The following is a scenario that I created to share this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! entries for the “Make Me A Happy Camper” theme. Just like Naomi originated GAHIGF, she also first demonstrated this fantasy summary concept back in her April canape post. I don’t think it would take too much to imagine these events really happening. Oh, what fun that would be!
Mr. GFE and I love to share our mountain property with others. So, when I told him that I wanted to host a gathering for my gluten-free blogging buddies, he was completely on board. We usually go up on Saturday mornings and stay until the next evening, but sometimes we head up on Fridays. This time we wanted to have a few days to allow as many folks as possible to participate, so we took off on Friday and told people to come any time from Friday through Sunday. He wanted to get there early to have the grass all mowed so our property would look its best and the hard work would be out of the way. That would allow him to meet and visit with folks and provide any extra attention they would need: help in setting up tents, taking some people out in the canoe, placing Tikki torches by individual tents for subdued lighting, etc.
Saturday was expected to be the “core” day as some people in the group do not camp, so they just agreed to come for the day … to enjoy a picnic in effect. Some of them planned to head off to local hotels and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) when they left our place. Others were veteran (or at least eager) campers and most of them planned to stay overnight on Saturday. However, the folks coming from the farthest distance planned to come in on Friday to visit and/or camp with all of us, but to also take advantage of visitor opportunities in the area (e.g., hiking, taking scenic drives, exploring nearby attractions).
Friday arrived as a gorgeous day. Mr. GFE and I had packed as much as possible up the evening before so we left home early and arrived before lunchtime. Mr. GFE had the grass cut in record time and was very pleased. The dock was in place (no rescue operations this time LOL) and our neighbor had just bush hogged our field. I dug out the fire pit as I always do to ensure that we’d have a deep bed of coals later for roasting potatoes, corn, or even onions. Mr. GFE gathered firewood that had fallen from recent storms and soon had a huge pile to whittle on with his chain saw. There would definitely be plenty of wood to ensure hot coals for baking in the campfire and for blazes sufficient to warm and brighten the darkness later.
By evening all the Friday arrivals were there. After initial greetings and “tours” of our spot, everyone started inquiring on the dishes that had been brought and what we might eat for each meal. While we were happily speculating on meal possibilities (remember we didn’t know them all since everyone had not yet arrived), Tracee of Mrs. Ed’s Research and Recipes shared her Pimento Cheese Spread on some nice crunchy gluten-free crackers. Tracee told us that pimento cheese spread is a requirement for any proper Southern gathering and with our mouths full, we all mumbled our concurrence.
In fact, Tracee’s spread and crackers were quickly devoured, so we moved on to Ali’s (of Ali and Tom at Whole Life Nutrition) Nori Rolls with Sticky Brown Rice with Ginger Plum Sauce. Ali told us these work best kept whole for physical activities like hiking, but we were all hanging around the picnic tables under the pavilion, so she sliced them into one-inch pieces for our sampling. While we ate, we quizzed her and Tom about the preparation and the nutritional benefits of nori and the other ingredients.
Finally when we were all ready for our meal, Jenn of Jenn Cuisine stepped over to my one-burner stove and whipped up a variation on her father’s beef stroganoff. Jenn is quite the enthusiastic camper. While she was cooking, she told us just how much camping with her family had meant to her when she was growing up and even now looking back. Although all present were not campers, everyone shared the sentiments on love of family and the importance of those special times together.
After dinner, we thought we were stuffed, until Brian (of Fire and Salt) unveiled the graham crackers he had made and suggested S’mores. We greatly admired his handiwork … right down to the little perforations that graham crackers always have. These graham crackers were really works of art, but frankly, it was that final rich graham cracker/marshmallow/chocolate combo that made us the happiest. One S’more was all that was needed! We sat around the campfire chatting and getting better acquainted. We also talked of plans for the next day and who would be joining us then. We were all tired from our day of travel, so everyone turned in fairly early.
Before the children had gone off to bed, Mr. GFE had tasked them with starting the fire in the morning. He explained there would be very hot coals remaining under the ashes and advised them to just keep adding the small sticks and twigs that littered the ground. After they got a little fire going, he told them they could add larger pieces of firewood they found. He told them to stay out of the firewood pile … that wood would be saved for the evening. We awoke in the morning to the kids trying unsuccessfully to be quiet as they successfully got a small fire going, and then the slam of car doors as more folks arrived. Many happy faces greeted us as we exited the tent—the very proud firestarters and the newly arrived blogging buddies and their families.
I started a pot of hot water for the hot tea drinkers and made honey hot chocolate for others. A coffee lover in the crowd got a pot going for the relieved java junkies. Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe was definitely greeted warmly because she had shown up with a large basket of her freshly made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. Johanna stated emphatically that she is not a camper, but she loves a good picnic. Mr. GFE piped in that camping at our property is just “going on a picnic and then spending the night.” She laughed appreciatively, but remained unconvinced. She said she’d be heading back to her B&B after our evening meal.
Fruit, avocados, and nuts were available for breakfast as well. But, some of us convinced Melissa of Gluten Free for Good that she didn’t need to hang on to all of her namesake Mile High Trail Mix for her hiking adventures on Old Rag mountain after breakfast. (Heather and family planned to go as well and do some of the shorter trails nearby.) Melissa informed us that she often tweaked her recipe just a bit to make a wonderful granola and graciously shared some of her trail mix with us.
Similarly, Amy of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free agreed that a piece of her Fresh Apple Cake would also be quite fine for breakfast and we were very grateful. She told us how her mom had made a fresh apple cake for their camping adventures when she was growing up, and this recipe was her own variation.
As planned, after breakfast, Melissa left with her crew and Heather and family followed to check out the Blue Ridge Mountains up close and personal. The rest of us donned bathing suits and water shoes, and applied sunscreen. Mr. GFE, still acting as head camp counselor, headed off in our canoe and Son’s kayak with Tom and some of the children for a paddle up to the cave nearby. The cave is not huge, but it does have more than one room and it does house a few cute bats and diminutive stalactites and stalagmites. Visiting it is always a fun experience and the kids were quite excited.
Some of the children stayed behind to swim in our little lagoon, snorkel, and wade around doing their best to catch crawdads and hellgrammites. We told the crawdad hunters that we’d steam any “dads” that they found for an appetizer for dinner. In the end, they saw many, but didn’t have much luck in catching them. (This time of year crawdad catching is made much more difficult by the long grass that grows in the river and offers quick hideouts for all the river inhabitants.) They still had fun though.
Hours later, everyone reconvened for a late lunch with “tales of strength and daring.” We were all hungry. A food inventory revealed a wealth of delightful salads and appetizer food. Someone joked that we should have a taste test contest to see who had made the best salad, but you could just look at these dishes and tell they were all terrific. Heather of Life, Gluten Free shared a delightful Summer Salad with fresh corn as the main ingredient. The salad also included dill, which inspired a discussion on when “to add dill” and when “not to add dill.” (For the record, I think the dill-ites outweighed the non-dill lovers like myself. LOL)
Christine of Without Adornment actually had made two salads, Carrot Salad and Vegetable Lover’s Pasta Salad. Both disappeared quickly. There’s something about good food being placed in small dishes in small bite-sized pieces that makes it especially irresistible.
Linda of Kitchen Therapy presented us with a colorful and flavorful Garlicky Green Bean Potato Salad. Everyone enjoyed this salad, too, but the garlic lovers among us were especially happy. By the way, Linda didn’t hesitate to tell us that she does not look back fondly on her previous camping days, so she only stayed for a few hours before leaving for other non-outdoors adventures and we kept her close to the campfire to ensure the few pesky mosquitoes steered clear.
Kim of The Food Allergy Coach made Quinoa Salad with a Kick—and a nice little kick it was. A few folks had not yet tried quinoa and were surprised how much they enjoyed this dish. Kim was tickled as she loves to introduce others to new foods.
Emilia of A Gluten-Free Day shared her Potato Salad. This dish was as tasty as it was lovely, and it was very lovely. (Note: I can’t view Emilia’s entire post on her blog. I can just see the photo, but she and others can see her post in its entirety, so, hopefully, it’s just a gfe-unique issue and you can view all with no problems.)
As much as we liked the salads, some of us were ready for more protein, so were happy when Friedl of Kitchen Fun passed around her plate of Rice Salad and Salmon Rolls—buckwheat crepes filled with rice salad and smoked salmon. Now, you know they were both good and good for you! Friedl is another non-camper, but she loves a nice picnic.
Immediately after lunch, the crew scattered again. Some families embarked for town to check out Luray Caverns (caverns of spectacular proportions) and the Luray Zoo (known as a rescue zoo and formerly a reptile center, so much there for all to see). A bit later, a storm rolled in with little warning—a common summer occurrence in the mountains. Those of us at the campsite gathered under the pavilion. We re-hydrated and munched on some cut-up fruit and veggies, and I think the lids on the cookie tins were popped off at that point. Thankfully, the storm passed quickly and swimming, fishing, and all the other fun stuff resumed.
Night in the mountains, even during the summer, is always much cooler (think sweatshirts, jackets, and sleeping under blankets), but the added dampness from the rain brought a special chill. So we were all looking forward to hearty, warming dishes for supper. Again, we talked Melissa into sharing her food intended for backpacking with the rest of us. This time it was a very creamy, bisque-like Garlic Potato, Kale, and Chicken Backpacking Soup. Melissa explained that because this soup is dehydrated, it’s great for being “out in the wild” and it mixes up quickly because all the work is done before leaving home.
Carol of Simply … Gluten Free also shared her Bean & Veggie Chili, a vegetarian dish with a secret ingredient. All of us were trying to guess the ingredient, and some came close, but nobody got it exactly right. LOL We all loved the addition of the avocado slices.
Naomi of Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried and, of course, the founder/”mother” of Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! whipped out her seasoned 8-inch cast iron skillet and made a Courgette (Zucchini) Tortilla. Later, as we ate and made sounds of approval, she explained how to properly “season” a cast iron skillet and why using one is beneficial. Some of us joked that we might need another demonstration on the merits of cast iron cooking. Naomi chuckled, but little did we know that she’d later oblige our request.
While the others cooked on multiple-burner stoves, to satisfy the carnivores in the group (Mr. GFE and a few others), Mr. GFE and I grilled a Lovely London Broil. I also had a pot of artichokes steaming and by this time potatoes, corn on the cob, and Vidalia onions were baking in the coals and, in fact, almost ready.
After dinner, Naomi pulled another cast iron skillet out of her camping supplies, this one 6 inches in diameter. We all looked on with delight as she made a Hazelnut and Apple Pudding Cake. We grabbed spoons and had small exquisite tastes once the cake cooled enough. But the children were clamoring for S’mores again in the background (uh, some of those children looked pretty old! LOL), so we asked her to save the rest for Sunday’s breakfast.
We had eaten all of Brian’s homemade graham crackers the previous night, so I suggested that we make my alternative S’mores using my brown sugar chocolate chip cookies and flourless peanut butter cookies. Everyone agreed, trying to make the right decision on which type of cookie to use … some finally giving up on this difficult decision and making one of each.
The night air was getting even cooler, so Mr. GFE added several large logs to the fire, turning up the heat and the light. Finally, with full bellies, we sat back in our chairs around the campfire snuggled up in hoodies and the like, and quite content. Mr. GFE entertained us with stories on his college reunion we’d held at our property years ago and some ghost stories from his parents’ home that was built in 1802. The children in the group were listening with an equal amount of pleasure and uneasiness at the mention of ghosts. Some edged just a bit closer to their parents. The youngsters finally headed off to bed and most of us who remained enjoyed a final glass of wine or nightcap as we chatted. At one point there was a lull in the conversation and we heard the eerie sounds of the resident screech owl. The campfire experience is always lovely, and sharing it with our new friends made it especially so. But, finally, we all called it a night.
The next morning we got up grateful for another beautiful day and being with each other again, but a bit sad that we’d soon be parting ways. Breakfast and lunch for the day ended up being leftovers of one’s choice—a veritable smorgasbord. Activities were more of the same, until gradually folks started leaving for home. Smiles and hugs were exchanged with talk of a follow-up get together next year. The non-campers in the group put in their bids for other places to meet—places without “wilderness” and bugs. (The campers in tthe group laughed, but no promises were made.) There were even mentions of possible gluten-free dishes that could be shared at our next meeting. (We do love our gluten-free food, don’t we? Deprivation? … none present, and did you notice that almost all the dishes were naturally gluten free or made gluten free easily. The exceptions were treats that would be worth making for the occasional wonderful indulgence.) Finally, Mr. GFE and I packed up and headed home, pleased that we’d been able to host such a wonderful event with everyone’s terrific contributions.
Note: If you’ve enjoyed reading this Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! roundup and others from the past, and have always wanted to participate, but haven’t yet, take a look at the listing of hosts and themes for the next year here. Kim of The Food Allergy Coach will be hosting for August. Her theme is “Chill Out”—dishes that beat the summer heat (no cook and/or served cold). How appropriate is that theme for these “dog days” of summer? Read more here. Check out the other themes as well … there might be some that particularly suit your fancy! Just mark your calendar for the month(s) of your choice and you’ll be set to participate. Thanks so much to the lovely and always clever and creative Naomi for coming up with GAHIGF! It’s always such fun and I’m constantly amazed at the quality of the recipes shared, not to mention the award-quality photos. Participants for this roundup, please update your post to include a link back to this post so everyone can find all these terrific recipes. And, no camping is required for all you readers … just click on the links and spend a few minutes enjoying all these great recipes that made me a very happy camper!
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