It’s Memorial Day, which means that summer activities are officially launched! A favorite family summer activity for us is to go picnicking. Our local zoo has movie nights twice a month during the summer and we love to make quite the event of it; you’ll see more on Zoovie nights’ elaborate picnics later. Kiddo and I like to make an event of a ho-hum workaday lunch by packing it to a park or to the yard.
While I am fond of the slap-a-sandwich-in-a-lunchbox variety of picnic, I am even more fond of making it a foodie event of the highest order. This weekend, we’d promised Kiddo that we’d go to the zoo for a picnic and a full day of doing everything they offer: the tram, the 4-D movie, the carousel – in short, all the stuff that costs extra to do. It was his day at the zoo.
In the run-up to this weekend, there had been much hullabaloo, and I’d not had time to agonize over the minutia of our picnic. We’d also had some days of questionable nutritional profile because of the hubbub, so I knew I needed something the boys would eat willingly that would allay my guilt for letting Kiddo have mac’n'cheese and french fries at dinner. (I know, I’ll have to do penance for that one.) I was tired, I didn’t have time or patience for a long, drawn-out preparation, but I was completely unwilling to slap-a-sandwich together and call it a day. So, en route to take care of a friend’s dogs, I pulled together my plan of attack:
- Kiddo loves broccoli and corn, we would have broccoli and corn;
- Kiddo claims to hate all fruit, but I happen to love all fruit and think nothing is more refreshing on a hot day – we would have fresh fruit;
- I loved cold fried chicken at picnics as a kid, so did Hubs – he still does, in fact, so we would have oven-fried chicken;
- I had mushrooms in the frig that needed to be used before growing the unhealthy kind of fungus, mushrooms would bulk up my plate, in lieu of the chicken.
But I wasn’t sure what kind of preparation I wanted to do with the corn and broccoli.
Corn and black bean salad, lending the picnic a southwestern flair?
Or maybe make a broccoli salad with raisins?
Except Kiddo probably wouldn’t eat corn in a salad mixed up with other stuff.
And Hubs hates raisins in things.
Both ideas were a no-go.
Fatigue + simplicity = a quick dash through the grocery – a record in under 10 minutes – en route home from the friend’s house whose dogs we were watching, I arrived home to begin the food prep for our picnic the following day, kinda making it up as I went.
Cold Corn Cobblettes
Corn-on-the-cob was shucked, then briefly introduced to boiling water, then lightly buttered and cut into cobblettes (in half or thirds);
Plain Broccoli Salad
Two crowns of broccoli were blanched (dipped into boiling water for about 90 seconds, then plunged into ice water to arrest cooking). A clove of garlic was chopped and briefly sauteed in a scant amount of olive oil before being added to the drained broccoli, along with the juice of a lemon and a pinch of salt;
Oven Fried Chicken
Organic chicken can be pricey, but thighs and legs tend to be priced comparably to their conventional cohorts. I rinsed the organic drumsticks, rolled them around in a bath of two eggs and 1/4 cup of water beaten together, then rolled them in a mixture of:
- about 1/3 cup flour,
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs,
- a teaspoon of salt,
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper,
- a teaspoon of paprika, and
- about 1/2 teaspoon of oregano, basil, and cayenne pepper.
I placed each drumstick on a well greased baking pan, then sprayed the drumsticks with oil before placing them in a 350 F oven for about 45 minutes;
I grabbed a red bell pepper at the quick dash through the store and sliced it before tossing the pepper slices and baby portabella mushrooms with a little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a few cranks of pepper, and a pinch of oregano, all of which was tossed onto a baking pan and broiled until the pepper’s skin was crinkly and the edges had just begun to char. I put it into a plastic container with a sprig of basil and let all of it sit overnight together;
Cantaloupe (chopped), Cherries, Blueberries
The most difficult part of the prep was the washing and chopping of the produce – it’s just time consuming…and I cut myself, stupid fatigue. Had I been less exhausted at the outset, I’d have started the chicken first and let that cook while I did the fruit and veggies. That would have been the smart thing to do. As it happened, I was not so smart, and so ended up trying not to doze off in the kitchen while I waited for the chicken to finish cooking.
Quickly assembled though it was, I got no arguments from the boys. And I think we were all much happier with this than we would have been with a bologna sandwich and chips.
The broccoli was perfect, a little crunchy but not too much, (Kiddo doesn’t like it raw) and the lemon didn’t interfere with the divine marriage that is broccoli and garlic. Rather, I found the lemon kept all the flavors bright and fresh. The peppers and mushrooms were tasty – earthy and sweet. The boys said the chicken was spot on – yea! And the corn – how can you go wrong with corn on the cob? Having cooked it just barely, the kernels were not mushy, nor were they too raw. Just perfect.
We wound our way to our super-secret picnic spot, where we were greeted by a committee of geese and one very impolite dinner guest. At first he thought I was a good mark, but having no luck, quickly moved on to the boys, who finally treated him and his flockmates to some of the stale bread we’d brought along just for such a purpose, once our own picnic was eaten and cleaned up.
Hope you are having a happy holiday weekend!
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