to pour over the yogurt yummy does that sound?! This is a recipe to stick in your recipe box!

The first activity was reading the included book and asking comprehension questions. The itinerary lists pre-reading questions and post reading questions, they also sort these by grade level making it simple to adapt to your child's age. Questions such as "how can you show love to people around you" were a great followup to this cute story from Eric Carle.

The art activity in this month's Kids Night In Box was decorating a "magic" heart to create an ornament to gift to someone you care about. My oldest decided to make his for our neighbor (a little girl who is close to him in age). Teaching my kids the importance of telling the people close to you that you love them or appreciate them is something I want them to always remember.

I think their favorite activity though was making the DIY bird feeder. This is where the gelatine and heart cookie cutter came in handy! The gelatine mixture held the bird seeds in place, and made it easy to press into the heart shape and attach a string. Once cooled and hardened, the heart can be popped out of the cutter and hung outside for birds to enjoy. Nature note: cardinals LOVE sunflower seeds, so the bird seed that came in the box was perfect! We hung it from a tree outside the window so we can't wait to see if any birds stop by for a snack!

Because this month's theme also talked about heart health, we had a lot of fun using the included jump rope. Our 5 year old wasn't too great at it, but we all got a ton of exercise with it. The itinerary does include a few games that can be played with the jump rope, including a math game, that can be done with 2 or 3 people. These can easily be adapted for age appropriateness. After we were done jump roping, the baked apple chips was the perfect snack for a pick me up. There was also a cup to decorate, but we did this activity separately.

I'd love for you to get involved and try out the March box, I think you and your kids will enjoy it and the space theme just sounds so cool! You have until the 13th to get yours in time, so click my affiliate link here: Mission Space.

*This post does contain affiliate links. I do make commission when any purchases are made using these links.

February 19, 2019

Camping with Kids: Tips & Tricks

Camping with Kids: Tips & Tricks

*This post does contain affiliate links. Any purchases made using these links may result in giving me a small commission.

As an outdoorsy family, we’re used to hiking and being outside with our kids but camping with kids…. that’s a whole new ball game. My husband had never been camping and I had only gone when I was a kid myself, so we conducted a ton of research and supply buying beforehand. Being it was our first go, there were some things we forgot to bring, and things we needed but didn’t think to bring at all, but we all survived and had a great time! When tent camping, the usual amenities are scarce. We’re used to cabin living on trips like this so having to walk to the bathrooms, to the dishwashing area, and to the showers was something new for us.

In a place where light pollution is a big no no and it becomes pitch black outside VERY quickly, lanterns, flashlights, and headlamps are a must. Since we are hikers, we have headlamps with us in the (unfortunate) event that we get lost or stuck on the trail at dark. These came in handy around camp and walking to the bathrooms at night. They light the path in front of you and keep you hands free, which was great for preparing meals after dark or rummaging for items in a tote. We used our boy’s MalloMeCamping Lanterns to set up around camp for light during dinner as well as in the tent to see what we were doing. The kids liked using these to walk to the bathrooms because they felt like they were helping in some way. We also had 2 other lanterns that have a hook + magnets on the bottom, these were perfect to hang in the tent AND even better to put inside our metal bear box at night for ease of looking for food or cleaning up. The magnetic lanterns work just like the MalloMe Lanterns that the kids used, but they were from and possibly a tad bigger and brighter.

My husband also bought 2 camping fans/light combos from Haitral (on Amazon). These hung inside our tent at night for airflow (anyone else sleep with a fan on even when it’s 40 degrees F?) and we used them around camp during early evening hours. We did have to replace the 4 DD batteries in these once, but we also ran them all night long. The head on the fan/light is adjustable so we were able to point them in the direction we wanted, and they hung by a hook. These came in handy when getting ready for bed and reading bedtime stories, just remember to move it in the morning if you hang it in the center of your tent—trust me, I hit my head too many times to count!

Sleeping was important and even though our kids went to bed much later than normal just about every night, we tried to keep it as routine as possible. They had their own "room" in the tent which we tried to make as comfortable as possible. To make the ground a little softer we put a quilt down over the sleeping pads and then covered up the boys with an extra blanket in their sleeping bags. We also used our AuCuTee Sound Machine to drown out some of the outside noise while they fell asleep.

While camping, you really want to reduce the amount of waste you create, so we brought along some reusable plastic plates, our Re-Play Recycled bowls, and our Sage Spoonfuls Sili Elephant silicone plates. The Sili Elephant plates were great because they could be used for any meal and are super easy to get cleaned. The first night there we made chili for dinner, and we all used the Re-Play bowls…yep, even my husband and I! The plastic plates we used are ones we use for pizza nights at home, they won’t break if dropped and are easy to clean—making them great to take along camping.

On any trip I always bring our SageSpoonfuls Snackie and Munchie bags. I use these for so many various things! When hiking, I fill them with snacks or sandwiches, but I also used one to keep track of the kids forks and spoons. Since their utensils are small, they fit perfectly into the Sage Munchie bag! I also froze yogurt in the Sage Spoonfuls Squeezies before we leave for our trip, with the Orca cooler we had these were defrosted by day 3, but they would have stayed fresh and cold in our cooler for the whole trip. By the way, if you camp for an extended time…look into the Orca cooler, it kept 4 days’ worth of meat, cheese, milk, and eggs fresh and cold!

Of course, the kids have their own camping chairs. We set these up on a blanket on the ground and left them there all week. We have had these Disney chairs (found on Amazon) for a while and they are the perfect kid size. They fold up just like the adult ones do so they are great for traveling, they also have a cup holder built into the arm of the chair. The kids would sit here in the mornings, enjoying their hot cocoa and sometimes playing their tablet if it was still during the campground’s quiet hours. I know, a tablet in the wilderness. Don’t judge, we have WILD boys, and they don’t settle for anything. Giving them tablet time in the early morning hours when we needed them to not disturb the other campers was what worked for us, if something else works for your family- that’s great too! No judgement from me! Oh, and that brings me to my tips of being quiet, we had books, small toys, and tablets with headphones for the boys. When they COULD play and make noise, they either played with 2 trucks from B. Toys that I found at Target for under $8 each, or they simply played with rocks and sticks.

Sharing showers with strangers was a little iffy for me...I can’t be alone in that, right?! I don’t even like stepping into a wet shower after my own husband! It just grosses me out, so we were those people wearing flip flops in the shower stalls. My husband and I already had sandals to use, but I found some cheap Cat and Jack sandals from Target for the boys. These were perfect for showering, but also for when making a quick trip to the bathroom so we didn’t have to lace up their boots.

Random Tips!
While on the way to Big Bend NP, we stopped for lunch and made sure to grab extra straws and ketchup packets. We knew we didn’t need a ton of ketchup, but we had brought along some burgers and dogs, so ketchup was needed. This made sure we weren’t taking up unnecessary room in the cooler. We also grabbed some salt and pepper packets. The straws came in handy at camp for my oldest who wanted to drink out of the drink bottles and I didn’t want him spilling. You could easily bring along reusable straws for this!

We were constantly using baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and paper towels so be sure to bring along PLENTY of those items. If you think you have enough paper towels, bring one more roll. But one thing we forgot and really needed was Clorox wipes to disinfect the picnic table and our cooking surfaces. We ended up using dish soap (biodegradable of course) and water to clean these surfaces but having disinfecting wipes would have been so much more convenient and less of a waste to our soap and water. I would also suggest bringing sanitizing hand wipes. When cooking, it would have been a pain to have to run to the bathroom to wash my hands, so again we used soap and water. Sanitizing wipes would have been a good hold over while cooking. Next time, we will probably throw a table cloth into the kitchen box because no matter what, kids always end up putting their food or utensils down on the table!

Have something to pour hot grease into after cooking. We made a funnel out of the top of a water bottle and poured the grease into a used can, but if you aren’t using a can for dinner you might run into a problem. Hot grease poured into plastic water bottle WILL fail, so don’t even attempt it. For dish washing, we had brought along 2 collapsible buckets not knowing there would be a dish washing station. We used one to put the dirty dishes into while preparing our meals and carried the dirty dishes over to the sink in it.

Last tip...not everything is going to go according to plan, so plan for that. Our camping trip went better than we expected, but it also could have gone in the other direction. We slept terribly the first night, but each night we adjusted, and it got better. The first morning we woke up and could see our breath in the tent…brr! But we had brought extra blankets just in case, and I am certainly glad we did. We learned a lot and will take those things away with us for the next camping trip. Just like with anything else, experience will come with time!