Boys, Bikes, and Bonfires…oh, and a quinoa salad.

I remember three things from a summer camping trip when I was little.

1) Arbitrarily deciding I no longer liked apple juice, to the frustration of my mother who had just handed me a plastic Tupperware cup full (with those impossibly tight fitting lids – remember them?).

2) Running up to three tall wooden ‘Huey, Dewey and Louie’ ducks , patting each on the head, and naming them Mac, Two, and Quack after the campground. Only last summer, while roadtripping from Boston to Moncton, NB did I realize that long-ago campground was in Mactaquac Provincial Park (don’t laugh too hard, my French-speaking friends!).

3) Sitting on a picnic blanket at dusk, excited to be outside in my PJ’s WAY past my bedtime, to watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks on a giant outdoor movie screen.

I don’t have any other specific memories of that trip, turns out I was only about 3 1/2, but I remember the magical feeling.

So this year we argued about packed up the car made the 3:05, 3:35, 4:20 5:00pm Fauntleroy to Southworth ferry, and went camping. With two other families, we had five boys made up of three school friends (7yo) plus an older (15) and a younger (5) sib. The 15 y.o was a doll and I hope we do as good a job with E as his parents have done with him!

Fishing with a reed grass pole

Boys are genetically programmed to poke sticks in fires

Blurry boys. Not my fault, they just move too damn fast!

My speedy kid

It was a busy campground, not super-private, with showers and flush toilets and paved paths and is probably a cop-out to backpacking-with-your-tiny-tent-and-purify-your-own-water types. It wasn’t quite the Walmart of campgrounds though, I’ll reserve that for the one we were at a couple of years ago where some woman in full make up and heels was patiently waiting in the bathroom for the deluxe coffeemaker she’d lugged in to finish brewing.

Early morning blueberry pancakes and coffee. Life couldn’t get better.

Now, I am an admitted coffee snob but this is camping people! No electrical appliances allowed! But our camping stovetop perc had seen better days and so we went with the next best thing: Starbucks VIA baby! Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking instant but we thought we’d try it and VIA totally raises the bar. Seriously, it rocked. The only thing better would have been some freshly ground Pike Place Roast or my fave: tall skinny vanilla latte.

This ain’t your mother’s instant.

The other smart thing we did was make Julie‘s Curried Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango ahead of time. It travels well, is filling and fresh either on its own or keeping a hot dog company. My picky kid with the suspicious palate wouldn’t touch it, but other kids did! And the beans and quinoa give a ton of protein for the vegetarian who was not having hot dogs.

Yes, those white things are onion, but they’re super mild.

Curried Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango
adapted from Dinner with Julie

1 cup (uncooked) quinoa
1-2 ripe mangoes, diced
1 cup diced cucumber
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced mild onion or 2-3 chopped green onions
1 cup chopped/torn spinach
1-2 cups chopped cilantro
1 19oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

Cook quinoa according to package directions and put in a large but shallow bowl to cool. Chop the vegetables and toss with the cooled quinoa. Drizzle with the dressing below.

1/4 cup canola oil
2-4 tbsp vinegar (rice, champagne, wine)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Whisk to combine and drizzle over the salad. Watch the amount, you might use more or less depending on how wet you like your salad.

Eggless chocolate brownies

I’ve been on a quest to make a decent brownie without eggs. It’s been tricky…they’ve either turned out really flat or too dry and crumbly. But then I came across the ” (Gluten Free!) Black Bean Brownies That Don’t Suck” recipe over at Dinner with Julie, AND my sister-in-law sent me a black bean brownie recipe as well. Brilliant! Must be meant to bean. (OMG, I am so sorry). The beans add some much needed ‘heft’ to the eggless brownies I’d tried in the past that tended to just fall apart and since I don’t need to avoid gluten, I decided to play around with adding some flour as well for extra structure.

They don’t have a whole lot of sugar compared to other brownies and I even decided to use white whole wheat flour to see if they might possibly edge toward *gasp* healthy. Leaving out the eggs means you need to replace that liquid plus their binding property; plain yogurt, sour cream or buttermilk work well. One heaping tablespoon per egg. Adding baking powder allowed them to rise a little higher than without and voila! I think I’ve hit on something pretty good, but then I’ve never had a ‘real’ brownie for comparison. Let me know what you think if you make them.

Ok, Bob says they’re good. Especially with the chocolate chips stirred in. At his request, the rest of them are now tucked in tight waiting to be taken out of his reach. Hello annual girls’ XC-ski weekend!

Eggless Chocolate Brownies

1 19oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup cocoa
2 tbsp buttermilk or sour cream or plain yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325˙F.
Put the black beans, sugar, melted butter, cocoa, buttermilk, vanilla and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine initially, scraping down the sides. When well combined, let it go for a while, until quite smooth.  Measure out the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and go and check your e-mail for a few minutes while the food processor does its thing.

Pour pureed wet ingredients into the mixing bowl with the dry and stir well to combine. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a buttered (or sprayed, or tin foiled) 8″ X 8″ baking pan. (I used an oblong dish that was 10X5 because my square pan is 9X9 and is too big for this recipe). Bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick comes out relatively clean (a few crumbs sticking is a good thing), but not wet. If you can, wait until they have cooled completely….

Southwest Style Quinoa and Black Beans

Today is Yesterday was my mom’s birthday so it’s fitting that my first post features one of her recipes (which we had for dinner last night but I found out that I can’t edit a blog post very well on my iPad and was already comfortably curled up and was too lazy to move to the desktop) …anyway,  we both kind of wing this dish instead of following a measured set of instructions. Cooking’s more fun that way! This meal is great because it’s one dish, is full of protein and fiber and tastes amazing…well, if you’re a grown up. Scratch that, it would taste good to a picky first grader too if only he’d actually taste it!

It took a bit longer to make than I remembered, mainly because of the chopping and cooking the quinoa but you sauté the peppers and onion then pretty much toss everything together and leave it until the quinoa is plump and the liquid is absorbed; so it’s relatively low-maintenance. We made this for dinner one night last week but we were still all on holiday with a very relaxed pace and I wasn’t really watching time. Last night was the night before school started again and I couldn’t believe that it was about quarter to eight when we started dinner! So next time I’ll start a little earlier. Come to think of it, it also could be all the crazy photos I was taking while I was cooking, which made the whole process take much longer.

Once the peppers and onions and garlic are softened, add the quinoa and chicken stock (or water if you prefer) and let it simmer until the water/stock is absorbed. Add the black beans (you can also add them earlier…whenever you think of it!) When it’s close to done but there’s still some liquid left in the pan, stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve hot, with (optional) grated cheese and a blob of plain yogurt or sour cream if you’re feeling decadent. It doesn’t really need it though.

So what did Evan have for dinner? Cheese quesadilla. Oh well.

If I’d been thinking, I’d have cooked some quinoa separately for him and offered him that plus the sautéed veggies on the side. But I forgot.

Southwest Style Quinoa and Black Beans (variation on beans and rice)

2 bell peppers, any colour

1 medium onion

1 clove garlic, chopped or minced

2 cups chopped cilantro

1 cup quinoa (white or red)

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

2 cups chicken stock or water

Dice the peppers and onions and sauté on medium-high in butter or olive oil until just soft. About 5-6 minutes. Add uncooked quinoa and chicken stock and stir to combine. Lower temp to simmer, cover and leave it, stirring occasionally. When most of the liquid is absorbed stir in the chopped cilantro and black beans (if you haven’t already) and leave for another 5 minutes or so, until the rest of the liquid has been absorbed. You can speed it up by raising the burner temp and removing the lid but you’ll need to hang out by the stove, stirring every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. You really can use any veggies you have on hand (carrot, frozen corn – thanks for the idea mom!). You can also add cooked quinoa (or rice) at the end (this is a good use of leftover rice or quinoa that’s already in the fridge) instead, but I like the flavor depth you get from cooking it all together.