Project Food Blog Challenge #6: A Family Picnic

Hooray! I made it to Round 6 of Project Food Blog! I really appreciate the support you’ve shown me during this competition. Should you decide to cast another vote for my blog, you can do so by following this link and clicking on the red heart at the top of the page.

For Challenge #6, we were asked to “design a meal to go- one that carries well and tastes great”. Foodbuzz further specified that the meal had to include four parts- a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, and a drink- and that we had to pack and transport our meal in our new Project Food Blog coolers.

This one was a no-brainer for me. I live in a beautiful area, an area that’s particularly stunning in the fall. So I knew right away what I wanted to do: pack a picnic featuring as much local, seasonal food as possible, and take the picnic on an outing with my family.

I purposely chose foods that would be relatively quick to prepare and that would travel well, and I wanted everything to be easily enjoyed outside. I packed it all up in eco-friendly tempered glass containers, and we ate on compostable palm plates.

Here’s the menu I came up with, the recipes I used, and photos of our incredible day.

Main Dish
Honeycrisp Apple and Cheddar Sandwiches with Red Onion Confit
on homemade gluten-free bread/homemade whole wheat baguette

I made my own breads the day before the picnic. I made a gluten-free sandwich loaf for me:

gluten free sandwich bread

And a couple of whole wheat baguettes for the others:

whole wheat baguette

Feel free to use your favorite all-natural, sturdy bread instead, if you like.

Ingredients for the red onion confit:

*4 cups peeled and thinly sliced, red onion
*2 tablespoons organic butter
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*2 tablespoons organic sugar
*1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Directions for the onion confit:

1. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a large pan. Add the olive oil (to prevent the butter from burning).

2. Add the sliced onions, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until soft.

3. Add the sugar and the vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes more. Makes about 1 cup: enough to spread on at least 4 sandwiches.

Ingredients for the sandwiches:

*baguettes, sliced in half (or slices of bread, wraps, etc.: I made my own bread for these sandwiches…whole wheat baguettes for my family and a gluten-free sandwich loaf for me)
*red onion confit
*peeled and sliced Honeycrisp apples (or choose another crunchy variety, like Fujis)
*slices of cheddar cheese, preferably made with raw milk (or use fontina or your favorite cheese)

Directions for the sandwiches:

1. Spread a layer of onion confit on the bread, then add a layer of cheddar cheese. Finish with a layer of sliced apples.

2. These can be grilled or served cold; enjoy open-faced or with a second piece of bread on top.

cheddar and apple sandwich
Cheddar and apple sandwich with red onion confit

Side Dish
Roasted Local Sweet Dumpling Squash and Fennel with Rosemary

You can use any kind of squash (or try it with “cheese” pumpkin) in this recipe…sweet dumpling squashes are pretty small, so adjust the amount if using a larger squash/pumpkin.

Ingredients:

*2 sweet dumpling squash, seeded and chopped (I used organic squash so didn’t peel mine, but you can peel yours if you like)
*2 bulbs fennel, trimmed, and chopped
*a small handful of fresh rosemary leaves
*coarse sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper
*extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Arrange squash and fennel on foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle liberally with olive oil.

3. Cook for about 25 minutes, under vegetables are very tender and starting to brown. Allow to cool. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with additional salt, if desired. Serve warm or chilled.

roasted squash with fennel

To Drink
Spiced Local Pear Cider

Feel free to use apple cider instead, if you like.

spiced pear cider

Ingredients:

*1/2 gallon pear cider
*1 thumb sized piece peeled fresh ginger or several pieces of crystallized ginger
*4 small cinnamon sticks
*5 cardamom pods
*5 star anise

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients in a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

2. Cook for 1-4 hours, depending on how much time you have (it will be spicier the longer it simmers). Pour through a strainer and discard the spices. Store in a thermos to keep warm, or enjoy cold.

Dessert
Maple Pumpkin Seed Toffee

Make sure you have a candy thermometer on hand before going ahead with this recipe; adapted from spiced pumpkin seed brittle over at food52.

Ingredients:

*1/2 cup (1 stick) organic butter
*3/4 organic brown sugar
*3/4 cup pure maple syrup
*1 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon cardamom
*1/4 teaspoon allspice
*1/4 teaspoon coriander

Directions:

1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add brown sugar and maple syrup and bring to a boil.

2. Clip a candy thermometer to side of your pot. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 290 degrees F., about 15 minutes. Watch carefully after 280 degrees F. to prevent burning your toffee.

3. When it reaches 290 degrees F., take the mixture off the stove. Taking care because it is very hot, add the spices and the pumpkin seeds. Stir to mix well.

4. Using a wooden spoon, spread the mixture out onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicon mat. Sprinkle with sea salt.

5. Let mixture cool completely, then break into pieces.

toffee

Since there was more than enough room in the cooler for everything, and since my daughter isn’t a huge fan of sandwiches, I made her some deviled eggs that we brought along, as well.

deviled egg

When everything was packed up…

…we headed over to our destination: we’re very lucky to have such a lovely picnic spot with spectacular views less than five minutes from my house.

As you can see, “lumpy” grass and bright sun don’t make for great food photography.

But the food was great…

…and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon together.

There was lots of snuggling…

…some red light, green light, 123!

Time to just be…

…and have fun.

Like last week’s pizza extravaganza, which gave me the opportunity to spend some great hours with my dad, this week’s picnic was an extremely enjoyable post to put together. I’d love to keep advancing in this contest so be sure to cast your vote this week: voting for this round will be open Monday-Thursday.