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a big production

Every year, as the holiday season starts winding down, I gear up for a big production – my little princess’ “royal birthday”! The cupcake birthday was probably the last one I planned for her without her involvement. From then on, she plans her own birthday parties. Growing up, I don’t remember caring for my birthday, but my little “big girl” has it all laid out for every birthday coming up in the next few years!

This year she wished for a Princess Tea Party with her favorite Disney princess – Ariel, the little mermaid. And here’s how mommy and daddy made it happen…

A Big Production-001 (2)

Read on … »

a quick picnic

While spring and summer are still dueling, I decided to take advantage of a sunny Sunday to plan a quick picnic for the family at one of our neighborhood parks. We spent the day sitting in the shade under the tree, running behind little Nia on the lush green grass, watching the kids practice lacrosse, meeting other picnickers, reading a book, taking a nap and eating a simple homemade meal that I whipped up with a just a little bit of planning and not too much effort.

While, most of the time, we just pick up something for our picnic lunch from local joints, this time I created a semi-homemade picnic-friendly menu that was hassle free and easily portable. My formula: 50% ready-made products + 50% creative personal touch = 100% outdoor fun.

 

Cranberry Fizz

(Cranberry Juice with Soda)

Here’s an idea for very healthy thirst-quencher – Cranberry Fizz!  A good friend once made this simple non-alcoholic drink for me and I am hooked!

It’s a half ‘n’ half mixture of cranberry juice and soda or seltzer and is a perfect for sipping in warm weather outdoors. To give it the summer look, I use some lemon slices along with ice cubes. With its light blush color and sweet-tart flavor, Cranberry Fizz is a refreshing satisfaction, glass after glass after glass!

cranberry-fizz

Make as you need

1:1 Cranberry Juice : Soda or Seltzer

lemon slices (about 2 per glass, optional)

ice cubes

Combine cranberry juice and soda in a serving glass. Slide in a couple of lemon slices along with ice cubes and serve.

To take for a picnic, pack the juice and soda bottles in the bag or basket or in the cooler if using already chilled ones. Slice the lemons and pack the slices in a plastic container. and place it in the cooler along with the ice.

* Try Cranberry Juice Blends (with Apple, Strawberry, Pomegranate, Raspberry) for a change.

** Spike it with Vodka, Rum or Limoncello and turn it into a cocktail.

***

Antipasti Pasta Salad

(Pasta salad with Antipasti Vegetables and Cheese)

Antipasti or antipasto is a mixture of vegetables marinated in oil and vinegar with herbs and spices, a vareity of cheeses and/or cured meats. Usually the taste is spicy and tingly on the palate and is served cold or at room temperature.

For my picnic, I just cooked some spiral pasta and tossed it with the leftover artichokes, mushrooms, olives, beans, sweet red and yellow peppers and feta and mozeralla cheeses that I picked up from the antipasti bar at the Montclair Wholefoods Market.

antipasti-bar-in-montclair-wholefoods

With hardly any effort, I had a delicious salad of pasta, vegetables, cheese that needed no dressing!  The juices from the antipasti - oil, vinegar and spices - are just perfect to season the entire salad. Its great to serve for lunch or light supper and is a perfect for taking along on picnics.

veg antipasto pasta salad

Serves 2-4

½ lb (about ½ packet) spiral pasta like Gemelli (or Rotini, Penne )

½ lb store-bought antipasti vegetables and cheeses (I created my own platter from the antipasti bar at Wholefoods)

salt

freshly ground black pepper

flat leaf parsley, chopped, for garnishing

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite), stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to add to the pasta later, if needed. Let the pasta cool down to room temperature.

In a mixing bowl,  add the pasta and the antipasti vegetables and cheeses. Toss well to coat evenly. Add the required quantity of reserved liquid for desired moisture level.

Stir in some freshly chopped parsley and ddjust seasonings with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

To take it for a picnic, transfer it in an plastic container and pack it in the cooler till ready to eat.

*Toss in ham, salami, peppered turkey or smoked chicken if you like!

***

Smoked Chicken Ciabatta Sandwiches

What’s a picnic without sandwiches?! Just stuff in your favorite things between two slices of bread and you’re good to go!

…That’s exactly what I did. My picnic sandwich – slices of smoked chicken, tomato, cucumber along with mixed greens on a ciabatta with a little bit of salt and pepper. I am very particular about my sandwich – it just can’t get soggy! I take care of it by packing my sandwich spread seperately and stacking it up just before we eat it.

smoked chicken ciabatta

Makes 4 sandwiches

1 loaf of ciabatta

12 pre-sliced deli style smoked chicken (I got mine at Wholefoods)

2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced (about 6 sliced per sandwich)

1 long cucumber, sliced (about 6 sliced per sandwich)

mixed greens (or your choice of lettuce)

your favorite sandwich spread or salad dressing (I used a Lemon, Peppercorn and Parmesan dressing as a sandwich spread.)

salt

fresh ground black pepper

Cut the bread loaf horizontally in half. Lay the lettuce, chicken slices, tomatoes and cucumbers over the bottom bread and spoon the spread on the top layer.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

smoked chicken ciabatta

To take for a picnic, pack the sandwich spread in a container and spoon it over the top layer just before eating. Wrap the sandwiches separately in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Chill until ready to serve, or keep at room temperature up to 1 hour.

***

Mini Sandwiches

Have a little one going on the picnic with you?! Here’s my idea for a picnic-friendly food for tots. Just spread your tot’s favorite fruit jam, peanut butter or lay a cheese slice in between bread slices and cut it up into tiny bite size pieces. It’s a perfect finger-food for your toddler!

mini sandwiches

***

Sometime in the afternoon, Mister Softie’s  truck stopped by and we got to have ice cream for dessert!

mister-softie

 

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