Cooking with Kids: Banana Boats Cooked Over the Campfire

Banana Boats are a gooey, sweet classic dessert to cook over the campfire – utterly delicious, and they need only three ingredients and a few minutes to put together!

Meredith eating banana boats cooked over the campfire

Cooking with Meredith

Yay! It’s summertime! And that means campfires and outdoor living (as much as possible between the thunderstorms, that is). This week Meredith and I cooked our dinner over the firepit outside.

Roasting sausages to eat before the Banana Boats First Corn, then Banana Boats

We had a great time building the fire first, just like I learned at Girl Guide camp many moons ago (we won’t say how many). Piling up the kindling, from tiny shavings to increasingly larger twigs, in the shape of a teepee brought back many memories: sitting in the dark with a a whole pack of friends, staring into the mesmerizing flames and singing all those traditional campfire songs, some silly, some haunting, and all memorable. And we’d be roasting marshmallows for s’mores, though we called them Angels with Dirty Faces (I like that name much better) and digging the warm, sweet gooey insides out of our roasted banana boats to devour as late night desserts to accompany the singing.

Sweet gooey insides of the Banana Boats

For our campfire meal, Meredith and I made foil packets filled with potatoes, carrots and onions, using the special method here for keeping them nice and moist and not getting burnt on the campfire.

Banana Boats and Foil Packets of Veggies to cook over the campfire

lots of butter makes the veggies in the foil packets taste extra special

We also roasted corn cobs in their husks laid on the grate over the fire, and roasted chunks of sausages on sticks.

Corn cobs and foil packets roasting

sometimes that smoke gets in your eyes, no matter where you stand

And of course, the dessert finale was those delicious, classic, banana boats. The bananas become warm and soft and caramelized as they roast, and the chocolate and marshmallow melt to make a luscious sauce. They’re as easy to make as 1-2-3-4-wrap.

chopping chocolate for Banana Boats

4 easy steps for making banana boats Wrap up the Banana Boats with foil wrapping foil around the banana boats

So grab yourselves some bananas, chocolate, and marshmallows, build yourself a good fire, and then enjoy some warm, melting, gooey banana boats (and don’t forget to sing a few rousing verses of Down by the Bay).

banana boats cooking while we eat

we put the banana boats on the grate to roast while we ate our supper

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Of course, your banana boats can just be laid on the barbecue grill, too, if you don’t have a campfire handy.

Milk chocolate is the classic filling for banana boats, but if your taste runs to semi sweet or dark chocolate, feel free to substitute that instead.

Banana Boats filled and ready to wrap

Banana Boats

  • 1 banana per person
  • milk chocolate bars, 2 or 3 squares per banana (or use milk chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips), use dairy-free chocolate chips if necessary
  • marshmallows, 2 regular or a handful minis per banana
  • 1 large square of tin foil/aluminum foil per banana

Cut a long rectangle through the peel on the inside curve of each banana. Remove the peel, then scoop out some of the banana inside the rectangle, either by cutting out a V-shaped trench into the banana, or using a spoon to scrape out some of the banana (enough to make room for the chocolate and marshmallow).

Cut the chocolate squares into halves and lay them down into the trench in the banana. Tear the marshmallows into pieces and stuff them on top of the chocolate, fitting in as many as you can (or use mini-marshmallows).

Wrap each banana in tin foil, folding over the the open edges and ends several times and pressing the foil gently but firmly against the banana to mold it to the shape.

Let the campfire burn down until the flames are no longer high and the logs have become nice hot glowing embers. Place the wrapped bananas on a grate set over the hot coals, or on a barbecue grill, and cook them for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, just until the marshmallows are melted and the banana is soft and caramelized.

To serve, unwrap each banana partially and scoop out the insides with a spoon.

Each banana serves 1.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.

You might also like:

Campfire Baked Potatoes

Juniper Berry Stuffed Pork Chops over the Campfire

Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar

Homemade Gluten Free Pancake Mix (great for camping)

Posted in Barbecue & Grilling, Canadian Food Experience Project, Cooking with Kids, Desserts, Puddings & Such | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Magic Mango Smoothie

Whiz up a batch of delicious mango smoothie loaded with health-promoting fruits, natural-electrolyte coconut water, and healing turmeric. It’s just the thing after a bout of strenuous exercise or to sip on instead of breakfast on a busy day.

magical mango smoothie with straws and bowl of mangoes

I can’t believe I’m doing it.

I’m doing the 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge again – and I’m already on day 18! I’m not sure what possessed me to sign up for it. June is such a busy month for me. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m coming or going, and it’s all I can do to think ahead one day at a time (because if I think of all the things I have on my schedule over the longer term, I just want to run and hide under a pile of blankets and hope nobody finds me until the month is over).

I know everyone is just as busy with their own lives, too. Why do we take on so much? What possesses us to think we can handle it all?

In addition to substitute teaching quite a few days lately, I’ve had the year-end wind-up for German School, with writing report cards for my little class of 14 kindergarten students, planning a bunch of social gatherings (some large, some small), working on two large writing projects, and trying to stay on top of the overwhelming amount of yard and garden work all piling up at this time of year when you live on an acreage with two large gardens. Never mind all the cooking involved when your family has multiple food allergies (and of course, they can’t all be allergic to the same things – that would be too easy).

So, I guess I thought I didn’t have enough to do and somewhat stupidly signed up to go to yoga every day for a whole month – which, when you live out of town usually means a two to three hour commitment by the time I shower afterwards and stop off on my way home to run an errand or two.

magic mango smoothies

But you know what – the yoga is for me; to refill the well, and I’m starting to feel great. I usually try to make it to hot yoga a couple times a week, but now that I’m going every day something magical is starting to happen. The first week every muscle aches and I feel pain in places I didn’t even know I could. All my joints creak and seize up if I sit too long. Then the second week I feel like I can stand up a bit straighter and turn my head a bit further back when I’m shoulder-checking as I back up the car. Now this third week in, I am walking with a bounce in my step, my chronic lower back pain is easing up, and I feel like I must be at least a little bit taller than before. It’s easier to pull my shoulders back and I feel lighter and limber. Wow!

I can hardly wait to go to yoga each day. I love that feeling of sweating profusely in a hot, humid room. The sweat tickles as it runs in rivulets down my face, arms and body. Even the tops of my feet sweat! I keep telling myself how great it is that I’m flushing out toxins – I figure it must be as good for me as having a sauna every day. I notice I can bend a few millimetres deeper than I could the day before, and I can hold that twisting pose for a bit longer than last week. When I fold over my bent leg in the pigeon pose, I can now feel my belly brushing the ground. I may not be as flexible as I was in my 20’s, and maybe I’ll never be able to fold this body to touch my nose to my knees again, but it’s all baby steps and  so satisfying.

mango smoothie

a platter of mangoes. the bright yellow ones are the smaller, sweeter Ataulfo mangoes

After hot yoga, I’m thirsty, so I make myself a shake to sip on when I’m done – either my melon, spinach and apple Great Green Smoothie, or this delectable Magic Mango Smoothie. Sweet banana and luscious mango form the base, yogurt adds protein, coconut water naturally replenishes electrolytes lost from sweating, and the turmeric is a healing natural anti-inflammatory spice that helps repair those hard-working muscles that have been pushed to their limits. Turmeric has a mild earthy flavour that is slightly noticeable, but the lemon, honey, and vanilla help it to blend in. I love the flavour of turmeric, but maybe it’s because my mind knows how good it is for me.

mugs of magic mango smoothie

I like to make a double batch of magic mango smoothie and store several days worth of it in lidded mugs in the fridge to grab as I head out the door. then I can sip the soothing smoothie on my way home after hot yoga

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: If using both frozen banana and mango, the smoothie may be quite thick and need a bit more coconut water to thin it out.

Try to find a brand of coconut water that has no additives and no added sugar; that is just 100% coconut water.

Superstore sells 600gm bags of frozen mango chunks. If fresh mangoes aren’t in season, use half a bag of the frozen mango in this recipe, or buy mangoes when in season, cube them, freeze them on cookie sheets, then keep them in ziptop bags in the freezer to use.

See how to cut up a mango here.

two glasses and blender of magic mango smoothie

Magic Mango Smoothie

  • 2 cups (10 oz/300gms) diced mango, fresh or frozen
  • 1 large ripe banana, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup (240ml) coconut water (unsweetened)
  • ½ cup (120ml) plain yogurt (or soft tofu, soaked cashews*, or coconut yogurt for vegan or dairy-free option)
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup for vegan option), optional
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Start with one tablespoon lemon or lime juice, taste, then add more if you’d like it tangier. It depends on how sweet your mango and banana are.

*If using soaked cashews (soak ½ cup cashews for 20 minutes in filtered water and drain), you may need to add a bit more coconut water if the smoothie is too thick.

Makes 3½ cups (850ml).

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

You might also like:

The Great Green Smoothie

Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothie

Banana Milk

Nutty Monkey Smoothie

Gingerbread Dough Boy Smoothie

Posted in Drinks, Fruit | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies a.k.a. ‘Haystacks’

Classic haystacks – those delectable no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies from your childhood (with some new tricks to make them foolproof).

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies, aka Haystacks



Raise your hand if haystacks were a regular occurrence in your childhood lunchboxes – I mean the cookies, not little mounds of barnyard straw.

Me too! Me too! (waving hands wildly).

I think that everyone and their grandma whipped up batches of these no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies whenever they were in the mood for a chocolate fix. Living in the country, we couldn’t run to the corner store for a candy bar if we were craving something sweet, so we had to satisfy our cravings with whatever we had on hand. We tossed a bunch of pantry staples – butter, sugar, milk, cocoa, coconut, oats – into a saucepan and cooked and stirred and plopped and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . and then those haystacks hardened up and we could indulge. (But we always made sure to leave generous amounts of gooey, chocolatey goodness in the pot and on the spatula to lick and nibble while we waited.)

You've gotta nibble on those haystacks (no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies)

Meredith, my cooking buddy, ‘helped’ make a few of the test batches

The only problem was that the neighbours always made better haystacks than we did. When other kids brought them in their lunchboxes, the cookies were chewy and chocolatey and whole. (Fancy that!) Ours always seemed to be crumbly and hard (not that it stopped us from eating them – oh, no – we devoured them from a bowl with a spoon when the chunks got too small). Even when I moved out on my own and tried to make haystacks, they never seemed to turn out like they were supposed to. I guessed it had something to do with cooking the fudgy mixture a second or two too long, but I couldn’t get it right, no matter how I monkeyed with the cook time.

Well, this woman (moi, me, ich) has been on a mission. A few months ago I vowed to make a perfect batch of haystacks,  and with a secret tip from a friend (thanks, Alex) and numerous repetitions tweaking the cook time (thanks, Andreas, for scarfing down graciously eating all the not-quite-right batches), I FINALLY GOT IT!

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies - yum

So here is the recipe for delicious, delectable, irresistible, totally-not-healthy (well, there is some fiber in the oats and coconut) No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. Or you can call them Haystacks, like we always did. My friend’s secret tip was to add a handful of marshmallows to keep the cookies a bit softer, which also allowed me to cut the sugar down from my original recipe. I also added a touch of oil to keep the cookies soft, and my experimentation settled on a cook time of exactly 2 minutes – no more, no less.

Haystacks, aka No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies – Haystacks

  • ½ cup (115gms) butter
  • 1½ cups (315gms) sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (120ml) milk (regular or non-dairy)
  • 2 cups (80gms) miniature marshmallows or 12 regular marshmallows
  • ¼ cup (35gms) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 cups (300gms) small-flaked oatmeal (quick oats, not instant oats), gluten free if necessary
  • 1 cup (90gms) unsweetened shredded coconut

Measure out the oatmeal and the coconut and set aside. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper or wax paper. If using regular-sized marshmallows, cut each one into quarters with scissors or tear into quarters with your fingers.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, milk, and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, then set the timer and boil the mixture for exactly two minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add the marshmallows. Stir until they are melted. Add the vanilla and oil, and sift in the cocoa powder (rub it through a small sieve with a spoon). Dump in the oatmeal and coconut. Stir until everything is coated with the chocolate and there are no dry spots left.

Working quickly, drop large spoonfuls of the haystack mixture onto the lined cookie sheets. Use two tablespoons – one to scoop up the mixture and the other to scrape it from the spoon into a neat mound. Use the spoon to pat in any ragged bits so the mounds are relatively neat.

Let set at room temperature until they are firm (this can take 3 to 4 hours or more) or speed up the process by putting the pans into the fridge to firm up.

Makes 24 haystacks.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

You might also like:

No Bake Salted Coco-Lasses Bars

Choco-Crisps (Oaty Chocolate Rice Krispie Cookies)

Hello Dolly Squares (slightly healthier)

Healthy Fudge

Posted in Chocolate, Cookies & Candy | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Citrus Spruce Tip Salad

Toss together a spruce tip salad with bright citrus fruits, crunchy vegetables, and the unique herbal flavour of those tender young tips at the ends of the branches on the spruce tree in your back yard. 

Citrus and Spruce Tip Salad

I know, I know. Here I am with another spruce tip salad for you. I’m not very creative this week, am I? After last week’s green salad with spruce tips, this doesn’t look all that different, does it?

Well, you’re right. This salad actually uses the very same dressing as last week’s salad, but I just couldn’t help popping in again to share this version, since the brightness of the orange in the salad and the lemon in the dressing do a lovely little dance with the citrus notes of the spruce tips.

Ingredients for the Citrus Spruce Tip Salad

Spruce tips are a short-lived spring delicacy, but if you’re lucky enough to still have those light green tender tips feathering the ends of your spruce tree branches, you might want to pop outside and pick a few. You can use them even if they’re starting to open up somewhat – as long as they’re still light green and soft and pliable when you touch them. You can see the pictures in this post to check.

Spruce Tip Salad with Citrus

Citrus and Spruce Tip Salad

  • 2 large naval oranges
  • 1 long English cucumber
  • 1 long stalk celery
  • 6 radishes
  • 2 green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped spruce tips

for the citrus vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup flavourless oil (like grapeseed or avocado)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Cut a slice off the top and bottom of each orange with a sharp knife. Set the orange upright on one of the cut ends, then make downward cuts all around the orange, removing the peel and any white pith. Cut the peeled orange crosswise into ¼-inch (.5cm) slices. Cut each slice into quarters.

Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise, then slice crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Thinly slice the celery stalk diagonally, and thinly slice the radishes and green onion. Chop the spruce tips finely.

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk the dressing together until well blended, then pour over the salad and toss well to coat everything.

Serves 6.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

You might also like:

Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

Spruce Tip Baked Rhubarb Compote over Silky Swedish Cream

Potatoes with Cream and Spruce Tips (Plus How to Make Spruce Tip Salt and Spruce Tip Vinegar)

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Spruce Tips

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Spruce Tips and Orange Glaze

Posted in Salads & Dressings, Spruce Tips | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Green Salad with Spruce Tips – a Springtime Treat

Pick a handful of soft new spruce tips from your backyard tree to add a wonderfully interesting flavour to a spring salad – herby, resiny, and softly citrusy.

Spring green salad with fresh spruce tips

My yard has been sleeping. I’ve been waiting so patiently for the spruce trees to wake from their winter slumber and share some of their tasty, tender branch tips, but they’ve been reluctant to come out of hibernation.

Then this past weekend we drove through the Rocky Mountains to spend the weekend with mom in Prince George, British Columbia, and spruce tips were popping everywhere! The season is almost over, even in the colder, high altitude areas in the national parks. We stopped at Mt. Robson (highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) and the spruce tips were already feathery and fingerlength, though still tender enough to use – nature’s little spring offering of fresh citrusy herbal flavour with a pop of vitamin C.

While we were gone, the spruce trees in our yard finally yawned and stretched and decided to wake from their nap. We returned to find their branch ends are now bedecked with little brown nubbins and soft, apple green tips just waiting to be shared for flavouring all kinds of spring dishes.

Fresh Spruce Tips on the Tree A Harvest of Spruce Tips on the Cutting Board

If you’ve never cooked with spruce tips, I urge you to give it a try. You’ll be surprised at their flavour – piney with a strong shot of citrus. Consider them spring’s first herbal offering; a unique treat you can probably forage from your own yard (or filch from a neighbour’s :) ). I’ve been tossing a few chopped spruce tips into my spring salads for several years now, and we love them.

Chopped Spruce Tips for Salad

If you’re new to the flavour of spruce tips, start with a small amount first to see how you like them, then add more to taste next time. The resiny notes are quite an unusual (but interesting) flavour. Spruce tips can be tossed into any green salad. I’ve given a recipe to use merely as a guide and included a dressing that enhances the delicate citrus flavour of the spruce tips. Light, spring greens are a fitting foil for this unique delicacy.

Curly Leaf Lettuce for the Spruce Tip Salad Radishes for Green Salad with Spruce Tips

You can use spruce tips in all kinds of delectable ways, both savoury and sweet, like in these:

Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

Spruce Tip Baked Rhubarb Compote over Silky Swedish Cream

Potatoes with Cream and Spruce Tips (Plus How to Make Spruce Tip Salt and Spruce Tip Vinegar)

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Spruce Tips

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Spruce Tips and Orange Glaze

Spring Greens with Chopped Spruce Tips

Kitchen Frau Notes: If you collect your spruce tips from a location where they aren’t exposed to exhaust fumes from vehicles, you don’t even need to wash them, because they will be clean and protected inside their papery husks. Just check for bug bites, but those are rare. If the tips are older, or near a road, give them a quick rinse and shake them dry.

You can use the tips from any needled tree. Taste them first, as some are more ‘piney’ than others. You may need less of the stronger tasting ones.

Don’t worry about damaging the spruce trees – you are actually doing them a favour, and pruning them to grow even bushier by nipping off the tips. Try to spread your picking around different parts of the tree, rather than picking one area clean. Just don’t pick the tip off the leader at the very top of a young tree, as that could disturb its growth.

The spruce tips last for up to a week in the fridge if kept loosely covered.

I have tried adding spruce tips directly to the salad dressing, but they acidity seems to obliterate their flavour. I find them much more flavourful when added directly to the salad. I say that if you’re going to go to the trouble of picking and using spruce tips – you might as well taste them.

This salad can be prepared several hours to a day ahead. Prepare the salad ingredients and toss them in a salad bowl. Moisten a paper towel and lay it on top, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Prepare the dressing separately and keep refrigerated in a jar – toss with the salad greens just before serving.

Bowl of Spring Green Salad with Spruce Tips

Green Salad with Spruce Tips and a Light Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1 head curly-leaved lettuce or butter lettuce
  • about 6 large radishes (120gms)
  • 2 stalks celery
  • a 5 – 6 inch (13-15cm) piece of cucumber
  • 2 green onions (scallions)
  • ¼ of a red pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped spruce tips (start with 3 tablespoons if you’re not familiar with the flavour of spruce tips)


Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (60ml) mild-flavoured oil (like grapeseed or avocado)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Wash and dry the lettuce. I like to shake the water off the leaves, then wrap them in a clean tea towel and place them in a plastic bag in the fridge for several hours or overnight to crisp up and dry. Tear the lettuce into bite-sized pieces into a salad bowl.

Slice the radishes and celery very thinly and add them to the lettuce. Peel the cucumber if it is not a soft-skinned variety. Cut the piece of cucumber in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into thin half-moons. Add them to the salad. Thinly slice the green onions and the pepper (if using) and add them to the salad.

Chop the spruce tips finely, and add them to the salad.

Stir together the dressing ingredients and toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.

Serves 5 to 6.

Guten Appetit!

If you like my recipes, follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. You’d make my day!

You might also like:

Our Family Favourite Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Macaroni Salad with Two Dressings

Basil Beet Salad

Broccoli Lentil Salad

Fun Picking Spruce Tips

Meredith and some friends had fun helping pick the spruce tips

Posted in Canadian Food Experience Project, Salads & Dressings | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments