Suddenly, we’re at the end of August and I'm nowhere near ready to give up the summer no-routine-routine. The long, warm and sunny days by the water. Treading lightly through the forest and looking closely at bugs and the smaller things that it seems only children can see. Or, just hanging out at the playground with the kids. We’ve been spending all of our days outdoors and have the mosquito bites and tan lines to prove it (despite protective clothing and sunscreen).
The ordinary days have been just as enjoyable as the days that we’ve gone on a family vacation or day trips. For me though, going camping has been a highlight of my summer (I’m not sure that my husband feels the same way). I haven’t camped since before I had my first child. The timing just never seemed right and I had a million excuses (mostly, fearing the lack of sleep) to remain in the comfort of my home. Finally, though, after years of staying home with the babies I decided to go. We loaded up the three kids, one family sized tent, a foldable cot for the baby and off we went. Not surprisingly, it was so much fun and I really don’t know what I was afraid of before!
For families, camping comes with a slightly different set of rules than at home. What chores are the children expected to do and what can the kids safely do on their own? Our most strict rules pertained to fire safety and always being with a parent at the lake. We were a lot more lax about our two girls wandering around together to explore the campground and meet our neighbours. Similarly, Cup of Jo recently, spurred by the New York Times article, Motherhood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks, posted about the age at which children are allowed to navigate small parts of their community alone or do a simple task on their own. The comments that this article generated were thought—provoking and insightful. They really hit the cultural heart of parenting. At the time of writing this, over 600 people around the world had chimed in to give their opinions. What do you let your kids do on their own and at what age?
While camping, it is a rite of passage to make a s’more over an open fire. Sandwiching a perfectly toasted marshmallow between two graham crackers while balancing a square of chocolate. The chocolate, slightly melty in the first bit. The graham cracker providing the crunch. The marshmallow squishing out the sides and binding everything together. I carefully watched my five year old toast her marshmallow and then helped her assemble the s’more and thankfully, my three year old understood that it wasn’t her time just yet.
There is absolutely no reason not to make your own s’mores despite not having an open fire. Similar recipes call for marshmallow fluff which, can be difficult to find if you're not in the US and it is hard to spread. Instead, I like using big marshmallows (leftover from the camping trip, of course) as they hold their shape. I added peanut butter to make it extra decadent. Any nut butter could be substituted. This recipe is for a party so make it the day before to let the bars settle. On the day of the party, pick up some veggies (and possibly meat) to grill over the BBQ. Enjoy a relaxing evening outside with friends and family.
Peanut Butter S’mores Bars (party-sized)
Makes: 13x9 inch pan of goodies (I cut them into large chunky bars making 24 portions)
Time: Prep time (20 minutes) + Baking time (30 minutes) + Cooling time (inactive- at least 2 hours)
1 cup (225 g) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 2⁄3 cups (333 g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (125 g) graham cracker crumbs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 large and thick milk chocolate bars (2 x 300g chocolate bar)
1 cup (258 g) smooth peanut butter
20-26 large marshmallows, cut in half
1. Measure 2 liners from parchment paper. Butter and line a 9x13 inch (23-33) pan with parchment paper (set the second one to the side for now). Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
2. Cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, graham crumbs, baking powder and salt on top. Mix on low speed until the dough just comes together (there should be no flour streaks). Divide the dough in half.
3. Press half the dough, evenly into the prepared pan. Carefully lift the parchment paper on the end and remove this layer. Set aside.
4. Butter and line with parchment paper again. Press the remaining half of the dough into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven.
5. Being careful not to touch the hot pan, unwrap the chocolate bars and place them on top of the hot graham crust. Drop the peanut butter by the tablespoon full and gently smooth it out with the back of a spoon. Evenly place the marshmallows on top of the peanut butter. Finally, add the remaining graham cracker dough by carefully turning it onto the top of the marshmallows. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
6. For a gooey mess, cut right away and eat with a spoon! Otherwise, I suggest letting the bars cool completely before cutting them (overnight is best). Waiting to cut them will give you those nice, clean lines.
Serve as dessert along with seasonal peaches or concord grapes.
Adapted from Genius Kitchen.