Last year was hard, but we are beginning to see some good trends that emerged out of the chaos. One thing that my family and many others rediscovered, is the joy of picnics! We have had a lot of them in the past year, so I was excited when I was asked to join a few other bloggers to share some inspiration for picnics!
At the beginning of the pandemic our family did some car picnics at the beach which was old school fun.. Then last summer, my neighbor Kim started a fun idea of meeting for dinners on the town park square with chairs and a little table. We enjoyed that so much we did it with our own kids, bringing some drinks and appetizers and everyone picking up the takeout food they want, then chatting after on a summer evening.
We have realized that we almost enjoy this more than dining out in restaurants in many cases. As we’ve had more outdoor meals last year than ever before, I’ve stocked my kitchen with a few more portable containers, but for the most part we take real napkins, and silverware -and those tablecloths that are going unused, make great picnic blankets if they are sturdy cotton. So do throws and blankets. It’s fun to cull some things together and make a pretty coordinating mix with cloth napkins, a blanket and toss them in a basket or large straw tote and go. I like to roll the silverware in the napkins. Sometimes I tie them, sometimes I don’t. I repurposed nice glass bottles for waters.. You can get creative. The most important thing is to make it easy and fun.
For my picnic meal, I made a pesto pasta salad, Pink Lady Apple, cheddar and turkey baguette sandwiches, homemade chocolate chip cookies and some bought Have a Chips, strawberries and a variety of waters. I wish I had a more picturesque view, but we just had ours in the yard. It was a nice thing to do on a Saturday, which we usually wouldn’t bother with. Everyone came out and ate, unlike our usual, do your own thing lunches.
For the sandwiches, I found small single baguettes that worked great. They are cute if you wrap them in parchment paper to keep them together with a small bit of twine. Both my husband and I agreed that in the future we would probably enjoy the sandwich more with a nutty whole wheat bread. With the thin slices of pink lady apple, English cheddar and some crunchy lettuce, the wheat bread would have added just the right texture and crunch. Of course the sons preferred the baguette and they look cuter. ( I ate mine open faced as I am trying to eat less breads.)
For the pasta, it’s pretty simple. I changed the recipe up to use chickpea pasta, my first time trying it. Everyone liked it. It does look a little darker and is a bit drier and crumblier in texture than usual pasta, but works just great and in this kind of recipe, you wouldn’t really notice the change. It was actually a suggestion from my younger son Griffin, who came home from college a fan of this pasta. His roommate cooks and is gluten-free. They like the Banza brand best, (found here. )Chickpea pasta has nearly double the protein and fiber and almost half the carbs of usual pasta and it is gluten-free and low glycemic.. So much better for us!
Summer Pesto Pasta Salad
1 box of chickpea pasta
2-3 cups of fresh tomatoes of varying sizes. (I did part cherry tomatoes cut in half and some heirloom cut into small sized pieces)
I container of small fresh ciliegine mozzarella balls.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh pesto
1/2 cup basil leaves
Shaved Parmesan to garnish.
2 cloves garlic cut in half
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pepper to taste
Combine cut tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, pesto and garlic in a bowl, stir and cover in refrigerator. You can leave this overnight, but at least 30 minutes is nice. Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water to directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove the garlic from the mixture and toss with the pasta. Garnish with basil and top each jar with shaved parmesan. I used a kind of shell pasta, but the original recipe, adapted and changed from an old Domino Magazine, called for casarecce pasta can be found in a chickpea version here.
Hope you got a little inspired to do more picnics! Please stop by these talented blogs and see what they have for picnic ideas and recipes for us…
I hope your summer is getting off to a fun start!