Travel snacks and an easy Chocolate-Oat Cereal Bar recipe

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I‘m looking at suitcase on the floor, overflowing with light and airy garments with flower prints on them, white sandals, and a stack of Danny’s T-shirts. Just above, a window looks out on to our snowbound backyard, frosted white like a slicked sheet cake. Something does not quite compute.

BUT. Our flights are booked and an enormous villa is rented on a quiet beach near a remote fishing town on Mexico’s West Coast. Yes, we’re headed South! My three siblings and I are finally pulling off a tropical getaway that we’ve only been talking about for, oh, five or six years. Together with our families, we’re flying into Mexico from all over North America for a ten-days vacation together, Wimbush-style.

Here’s what we’re leaving behind…

snow collage

I’m so excited to bring my children back to the beach and just let them run. It will all be worth the massive effort required to coordinate such a trip for a family of five. Ugh. Toiletries in Ziplock? Not so much, but packing travel snacks is my specialty.

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My 20 favorite edible gifts (Recipe: Maple Spice Candied Nuts)

Today we interrupt our Home for the Holidays week of giveaways to bring you some personal favorites. We the editors of the six SLM channels are dishing on everything we love about Christmas – songs, books, handmade gifts and more.

It’s probably no surprise that I love to bake, package, and give away edible gifts, and so in this post I’m highlighting a handful of my favorites for your inspiration!

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Planning for the October Unprocessed challenge (Pumpkin Spice Granola)

If I could sum this post up in five words, I would say, in true Joy the Baker fashion,

October Unprocessed. Get into it.”

However I feel I owe you at least a little background, followed by a look at how I’m gearing up for the annual whole foods challenge. The motivation? That has to come from you, but if you are already a regular reader of this blog, I’m guessing that you would be totally down with this challenge. (There I go again with the Joy-isms.)

What is the Unprocessed Challenge?

Andrew of Eating Rules is a terrific guy with a fantastic message about healthy food. His goal behind the October Unprocessed challenge is to try to get as many people as possible off of processed foods and eating whole, healthier foods during the month of October. The thought behind this goal is to show people that they will ultimately feel better after the challenge – and hopefully be inspired to improve their long term eating habits.

What are the ‘rules‘?

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

Sounds do-able, right? After all, we’re already on the whole food track here at Simple Bites.

You may remember that we cut our teeth on October Unprocessed for a week last year. There was the menu plan, and the follow-up recap of the week, highlighting a few of our favorite recipes. I also wrote a guest posted for Andrew and shared Seven Ways to Survive October Unprocessed with Kids, which I’ll be putting to practice again this year.

This time around I’m feeling better equipped for taking on the whole month. We’re feeding a baby real food, after all; that is even more incentive to keep our diet unprocessed. Sure, Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up in October, but both this naturally sweetened apple pie and this rustic maple pecan pie are unprocessed, and as long as we have pie, we’re all set.

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Four ideas for campfire-roasted fruit (recipe: Caramel Peaches with Pecans)

We are camping folk in the summer. Be it on a beach in Maine or lake-side in rural Quebec, we pitch a big tent and cook foil dinners and hash browns over an open fire, gaze at the stars until bedtime is long past, and wake up at an unmentionable hour with the sun.

This summer, however, has been a bit different. We have a relatively-new-but-growing-up-fast baby in the family, and although I have camped in the past with a wee one, I just couldn’t find the motivation this time around to pack up all five of us and hit the trail.

Fortunately we have a big yard with plenty of space to pitch a tent, and at the far end of it, there’s a fire pit suitable for both a roaring bonfire or a marshmallow-toasting bed of coals. We took advantage of our urban homestead last week and played at camping on our own turf.

Danny and the boys pitched the tent while I tossed a salad, shucked corn, and wrapped up these peaches for dessert. Yes, there were marshmallows and s’mores, too, but I wanted to highlight some of the fruit that’s plentiful now and ripening all over my counter tops.

Our campfire-roasted caramel peaches with toasted pecans were smokey and sweet, sticky and soft – and made a lovely little seasonal dessert.

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Rustic Rhubarb Custard Pies with a Walnut Crust & a Pie Party

I‘ve made buttermilk dinner rolls in a jar, as well as copious amounts of canned goods, but pie in a jar has eluded me until now. Something about patting the dough into the small jar had me reluctant to try it, although I have admired the trend from afar for some time.

Leave it to Shaina to come up with a quick and easy solution that I could execute despite my sleep-deprived baby brain, and with my pre-schooler ‘helping out’: a nutty crust that is pressed into the jars, thus eliminating the rolling pin.

In this seasonal dessert, walnuts, sugar and butter are whisked together in a food processor and pressed into the bottom of the jars for a simple crust that marries perfectly with the rhubarb and custard pie filling. Yes, we’re still enjoying an abundant rhubarb harvest, and these little pies are the very best way we’ve enjoyed rhubarb all season.

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