How to Manage the Baby-Led Weaning Mess

Want to try baby-led weaning but nervous about the mess? These tips and products will help you streamline the clean-up process and make baby-led weaning a fun and enjoyable process or everyone.

Learn how to manage the baby-led weaning mess!
*This post contains affiliate links.

As new moms, it can be awfully difficult to condone any sort of activity for our little one that will result in yet another mess. We’re all stretched so thin as it is, juggling too many responsibilities at once and trying to fit as much as we can into our day.

If you’re at all familiar with baby-led weaning (and if you’re not, click here), you know that it comes with its fair share of messes. Given the load us mamas are already bearing, this can be a huge drawback when it comes to deciding how we want to introduce solid foods to our little one. But it doesn’t have to be!

We have been so happy with the results of baby-led weaning for our little one that I’ll happily say it was well worth every single mess we had to clean up. That being said, we did learn a thing or two in the process about efficient clean-up, and this is what I’m sharing with you today.

Even if you didn’t go the baby-led weaning route, you’ve likely faced (or will be likely to face) a huge mealtime clean-up at some point in time, and these tips will help you too!

A toddler self-feeding herself a smoothie bowl in her high chair.

I’ve got a ton of other resources for baby-led weaning here on the blog, but I’ll just quickly explain WHY things get extra-messy with BLW and then we’ll get on to my (very) well-tested tips and tricks for cleaning.

WHY IS BABY-LED WEANING SO MESSY?

One of the main reasons baby-led weaning is so messy is because it highly encourages your child to start feeding him- or herself from the get-go. This includes grabbing onto finger foods, using utensils, and sipping from a cup from a very early age. The thought is that this enables your little one to better explore his or her food and learn to be self-sufficient. It also allows you to enjoy your meal at the same time as them.

As you can imagine, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved. It takes some time for your little one to get the hang of things, which can lead to some huge messes in the meantime.

Once you read these tips and get into a routine, clean-up will become a snap and it will no longer be something you dread. Let’s get into it!

TOP TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MANAGING THE BLW MESS

1. Invest in a “splat mat”

This is by far one of the best investments we made when embarking on our baby-led weaning journey with our little one. There are a ton of “splat mats” out there, which are simply plastic floor tarps that you place under your baby’s highchair to catch food and liquids. Not only do splat mats help protect your floors, they’re easy to wipe up and can just be removed and shaken out if there are only loose crumbs. My main hesitancy in getting a splat mat was that I wouldn’t be able to find one that would fit in with our decor (we have a huge open floor plan so all of our common area rooms run together) but I managed to find a not-so-offensive clear one like this that we have absolutely loved. There are a ton of inexpensive options out there, though, so you’re sure to find one that works for you.

2. Get a few full-coverage, easy-to-clean bibs

Bibs are another thing that can be a game-changer when it comes to dealing with the baby-led weaning mess. A lot of BLW moms love these silicone ones with the catch-all at the bottom, but I fell in love with these super cute Bapron Baby aprons that are easy to clean and come in tons of fun prints (not to mention they’re about as full-coverage as you can get.) Be sure to stock up on a few, though, because you’ll want to rinse them out or run them through the wash when they get messy.

3. Don’t be afraid to strip your chid down

Afraid the after-effects of a meal are going to completely ruin your little one’s outfit? Don’t be afraid to strip them down! Sure, you may want to avoid this when you’re out in public, but it’s an easy thing to do when you’re in the comfort of your own home. I still do this with my toddler when I know something she’s eating – I’m looking at you, popsicles! – is going to be particularly messy.

4. Get an easy-to-clean highchair

Let me tell you, those cushion-y, complicated highchairs are a nightmare to clean. If you don’t want to be disassembling and running a load of laundry after every meal, get an easy-to-clean highchair! After a ton of research, we purchased the Ikea Antilop highchair for our little one and were incredibly happy with it. I had even ordered the cushion insert you can get for it, but stopped using it after about a week because it was a pain to clean. The Antilop is not only super-easy to wipe down after every meal, it’s super cheap at less than $30 (if you purchase from Ikea). Can’t go wrong with that!

5. Stock up on microfiber cloths

I don’t know about you, but I hate making unnecessary waste. It only took us a few meals of going through our fair share of paper towels before I decided to stock up on a ton of microfiber cloths to use when cleaning up the BLW mess. These are great for not only cleaning the eating area, but also your little one’s face and hands (and anywhere else on their body that the mess may have reached.)  We probably have about 15 cloths in a folded stack in our kitchen that we cycle through. Simply throw any dirty ones in the wash anytime you’re doing a load!

6. Use eco-friendly disinfecting wipes

As much as I like minimizing waste, there are times when a microfiber cloth just won’t cut it. When this happens, we reach for our Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes. I love that these are still eco-friendly and safe for our babe as well. We use them to do a deeper clean on the highchair and to wipe down the splat mat on a regular basis.

7. Get a dog

Okay, I know you’re probably not going to go out and get a dog JUST for this reason, but I’d be lying if I said our pup didn’t make our baby-led weaning clean-up process a whole lot easier. Of course, we always monitor what’s on the ground before letting her eat (so she doesn’t eat anything that might make her sick) AND we make her wait to eat until after our little one is done. This helps prevent her from begging at the table and interrupting our – and our little one’s – meal. If you have a dog already, see if he or she might be willing to help pitch in with the cleaning! (I’m going to venture to say they’ll be more than happy to oblige.)

Dogs are a great way to manage the baby-led weaning mess!

So there you have it! My top tips and tricks for managing the baby-led weaning mess. I’d love to hear if you have any tips of your own that have been useful in the clean-up process. Let me know in the comments below!

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes

These chocolate protein pancakes are full of healthy superfoods, yet still taste incredibly indulgent. They’re the perfect breakfast for any day of the week!

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Indulgent AND healthy??? That’s my kind of breakfast! And after such an action- (and food-) packed day like yesterday, these Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes are exactly what we need to get us going on an even tougher Monday morning than usual. You feel me?

We had a great time watching the Super Bowl yesterday, but as we weren’t really cheering for either of the teams, let’s be honest, we really just showed up for the food.  The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying a little break in the rain and getting outside for some beach volleyball, and a fun photo shoot with one of my new clients that I’m doing some social media work for.

We also spent some time recovering from partying all last week at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which is a huge annual event for us thanks to the hubs’ hookup with VIP tickets. Highlights included seeing the world premiere of the film “Charged” (which is amazing, BTW, so inspiring – stay tuned for more on that one) and rubbing elbows with Denzel Washington who was given the Maltin Modern Master Award for his lifetime of achievements both on the stage and in front of the camera. We always have such a blast every year and, although it goes by way too fast, we always find ourselves ready for a good deal of extra shut-eye when all is said and done.

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

All the more reason for these Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes to come into our lives! I realize I have not yet posted a pancake recipe here on the blog, although if you’ve checked out my eBook, you’ll know that I have a couple of tasty recipes for more standard, “go-to” pancakes. I also realize that we are now officially into the second month of the year, which means most folks are still TRYING to hold onto their New Year’s resolutions but are finding their strength is waning. I mean, how can it not be with all of these Valentine’s ads and displays floating around?

Well, I have good news for you folks! These Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes are chock full of superfoods, yet can still easily pass as dessert (or just a not-so-savory breakfast if that’s more your jam.) You know I’m all about that balance, and this recipe is practically the epitome of what I preach.

Oh, and did I mention they’re also gluten-free? I don’t purposely try to avoid gluten in my recipes (sorry for all of my gluten-intolerants out there,) but just as some of my recipes accidentally turn out vegan, some also just HAPPEN to turn out gluten-free. Just be sure to use gluten-free oats in the batter and you’ll be golden!

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Just like the aforementioned oats, most of the ingredients for these Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes are something you’ll likely have in your pantry already if you’re in any way tuned into the health and fitness world (or just like a damn good smoothie in the morning.) And if you don’t have these ingredients on hand already, have no fear, because our trusty old Amazon is pulling through for you once again. I even did all of the hard work for you:

MACA POWDER
PROTEIN POWDER
CHIA SEEDS

Alright kids, no more excuses. Let’s bust out our fancy blender and get to it. That’s right, I said blender. Because that’s the only thing you’ll need to whip up this recipe, aside from your nonstick skillet or griddle, of course.

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Seriously, the process of this pancake batter could not be any easier. Just throw all of the ingredients in the blender, give it a good whir, and you’re ready to pour said batter into your piping hot cooking vessel. Sound easy enough?

Now, we all know that a Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancake’s story can’t stop once it comes off the griddle, because isn’t a pancake breakfast all about the toppings? Yesssirreee. I opted for sliced banana, cacao nibs and high-grade maple syrup for mine, but feel free to use whatever you want! Whipped cream, butter, peanut butter and strawberries are just a few more things that come to mind.

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

So there you have it folks! The secret to a healthy, balanced breakfast that still tastes like dessert. Now can we agree that this Monday isn’t going to be all that bad?

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes

These chocolate pancakes are full of healthy superfoods, yet still taste incredibly indulgent. The perfect breakfast for any day of the week!

Course: Breakfast
Servings: 9 mini pancakes
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 banana
  • 2 scoops protein powder (vanilla or chocolate flavor will work)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons maca powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Instructions
  1. Begin heating a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. 

  2. Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender.

  3. Using a quarter cup measure, scoop pancake batter onto heated pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until it gets a nice golden color. 

  4. Remove from pan to a heated plate and continue cooking the rest of the batter.

  5. Top with whatever you prefer! Some ideas are: sliced bananas, sliced strawberries, maple syrup, peanut butter, cacao nibs, shredded coconut and whipped cream. 

This post contains affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

Maca Chia Cocoa Protein Pancakes | CaliGirlCooking.com

Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce

These Summer Rolls with Red Curry Peanut Pumpkin Dipping Sauce are a fresh new take on summer rolls, perfect for the transition to fall!

Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

You guys, tomorrow is a big day. I can hardly contain my excitement…

We’re getting air conditioning!!!!!

I know, all y’all over in the other 45 or so states that are actually already experiencing fall must think I’m crazy. Why bother getting air conditioning installed in the MIDDLE OF OCTOBER??? Well, let me just tell you that if you had been sweltering in the unusually high temperatures that Santa Barbara has been experiencing this year (in fact, the last couple of years) you would be right there with me in my utter joy and happiness. It has been over 90 degrees here pretty consistently for the last month or so, and with little to no air flow going through our house it’s just been a nightmare.

I keep saying to myself, “Maybe this will be the last heat wave of the year?” One can only hope.

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about this air conditioning and the fact that soon I may be able to get in a good night’s sleep without tossing and turning in a fevered sweat all night. In the meantime, I’m celebrating our last night in an oven-like house with one last (almost) no-cook recipe. And it still manages to sneak in a little bit of fall!
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
These Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce are pretty legit. They are fresh, full of healthy proteins and vegetables, and accompanied by a lip-smacking sauce that is definitely not your average peanut-dipping-sauce-from-that-hole-in-the-wall-takeout-Thai- restaurant. Just saying.
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
Because it just makes me giddy, let’s talk about this sauce for a minute. I used this recipe from Salt & Wind, and just subbed in peanut butter for the almond butter. I wanted to make a riff on the average peanut sauce, and the red curry was just what I was looking for. I also liked the addition of the pumpkin puree to make it qualify for the “fall recipe” category [as this may be one of my all-time favorite recipe categories.] These three main ingredients give the sauce the perfect combination of sweetness, salt and spice and really liven up such a healthy, raw dish as Summer Rolls.
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
Speaking of Summer Rolls…For these, I had a really hard time deciding which fillings to include and which fillings to omit. I settled on two types of protein: shrimp and tofu. Since this was my first time attempting Summer Rolls, I ended up going the fairly traditional route for veggies with carrots, cucumber, cilantro and avocado. [Full disclaimer: I also bought some Swiss chard to include but ended up omitting it because after laying out all of the other ingredients I felt I had more than enough.] But that’s the cool thing about these rolls! They’re totally customizable and you really can use whatever veggies and protein you want. Go wild!
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
The whole process of wrapping up the rolls was completely new to me, but I started to get the hang of it, oh, around the second to last one. There is a certain finesse to getting those fine rice papers to roll up tightly without tearing!
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking
But really, there was no noticing any rolls that might have had some spillage at the seams once they got dunked in this dipping sauce. And there’s no need to hold back. This sauce recipe makes MORE than enough for this batch of Summer Rolls. After lavishly drowning your rolls in this dreamy sauce, you’ll still have enough leftover for a second dinner this week…I did!
Either way, you won’t regret making this. And it is so nice and healthy! My thoughts are that you can really eat as much as you want of this stuff.
Do any of you have a Summer Roll recipe I should try? I’m dying to keep working on my wrapping skills!
Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce
Ingredients
For the Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce:
  • adapted from Salt & Wind
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter it's best not to use fresh ground for this, I prefer [Earth Balance|http://amzn.to/1OfwGhj
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup hot water
For the Summer Rolls:
  • One dozen medium shrimp can be pre-cooked or you can cook them beforehand yourself
  • One package extra firm tofu patted dry with paper towels then cut into strips
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil coconut oil or bacon grease*
  • 1 package rice paper wrappers
  • 2 large carrots. shredded I used my food processor, or you can always buy pre-shredded at the supermarket!
  • 1 medium to large cucumber julienned
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 avocado sliced
  • *This may sound absurd but trust me. Every time we cook bacon, rather than trying to find an environmentally sound way to dispose of the grease, we put it in a mason jar in the refrigerator (be sure to let it cool to room temp first!) We then pull it out and use it as "oil" for anything we want to saute/roast/grill with an added taste of umami/salty/savory goodness.
Instructions
  1. First, make the dipping sauce. Whisk together all sauce ingredients except for the hot water. Once these ingredients are incorporated, whisk in the hot water. Refrigerate until ready to use. This will help it thicken up a bit.
  2. Heat your choice of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add tofu. Do not stir until the side of the tofu in contact with the skillet has gotten a nice golden-brown. Once it has, stir so that all sides take on this same hue. Once tofu is golden on all sides, remove from skillet and set aside.
  3. Organize all of your Summer Roll fillings into an assembly line of sorts. Fill a pie plate (or other vessel of similar size) with an inch or two of water. You will need this to soften up your rice paper. You will also need some counter/plastic cutting board space to assemble the rolls. I used my marble pastry slab which worked pretty well.
  4. Place the rice paper wrappers in the dish of water one at a time. They will take about 10-15 seconds to completely soften up. Feel free to swish them around in the water as needed. Once the wrapper is soft, remove it from the water dish and place flat on your work space. Starting about one third of the way up from the bottom of the wrapper, start layering your toppings. I went in this order: cucumber, carrot, cilantro, protein (tofu or shrimp), avocado. This seemed to work fairly well.
  5. Bring the bottom third of the rice paper up towards the filling, while sort of tucking the filling back into the paper as you roll, making it as tight as possible. Once you have the filling contained in the wrapper, fold both sides over, then continuing rolling as tight as possible. When you get to the end (which should be at the top of your work space), the rice paper should stick to itself fairly easily, but if you need to help it along just dab on a little more water with your finger.
  6. As I said, I am far from a pro at Summer Roll wrapping, but the process did get easier as I went along. I also got a better feel for how much of each filling item to include in each roll. Practice makes perfect!
Recipe Notes

Wine Pairing Suggestion: A crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Reisling or Gewurtztraminer.

This post contains affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. As always, thank you for supporting the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

Summer Rolls with Red Curry-Peanut-Pumpkin Dipping Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

Practicing for my close-up…

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5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus

The classic Mediterranean dip is given some extra pizzazz with loads of curry and pumpkin flavor. This 5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus should most definitely be on the menu for your next dinner party!

This 5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus takes your average Mediterranean dip and kicks it up a notch with a ton of added flavor. The perfect appetizer or side dish for your next dinner party!

Since tomorrow is officially the first day of fall, I’m jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It has just been so ridiculously hot here that you don’t want to even fathom turning on the oven or any other sort of indoor cooking heat source. Our typical weeknight dinners have become lots of salad plus any protein we can throw on the grill.

That being said, I’ve been dying with all of the fall recipes that have been inundating the interwebs and just had to find something “fall-ish” to make on my own (without melting into a giant puddle.)

I’ve had a go-to pumpkin hummus recipe for a couple of years now and it is a surefire hit wherever I bring it. So I got to thinking of how I could expand on it (while going through the items that I already had on hand in my pantry/kitchen) and this Pumpkin Curry Hummus was born.

Not to brag or anything, but I pretty much nailed this recipe on the first try. I finally had a weekend with a free morning, and was playing around with different recipe ideas for the blog. I really had no idea how this would turn out, but I had all of the ingredients on hand and thought “What the heck?”

This 5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus takes your average Mediterranean dip and kicks it up a notch with a ton of added flavor. The perfect appetizer or side dish for your next dinner party!

I tasted it while it was still room temp and hadn’t marinated in the refrigerator for any time, and I definitely thought it had potential, but it wasn’t until I brought it over to a friends’ house and they started going at it with a bag of chips that I realized I had a winner. I’m so glad I wrote the recipe down!

Thinking about it more, this is a great way for those of us living in less extreme climates (read: still sweating our you-know-whats off) to get into the fall spirit. The comforting flavors of the curry lend a subtle spice to the sweetness of the pumpkin and, one added bonus, it’s healthy! Yes, feel free to go at this with your crudités folks. Who doesn’t love a hot weather fall comfort food?

This 5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus takes your average Mediterranean dip and kicks it up a notch with a ton of added flavor. The perfect appetizer or side dish for your next dinner party!

This post contains affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. As always, thank you for supporting the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

5-Minute Pumpkin Curry Hummus
Prep Time
5 mins
 

The classic Mediterranean dip is given some extra pizzazz with loads of curry and pumpkin flavor. 

Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keyword: appetizer, curry, hors d'oeuvres, hummus, Mediterranean, pumpkin
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 178 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Juice of one lime
  • 3-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse until mostly combined.

  2. Turn the food processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil until it's reached the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

 

 

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Travel Diaries: Yosemite

Nature is a beautiful thing.Gaylor Lakes, Yosemite

I’d been to Yosemite many years ago, when I was still just a little one, but my memory sure had faded and I was completely enchanted by all that we saw this time around.

Chris’ family has gone on an annual camping trip to Yosemite since he was born (in fact, his dad has been going since he was born), so when we were able to carve out some time in our busy schedules to make the trip with them this year, we jumped at the chance.Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite

Despite a CRAZY change in the weather the day before we left (since when does it snow in Yosemite in JULY?!!) we still packed up the truck and were on the road by 3:00am Friday morning so we’d have three full days of exploring. The early wake-up call was well worth it and we were at “base camp” by about 10:00am.

Instead of taking you through our day-by-day itinerary like I do with many of my travel posts, I’m going to mix it up this time and tell you the highlights of where we camped, where we hiked and what we ate. Oh, and of course, tons of photos!Clouds Rest, Yosemite

Where We Stayed:

White Wolf Campground – About an hour and a half inside of the main entrance to Yosemite, on the way to Tuolmne Meadows and at about 9,000 feet in elevation, this is a homey little camping oasis. There are over 40 campsites, but the ones along the perimeter are spaced out nicely and don’t make you feel too crowded since they back up to the meadow/forest. The campsites in the inner circle aren’t bad either, but they’re definitely not as “nature-y” as the outer perimeter sites. There are no showers at this site, but there are restrooms with running water. Reservations are first come, first serve, so we were lucky that Chris’ parents were able to head up on Thursday morning and reserve a spot for us. We encountered tent trailer-campers, RV-campers, tent-campers and backpackers alike, so all types of outdoor enthusiasts are welcome here. All campsites have a fire pit and a picnic table for your dining enjoyment. Just be sure to make good use of the bear boxes at each site as the area is home to its share of furry residents.White Wolf Campground

Where We Hiked & Explored:

Glacier PointSince our first day in Yosemite was a little sketch on the weather front, we decided to take some scenic drives and visit landmarks instead of venturing out for a full on “hike.” We drove about two hours to the highest scenic lookout in Yosemite and took our time acquainting ourselves with the beautiful valley we would be exploring for the next couple of days (there were also multiple photo shoots involved.)View from Glacier PointView of Half Dome from Glacier PointMe at Glacier Point

Gaylor Lakes TrailWe chose this trail for our first hike in Yosemite because it was short yet high in elevation to help us get acclimated to being so high up. The first mile of the hike takes you over a steep ridge to some beautiful lakes. If you continue on, you can hike to the historic Great Sierra Silver Mine. We made it over the ridge to the lake (trudging through snow! You know it!) but decided to turn back before we hit the mines due to the ominous clouds looming overhead and the fact that we could see the rain pouring down just over the mountain. Note to self: Invest in hiking boots (I was just wearing my trail running shoes – definitely not cut out for snow hiking.)View of Tuolmne Meadows from Gaylor Lakes TrailGaylor LakeGaylor LakesGaylor Lakes Trail

Clouds Rest – The most challenging, amazing and LONGEST hike I have been on in my entire life. Chris and his brother had done the hike two years before, and said it was a great option since permits are required to hike Half Dome nowadays. Cloud’s Rest is actually higher in elevation than Half Dome, so you get AMAZING views of the entire Valley AND Half Dome, from a different angle than most people see it. We set out from the trailhead shortly before 8:00AM and didn’t get back to our car until about 3:00PM. We also took a slight detour (unplanned, wrong turn) which turned the hike into not just a challenging 14-mile trek, but an even more challenging 16.1-mile trek. Not to mention there is approximately a 1,775-foot elevation change during the hike…My, were our legs Jell-O afterwards but it was soooo worth it and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. Now I’m inspired to find some more long hikes to conquer closer to home!Cloud's Rest Base Camp MarkerClouds Rest AscentClouds Rest AscentClouds Rest TrailView of Clouds Rest from TrailClouds Rest Foot TrailView of Half Dome from Clouds RestView of Tenaya Lake from Clouds RestView of Half Dome from Clouds RestChris' Brother on Clouds RestMade it to the top of Clouds Rest!

Which brings us to our final point of interest…

Tenaya LakeAfter we finished hiking Cloud’s Rest, Chris’ parents had told us they would meet us at the beautiful Tenaya Lake (with snacks!! And beverages!! Hallelujah, we were starving.) This lake is absolutely STUNNING. It is so picturesque, you literally feel like you are in an issue of National Geographic. The water was a little chilly, but felt sooo good after our long hike. We saw many people paddling around in kayaks, fishing, and just splashing around. What a beautiful place!Tenaya Lake, YosemiteTenaya Lake, Yosemite

What We Ate:

Here is a list of the different campfire meals we whipped up while we were there. [Disclaimer: Chris’ parents have a tent trailer that is VERY well-equipped with many cooking essentials. But nothing is out of reach! I have listed the devices we used for each dish and tried to include links to samples wherever I could.]

Breakfast

Fried (or over-easy) eggs with bacon and toast (Eggs and bacon cooked with the gas cooktop attached to Chris’ parents’ tent trailer, toast grilled on a portable grill like this.)

Pancakes and bacon (can never get enough bacon!) (Both cooked on the gas cooktop attached to the tent trailer.)

Date-Pecan Muffins (I made these in advance from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook…I subbed coconut flour for the quinoa flour and I definitely recommend it!)

Andy’s Fairfield Granola (I also made this in advance.)

Fresh fruit and yogurt

Lunch

We didn’t usually eat a formal lunch, but you can bet we snacked on our fair share of cheese, charcuterie, crackers, dips, etc. Chris’ parents also had sandwich fixings that were great to have around.

Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings (Made in a Dutch oven, one of Chris’ family’s classic camping meals. I’ll have to bug them for the recipe!)

Bruschetta Bar – we went all out with this one…We brought most of the stuff pre-made from home (smoked tri tip, pulled pork, homemade pesto, homemade herbed goat cheese) and made a couple of things there (bruschetta, mushrooms) and also just brought some accoutrements to compliment everything (multiple cheeses, salami, prosciutto, etc.)

Old-Fashioneds in Yosemite
Of course we had to mix up some Old-Fashioneds to go with dinner…

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce & Kielbasa, Garlic Toast (Spaghetti and meat sauce cooked and heated up on the gas cooktop, garlic toast thrown on the portable grill.)

Dessert

S’MORES! (duh) – the classic ingredients such as Hershey’s chocolate, jumbo marshmallows and graham crackers…and some not so classic ingredients such as SPECIAL DARK Hershey’s chocolate, Joe-Joes cookies, Reese’s Pieces, and M&M’s. (Obvi cooked over the campfire.)

Homemade brownies (Chris’ mom made these at home.)

Jiffy Pop (Cooked on the gas cooktop.)Campfire in Yosemite

Definitely a trip I will never forget.

I’d love to hear your Yosemite/camping stories! Anywhere we missed that we should check out next time? Any dishes we should try whipping up over a campfire?