Americans have plenty to celebrate in July and so much of this summer season memory-making takes place in the parks and community areas this great nation offers. Whether you’re watching fireworks and humming the national anthem or winning the three-legged race with a cousin at your family reunion, the chances are a park, playground, campsite or some other recreational area is hosting all the happiness. I imagine that’s one of the reasons why July, since 1985, has been officially designated as National Park and Recreation Month.
As a mom of three active boys, a fitness enthusiast, and neighborhood social butterfly, I’ve long been aware of the innumerable benefits that park and recreational areas bring to the community. From the health and wellness aspect, I’ve not found a better way to get my heart rate up and blood pumping than by running on the trails and swinging from the monkey bars with my kids. Sure, the local gym offers similar opportunities to get fit, but working out seems so much easier al fresco! I’ve also noticed how parks and other outdoor gathering spots have become catalysts for community spirit and camaraderie.
From parents swapping supportive sandbox stories to volunteers maintaining the grounds or hosting charitable events, today’s parks have become a way for folks to make meaningful contributions to the greater good. Having logged quite an impressive number of hours outdoors, everywhere from neighborhood to national parks, some of my fondest memories revolve around food and sharing it with my family. People who know me will not find this surprising! From food fails like the chocolate candies melted inside a birthday piñata to culinary achievements like campfire-kissed beef kebobs, my family always has plenty to reflect back on between our outdoor adventures. My recipe below for Grilled Raspberry-Chocolate Banana Boats created lots of lip-smacking commentary from my kids who loved participating in both the making and eating of this more healthful option to traditional s’mores. The bananas and raspberries offer more than a serving of the daily requirement for fruits while the single-serve, 100-calorie Litehouse Chocolate Dip keeps my little sweet-tooth sweeties from overdoing it with the sugar. I also appreciate how these individually packaged chocolate sauces, made with Hershey’s cocoa, travel well for picnics and camping trips. The little 1.4 ounce saucers don’t have to be refrigerated unless opened; unused portions remain neatly packaged, eliminating wasted space and a potential sticky spill in the cooler.
Make some park and camping food memories of your own; invite your children to join you in the creation of these fun treats that can be cooked on a gas grill, charcoal grill or right in the campfire. Parents will want to handle the banana slicing and actual cooking on the heat source, but little hands will enjoy stuffing the bananas with marshmallows, making tin foil tents, and drizzling with Litehouse Chocolate Dip. Oh, and eating! Grilled Raspberry-Chocolate Banana Boats