June 28, 2013

Impromptu Solstice Picnic

I love organizing picnics, but everyone is always so busy these days. Sometimes J and I will get out the grill and invite people over, but it doesn't happen often enough for my liking! With some last minute food inspiration and the fact that I really missed my grandma, I decided to have a solstice picnic.

I called my dad and in no time at all, a picnic was in the works for the next day. It was a small get-together with my parents, brother, grandma, and B.A., a dear family friend. Of course Tucker hitched a ride with me. He wouldn't miss a trip to the grandparents' house! Unfortunately, J was working all weekend and missed the festivities, but hopefully he can make it next time.

I have rhubarb to thank for the picnic idea. Sounds weird, I know, but it was my inspiration. When I got rhubarb in my CSA, I was determined to make something that wasn't a strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry rhubarb crisp, or strawberry rhubarb jam. I love strawberries, but I wanted to discover rhubarb's possibilities without them. I found 3 recipes that met my expectations:

a rhubarb tea cake (that I made gluten-free) by Terry Hope Romero,

roasted rhubarb honey cardamom ice cream (make it vegan by using agave) by Fragrant Vanilla Cake,

and a grilled vegetable sandwich with rhubarb barbecue sauce by Edible Perspective.

Though all 3 of these will be cataloged with my "made and loved it" recipes, I have to say the sandwich was my favorite. I loved the barbecue sauce, and the leftovers are what sparked the idea to have the picnic.

My dad and I put together a vegan cook-out menu and went shopping for a few ingredients that were missing. We wanted the day to be stress-free; the intention was not to be in the kitchen all morning making elaborate dishes. I chose foods that we had most of the ingredients for and would also require minimal prep. I also wanted to make vegan food that everyone would try, and have healthier options than the standard picnic. When my mom suggested I pick up chips and dip, I got the idea to make a fruit dip instead. There's nothing like sour cream dip to encourage mindless snacking of potato chips. At least with the fruit dip, people would be gobbling up fruit. We came to a nice compromise; I made a fruit dip and she bought chips (sans dip).

Since I had most of what I needed (like already having barbecue sauce and pesto dressing made), all I had to do was pick up a short list of groceries, and do a little bit of prep. While the pasta was cooking and the onions were caramelizing, I cut up vegetables, and made the fruit dip. I bought some kombucha, too, so that I could drink something fun while everyone else had wine and beer. I was extra excited when I found Reed's kombucha at the store. People have been going nuts for the stuff, and I had yet to see it in our area. I got these three to try. The goji ginger seems to be everyone's favorite, but the hibiscus ginger grapefruit was my top pick for sure.

Our menu included:

  • Vegan Kielbasa with Carmelized Onion and Red Pepper. Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce.
  • Gluten-Free Pasta Salad with Kale, Corn, Cucumber, Carrot, Radish. Pesto Dressing.
  • Grilled Zucchini
  • Fruit Platter with Blueberry Dip
  • Beer. Wine. Kombucha. Citrus-Infused Water.

I wish I had a Pens beer koozie for my kombucha!

In addition to this menu, my brother brought watermelon and also meat for a few people, my mom bought an assortment of chips, and B.A. showed up with a few boxes (!) of cookies and cupcakes. All the food was so good, but I managed to fill myself up on fruit before the meal (I think next time I should have a fruitluck!) So, I saved half of my plate for later in the evening when I was hungry again.

We spent the afternoon into the evening on the deck, letting the hot sun kiss our faces and later the shade of the tree cool us off. My dad enjoyed a breather from his hectic work schedule, and my mom wasted no time finding a shady spot to curl up with her Nook. I never tire of hearing my grandma's stories, and was so happy to have a chance to lounge around and chat with her. Tucker roamed around looking for crumbs, slept in the sun, rolled in the grass, got freaked out by the ants 'attacking' him, and delighting in the wild smells that are absent in the city.

As the sun set, my brother taught my grandma a card game, Tucker passed out under the table, and I couldn't help but eat a few more pieces of juicy watermelon. This is summertime at its finest.

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