With school in full swing, students are making new friends and invariably parents are being asked, "Can I have a sleep over?" or "Can I go to Eric's for a sleep over?" And Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle says fall is a great time to get outdoors in the evening around a fire pit or a simple campfire to roast marshmallows, and generally have a good time.
Crackling fire, warm snacks, and ghost stories coupled with a sleep over are memories in the making. With a little planning, a backyard campfire sleep over is easy. Fire pits available at home improvement stores adds the fire element. In fact, if you want to build a temporary fire pit it is easy with a galvanized tub, a couple grill grates, and some landscaping bricks which aren't necessary but add a finished touch. When the thrill of a fire has waned, just tear down the components and store until next fall. Food isn't complicated either.
Being outside after dark, the crackling fire, is exciting to children so don't worry about cooking anything too complicated. The basics like roasted hot dogs and simple marshmallows on a stick or nostalgic favorites like hobo packets and s'mores are really all that young children will want. Older teens and adults may want to try cooking in a Dutch oven or burying vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn in the coals. The one tip to keep in mind when cooking over a fire is that nothing happens quickly.
Starting a fire, whether a campfire or a fire pit, takes a while when using wood logs. Cooking, once the logs have burned down into coals, is time consuming too. In fact, it can take an hour for the coals to form and another hour for the food to cook. If this is going to be too long, you may want to consider building the fire for atmosphere and really, what kid doesn't love poking at a fire? Then bring the grill over and cook on it. A great tip for the grill is to use your cast iron skillets and griddles on it. That way you can cook up grilled cheese, cook hamburgers, basically fix just about anything that teens and kids could want without worrying about how long the coal's heat will last.
Hosting a sleep over with a backyard campfire is a great opportunity to discuss fire safety. Most kids these days haven't had many opportunities if any to huddle around a campfire and sing or tell ghost stories. Take a few minutes at the beginning of the event to go over some basic rules:
1. No running around the fire.
2. Do not throw anything combustible into the fire.
3. No loose clothing or shoestrings around the fire.
4. Never reach into the fire nor assume that the edge of the fire pit isn't hot.
5. Always have a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water nearby.
6. If using logs in the campfire or fire pit keep in mind that the logs should be 3/4s the diameter of the fire pit or campfire circumference. This keeps sparks at a minimum.
7. Campfires should be at least 10' from the house with no landscaping or tree limbs in the way. Never build the fire on an uneven surface or on grass. Grass roots can actually burn underground and a fire can follow along rodent holes. Scrape away the topsoil (store in box or bucket to replace once fire is extinguished) and get down to what is known as the mineral dirt. In this area, when you see clay, you can build your fire then.
8. Never leave a fire unattended. Once the fire has died down, liberally douse the entire campfire area with water.
9. Never build a fire especially in a backyard on a windy day. The embers can blow onto roofs and cause a house fire.
Once the children have had their fill of ghost stories and s'mores, the beauty of a backyard campfire is that you are only a few steps from your own bed! The magic of fire and the smells associated with it will make a backyard campfire sleep over very popular. Be prepared to host a few more before the school year ends!
Classic S'mores Bars
(from Betty Crocker)
1 bag (10.5 oz) miniature marshmallows (5 1/2 cups)
1-1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (9 oz)
5 TB butter or margarine
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 box (13 oz) Golden Grahams® cereal (8 cups)
Grease 13x9-inch pan with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the marshmallows. In 3-quart saucepan, melt chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and remaining 4 1/2 cups marshmallows over low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
Pour cereal into large bowl. Pour marshmallow mixture over cereal; stir until evenly coated. Stir in remaining 1 cup marshmallows.
With buttered back of spoon, press mixture in pan. Cool at least 1 hour or until firm. Store loosely covered at room temperature. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows.
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Backyard Campfire Sleep Over Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.