Rachel Saks has an M.S. in Education and is a Registered Dietitian. She has taught cooking classes, developed and ran Healthy Living, a Camp Ramah program that combines nutrition education, mindful eating, cooking instruction and physical activity. Rachel is also the co-author of “Jewish American Food Culture.”
Many campers have been counting down the days to the first day of camp in 2013 since the last day of camp in 2012. By this point in the winter, you as parents have done countless trips to and from camp-friends’ homes, asked your child to end yet another endless phone call with a bunk-mate, or heard the story of the hilarious counselor/silly evening activity/whipped cream fight/amazingly meaningful connection with that “special someone” four times too many.
One of the most powerful things about Jewish overnight camp is the relationships your children form with their peers and counselors. They form these relationships not just because they spend so much time together, but because their Jewish heritage binds them. The concept of Achdut is the idea that all Jews are naturally unified by a powerful historical bond and a unique relationship with God. Perhaps Achdut is the reason why your camper forms connections easily, but without it on a daily basis, they may experience some serious camp-sickness. Your camper misses camp, but what is there to do about the mid-winter “I miss everything about camp” blues?
Enter camp food. I’m not talking about bug juice, rubbery grilled cheese and candy bars hidden in duffle bags. Those “delicacies” aren’t the solution to any problem. I’m talking about the food of campfire legends – ooey gooey s’mores, rocky mountain toast, weenies on a stick, and banana boats – and the convivial feelings of unity, camaraderie and closeness that the crackling flames, off-key singing and crisp summer evening air seem to eternally evoke. This is where Achdut is at its strongest. If your campers are missing their camp friends and missing the intense connections they formed at camp, why not bring all of that home?
A feast of (healthier versions of) campfire foods is the perfect excuse for you to foster some of those warm feelings of togetherness in your home with your kids, while at the same time hopefully curing them of some of their nagging camp-sickness.
Here’s what to do: Print out a list of campfire sing-a-longs and find a few scary stories. Clear the furniture out of your living room, cover the floor with blankets and pillows and tell your kids to change into their pajamas early. If you have a fireplace, light it up (or just put on a video of a fireplace for the effect). Now, head to the kitchen to cook up a few of the insanely delicious takes on campfire classics found below. Your kids will go to bed happy, full of healthy food and warm from the memory that you will have just created with them. You will feel a sense of Achdut, and who knows, tomorrow you may hear them telling their closest camp friend about their awesome campfire night they just had with their family.
Rocky Mountain Toast (or Egg in the Island or whatever other silly name your camp uses)
12 ounces baby spinach
4 slices whole wheat bread
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 large organic eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Place spinach in a steamer basket over simmering water and steam 3-5 minutes, or until fully wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cut 1-inch holes out of the center of each slice of bread, using a small glass or a knife.
3. Heat butter in a large pan over medium heat.
4. Once the butter is bubbling, place the bread in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until the bread is toasted.
5. Flip the bread and turn the heat to high. Crack I egg into each hole, then top with shredded cheese and spinach.
6. Cook the eggs and bread another 2-3 minutes, or until the yolk is heated through, but not set.
(Vegetarian) Franks and Beans
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
12 ounces vegetarian sausages or hotdogs, preferably under 300 mg Sodium per serving
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 15-ounce cans low-sodium navy beans
1 15-ounce can low-sodium crushed tomatoes
½ cup water
¼ cup molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
2. Slice the hotdogs into 1-inch slices.
3. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the hotdogs and garlic and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans.
6. Add the beans to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients.
7. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
8. Cover and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
4 medium ripe (but not overripe) bananas
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons dried cherries
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Leaving the peels on the bananas, cut a vertical slit down one side of each banana, leaving about ½ inch on either end.
3. Scoop out the top layer of the banana (about ¼ of the whole fruit).
4. Mix the remaining ingredients together and divide evenly between the bananas, stuffing the filling into the peel.
5. Wrap each banana in 2 layers of aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet.
6. Bake 10 minutes, unwrap and enjoy!
Oeey Gooey S’mores
1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg whites, divided
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons raw sugar
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add butter and work into flour with your fingertips until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture looks like sand.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 egg white, the brown sugar, honey and vanilla.
6. Add the egg white mixture to the flour mixture and stir until a dough forms (it will be VERY sticky!)
7. Place half the dough on a well-floured surface and roll out into a 10-inch square. Cut into 12 rectangles and transfer to one of the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
8. Repeat step 7 with the other half of dough.
9. Brush the rectangles with the remaining egg white and sprinkle the raw sugar evenly on top.
10. Bake until dark brown, 12-14 minutes.
11. Let cool completely on the pan.
12. While the graham crackers are cool, toast the marshmallows on skewers over the stove just until they are browned, but not too melted.
13. Take 6 graham crackers and divide the chocolate chips evenly between them.
14. Top each graham cracker with 2 marshmallows and cover with another graham cracker.
16. Wrap in foil and bake 5 minutes, until ooey and goey!