Delicious Veggie Sandwiches for Summer Picnics

Ready for summer picnics?  I am!  I love to picnic.  This is one of my family’s favorite recipe for a sandwich to take along for a picnic lunch before or during a hike, at the swimming pool, or one of any other million places we might want to take food.  (After all, homemade is always better than fast food, right?)

My lettuce is in full swing in my garden right now, and just looking at it makes me want to make this sandwich.  The basis of the sandwich is a delicious cream cheese spread.  Top that with whatever veggies you have on hand (I like plenty of spinach and lettuce, cucumber and red onion.  Red bell pepper is nice, as is some shaved carrot.)  Use a little meat if you want.  I prefer it without, but you notice a little bacon snuck into this sandwich for someone’s lunch.  The best bread for this sandwich is a lovely sourdough made by Eden, toasted, but if you don’t have that — any good hearty bread will do.

Cream Cheese Spread for Sandwiches

1 8 ounce package cream cheese

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (I use oregano, thyme and parsley from my garden) or 2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

Put all ingredients in bowl of mixer and mix thoroughly, or use a hand mixer until completely combined.  Use as a sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise on toasted bread.

Remember, just like the spring weather, lovely lettuce is short lived.  It doesn’t like heat!  Enjoy it now while it is still delicious.

Hope you are taking full advantage of the spring weather to get outside.  Do you enjoy picnics?  What is your favorite recipe?  Please leave me a comment.


Picnic Chicken for Hiking Fun

Hiking requires real nourishment.  It was a challenge when we first began hiking to find foods that would be appealing after some time — sometimes several hours — spent in a backpack.  They needed to be nourishing, fairly lightweight and hassle free, but also tasty so that our time spent on the trail would be enjoyable.  I happened upon this recipe from Mark Bittman’s cookbook How to Cook Everything, and with some slight modifications it fit the bill exactly.  It has been a regular on our picnic menu for several years now.

Chicken Adobo

Serves 6

5 pounds chicken legs and thighs, skinned

1  cup water

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup vinegar

1 Tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, moving chicken pieces occasionally to insure total immersion in the liquid.  Remove to broiler pan.  Grill on barbeque grill or under broiler about 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned and crispy.  Serve warm or cold.  I freeze the chicken legs and allow them to thaw in our backpacks, making a great, tasty high-protein lunch.

Hope you are enjoying your spring!  Get out there and hike, and then leave me a comment to let me know where you’ve been!  Thanks for stopping by.

Spring Cookout

All our real food etiquette went out the window today.  Lunch was from Pizza Hut and we had our first cookout of the spring with hot dogs and marshmallows.  HOW SHAMEFUL!  After an afternoon spent gardening, we drove up the canyon a little way to a park and had a fire and played in the underbrush.  All the spur of the moment reasons I love having my kids at home with me.  One more vote for home school.

Tree wrestling — a new game called “push-off” was invented — and no one was seriously damaged.  Lulu’s feelings were trampled upon, but she lived to tell about it.  Brett blamed marshmallows for Max’s hyperactivity.  I think I know where to place the blame.

A good time was had by all. (Even though we’re really, really sorry about the junk food.  Please don’t tell anyone.)  Hope you’re enjoying spring time, too!

Hiking Lower Spring Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

This weekend was beautiful spring weather, a little breezy and 70 degrees.  A little hot for a hiking — but just perfect.  We weren’t certain where we would be hiking, because we wanted to do Spring Canyon, but that required fording the Fremont River.  If the river was too high, we planned to hike Upper Muley Twist, another must do Capitol Reef hike we’ve been saving for the right day.  Mom and Dad got down to Capitol Reef on Saturday afternoon and checked the ford.  Dad actually was able to ford it, so we planned to get up early on Sunday started hiking to Spring Canyon from the Chimney Rock trailhead.

The first time we had hiked this trail, we only made it part way to the confluence with Spring Canyon.  We were “checking it out” on our way to another hike.  The trail at Chimney Rock starts up a steep, blue clay hill that really kicked our butts when we were here before.  This time we just powered right up it.  It is short, and it is nearly the only uphill on this trail.  Right after you get to the top of this hill, start looking for petrified wood.  It is everywhere, some of it big stumps, some bark, and some pieces that look like splinters from someone splitting firewood.

This is a big stump we saw further down the canyon that someone very strong had lifted up on top of a boulder.

We came to an open looking confluence that we assumed was the confluence with Spring Canyon, and followed it a little way up canyon before realizing it was just a box.  The  confluence with Spring Canyon is signed, and it seems farther than 3 miles from the trailhead (posted), but my GPS was getting lots of crazy points, so I don’t have good mileage on this trip.

The light was beautiful for taking shots of the canyon and the desert varnish (the black markings on the canyon walls) was  shining like wet paint.  As usual, the kids found plenty of rock climbing and fun on the trail.

We did walk up the Spring Canyon Confluence when we found it, and although the spring was not marked on the map, we did find where the water began about a half mile up from the confluence.  If this water is perennial, it would make Spring Canyon a very nice overnight backpack.  Most of the hike is a straight wash walk, with a little sand slogging and bouldering thrown in for spice.  There is only one tricky spot of the trail, a climb around a narrow slot canyon.

The path above the slot canyon was not too scary, but one part of it was a walk around a sliding dirt hill above a drop.  Dad and Shandy were ahead, and assured us it was fine, but it appeared that we were walking on a thin line carved into the dirt.  After deciding we would probably survive a fall (but with lots and lots of road rash and broken legs), Lulu and I took our walk around the cliff.

This was definitely the most exciting part of the hike.  After a stop for lunch, we finished our hike down the canyon.  We spotted an arch high on the wall, and there was one very beautiful alcove.

In the excitement of the river crossing, we forgot to take pictures!  Sorry.  It was about thigh deep and running quite fast, but the bottom was not slippery.  We crossed with arms linked, and were successful!  Thank goodness — no way we were hiking back 9 miles.  That is also the reason you should never start a hike with a possibly uncrossable river on it — when you get there, you’ll try to cross whether or not it is safe.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!  Go to Capitol Reef soon.  You won’t be sorry and March and April are perfect times to go.  Tomorrow — some more things to see on your trip.

Running Outside and Fixing Our Nature Deficit

I had a breakthrough moment this morning as I got ready for my run.  I have been reading The Nature Principle by Richard Louv, and he describes people as going out to nature for their exercise, and then dulling their senses by blocking their ears with Ipods or other media.  When I read this, I realized that I was guilty of that myself.  Instead of going on my early morning runs with ears and mind wide open, I have been building a barrier between myself and the restoration that being outside brings by listening to podcasts or a playlist while I run.

I have known for a long time that being outside is restorative for me, but since the days have been shorter and the weather colder, I have been lacking motivation when I go outside for my long runs.  I decided today to try running without any noise in my ears again, although I took along my music and earphones “just in case.”  I had a great run.  I didn’t see any wonderful wildlife, and the birds were not singing, but I was able to listen to the movement of the air, and listen to my breathing as a way to improve my running.  I also was able to concentrate my attention on some work problems that needed resolved.

I will be reviewing The Nature Principle here soon, and telling you more about my thoughts on nature deficit disorder.  In the meantime, let me share some other ideas we have used lately to get outdoors:

  • Walking when the moon is full.  We went on a moonlit walk on Monday at one of our favorite walking paths.  The kids spotted Casseopeia and Orion, and we talked about Betelgeuse and Rigel and why some stars are red and others are blue.  We also scared up a few ducks — literally, they were very scared.
  • Hiking to look at ice at some of our favorite spots.
  • Lunch at the park.  This is wonderful because the park is empty this time of year, so the kids can have the equipment to themselves if they want, or wander around playing hide and seek or other invented games.  I take along a blanket to wrap up in(along with my coat) and a book, and enjoy half an hour of winter sunbathing while the kids run around and enjoy themselves.  This is especially wonderful if you have hot soup to take for lunch.

Hope you are able to be outdoors a little this winter.  Do you have a suggestion for us?  Please leave a comment.

Easy Pack Food for a Great Hike — Pitas and Hummus

Dreaming and wishing we could have been here today instead of stuck in haze, inversion and cold:

Since I’m not hiking, guess I’ll keep planning ahead for the springtime.  Thought I’d share with you some of the ways we prepare for a hike.

Our family has some requirements for hiking food:

1)      It has to be tasty.

2)      It has to be easy.

3)      It can’t be too messy!

This recipe for homemade pitas with white bean hummus fulfills all of these requirements.  Anyone who makes bread can make pitas.  The dough is forgiving, and the key is cook them HOT!  Just don’t expect pockets.  We use these more like tortillas or taco shells, wrapping our hummus and spinach in them.  You can substitute store bought pitas or tortillas in a pinch in this recipe, but homemade is best.

Here’s the recipe:

Pita Bread

Makes 6

1 cup warm water

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

3 or more cups flour (I like at least half whole wheat)


Put the water in the mixer bowl with the olive oil and yeast.  Allow the yeast to dissolve for a few minutes, and then add flour and salt.  Add enough flour to make a soft dough, then leave the dough to rise for about 30 minutes.  After the dough is risen, turn it out onto the counter and divide it into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece between your palms into a soft ball, and let these balls rest on the floured counter for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Put a cookie sheet in the oven to preheat with the oven.

When the oven is hot, flatten the dough balls two at a time on a well-floured counter.  Using a rolling pin, make 6 to 8 inch circles.  Put the circles on the cookie sheet and allow to cook for 3 minutes.  Be careful taking these out of the oven – 500 degrees is HOT!  Remove to a cooling rack, and cook the rest of the pitas in batches.

White Bean Hummus

1 can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic

¼ jar green olives

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Enough juice from olive jar to allow the beans to mix in the food processor.

Put all ingredients in the food processor.  As you begin processing, add juice in a thin stream to allow it to stir without becoming too thin.

Pitas can be packed in a plastic bag in your backpack, and hummus should be put inside a plastic container inside a ziplog bag (for extra security).  I usually pack the hummus in my backpack because if the plastic container is against your back it’s not that comfortable, and I would rather that was in my pack than in a complaining kid’s pack.  Also, be sure to bring a spoon or a spork to spread the hummus, although in a pinch (pun intended) you can grab some up with the pitas and your fingers.

Another good hummus can be made by replacing the green olives with a roasted red bell pepper.

This is a good hiking snack because it gives you protein and carbs, with some salts to replace your electrolyte levels.  Add some apples and some Pringles, some candy or cookies for motivation,  and you are set to go for a great hike.

Hope you get a great hike soon!

Kids in the Kitchen — Vegetable Beef Soup

First of all, let me explain why a vegetarian family is eating beef soup.  One reason is that we are not 100 percent vegetarian yet.  We are still in the cleaning all the meat out of the freezer, having one meal a week that contains meat stage.  Also, we feel that if we can verify the source of our meat — if the animal had a fairly normal, comfortable life before it was slaughtered (no feed lots) — then we probably can conscientiously eat it.  So I bought these soup bones at a local farm about a month ago, and have been waiting to use them.  In all honesty, this meal would have been just as good without the soup bones.  As it is, I used about 2 pounds of meat (one pound of it mostly bones) to make about 3 meals for our family.  Does that make us carnivores?  I guess so.

Next, I want to talk about kids and knives.  With my oldest two children, I was afraid to ever let them touch a knife.  I think my son was 12 before he cut up his own meat (not really.)  But we did not do food preparation that involved chopping.  With the younger ones, I realize I was a little overprotective.  Especially since we don’t have any little ones running around underfoot to distract and knock off balance, I allow my younger ones to use knives.  That being said, we are VERY careful.  Max is always seated at the cutting board, I am standing very nearby, and no one else is allowed in the kitchen.  For this soup recipe, Max did all the peeling (carrots) and chopped the celery.  He thought it was great fun.

This is a great soup to start in the early afternoon and allow to simmer until dinner time.

Vegetable Beef Soup

2 pounds beef soup bones

2 onions, chopped

6 medium potatos, chopped

1 quart tomatoes or 2 16 ounce cans, juice and all, chopped if they are whole

1 quart water

6 carrots, cut in bite sized pieces

6 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 Tablespoon bouquet garni or similar Italian-type seasoning (I like plenty of rosemary when I have it)

1 Tablespoon salt

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot.  I don’t ever let this soup come to a boil because that makes greasy foamy stuff come off of the bones, and I don’t want to skim that off my soup.  Instead, I heat it on medium high to a near boil, then turn to low, put the lid on, and simmer for as long as I can.  When I am nearly ready to serve the soup, (when I put my rolls in the oven), I remove the meat and bones and break the meat up into bite size pieces.  Then I return the meat to the pot, taste for salt, and serve.


Enjoy your soup!  Have a great day.

Get Outdoors Every Day — Our 15 minutes outside for this week

As part of my goal of living in harmony with nature, I have been trying to spend some time outdoors every day.  I usually run outside in the very early morning four or five days a week, but there’s something really special about being outside in the sunshine during these lovely fall days.  Is it because they are too wonderful to last?  Anyway – here are my goals for outdoor time for the next week:

Monday:              Very busy day, but not too busy for a quick walk around a local pond.  Fall is a great time of year to spot migrating birds.  We often see Canadian geese, Sandhill cranes,  blue herons, and killdeer.  Occasionally we spot an osprey, kingfisher or tern.  We also watch for muskrat, frogs, and garter snakes.

Tuesday:              Walk to and from work (lucky me!) with kids walking to meet me both ways.  Not so much nature, but at least some sunshine.

Wednesday:      Another lunch escape to the park, this time with a picnic of Potato Kale Soup (recipe posted later), homemade sourdough bread, and fresh veggies.  We are going to a different park, too, just at the edge of the canyon.  Last time we were here, we played hide and seek on the hillside.  I hope we can make that happen again.

Thursday:         This will be the hard day, because I am gone for work from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.  I will encourage the kids to play outside during the day — soccer practice in the back yard — and I will hope for a quick walk during lunch.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday:  Hiking and camping trip planned to the Canyonlands Island in the Sky district.  We hope to hike to Druid Arch.  It is eighteen miles round trip, so we will camp Friday night before we hike and Saturday night after we hike in the campground nearby.  Plenty of sunshine on these days!

The Grotto -- Payson Canyon

Enjoy Autumn!

What a lovely fall day today was!  We just had to take a mini-vacation in the middle of the day to go play in the park.  I made a quick pot of vegetarian chili with lots of veggies – spinach, celery, onions, bell pepper and garlic.  Lulu made cornbread with no help at all except putting it in the pan and putting it into the oven.  We packed up our lunch and headed for the park.  It was the kind of fall day that I wish could go on forever!

We played on the slides.

We ran races.

We made silhouette pictures.







We went home refreshed and ready to work.

Hope your day was as great as ours!