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Travel Tuesday: Great Picnic Recipes

We have been doing a lot of day trips and quick weekend getaways lately. Living in So Cal, we are fortunate enough to be a day-trip away from a great variety of things, and it is a great way to get out with the baby. Over the course of the last few months I've managed to find some delicious picnic recipes after experimenting with them for our recent weekend excursions. I thought I would share some with you all in my Travel Tuesday series in case anyone needs a great lunch for a quick trip. Here are my fave picnic recipes:

Chicken Hummus Wraps

This one I don't have an actual recipe for, as you just add ingredients to taste.

Tortillas (we use wheat)
Sour Cream
Cooked Chicken Breast (chopped)
Cucumber (thinly sliced)
Tomato (diced)

Spread the hummus and sour cream onto the tortillas. Top with chicken chunks, cucumber slices, and tomato. Roll tortillas to create wrap.

Spicy Orange and Sesame Chicken Sandwiches
From Country Living via

Soooo good and has a great kick!

Photo Source:

1 1/2 pound(s) boneless chicken breasts, with skin
3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 teaspoon(s) black pepper
2 tablespoon(s) butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup(s) orange marmalade
2 1/2 tablespoon(s) sesame oil
2 1/2 tablespoon(s) soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon(s) hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon(s) sesame seeds
2 medium oranges
1 small head of butter lettuce, leaves separated
3 large pocket-style pitas, halved

1.Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.Season the chicken on all sides with the salt and pepper and place in a baking dish. Dot the top of the skin with the butter and place in the oven on the center rack. Roast for 10 minutes.
3.Mix the marmalade, sesame oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl and use it to baste the chicken frequently until the meat reaches 167 degrees F -- about 20 more minutes.
4.Adjust oven to broil, sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken and broil until seeds are toasted and skin is crispy -- about 1 minute.
5.Remove the breasts from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
6.Bring the basting sauce to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool.
7.Cut the skin and pith from the oranges and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Remove any seeds.
8.Slice the chicken and place equal amounts of it, the oranges, and lettuce leaves inside the pitas. Drizzle each sandwich with the boiled sauce.

Garden Sliders
From Better Homes and Gardens

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1 15- to 16-oz. can Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, crushed
1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
24 1/4-inch-thick slices baguette
2 medium roma tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 small cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
Small celery top sprigs, small tomato wedges, and/or pickle slices (optional)

1. For bean spread, in blender or food processor combine beans, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic, and Italian seasoning. Cover; blend or process until smooth. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
2. To grill squash, toss squash slices with remaining tablespoon olive oil. Place in a grill basket. Place basket directly over medium coals for about 5 minutes or just until squash is tender, turning once.
3. Spread one side of each bread slice with bean spread. Top half of the bread with tomato, squash, and cucumber slices. Top with remaining bread slices, spread side down. Secure sandwiches with wooden picks. Top with celery sprigs, tomato wedges, and/or pickle slices. Makes 12 appetizers-size sandwiches.

Make-Ahead: Make the bean spread up to 2 days ahead; refrigerate, covered. Slice vegetables up to 24 hours ahead. Assemble sliders 2 hours ahead.

Servings Per Recipe 12 appetizer-size sandwichesCalories 120, Total Fat (g) 2, Monounsaturated Fat (g) 1, Sodium (mg) 289, Carbohydrate (g) 23, Total Sugar (g) 1, Fiber (g) 3, Protein (g) 6, Vitamin C (DV%) 5, Calcium (DV%) 3, Iron (DV%) 9, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Tote-and-Slice Loaf Sandwich
From Better Homes and Gardens via

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3/4 cup dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1 1-lb. loaf Italian or French bread
1/2 an 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup basil pesto
4 oz. thinly sliced provolone cheese
8 oz. thinly sliced peppered or regular salami
1 medium fresh banana pepper or 8 bottled peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced
4 oz. thinly sliced provolone cheese
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Small salad peppers and/or pimiento-stuffed green olives (optional)

1. Place tomatoes in a small bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain tomatoes and place in a food processor; cover and process until finely chopped. Or finely chop tomatoes by hand. 2. Split loaf in half horizontally. Remove some soft bread from the bottom half of the loaf, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. 3. Spread cream cheese on cut sides of both bread halves. Spread top half with dried tomatoes and bottom half with pesto. On bottom half layer provolone cheese, salami, banana peppers, onion, and loaf top, spread side down. 4. If toting, tightly wrap loaf in plastic. To serve, slice loaf crosswise into six sandwiches. If desired, spear a salad pepper and olive on long toothpicks; insert through sandwiches. Makes 6 sandwiches.

Calories 588, Total Fat 34 g, Saturated Fat 14 g, Monounsaturated Fat 11 g, Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g, Cholesterol 69 mg, Sodium 1645 mg, Carbohydrate 46 g, Total Sugar 5 g, Fiber 4 g, Protein 24 g. Daily Values: Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 16%, Calcium 28%, Iron 21%.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Crunchy Asian Pasta Salad

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1 box Betty Crocker® Suddenly Salad® classic pasta salad mix
1 package (3 oz) Oriental-flavor ramen noodle soup mix
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 cups coleslaw mix
1 cup snow pea pods, strings removed, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 can (15 oz) mandarin orange segments, drained

1. Empty Pasta mix into 3-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well.
3. In large bowl, stir together seasoning mixes from pasta mix and soup mix, sugar, oil, vinegar, water and soy sauce. Add pasta, coleslaw mix, pea pods, almonds and oranges; toss to combine.
4. Just before serving, coarsely crush dry noodles from soup mix; stir into pasta mixture. Serve immediately, or refrigerate.

1 Serving: Calories 220 (Calories from Fat 80); Total Fat 9g (Saturated Fat 1 1/2g, Trans Fat 1/2g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 610mg; Total Carbohydrate 30g (Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 10g); Protein 5g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 30%; Vitamin C 40%; Calcium 4%; Iron 8% Exchanges: 1 1/2 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 1 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 2
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Italian Popcorn
From Better Homes and Gardens

A great picnic snack!

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1 100-calorie-size bag unpopped microwave popcorn
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, crushed
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Prepare popcorn according to package directions. While popcorn is still hot, transfer to large bowl. Remove any uncooked kernels. Lightly coat popcorn with nonstick cooking spray. Toss; repeat until all kernels are well-coated in nonstick spray. Sprinkle popcorn with Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and, crushed red pepper; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately (do not store). Makes 1 serving.

Calories 145, Total Fat (g) 4, Saturated Fat (g) 2, Monounsaturated Fat (g) 1, Cholesterol (mg) 9, Sodium (mg) 325, Carbohydrate (g) 22, Fiber (g) 3, Protein (g) 7, Calcium (DV%) 12, Iron (DV%) 3, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet


Friday Faves: Kettle Brand Jalapeno Chips

Photo courtesy of the Kettle Chips online store.

Today's Friday Faves post is an ode to the best.chips.ever. I love me some jalapeno flavored chips, so always try new brands' versions of them to compare. Previously, Miss Vickie's were my favorite. That was until I saw that the delectable Kettle Brand chip company came out with a new flavor: none other than jalapano!

This chip is seriously addictive. It is not only my favorite flavor of the Kettle Brand chips (even better than Buffalo Bleu, IMO), but is by FAR the best jalapeno chip out there. It has a kick of spice, the great crunch that Kettle Brand chips are famous for, and some kind of devilish blend of flavor seasonings that sets it apart from other jalapeno flavored chips. The seasoning I think is the key, but beware because they are highly addictive. It is dangerous for me to have them in the house, because my husband and I can literally kill an entire full-sized bag in MINUTES.

Give it a try, you will not be disappointed! Click here for more info from the manufacturer.


Friday Faves: New Favorite Recipes

It's been a while since I posted recipes, and I realized that over the last several months I have found quite a few "keepers." They are all tried and true. Here they all are for your enjoyment!

Easy Pork Skillet
From Betty Crocker

This is so simple, yet SO delicious. I always keep these ingredients in the house because this meal is such a hit.

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1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I substitute sesame oil personally)
3/4 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/8-inch strips
2 packages (3 ounces each) pork-flavored ramen noodles
1 1/2 cups water
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (1 cup)
1 cup broccoli flowerets
4 medium green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons parsley flakes, if desired
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat 12-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil; rotate skillet to coat side.

Add pork; stir-fry about 5 minutes or until pork is no longer pink.

Gently break apart noodles. Stir noodles, seasonings from flavor packets and remaining ingredients into pork. Heat to boiling. Boil 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until noodles are completely softened.

1 Serving: Calories 345 (Calories from Fat 135 ); Total Fat 15 g (Saturated Fat 4 g); Cholesterol 55 mg; Sodium 980 mg; Total Carbohydrate 30 g (Dietary Fiber 3 g); Protein 25 g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 50 %; Vitamin C 54 %; Calcium 4 %; Iron 14 % Exchanges: 2 Starch; 3 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat

Gouda Mac N' Cheese
Adapted from the Cooking Light version

Really easy mac n' cheese that's guaranteed to please.

Photo Source: Cooking Light

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Gouda OR smoked Gouda cheese
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
Cooking spray
Bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses; stir until melted.

Add macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Nutrition (from the original version):
Calories:399 (25% from fat); Fat:10.9g (sat 6.2g,mono 3g,poly 0.8g); Protein:20.1g; Carbohydrate:54.9g; Fiber:3.7g; Cholesterol:33mg; Iron:3.6mg; Sodium:725mg; Calcium:421mg

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon
From Homesick Texan

My husband LOVES this recipe!

Photo Source: Homesick Texan

2 cups of dry elbow pasta
2 cups of milk
1 cup of cottage cheese
1 chipotle chile in adobo
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Pinch of cumin
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 cups of shredded cheese, a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack
1/4 cup of crumbled cotija cheese (optional, but delicious!)
4 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon of butter

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9-inch square or round baking pan with the butter. Add the dry pasta.

In a blender, mix together the milk, cottage cheese, chipotle chile, mustard powder, garlic, cumin, salt and black pepper until it’s smooth. Pour mixture over dry pasta and stir until sauce is evenly distributed.

Stir in two cups of the shredded cheese, cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil and stir the macaroni and cheese a couple of times. Top with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and chopped bacon and cook for another 25 minutes uncovered or until brown and bubbling.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with cotija and serve.

Parmesan-Dijon Chicken
From Betty Crocker

Great recipe that only has five ingredients (and usually things I have around the house anyway).

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1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup Progresso® dry bread crumbs (any flavor)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 3/4 pounds)

Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix butter and mustard in shallow dish until well mixed. Mix bread crumbs and cheese in large plastic bag.

Dip one piece of chicken at a time into butter mixture, coating all sides. Then place in bag of bread crumbs, seal bag and shake to coat with crumb mixture. Place chicken in single layer in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.

Bake uncovered 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut.

1 Serving: Calories 285 (Calories from Fat 125 ); Total Fat 14 g (Saturated Fat 7 g); Cholesterol 95 mg; Sodium 420 mg; Total Carbohydrate 10 g (Dietary Fiber 0g); Protein 30 g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6 %; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 8 %; Iron 10 % Exchanges: 1/2 Starch; 4 Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat

Chicken with Olives
From Better Homes and Gardens

Savory and delicious.

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4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. total)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 5.75oz. jar sliced pitted green olives, drained
1 2.25-oz. can sliced pitted ripe olives, drained
2 Tbsp. capers, drained
2 Tbsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

In large skillet brown chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning once. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. Add onion to skillet. Cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally and adding garlic the last 1 minute of cooking.

Stir tomatoes, olives, capers, lemon peel, and oregano into onion mixture. Place chicken on tomato mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 13 to 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F).

To serve, place chicken on platter. Season tomato mixture to taste with salt and black pepper. Spoon tomato mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.

Calories 340, Total Fat (g) 16, Saturated Fat (g) 2, Monounsaturated Fat (g) 11, Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 2, Cholesterol (mg) 82, Sodium (mg) 1311, Carbohydrate (g) 13, Total Sugar (g) 5, Fiber (g) 5, Protein (g) 35, Vitamin C (DV%) 36, Calcium (DV%) 10, Iron (DV%) 14

Orange and Ginger Chicken
From Betty Crocker

Another super simple dish with ingredients you probably have at home already.

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1 cup uncooked basmati or regular long-grain white rice
2 cups Progresso® chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup Original Bisquick® mix
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb), each cut in half
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 medium orange, cut into 8 slices

In 2-quart saucepan, heat rice and broth to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, beat egg and milk with fork or wire whisk. In shallow dish, mix Bisquick mix, ginger and orange peel. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with Bisquick mixture.

In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until browned on outside and juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

When rice is cooked, fluff with fork and stir in orange marmalade. Place rice on serving platter; arrange chicken on rice. Sprinkle with almonds and parsley. Garnish with orange slices.

1 Serving: Calories 760 (Calories from Fat 290); Total Fat 32g (Saturated Fat 4 1/2g, Trans Fat 1g); Cholesterol 140mg; Sodium 1040mg; Total Carbohydrate 75g (Dietary Fiber 3g, Sugars 13g); Protein 43g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 20%; Calcium 15%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 3 Starch; 2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 5 Very Lean Meat; 5 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 5

Spicy Skillet Chicken
From Betty Crocker

Great one-pot meal when you need something hearty that doesn't take a lot of time to make. I add seasoning salt.

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1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can (15 oz) Progresso® black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (11 oz) Green Giant® Mexicorn® whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, undrained
1/3 cup Old El Paso® Thick 'n Chunky salsa
2 cups hot cooked rice

In small bowl, mix chili powder, salt and pepper; sprinkle evenly over both sides of chicken breasts.

In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

Stir in beans, corn and salsa. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are hot. Serve with rice.

1 Serving: Calories 510 (Calories from Fat 80); Total Fat 9g (Saturated Fat 2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 85mg; Sodium 1070mg; Total Carbohydrate 63g (Dietary Fiber 11g, Sugars 5g); Protein 43g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 4%; Calcium 8%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 3 1/2 Starch; 1/2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 4 1/2 Very Lean Meat; 1 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 4

Gluten Free Favorite Chicken Nuggets
From Betty Crocker

I have a family fried chicken recipe, but when I want a change and decide to make nuggets, this is my go-to recipe.

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3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 tablespoon milk
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1x1-inch pieces

Heat oven to 400°F. Line cookie sheet with foil. Crush cereal. (To easily crush cereal, place in plastic bag or between sheets of waxed paper, and crush with rolling pin.)

In medium bowl, stir together crushed cereal, cheese, salt, seasoned salt, paprika and garlic powder. In small bowl, stir together melted butter and milk. Dip chicken into butter mixture, then roll in cereal mixture to coat evenly. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake 9 minutes; turn nuggets over. Bake about 8 minutes longer or until coating is light golden brown and chicken is no longer pink in center.

1 Nugget: Calories 60 (Calories from Fat 25); Total Fat 2 1/2g (Saturated Fat 1 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 15mg; Sodium 160mg; Total Carbohydrate 3g (Dietary Fiber 0g, Sugars 0g); Protein 5g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 2%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 4%; Iron 6% Exchanges: 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1/2 Very Lean Meat; 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 0

Crispy Ranch Chicken

A super quick, six-ingredient dish with a great flavor.

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2/3 cup purchased dried bread crumbs
1 (0.4 ounce) package buttermilk ranch salad dressing
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine bread crumbs and salad dressing mix in shallow dish. Place sour cream in another dish. Dip boneless, skinless chicken breasts in sour cream to coat well. Roll coated chicken in bread crumbs, pressing to coat. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 18-24 minutes until chicken registers 160 degrees F on a meat thermometer. Serves 4.

Stuffing-Topped Chicken
Adapted from the Eating Well recipe, found via

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Box stuffing mix
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 pound(s) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (see Tip)
4 tablespoon(s) all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
2 1/2 cup(s) quartered mushrooms (6 ounces)
1/3 cup(s) dry white wine, or dry sherry

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.

Prepare boxed stuffing mix according to package directions; set aside.

Toss chicken with 2 tablespoons flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the chicken broth with the remaining 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the chicken (shaking off any excess flour) and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high; add wine (or sherry) and cook, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes more. Spoon the reserved stuffing over the chicken mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven and broil until the stuffing begins to crisp, about 4 minutes.


Travel Tuesday: Campground Reviews

As you know, we do a lot of camping. I thought it would be helpful to write down some reviews of the campgrounds we have stayed at recently. I am sure there will be a Part II of this post in the future as we add this year's camping trips to our review repertoire. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or if you would like more specific reviews or information.

Cachuma Lake
2225 Highway 154
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
(805) 686-5055

Things to do in the area: Visit Solvang, wine taste, visit Santa Barbara, fish

Pros: Beautiful lake-front camp spots - an amazing thing to wake up to, close to Los Angeles
Cons: The ground is really hard, so it was difficult to get the tent spikes into the ground. Not to mention that we didn't bring an egg crate or air matress, so were a little stiff in the morning. Would have been fine had we remembered a hammer and an egg crate.

The lake at sunset from our campsite.

The lake early in the morning (fishing time).

Salton Sea – Mecca Beach

Things to do in the area: Star gaze, fish (tons of tilapia live in the Sea), visit Palm Springs

Pros: It feels "out there," but is not that far from LA, beautiful stars
Cons: It smells like fish, can’t go year-round because of the heat

The sun reflecting off the lake.

The lake at sunset.

Sedona – Manzanita
5900 N HW 89A
Sedona AZ 86336

Things to do in the area: Chapel of the Holy Cross (A-MAZING views), admire the natural beauty, hike
Recommended hike: Cathedral Rock

Misc: There are many vortexes in Sedona (areas of spiritual energy). For the record I visited one and didn't feel a damn thing.

Pros: The camground is a lovely stream, and is a beautiful place
Cons: Campsites really close together, and a little out of town (so uou have to drive to the good hikes and views)

The stream next to the campground.

The view of Cathedral Rock from Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Yosemite - Upper Pines

Things to do in the area: Hike, admire natural beauty

Misc: Bears! Make sure you adhere to the rules regarding food and toilettries in your tent and car (you must use the bear lockers at each site). There are literally bears coming through the campsite each night.

Best spot: 73. It was HUGE.

Pros: Huge camping spots, great location in the valley
Cons: Books early, so you have to make reservations well in advance

Half-Dome in the distance on our drive up.

The two tents we fit in our large campsite.

Pismo Beach – Oceano Dunes
Oceano CA 93445

Things to do in the area: Walk along the beach, wine taste

Pros: Campsites really close to beach, large tent camping spots
Cons: None really

The beach.

An unedited photo of the sunset.

Lake Cuyamaca
15027 Highway 79
Julian, CA 92036-9530
(760) 765-3867

Things to do in the area: Visit the quaint town of Julian and eat some of their famous apple pie

No major pros or cons, just a nice getaway surprisingly quick from Los Angeles or San Diego.

The lake.


The dock.

Apple and boysenberry pie in Julian.

Pt. Mugu – Thornhill Broome
32100 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

Things to do in the area: Whale watch (amazing during April), hike

Pros: Camp right on the beach, and very close to LA
Cons: Right next to freeway, so you get some street noise

View of the Point to the north.

View of the coastline to the south.