Campfire Stories


Summer is simply a whole new way of living in Minnesota. After the long cold winter, we feel born again. If I could remember those first steps as a child, I imagine it would be a similar sense of excitement and freedom. Yeah, it’s been a long winter, so we decided to jump in with both feet this year with a Memorial Day camping trip.

With a couple of newly minted campers in tow, we decided to keep it somewhat local, while still getting a taste of isolation – Afton State Park. The campground is just far enough from your car to give a sense of solitude and make you work for it. Especially this day. Seriously, Hannah…a cast iron skillet?

We are on the tail end of a late morel mushroom season here in Minnesota, and we were lucky enough to happen upon some fresh morels not too far from our campsite. We boiled the morels while the potatoes and sweet corn started grilling, then sautéed them in butter.

A camping trip would not be complete without s’mores for dessert. No special recipe here, but we can tell you to buy the good ol’ fashion Jet-Puffed “marsh-pillows” (as Louis would say) instead of the organic brand. Some things are not any better if you make them with organic ingredients. We know they are bad for us, so don’t try to sugar coat it (no pun intended).

After a night of heavy rains and a leaky tent, the four of us woke up in a groggy sleep pile, having been driven steadily into a corner of the tent by encroaching water. The kids slept just fine, used to that sort of intense snuggling with a crib full of stuffed animals, but Mommy and Daddy were in need of strong coffee and a hearty breakfast.

There is truly nothing like a rekindled morning campfire. Nothing could have brightened our weary spirits like this take on a grilled cherry upside cake. Hannah started dreaming about this recipe as soon as we decided to go on a camping trip. We hope you find time to enjoy it with your family this summer, whether in your backyard or in the north woods of Minnesota!

Vanilla Cherry Pecan Skillet Cake

• 1 package VCP muesli
• ¼ cup coconut oil
• 1 cup flour
• 1 cup cornmeal
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp baking soda
• ½ tsp salt
• ¾ cup buttermilk
• 1 egg

Place a cast-iron skillet on a grate over a small fire. Ideally, the flames should just barely hit the grate. Melt coconut oil. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and an egg. Fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Pour Vanilla Cherry Pecan muesli into the skillet with the melted coconut oil. Then spoon the cake mixture over top, as evenly as possible. Cover tightly with foil and grill for approximately 25 minutes, keeping the fire as even as possible. Remove the skillet from the fire just before the center is cooked completely through and let sit with the foil still on for 5-10 minutes. A slightly gooey center is preferred. Slice and serve with coconut oil, butter or jam. Wrap up remaining slices for hiking snacks.

Enjoy your morning,

Hannah Barnstable
Hannah Barnstable