Tag Archives: picnic

Weekly Menus: Picnic Edition (with Bonus Car Food Thoughts)

Gentle Readers, the weekly menus are going seriously al fresco this week. Is there a better place to eat than beside a waterfall? No, I do not think so. With this in mind, I did minimal shopping this week, focusing on the car food.

Apple Snack Tray with Peanut Butter and Maple Butter

Apple Snack Tray with Peanut Butter and Maple Butter

Years ago I concluded that the worst possible use of time for The Practical Cooks Junior was to sit quietly in a restaurant during the few precious minutes we stopped on road trips. Stops are a time to move around, yell, stretch, and generally get out all kinks. Public dining in our time is not the same as the stops of ye olde England when such carrying on was undoubtedly more commonplace.

So it’s more sensible to eat in the car for us. I could care less if food gets everywhere, but I don’t want to amp everyone up to the point that sitting still is not possible (thus a limiting of fast food options). Solution: peanut butter banana sandwiches. Elvis, the original road warrior, knew what time it was. I make stacks of them, cut them into quarters, roll.

The Key Ingredient, Labeled for Clarity (Not my label, by the way)

The Key Ingredient, Labeled for Clarity (Not my label, by the way)

I pack my travel trail mix, which does contain chocolate, and I do break any number of personal shopping rules and pack Poptarts and cereal bars for AM drive time. However, I also bring fresh fruit, nuts, and jerky. Car rides can be boring, and eating can be entertaining. So we snack, sing, chat, and sleep (well, me not so much that part).

Trail Mix Melted and Reformed = Trail Bark (Yum)

Trail Mix Melted and Reformed = Trail Bark (Yum)

I’m raising a couple of road warriors, and they are truly remarkable. They can pack their own bags without missing a beat, and take each new adventure in stride. How many people can say that about their summer vacation partners?

The Road Warriors

The Road Warriors

So this week’s menus will look somewhat like this:

Sunday: Vegetarian Dinner Out! (More on this soon!)

Monday: Meat, cheese, fruit, baby carrots, lake

Tuesday: Sandwiches and granola bars, waterfall

Wednesday: Chinese Take-Out (our recovery food)

Thursday: Business Dinner for me, Pasta and Veg for Jrs.

Friday: Cold Fried Chicken (because)

Cold Fried Chicken: My Summer Picnic Fuel

Cold Fried Chicken: My Summer Picnic Fuel (from Crook’s Corner)

Saturday: Picnic + Concert!
For this I will probably go tomato sandwich with a side of pesto pasta or something in that vein. Or perhaps more quinoa because I currently cannot consume enough of the stuff.

Send your junk food, food confessions, and wacky food challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Wednesday: How to Throw an Impromptu Cookout and Why You Should.

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Filed under Weekly Menus

Mayo Controversy: Duke’s vs. Hellmann’s (Miracle Whip Need Not Apply)

Gentle Readers, tomato season is upon us, and every year, with it comes controversy. First, we have the mayo haters. They can excuse themselves at this point. For the rest of us, there is the question of brand. Most people agree the proper tomato sandwich consists of white bread, tomatoes, mayo, and salt and pepper.

My first tomato sandwich of the season. Southern bliss.

My first tomato sandwich of the season. Southern bliss.

But is it Duke’s or Hellmann’s? Please say it isn’t Miracle Whip. I have never met a single person who actually enjoyed that stuff. If you do or did, please post a comment and let us all know why. Seriously, I want to know this.

Sliced Tomatoes with a Dab of Mayo

Sliced Tomatoes with a Dab of Mayo

Back to the topic at hand. First, know that every professional foodie (chefs and everyone else) I’ve ever asked has an opinion and a love of the tomato sandwich. I find Duke’s a bit eggier, which is not a negative. I like both to be honest, but somehow Duke’s seems more appropriate in a Southern context.

Sliced Tomatoes with Sea Salt and Mayo

Sliced Tomatoes with Sea Salt and Mayo

However, right now I have Hellmann’s in the fridge! And the first sammie of the season was still delish. Alas, it will require a lot more field research. Vote today, post a comment or Tweet my way! Duke’s vs. Hellmann’s!

Send your vine-ripened tomatoes, white bread, and actual questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next on Sunday, Weekly Menus, Picnic Edition.

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Orzo

Every recipe tells a story or carries a memory, as this one does for the Practical Cook. Volunteered by my friend Complicated Vegetarian to assist in preparing lunch for the staff of our preschool, this is the dish that emerged. It’s light, flavorful, feeds a crowd, and pairs nicely with any number of other items or as one of a series of salads. Thank you to all of the teachers out there. You are making a difference. I can’t make this dish for all of you, but I hope someone will.

Cue the music, maestro. (Yeah, I know I switched songs here, but I greatly prefer this one, let’s call it “artistic license.”)

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Orzo Recipe

I made this the night before to give the flavors a chance to meld. I find that if you do, you need to add a little more seasoning the next day to “brighten” the taste.

8 ounces orzo
olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
4-6 ozs Swiss chard, cut into ribbons (chiffonade), could use baby spinach instead
1 clove garlic, minced fine or pressed
1/2-3/4 tsp dried thyme
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup pickled beets, rinsed and diced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the orzo according to the directions on the box. When the timer goes off, drain the orzo in a colander, rinse it in cold water to stop it from cooking more, and put in a bowl. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and place in fridge to cool.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon (or less, if you prefer)  olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, broccoli, and chard, saute for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste and saute for another minute. Take off the heat. Veggies should still be fairly bright green, but no longer super-crunchy.

3. Squeeze lemon juice over sauteed veggies. Carefully fold in diced beets.

4. Add vegetable mixture to orzo. Season with additional salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and thyme to personal preference.

Have you tried orzo? What do you think? Leave a comment or a Tweet.

Have you been cooking with The Practical Cook? Send a picture of your recipe success to practical cook at gmail dot com. Or post a comment here, or connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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If it’s Sunday, it has to be Weekly Menus! Hello spring produce, I’ve missed you.

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Filed under Recipes