Today we are super excited to feature a guest blog post by Claire Gallant of The Bite Sized Kitchen here in Halifax. The mission of Bite Sized kitchen is to bring kids into the kitchen and help them learn all aspects of making food from scratch. Claire frequently blogs about cooking with children using whole ingredients, hands-on methods, and beautiful presentation. We are huge fans of Claire over here at fairechild and we hope you enjoy this blog post all about our favourite summer time activity - picnics! Take it away, Claire!
Isn’t picnicking one of the best ways to eat a meal? Outside, on a blanket (or old sheet, or wool shawl, or scarf), lots of little containers with tasty things, kids running around. My kids and I picnic a lot when the weather gets warm enough. Parks, beaches, and backyards, here we come!
Picnics are as easy as packing a lunch and throwing a few serving containers/plates into your stroller, backpack or trunk. I've found several lovely non-breakable, non-plastic items over the years that I use regularly on picnics, like wooden plates and bowls and tin bowls with flat bottoms. We usually pack the food in stainless steel or glass lunch containers. One of my principles in the Bite-Sized Kitchen is thoughtful presentation of meals, and it makes a difference at picnics also. The lovelier it looks, the more exciting it will be for everyone.
Lovely certainly doesn’t have to mean fancy, and for picnic food, I keep it super simple. I focus on whole foods, just as I do for our other family meals. General guidelines for kids are bite-sized, eat-with-your-hands, non-drippy, good at room temperature. Foods I regularly bring on any kind of picnic are: olives; whole-wheat wraps with nut butter and honey/ham and cheese/cream cheese and jam; berries or cut-up fruit; cut-up cheese; hand-held nutritionally-dense baked goods like banana-oat cookies /almond-date bars/muffins; cut-up veggies like carrots, green peppers, or celery; hard-boiled eggs; and plain chickpeas. Like most days, I do my best to limit the sweets. For adults, I'd throw in a salad (dressing and toasted nuts on the side), and a (possibly drippy!) sandwich - I'm really into pan bagnat for summer beach picnics. Pan Bagnat (which translates as 'bathed bread') is really just a dressed up, more European take on tuna salad. I'd take a can of olive-oil-packed tuna and crumble it up with more olive oil, capers, chopped pickles, chopped pitted olives, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and maybe some arugula or crunchy romaine. Butter a baguette and stuff the salad into it! I take a water bottle for each kid and a flask of coffee for me (#essentials).
Our family picnics in all weather. When it’s chillier, we bring mint tea in a thermos, or sometimes warmed coconut milk with honey. As long as everyone is dressed warmly, the fun doesn’t have to end when the weather turns colder!
Inspired by the wonderful lemonade made by Lemon Dogs, sold in the summers in Shubie Park in Dartmouth, Polly (4) and I came up with this recipe this week, which we took on a hike and shared with friends.
“It’s true that appetites are sharpened and tastes are enlivened in the open air, and the setting adds extra flavor to even very simple picnic fare. One thing that transforms the experience is to put the food on real dishes..” -Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food
“Summer cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment.” -Elizabeth David
Bite-Sized Kitchen’s Mapley Lemonade
Serves 4-6 picnickers
⅓ cup maple syrup
1 cup water
Combine maple syrup with ⅓ cup of the water in a small pot and and warm gently on the stove to thin out the maple syrup (it will combine with the lemon juice more smoothly this way). Juice the 4 lemons and strain out any seeds - you’ll have about ¾ cup of lemon juice. Combine lemon juice with maple syrup and water mixture in a large pitcher, adding the remaining ⅔ cup cold water. Add 10-12 ice cubes to chill the drink. Taste for the sour/sweet balance, and add more water or more maple syrup as needed.