Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back To School Chalkboard Cookies


I love chalkboard writing. I love coffee shops and restaurants that use chalk writing for their menu display. You see chalkboard writing everywhere on Pinterest for making all sorts of signs and for labeling food. You can even create your own chalkboard writing surface pretty easily too.

It would only be a matter of time before we started to see chalkboard writing on all sorts of cookies. Actually, tons of people have already done this! Of course. Many of them use a black surface. The contrast looks great and with neat writing it can make anything look formal. Needless to say, I have wanted to try chalkboard writing on cookies for awhile now :) I finally did it this past weekend.

I made some "Back to School" cookies and decided to do some chalkboard writing on a green chalkboard. For school, I like the dark green surface better. It's more natural and the green boards are what I remember from my school days. I used mainly green gel coloring and then darken it a bit using some black. So instead of your mouth turning black after eating the cookie, it would turn dark green instead. Somehow a dark green mouth doesn't seem as scary as a black mouth. Lol. For the bottom tray part of the chalkboard, I used gray and then I used a toothpick to place in the chalk and eraser. 

I used a dark chocolate sugar cookie recipe and the contrast was lovely :)

After the cookie was fully dried, it was time to paint. I used white food coloring and a bit of water and painted in my messages. If it wasn't neat or if I wanted to change the message, I just used water and a paper towel and removed it from the cookie surface using my brush. As a result, there would be a bit of white chalky residue left behind but that was great because it made it look even more realistic :)

My 4.5 year old had a play date with his best friend and I wanted to make them both "Off to School" cookies since they are both starting Kindergarten this September. I created simple messages and simple math equations for them. His best friend has an older sister who is maybe 8 years old. I decided to give her cookies with more complex equations on them. Instead of "Off to School," her cookie read "Back to School." I don't know if the kids noticed any of this but it doesn't really matter because I know and that's what matters :) I'm not really interested in eating the cookies at all. I just like having a little fun designing and creating them.

Equations created using mathicando.com



After taking photos of the cookies, I realized I messed up the value of g, gravity on earth. I couldn't believe it! I had to remove that cookie from the gift bag and save it for us. Don't tell my Physics teacher! Lol.


Equations created using mathicando.com

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What a Foodie Eats While Camping

A few weeks ago, we went on a camping trip to Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast. It was our first time camping with our 4 year old and our first time over on the Sunshine Coast. It was so much work preparing and planning for this camping trip that we made it a three night and four day trip. That's a lot of camping for people who don't like to camp! I mean I loved camping as a kid but back then my only responsibility was to have fun and discomfort didn't bother me nearly as much. As an adult and especially as a parent now, camping is just a heck of a lot of work. Too much work.


We actually had a great trip :) From Vancouver, it was just a short ferry ride over to the Sunshine Coast and then a short drive to the provincial park. Large campgrounds, hot showers, flush toilets, playing fields, and just a few minutes to walk to the picnic areas, playground, and beach. The weather was 22-23C the entire time we were there. We went with my sister and her family so our 4 year old had his little cousins to play with. We hiked, played at the beach, had a scavenger hunt, roasted marshmallows and made s'mores, and drank hot chocolate. We even watched bats fly by the field at dusk. Overall, I thought it was a good first camping experience with the kids. My husband would probably agree but then tell you that he's done with camping! Lol. He really doesn't like camping. I don't mind it and I know my 4yo loved it!



When it came to dining at the campsite, we ate like Royalty. Honestly, it was more glamping, than camping. When we first decided to go camping, I thought we could just survive on Kraft dinner, Hamburger Helper, Lipton noodle soup, Campbell soup, Quaker instant oatmeal etc. Then I realized it would mean three days of eating processed food. Um. One or two meals I'm okay with but three days worth of food?! I just couldn't do it. If I ate like that, I might actually get sick. For the past several years in particular, my body has adapted to eating more nutritious homemade foods. Okay and I'm a huge food snob too! So what? :)

A couple of days before the camping trip, I started to prepare food. I baked graham crackers and then dipped them in chocolate, I baked and sliced bread, I chopped various vegetables and put them in individual Ziploc bags, I prepared a flour mix for vegan omelets, I boiled quail eggs, I made tomato sauce, pistou soup and so on. I kind of went crazy. I even made haupia at my husband's request. I made mint chocolate truffles the night before and rolled and dipped just a dozen balls to bring to camp to try. We bought the most amazing chocolate mint at a local farm here and I just couldn't resist making truffles with them. It had to be done since I wasn't sure the mint would have survived after I returned from camp. As you can see, it was quite urgent :)

Homemade graham crackers.



We had to come up with breakfast, lunch, and dinner for seven people for three days. My brother-in-law is a foodie too so I was coordinating with him using Google Docs. I stuck with the list but he brought extra stuff and and as a result we probably had enough food for an entire week. Lol.

Lunch: Pasta with mushroom tomato sauce, grilled chicken/peppers & salmon/shrimp salad.

Breakfast: Salmon egg scramble with turkey sausage.

Some of the dishes and food I contributed:
  • Vegan omelets
  • Pistou soup (made & then frozen to a block for cooler)
  • Pasta with chicken breast in fresh tomato sauce (tomato sauce made & frozen to a block for cooler)
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Assorted green bean salad
  • Israeli couscous stir fry with kale, chard, and Italian sausages
  • Avocado/onion/tomato salsa & condiment
  • Dutch oven bread
  • Cantaloupe, mangos, papaya
  • Drinks: guava juice, teas, hot chocolate, soy milk, water, wine (ahem)
  • Snacks like coconut chips
  • Haupia, chocolate truffles
  • S'mores with homemade graham crackers
All the meals that I contributed were homemade from scratch and had plenty of vegetables, protein, and fiber. My sister and brother-in-law bought most of their food but it wasn't of the camping sort either. They brought mahi-mahi filets, salmon and chicken burgers, turkey sausages, smoked salmon etc. They bought a portable barbecue grill for the trip so we were able to barbecue food every day. We even barbecued our french toast and regular toast when we had eggs for breakfast. Well, we didn't have a toaster! And eating plain room temperature bread was dull. Hahaha. My sister would be like "what kind of camping is this?!" I told her it's glamorous camping or glamping! :)





Breakfast: Vegan omelet (or more like vegan scramble).

Dinner: Grilled mahi-mahi with assorted green bean salad & grilled garlic pita & eggplant.

The last half of the trip we started to realize that we had way too much food left and we had to eat more so we did. Yikes! It felt like Thanksgiving. It was the same story at every meal. We were so stuffed it was actually hilarious. We would eat so much at lunch only to find ourselves having to cook again just a couple of hours later. Lol. After lunch one day, my husband and I both fell into a food coma in our camping chairs at the beach and seized to be parents for an hour or so. Our 4 year old was off playing with his 6 year old cousin and when we saw them later, they were both soaked in water and covered in sand from tip to toe. Oops. We're totally blaming the food for this!

We ate too well and we totally over did it but it was all delicious. The best camping meals I have ever had! Glamping actually made me feel sorry for the other campers. I saw a couple of girls at the water area washing their dishes with a bar of soap and a pine cone. Wow. People are so resourceful! We just brought along our dishwashing liquid and sponge from home. In fact, our car was packed to the rim. But there were seven of us and we had two tents and a lot of camping chairs. And a barbecue grill with a full tank of propane. That makes us glampers, right?


It's actually quite funny. At night when it got busy by the communal fire pit, I was actually a bit embarrassed to go there to roast marshmallows. Everyone there was roasting their white marshmallows on twigs they found nearby. Then we came along with our fancy plate full of homemade graham crackers pre-dipped in chocolate and store bought long s'more sticks with colorful marshmallows at the tip. We couldn't stop laughing afterwards. We didn't mean to show off. We just like nice things and we like eating good food.

S'mores on home baked graham crackers.

Thanks to all the planning and organization, we didn't spend a lot of time cooking at camp. There are plenty of things that you could do beforehand to save you time and allow you to pack a good cooler. Here are some of my tips:
  • Cook some of the harder meals at home and then freeze them right away. Your frozen block of food can go right into your cooler to help keep things cool. I did this for my pistou soup and tomato sauce. On the third day, these were still slightly frozen.
  • Freeze bags full of water and lie them flat at the bottom and sides of your cooler. I didn't use loose ice in my cooler. I didn't want the mess. It was kept cold by frozen foods and frozen bags of water. The bags were big slabs of ice and they thawed very slowly. Afterwards, you can drink the water.
  • Chop vegetables for the various dishes you plan to make and store them in Ziploc bags. I kept the dry vegetables together and I had a separate bag for chopped tomatoes since they were wet. The bags will allow for you to fit more things inside your cooler.
  • Prepare flour mixes and store them in bags. These bags don't need refrigeration. This is great for things like pancakes. I made mine for a vegan omelet mix. When it came time to cooking, I just had to add soy milk and mix it in the bag.
  • Prepare sandwich spreads like tuna mixes at home. It's nice to have simple meals like this, especially if you plan to go hiking. You could make this quickly for your packed hiking lunch.
  • Use small containers and only bring the spices and condiments you need for the trip. This will save you a lot of space. For instance, I brought mayonnaise, hot dog relish, Provence herbs, salt, pepper, vegan margarine, and balsamic vinegar all in small containers.
  • Freeze water bottles and put them in the cooler.
  • Pack all the frozen and big things at the bottom of the cooler. You want to be able to find things easily.
  • Do all your baking at the last minute so that everything is as fresh as possible. I baked and sliced my bread at home, the night before.
  • The cooler should be the last thing you fill and pack before leaving the house.
  • Dry foods that you'll need together should stay in the same bags. For instance, I put all my baked chocolate dipped graham crackers in a tin right next to the marshmallows and s'more sticks.
  • Buy more ice for your cooler after a day or two. If you have access to a nearby town, you may want to get more ice if your cooler is not cool enough. I never had to do this for my own cooler.
Do as much as you can. I didn't want to bring along cans of food so I either opened them at home or avoided those foods. I didn't want to make a mess chopping vegetables at camp so I did them at home. I pretty much devoted a day and a half on and off cooking and preparing food for packaging. It was pretty insane. But knowing me, if I had to do it over again, I would probably only do more. But that's just me! Lol. It was a delicious camping trip and it was worth all the work :)

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