As a lifelong Michigan girl, my favorite stretch of sand along the Great Lakes has to be the beach at Lake Michigan Recreation Area, 15 miles south of Manistee in the northernish part of the Mitten State.
Big, private sites at the campground and a seemingly endless expanse of sand lakeside lured our family back year after year when my brother, sister, and I were growing up.
Once a summer, we pulled into a campsite, hauling our pop-up camper—“pop-up” being a highly euphemistic or idealistic or unrealistic term, since the camper did not so much “pop up” as it was cajoled, cranked, hoisted, fastened, and secured.
While my parents battled the camper (“Russell! There is a GAP in this door!”), my sister and I performed our requisite chore of positioning and securing the clothesline. Then we headed to the beach with towels, magazines of questionable literary value, Wheat Thins, and Tootsie-Rolls.
Now, as adults, my siblings and I camp with our parents and our children a little closer to home but still on Lake Michigan. The pop-up camper has been replaced by a travel trailer that very nearly sets itself up. And my brother's tent. And my sister’s three-room “lodge.” And my parents' conversion van, a.k.a., the "camper annex." Which I happily avail myself of.
The Tootsie Rolls of our youth have given way to Sour Patch Kids, which don’t melt and, being coated with sugar, nicely disguise the inevitable sand. I highly recommend them for your next beach picnic. (Get the jumbo bag.) If you’d like to pack something a little more substantial, bring along My Sister's Strawberry Salsa with Cinnamon Chips. All the fruit in the salsa makes a healthy snack, and if any sand finds its way in, just tell your crew it’s cinnamon-sugar.
My Sister’s Strawberry Salsa with Cinnamon Chips
This recipe comes together very quickly if you have a food processor. But I’ve also included instructions for making it by hand in case you don’t have heavy machinery in your kitchen.
4 cups plain multigrain chips (such as Sun Chips or, if you’re an Aldi’s fan like I am, Clancy’s Multigrain Crisps…just make sure to get the plain version—this is not the place for sour cream and onion)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray
1 ripe kiwi, peeled
1 apple, any variety, peeled, cored, and seeded
2 cups strawberries, rinsed and stems removed
¼ cup strawberry spreadable fruit (Smucker’s Simply Fruit or something similar)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy clean-up. Spread the multigrain chips in a single layer on baking sheet. Coat the chips lightly with butter-flavored cooking spray. Mix together 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over chips. (You can use any extra sugar mixture to make cinnamon toast…or your next batch of these highly addictive chips.) Coat the chips again with cooking spray. Bake for 8-10 minutes, watching carefully toward the end of the cooking time to prevent the sugar from burning if your oven runs hot. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. If not using immediately, store in an air-tight container at room temperature.
If you have a food processor, cut all the fruit into chunks of about the same size and place in the bowl of the processor. Pulse about 8 times, until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in the spreadable fruit and the brown sugar. Pulse another 8 times or until desired consistency. If you do not have a food processor, chop or dice all the fruit as coarsely or finely as you like it, then gently combine it with the spreadable fruit and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
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