Monthly Archives: August 2015

Flame-Free Foods: Don’t Let the Fire Ban Rain on Your Picnic

Due to extensively dry and hot conditions, Oregon State Parks everywhere have banned fires.

The ban covers all open fires, including those in designated fire rings.  For parks in the West Gorge (between Troutdale and Cascade Locks), it also includes briquettes.  (Propane stoves are okay—check with your destination park to confirm.)

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Open fires, including campfires in fire pits and briquettes on the grill are banned in Oregon State Parks in the west end of the Gorge.

And visitors are not the only ones affected by the ban.  Even park rangers are scratching their heads now that they cannot burn charcoal briquettes for their annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ.

At a loss for what to do without the grill?  Here are some ideas.

 

SANDWICHES

If you’re like me, this is one of the first places your brain went when you heard the words “fire ban.”  Cold cuts, lots of spreads, a variety of cheese, garden-fresh veggies . . . the options are limitless with a good old-fashioned sandwich.  Everyone can build his or her own to his/her own liking.  But.  Sandwiches can be somewhat, well, boring.

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Instead of bread, try creative wraps!

Here’s the twist.  Instead of loaf of bread, try:

  • Bagel sandwiches
  • Loaded pita pockets
  • Flavored wraps
  • Multiple gourmet breads cut and sized for multiple mini-sandwiches

 

FINGER FOODS

And if your brain tracked like mine, soon after sandwiches you thought of trays.  Trays full of delicious finger foods.  Again, it’s bound to be a crowd pleaser as you’re sure to have something for everyone.

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If it can go on a skewer, it can be a kabob!

A few twists on the ol’ veggie tray:

  • Fruit kabobs
  • Veggie kabobs
  • Cheese and sausage kabobs
  • Bread or cracker platter with a various sweet, spicy, and tangy dips
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You can never go wrong with the artful tray.

 

ELECTRIC APPLIANCES

Thinking outside of the box and depending on where you’ve planned to hold your picnic, you might have access to regular old electricity.  Our picnic shelters and our improved campsites have power.  What can you do with power?  Plug in your kitchen appliances!

crock pot

What’s in your pot? Crock pots and blenders and other appliances can easily be plugged in.  Check with your park to see about electricity availability.

A few appliances and picnic suggestions:

  • Electric Skillet + Power = Grilled Cheese Bar
  • Electric Skillet + Power = Sandwich Melt Madness
  • Crock Pot + Power = Chili Bar
  • Crock Pot + Pre-Baked Potatoes + Power = Baked Potato Bar
  • Fondue Maker + Power = Fondue Party
  • Toaster + Power = Toast Bar
  • Blender + Power = Smoothie Station

 

OTHER BAR-IFFIC  IDEAS

The build-your-own or bar-method of food is always a solid one.

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I’m dreaming of chips, pickles, and cheese on my BLT on sourdough toast.

In addition to the above, here are a few every-day and “outside-the-bar” ideas:

  • Salad Bar:  Spice this staple up with nuts, chopped meats, crunchy toppings, fruits, and different kinds of greens.
  • Cool Pasta Bar:  Use a range of flavors and shapes of pre-cooked noodles; sliced and diced veggies, meats, and cheeses; variety of dressings.
  • BLT Bar:  Assorted breads, veggies, spreads, flavors of pre-cooked bacon.  Include a “toasting station.”
  • Nacho Bar:  Use the crock pot for cheeses and meats; switch up your chips for more choices; think of the Baja Fresh array when planning your salsas.
  • Trail Mix Bar:  Go nuts with unusual dried fruit; candies like gummies, Mike & Ikes, and coated chocolates; crunchy grains like pretzels, chips, and cereals; and, of course, nuts.
  • Cupcake Bar:  Various frostings and creative toppings.
  • Ice Cream Sundae Bar:  You know the drill.  Call your local grocery store to see about dry ice for the cooler.
  • Ice Cream Float Bar:  Mix it up with unusual sodas and frozen creams.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich Bar:  Exactly what you think it is.  Fun!
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Desserts can be more fun when you build your own!

TAKE OUT(SIDE)

All of this sound too complicated?  For a few extra bucks and a lot less hassle, you can always order your hot food from a local restaurant or store and then supplement with your own sides and desserts.  Simply order ahead, and then take your take-out outside.

chicken

Fried chicken from a restaurant is quick, easy, and can substitute for grilled chicken.

pizza

When in doubt, pizza is usually a pleaser. Especially now that it comes in everything from gluten- and cheese-free to meat-lovers.

Have an idea you’d like to share?   Please post below!

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I Sing, You Sing, We All Sing . . . (Or We Used To!): Children’s Sing-Along Event

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special childrens’ sing-along event with musician and educator, Jory Aronson!

http://jorysings.com/

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Jory Aronson engages all of the senses with her dynamic musical programs.

Bring your favorite young people and a couple of chairs for a lively evening filled with songs, instruments, skits, and puppets.

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We have been hosting (and, at times, leading!) a series of singing events in the Gorge this year.

At Rooster Rock State Park, it has been monthly song circles on the waterfront–singing songs of yesteryear as swimmers romp around in the Columbia, barges plod through the channel, and the sun sinks slowly over Washington in a crimson wave.

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Enjoy a sunset and a children’s sing-along at Vista House on Crown Point.

At Vista House, it has also been monthly song circles, but within the magical sand and limestone walls of the rotunda as visitors flock to capture the last moments of the sun’s rays falling across the Gorge, birds soar towards their final resting spots for the night, and the Columbia rolls on for as far as the eye can see.

Although they are not widely advertised, we are also bringing song back to the campground with “Old-Fashioned Campfire” events at Ainsworth State Park on the first and third Fridays of the month.  These programs, as you might imagine, are a bit different.  There are fewer instruments, Ranger Patrick and I sing far less well (although Ranger Jami can hold a tune!), and the songs are less formal.  Instead, we stomp and clap and lead skits, we beg and plead until campers come up to sing for us, and the songs less than sing-y are more, well, campy.

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As children, we sang and danced unabashedly.

Our last old-fashioned campfire at Ainsworth was hands-down our best.  Sure, we rangers are getting our shtick down.  But what really made the night so wonderful was that before the 8:30 hour even rolled around, a little camper was up on the stage declaring that she would like to sing the first song.  We could hardly say no.  And without a moment’s hesitation, she started in on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  Not one song later, she was marching up to the stage again, this time with her cousin in tow.  They performed “The Alphabet Song,” complete with the elemeno p.  Five minutes later they were back.  Something from Frozen, although they couldn’t agree on what until another young camper from another family jumped up and in to help the group settle on “Let It Go.”  This other camper also led us in a handful of her favorite camp songs, from “Apples and Bananas” to “Bazooka Bubblegum.”

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As a long-time performer, educator, and advocate of young children, Jory believes in the magic that can be created with music.

Besides we rangers, only one other adult dared lead any part of any other song.  It was really the kids jumping up and leading unabashedly that made the night a roaring success.  It was a reminder of both how fearless kids can be and how important singing is to us in childhood.  Learning a song as a child was a big deal, something to be celebrated . . . by singing it repeatedly.  And which of we did not use the alphabet song to learn our letters?  Many of us teach it to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews today.  In some ways childhood and singing are inseparable.

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“Today, young children are often in front of screens … [I believe] that children thrive when they’re using their senses.”

Which brings me to our next event at Vista House on August 28:  A Children’s Sing-Along with Jory Aronson, a musician and early education trainer.  Jory blends song with puppets, skits, and instruments for a fully participatory musical experience for children.  Besides being fun for the whole family, there is sound benefit to music for children:

“Music is an intelligence in and of itself. It also uses some of the other 6 intelligences in various ways. Songs are linguistic, rhythm is logical, dance and using instruments is body kinesthetic, musical interpretation is interpersonal, etc. Thus, by being involved in music, a child becomes in tune with many aspects of the self.”  – Dr. Howard Gardner (The Theory of Multiple Intelligences)

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special kids’ event!