Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Camping Report: Kids' Breakfast Ideas

Time for breakfast! Photo by C.G.
The picture above show a French mom's dream breakfast for kids: fresh fruit, whole grains and a touch of indulgence. You got your vitamins, proteins, fibers and lipids too. Since we go camping a lot, breakfast is always a meal I like to get right. After all, isn't breakfast the most important meal of the day? That's what I learned as a kid anyway. After years of trial and error, I've decided to share our biggest successes and our most glaring mistakes in the breakfast department. May this inspire families to get over the breakfast block on their next camping trip!

Pancakes are an obvious go-to breakfast item for camping trips. Open the stove, heat up the griddle, whip out a spatula and pancake mix and you're good to go. We've tried pancakes a few ways and here are my thoughts.

Our favorite pancake mix. Photo
courtesy of Stonewall Kitchen
Hands down our favorite pancake mix, the Stonewall Kitchen Farmhouse Pancake Mix has a lot going for it. The pancakes turn out crisp, puffy, not overly sweet, and they don't stick to the pan. My husband, who never eats for breakfast, actually asked seconds of pancakes made with this mix. It's that good! My girls eat it with good ol' maple syrup or drizzled with honey. Definitely worth the extra $$, I'd get some more in a heartbeat.

Our least pancake mix, so far, is the Arrowhead Mills Multigrain Pancake and Waffle Mix. I bought a pound in bulk at Rainbow Grocery and it turned out bland and caky. I thought I was being a good mom by squeezing multigrain into our breakfast menu but the experiment was a disaster. My kindergartner - who's our family pancake ogre - didn't even ask for seconds. Out with Arrowhead Mills. Too bad, I usually love their stuff.

Batter Blaster flavors. Photo courtesy of Batter Blaster
In the gimmicky category, we tried the Batter Blaster last year for the July 4th weekend. By the looks of it, it's the ultimate junk food item a health-conscious mom would avoid. Our friend Matt kept calling it cancake, the pancake that comes out of a can - which it pretty much is. It's pancake batter you spray out of a pressurized can. That is says "Organic" on the can did not alleviate my health concerns a bit. However I got a complementary can for an article I was writing on camping with kids so I took a chance. The result was interesting.

The Batter Blaster experiment. Photo by Frog Mom
If you look closely at the photo, you'll see that the pancakes are frumpy-looking. Because they came out squeezed out of a tiny hole, the resulting pancakes had no body at all. They were hard to flip and I couldn't get the perfect round shape. They came out thin too - not puffy and crisp. Tastewise, kids liked them - I didn't. However ... all kids got a giant kick out of the experiment and kept asking for more.

When I started squeezing on the can and batter shot out like whipping cream on the hot griddle, all eight  kids let out a yelp of excitement and gathered around me as if I were pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It was breakfast magic - or so they thought. My conclusion is: Batter Blaster is fun for the kids, OK if you're in a bind, but don't expect much more.

Second to pancakes, oatmeal is the perfect way to cheer up a child when you're out camping, particularly if the morning is crisp and you haven't built a campfire.

Morning oatmeal. Photo by C.G.
Once they're out of the tent, kids can get cold and a steaming bowl of oatmeal goes a long way into warming up their bodies. Personally, I go for Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats. It's my favorite type of oatmeal and since it takes centuries to cook, I soak it overnight to cut on cooking time in the morning. When I'm up and running, it doesn't take more than 5 to 10 minutes depending on the stove. My girls like it straight up with sugar and milk, I like mine with Trader Joe's orange-flavored cranberries and raw pecans. It's delish.

Steel cut oats. Photo
courtesy of Bob's
Red Mill
By far our least favorite now that we've gotten used to steel cut oats, is the Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal. To my girls, it tastes no better than cardboard and I'm with them. Two years ago I bought a selection of instant Quaker Oats oatmeal packets, thinking they'd come in handy on a camping trip. Sure, it was easy to prepare but once the moment of truth came, I had to whip up a Plan B breakfast pronto because they were not going to eat this.

So, we're French. And crêpes are a staple of family breakfasts in France. So I decided to make crêpes while camping. The problem was, we didn't really know of a good crêpes mix so I opted for the crêpes from scratch strategy. Boy has it paid off.

It all came out of this great book, The Usborne First Cookbook illustrated by Stephen Cartwright. I got it for my girls when they were toddlers and it's become part of our camping kitchen box.

Open it on page 46 for the crêpes recipe. It's devilishly simple, illustrated in 9 simple steps and I'll give you the gist here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
2 eggs
Flippin' fantastic, mom! Photo by C.G.
2 1/2 cups milk and water (I use milk only)
1 Tbsp melted butter

Basically, I just mix everything up (sometimes I premix the day before in a plastic bottle and refrigerate overnight in the cooler)  and use it without waiting. The recipe does say it's got to be thick enough to coat a spoon. However it shouldn't be thicker. This is not a pancake. Go and flip away!

Eggs and Bacon
Clearly, this is not my girls' favorite breakfast. At a time they used to love eggs anything-style but now they've become fearful of anything eggy. So unless someone in our group cooks eggs and bacon, I just don't bring any in the cooler. If it's bacon, the applewood smoked bacon at Guerra Quality Meats on Taraval is as good as the one at WholeFoods.

How I wish my girls liked granola. How I wish. I am blessed with two kids who like neither raisins nor dried cranberries, forget about dried apricots and dates too. It's not even a "no no", dried fruits are on their "never never" list. So I bake batches of the New York Times' fantastic Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios and eat it all by myself.

The Food Tray Trick
Here comes the food tray. Photo courtesy of
Last but not least, breakfast in style. We camped in the Yosemite National Park for Mother's Day this year and I finally found the answer to my kids' breakfast conundrum: the melamine food tray! Durable - it takes a million years to bio-degrade - versatile - great for carrots, peas and sausages too - portionable - obviously - the preformed melamine food tray is the answer to your breakfast prayers!

I got cheap ones at Safeway courtesy of the Easter sales but there are swanky ones like this one or that one. Two camping trips later, I can safely say it's a success! I think it's the little holes that get my girls excited. I loved my first food tray as a kid too. It made any type of food so much more fun.

If you liked this, check out:

That's my 2 cents on breakfast. Now what's yours?


Debi said...

I'm salivating just reading this. Must save for when we finally make it camping outside the backyard.

Frog Mom said...

Thanks Debi! I got so inspired after writing that I prepared a batch of crepes batter for breakfast tomorrow morning. My girls helped me crack the eggs and I did the rest. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Do you have fave breakfast recipes?

millzeee said...

With a tiny bit of planning, you can also combine your first and second choices and make oatmeal pancakes. At home, I soaked my oatmeal in buttermilk overnight and then mixed all the ingredients, which I threw in our cooler. I made a lot of batter because everyone loves these, and it survived searing Desert Valley temps (until about day 5). Served with syrup, yogurt or jam, these are super easy outdoors. The girls even like them cold as a snack.

Erin said...

Your good! I usually stick to cerial with milk, or yogurt (easy stuff) and of course coffee for me!

Frog Mom said...

@millzee, I love the idea of oatmeal pancakes. What's your recipe? I'm dying to try. @Erin, I've tried cereal with milk but even at home it's met with mild excitement. Yogurt would be great but our cooler died on us and we were camping without cooler until recently. Now we've got a brand new Yeti cooler and it's ready for its first use. I'll try that for Memorial Day weekend!