Mother Earth News Blogs >

Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

How to Perfectly Roast Vegetables


Roasting vegetables is easy, they say. I have always heard that but never experienced it. Anyone can throw a dish of vegetables in the oven, but I found it difficult to achieve that crispy coated browning. The caramelized sweetness of broccoli, zucchini, onions. That perfect browned skin-like coating around every cube of potato.

I gave up on roasting vegetables long ago. My roasted vegetables were always just overcooked and oily. Or the opposite: dried out beets. I am looking for that crisp outer shell with a soft fully-cooked inside. The intensified flavor you get from concentrating sugars, drawing out a sweetness you don’t expect from broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, and onions.

Last week I gave roasting vegetables another try. I tossed them with olive oil, careful not to use too much, and baked for 40 minutes at 410 degrees Fahrenheit. I took them to a potluck with good friends. My dish was popular: zucchini and eggplant sweetly softened; buttery garlic and onions; sweet peppers, soft potatoes. But no crispy edges. No roasted browning here, for the most part; flavorful and sweet, but soft.

Friends enjoyed them. Did I mention they were good friends? Dear, very tolerant, friends? Nobody complained, everyone was supportive and ate all their vegetables. When asked how I made them, I mentioned baking at 410 degrees. Andrea tilted her head at me. 410? She looked at me sideways. Who cooks anything at 410? “I never go for 410 for anything.” She seemed surprised at my choice of heat index.

It got me thinking. Why do I roast at 410? Is it my magic number? Or is it like wearing last year’s pant length? A shirt in an off shade of pink? Next time I tried 450 degrees. It worked! 450 is great! 450 achieves the crisp edges. The perfect potatoes. The browning I seek. Roasted perfection is found at 450. Thank you, Andrea!

Now I am roasting all the time. Most of what we eat is what we grow on our farm here in Maryland. Roasting can change with the seasons. Right now in late summer, we have potatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, red peppers. Later I won’t have zucchini or eggplant but I will add fall butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

I see all the delicious uses for roasted vegetables: pasta toppings with sauce or pesto, over rice, in eggs, on sandwiches, as pizza toppings, in soup. Leftover roasted potatoes make the best hash browns. My hash browns were always too oily and soft as well; now using leftover roasted potatoes, my hash browns are so much better.

Roasted Vegetables

Cut vegetables into approximately equal sized pieces, so they cook evenly. If you want to get fancy, put zucchini and peppers in a separate pan and roast for just 20 minutes.

Toss with olive oil, to coat. Not too much!

Sprinkle with spices like oregano and rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees. For 40 minutes. Scrape and mix with spatula about mid-way through.

Honestly, you should hesitate to follow my recipe on roasting vegetables. I just explained all the trouble I’ve had with roasting. We’d probably both do well to check some other recipes. I’m still playing with this. Roasted vegetables are supposed to be cooked separately so they can be pulled out at different times. I found a chart for roasting times of different vegetables. Potatoes take longer than zucchini. Still I haven’t done this. They all stay in with the potatoes for 40 minutes, in it until the end, like a good team. Having said that, I bet the red peppers would benefit from half the roasting time. Will I be lazy and cook everything together, or will I achieve roasting multi-task prowess, pulling out separate trays at perfect midpoints? We shall see. And get this: the recipe I looked at recommends roasting at 400-425 degrees…and 410 is right in the middle of it, in full roasting fashion.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Cooking with Kids

lavender lemonade drink

Lavender lemonade is a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

It seems the younger children are, the more they want to help in the kitchen. Instead of giving them a play kitchen or a few old pots to bang on, take advantage of their enthusiasm and let them help with simple, fun food-related tasks. It may mean more time and work for you in the short term, but that effort will pay off big time and they grow into little chefs who can prepare entire meals on their own.

Here are some easy-to-make, fun tips for dishes even the youngest children can help with. Who knows? Your kids may turn into the next Emma and Ty, two young teens with their own gardening and cooking You Tube channel, From Dirt to Dishes: Kids Grow and Cook.

No Cooking Required

One of my childhood favorites was a rabbit-faced pear ‘salad.’ Good and good for you. It’s easy. Lay a lettuce leaf on a saucer. Top with half a pear, curved side up. The small end will be the face. Press three raisins into the each pair half for eyes and nose to make eyes. Ears can be made from slivers of carrot, celery, or almonds; a few shreds of cheese or pretzel sticks make excellent whiskers.

Every bunny needs a tail. On the opposite end of the pear half, place a dollop of cottage cheese, whipped cream, or a marshmallow—whatever your child is likely to eat, and voilà, your pear salad is complete and sure to delight the young ones. To add a whimsical and nutritious element, tempt the rabbit with a couple of carrot strips an inch or so in front of its face.

Go International

Individual make-your-own pizzas are bound to be a hit. The simplest foundation is a purchased flour tortilla for each child. Or you can make biscuit dough and let the children flatten out mounds onto a baking sheet with the palms of their clean hands. Spread a tablespoon or two of equal parts tomato paste and sauce mixed with your favorite Italian herbs on each pizza. Let the children sprinkle shredded cheese atop the sauce and then choose and scatter their choice of toppings from a variety that you provide.

You can use the same idea with tacos or burritos. Just provide a choice of fillings and toppings and let the kids make their own.

Or you can make simple cheese quesadillas

Snack Time

There’s nothing quite like a cool glass of lemonade after a hot day of outdoor activities. Engage the children in the making. They’ll enjoy squeezing lemons onto an old-fashioned citrus juicer (though you may have to add a helping hand to extract all the juice). Here’s an easy recipe. To spice things up a bit, consider adding mint leaves or lavender if your grandchildren have an adventurous food streak.

apple pnut butter mouth

It may be a little messy, but this cute snack was 100% put together with kid hands. 

You need a snack to go along with that lemonade, don’t you? Dress up an apple for a (mostly) healthy snack. It’s so easy to make and the kids are bound to love it. Start with an unpeeled, cored red apple. Cut the apple lengthwise into slices. Give them a quick dip in lemon juice to prevent browning, then pat mostly dry with a clean kitchen towel. Slather a layer of peanut butter on one side of each apple slice. Let the kids place miniature marshmallows side by side atop half the peanut-butter covered slices. Top with another slice (peanut-butter side down) and there you have it. Who wouldn’t be happy eating a smile?

Red, White, and Blue for Dessert

A patriotic cake is a perfect summertime dessert. You can even take it to your nearest July 4th fireworks display. Bake single-layer white cake in a 9 x 13 baking pan. When it’s cooled, frost with white icing.

Now comes the fun part. Let the kids help decorate with blueberries (in the ‘star’ portion of the cake) and alternate either strawberry slices or whole raspberries with the white icing for the stripes. Simple and striking. Here’s one of many recipes you can find online.

Special Touches

Consider purchasing an age-appropriate cookbook. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you can find one that’s suitable. Here’s just one set of selections

Why not do it up right and present your kitchen helper with a simple apron. Perhaps you could work together to cut one out and sew it up before you start your kitchen adventures. A child-sized chef’s hat will top things off nicely and put your little ones in the mood for cooking up a storm. You can purchase paper hats on line or make your own.

Bon Appétit!

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Food Security Preparation for Hurricane Season

workshop destroyed by hurricanes 

Can you believe it’s “that time year” already? It’s time to make sure you have enough food and water on hand because we’re fast approaching the height of the hurricane season.

And when is that? It’s the last two weeks in August, and the first two weeks in September.

I know it’s comforting to have the metal shutters and the plywood on hand (that’s if the plywood hasn’t warped too badly) - but what’s even more comforting is knowing you do have enough food and water on hand to get you through a week - just in case.

Keep an Eye on NHC

I’m sure the website National Hurricane Center (NHC) gets inundated with page views, but it’s part of my daily routine, until November. Having experienced three hurricanes in one year.

While the image makes me cringe remembering all the weeks of hard labor cleaning up the crumpled workshop, it also brought home the power of Mother Nature. When you’re told to leave - please leave. It’s just NOT worth sacrificing your life to save a structure.

Great sources of weather are NHC as stated above, and here is their link NHC - NOAA

Also, The Weather Channel is good (I prefer watching it on TV rather than visiting their overly-busy website). Gotta love Jim Cantore and the team.

sad man eating cookie

Folks Run Out of Food in Three Days

Did you know that most households run out of food in THREE days after a national disaster strikes? That’s all you have - NINE meals! Make the odds more in your favor by dehydrating your garden’s bounty.

six simple steps ebook

All it Takes are Six Simple Steps!

Learn more about the six steps here and pick up a free copy of our eBook! It’ll show you the necessary steps to take to make sure you know how to dehydrate food safely for long-term storage. Until next time: Take the necessary steps to be prepared. And may this hurricane season be kinder to us all than it has been in the past.

Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating since December 2010 as a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too - for long-term food storage. Keep your pantry full — whatever the reason or season! Read all of Susan's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Blackberry Chèvre Cheesecake

Blackberry Chevre Cheesecake

Summer is berry season and our area of Northern California is covered in wild blackberries, some people even consider them invasive. They might be invasive but they are so juicy and delicious! It wouldn’t be summer unless your hands are stained purple at some point from picking bucket loads.

With a large harvest from a neighbors vacant 40 acres and their huge wild blackberry bushes, and some of my homemade chèvre {goat cheese}...this combo made for one spectacular cheesecake! Mildly sweet from the berries with a hint of tang from the cheese, and of course that classic creamy texture. This recipe was adapted from Driscoll’s berries to better fit our palate.

Fresh wild blackberries

Blackberry Chèvre Cheesecake


  • 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs {1 standard size box of graham crackers}
  • 9 tbsp of salted butter, melted

Filling + Topping

1 cup of blackberries, extra to garnish

1 cup + 1 tsp sugar

8 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

16 ounces of plain chèvre {any grocery store should carry this}, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

3 large eggs



 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees {F}, have your 9” spring-form pan ready.

Pulse gram crackers in a food processor until a semi-fine crumb forms. Once crumb has formed, drizzle melted butter while pulsing to mix and evenly distribute.

Press crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the spring-form pan.

Bake crust about 13-15 minutes, or until firm.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees {F} and cool crust completely while making your filling.

Filling + Topping


1. Purée 1 cup of blackberries in a blender or food processor. Strain and discard seeds.

2. Stir in 2 tbsp of sugar, set aside.

3. Mix cream cheese and chèvre with an electric mixer until combined and completely smooth.

4. Mix in remaining sugar.

5. Add vanilla and mix again.

6. Add eggs, one at a time on low speed.

7. Mix in sour cream.

8. Pour batter into cooled crust.

9. Drizzle blackberry purée evenly over the top of the batter then using a toothpick, swirl the purée into any pattern you like throughout the batter.

10. Bake 50-60 minutes until edges are just set and center is slightly jiggly.

11. Turn oven off, prop door open and allow cheesecake to cool inside oven for 1 hour.

12. Chill cheesecake at least 4-6 hours in the fridge, or overnight.

13. Garnish with whole blackberries and a sprig of mint for some green. And then...devour!

Other great ways to use up a summer berry harvest: low sugar/no pectin jam; swirl berry purée into homemade ice cream; blackberry curd; blackberry-sage infused water; or freeze berry pies to pull out for an easy dessert any time of the year.

Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then she has run California based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs, pasture based poultry and sells goats milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Fish House Punch Peach Jam: An Adult Jam Recipe


Back in the beginning days of our country, there was a gentleman’s club in Philadelphia where the men would imbibe Fish House Punch. Supposedly, they also hung out where no women could see, smoked cigars, and sometimes even went fishing. After a glass or two of their punch, they most likely were too drunk to do anything beyond napping. Punch recipe below. 

I took the punch recipe, which does contain peach brandy, and make it into a yummy jam. Although the alcohol is evaporated when stirred into boiling jam, the rum makes it an adult jam. Use only dark rum in this for assertive rum flavor — I use Myers.

Pair this jam with cheese for a dessert or scones for brunch. Add it to a cheese puff pastry tartlet for an hors d’ouvre. My daughter suggests brushing pork chops or chicken.

Ripe peaches are too soft to hold up cooking to 220 degrees to jel and I want texture in my jam, so I use a commercial pectin in this jam.

Buy 3 or more pounds of the best peaches* you can find, freestone for sure. Let the peaches ripen a day or two until firm and fragrant for optimum flavor. If you have more than needed for the jam, make a small crumble for dessert or just snack. Ripe peaches are fleeting.

Fish House Peach Jam Recipe

Makes 7 half-pint jars, plus a little


• 4 ½  cups prepared peaches*
• juice of 1 lemon
• ½ tsp unsalted butter
• 5 ½ cups cane sugar
• 1 package SureJel
• ¼ cup dark rum, preferably Myers


1. Get out your jars, wash and check any used ones for a chip. Get out the equipment you’ll need for jam making. Jam pot, funnel, ladle, knives, measuring cups and bowls at the ready.

2. Measure out the sugar and the rum now as you won’t have time to measure when it’s needed. Open the box of SureJel and place the packet next to the stove. Have a timer ready that is accurate for just one minute, counting down the seconds. 1 minute on your microwave will work as a timer.

3. First, peel. Bring a 3-quart saucepot of water to a boil. With a sharp knife, cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each peach, then dip each peach in the boiling water, count to 15 and remove to a bowl. When all the peaches are done, sit with a knife, a small “trash” bowl and a large bowl for cut fruit.

4. Set up your water bath with a rack in the bottom and bring to a boil. Dip all your jars, lids, the ladle and funnel in the boiling water to sterilize them. Set the jars on a clean towel or paper towels on the counter next to the stove.

5. Slip the skins from the peaches. If they were properly ripe the skin will just slide off. Cut the peaches into dice. I make little wedges about 1/8-inch by ¼-inch by the depth of the slice. The way I do this is to vertically slice about a quarter way around the peach then slice across horizontally. Keep the peach on the pit to help you hold it. Peeled peaches are slippery, so be careful! Measure 4 ½ cups of diced peaches. You can add just a bit of lemonade (1/4 cup) if the peaches seem too dry to cook without scorching.

6. Following the SureJel directions, put the peaches into your preserving pot, add the pectin, stir well and start the heat on medium low until the peaches juice out some then turn up the heat. Bring up to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. A full boil means that the mixture bubbles again immediately when you stir. At the full boil, dump in the sugar and stir, stir quickly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring back to a high boil that won’t stir down and boil for exactly one minute. Shut off the gas burner or pull the pot off an electric burner. Immediately stir in the rum, which should sizzle a bit. Keep stirring for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit.

7. Quickly, ladle the jam into the jars, filling up to ¼ inch. Wipe the rims of any spills, and apply the 2 piece rims. Put the filled jars into the boiling water bath and process at a boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars, do NOT retighten the lids, and listen for the ping as the jars seal.

If any jar does not seal, that’s the jar you put in the fridge and use first. Or, you must take off the lid, wipe the rim, replace with a new lid and re-process. Store your jam in a cool, dark place.

* Note: In early fall, you could decide to use nectarines like ‘Big Jim’ and skip the peeling.

Recipe for Actual Fish House Punch

The original recipe served at a Gentleman’s club in Philadelphia is basically just lemonade and tea with a very big kick of rum, cognac, and peach brandy, about half booze. Very potent, drunk-making stuff.


• 1 cup sugar
• 4 large lemons, juice and peels
• 4 cups cold brewed tea
• 4 cups gold rum
• 2 cups cognac
• ½ cup peach brandy
• a big block of ice frozen hard.   So as not to dilute the punch.  


1. Peel the lemons with a potato peeler. Reserve the lemons. Add the strips to the cup of sugar in a jar and let rest overnight. Then juice the lemons into the punch bowl, add the sugar, stir, and then the rest of the ingredients. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.  

2. Add the ice and garnish with the strips of lemon peel.

Just a thought: If you have a surplus of good jam, consider dropping it off at your local fire station.  The firefighters are at the station in 24 hour shifts and prepare their meals there if they’re not fighting fires.

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Feeding Ourselves and Others Sustainably

Food from the garden

Whether you have a large and sprawling garden or a small selection of potted vegetables on your porch, you may end up with extra produce to share. Even if you make money selling your extra veggies, please consider sharing quality food with your local food bank.

The photo below shows a classic assortment from one western-central Ohio pantry. This particular grouping was for a family of four (one adult and three teens) for a one-month period. Think about that. Look at the photo closely and consider how far you could make this food stretch.

I want to be clear here that I am not being critical of food banks. They are essential programs that have definite monetary constraints. It’s important that we give them more so that they can give out more.

Food pantry assortment

Granted, most families might have access to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food stamps for additional sustenance—though for how long with the current administration cutting right and left we can’t tell. The lucky ones might have access to transportation and may be able to access a second food pantry or other charitable source. However, there are a growing number of families finding themselves food insecure.

Many communities have instituted free lunches once a week or more for children in need but what about the adults? It’s my opinion that there is much more that we could collectively do. I personally began doing more this past winter when I started baking extra sourdough boules for our local food pantry. I hate throwing anything away (including sourdough starter), so I decided to check with our coordinator to see if they would accept home-baked bread. She was thrilled with the offer.

At the same time I was baking bread, I was also planning my garden. I decided that though I’d been sharing my pole bean overflow in the past with neighbors, I could easily plant extra for sharing with the pantry. So far, I’ve delivered 7 bags this season along with my usual array of sourdough. I’ve also shared some of this year’s crop of tomatoes—had I been enjoying the bounty of last year’s tomato crop this season, I would also be taking bowls full. Maybe next year.

You might want to stick with normal vegetables unless you are willing to stay and explain what your donation is and how to cook it. I’ve taken ground hot peppers—grown and ground by me—that didn’t go until I told recipients that it was just like the paprika or chili pepper they buy in a grocery store but fresher and organically grown. I took in some freshly ground blue corn flour that sat there for three weeks. I brought it back home and made it into corn bread then it flew out the door. I took a large Rampicante zucchini that had cured—it sat there for weeks. Once I explained that it was like a butternut squash it became more acceptable.

Food pantry donation

Vital things to keep in mind:

Check your local rules regarding donations
Give your highest quality
Consider shelf life
If you don’t spray your crops, don’t give possibly wormy fruits and veggies
Omit items that need immediate refrigeration unless the pantry is set up for such things
Give what you would like to receive

Most pantries are first-come, first-served for the fresh food or extras so plan accordingly. I bake two large boules of sourdough bread and vary the flavor. I’ve taken plain, cranberry pecan, raisin walnut, garlic scape, and pesto loaves to share. At first I was baking mini boules but was happier with halving the larger loaves. Thankfully, our local coordinator is fine with what I bring as are the recipients. Larger locales might be more finicky. If I had to, I’d switch to using loaf pans in order to fit guidelines.

I solicited a donation of plastic vegetable bags from our local Kroger store to pack my bread and veggies in. I would have been thrilled with the end rolls that I asked for but the manager went one better and told me to come back the following week so I could pick up a whole roll! You never know until you ask.

Even if you don’t currently yield enough from your garden, consider adding an extra dozen canned organic fruit or veggies for donation. You may live in an area where the food pantries supply plenty of quality food—I’ve heard that the west coast regularly gives organic or healthy alternatives including gluten free or vegetarian choices. If so, consider donating instead to a homeless or domestic abuse shelter or give the gift of time by volunteering.

I urge each of you to consider what you might do to help. You never know who might be positively affected by your generosity.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Plan a Memorable Picnic

pretty picnic blanket

(Image courtesy of knit 1 weave 1 under the Creative Commons Attribution license)

Picnics! One of summer’s great pleasures, though a good planner can put a picnic together any time of year. You can build family memories with picnics, too. One of my mother’s favorite childhood memories is of family picnics, even though the forays were always on the homeplace.

When I plan a picnic for an all-day outing, it seems the only food ideas I have are pimiento cheese, egg salad, or peanut butter. But I’m ready for a little more culinary picnic excitement, so I’ve done some research and found lots of fun ideas for easy picnics, whether summer or winter, family or romantic twosomes, basic or gourmet.

You probably have plenty of recipes that would translate into great picnic food, but if you're like me and your mind goes blank and the mention of picnics, these picnic ideas might get your creative juices flowing.

Make Your Picnic Special

If your picnic is nothing more than a roadside stop on the way to somewhere else, then you will likely pull off whenever your stomach tells you to. But if the picnic is your destination, look for someplace scenic, lush, and where shade is an option. If children are in the picture, try to find someplace with space to safely run off excess energy. Take items for pre- or post-picnic activities: a kite, croquet set, a good book, board game.

Pack for the Occasion

Insulated, soft-sided, easy-to-carry totes may not have the romantic look of wicker baskets, but they’ll make picnic life easier. One with straps or dividers to keep things secure is even better. Two smaller containers are better than one heavy one: food in one; non-food items in the other. If your picnic’s on the ground, pack a padded surface to sit on, preferably water-proof on one side. Consider taking something flat to set your food on. A tray or a small folding stool or table. How about a vintage hard-sided suitcase? It can do double duty by holding some of your supplies, too.

A cutting board and sharp kitchen knife will come in handy for bread, cheeses, and fruit. And be sure to pack a bag for any waste you may produce.

Instead of traditional paper and plastic disposables, purchase a set of lightweight, non-breakable plates, cups, and utensils just for picnics. Store them together to make preparation for every picnic a breeze.

Ditch the Soggy Sandwich

Who said picnics have to be all about sandwiches? Consider packing make-your-own ingredients for a hearty salad entrée. Tuck in a flavorful dressing or two. Tabouli is a colorful sandwich alternative. So is a cheesy corn salad. (Hint: Toss in cherry tomatoes and diced avocado. For simpler preparation, boil the corn. It’s still delicious.)

With just a little advance effort, you can whip up this veggie-packed quinoa salad

Prep ingredients for this Asian wrap with peanut sauce at home and prepare wraps on site.

For a truly simple sandwich alternative, pour drizzles of balsamic dressing and olive oil onto slices of ciabatta bread. Top with fresh basil leaves and slices of tomato and mozzarella. If you still prefer old-fashioned sandwich picnics, try using bread that can stand up to travel—say, biscuits or artisan rolls.

Make It Romantic

It’s a cinch. Any picnic will be enhanced by cloth napkins, a bottle of wine (remember the corkscrew) or sparkling water with a citrus garnish, and a jar of freshly-picked wildflowers.

Crackers and a jar of tapinade or chutney followed by a cheese selection (include a cheeseboard and knife) and a fresh loaf of crusty bread. How about hasselback tomato caprese? End the meal with fresh fruit. Make it fancy with chocolate-covered strawberries or sugared grapes. Simple yet elegant.

Picnic-Friendly Drinks and Desserts

Pack some lavender lemonade. (If you’re using the dried herb, use 2-3 Tbsp culinary lavender flowers.) Sorry, but if you want your lemonade to look lavender, you’ll need to add some food coloring. A drop each of blue and red should do it. Go easy—it doesn’t take much.

lavender lemonade drink

Maybe you’d prefer to dress up your iced tea with raspberries

Unless you’re watermelon-averse, this traditional picnic dessert never gets old. Homemade cookies make a simple, delicious picnic dessert, too.

For a different take, try dessert in a jar—layer fruit, small squares of your favorite cake, and some vanilla yogurt in a jelly-sized mason jar. Jars can also hold a healthy banana split parfait with layers of strawberries, bananas, nuts of your choice, and vanilla or honey yogurt. When it’s time to eat, drizzle a little homemade or purchased chocolate sauce on top for a decadent treat.

Winter Picnic?

Why not! Just dress for the occasion.

 winter squash chili

Pack something as simple as mac and cheese, lentil or cheesy-potato soup, or chili in insulated thermoses. Serve with cornbread. Add a couple more thermoses for a hot drink of your choice.

If you don’t want a full-fledged winter picnic, you can still fill thermos bottles with hot cocoa and add a tasty muffin or homemade granola bars. The kids are sure to love such a treat after a romp in the snow.

A Word About Safety

Mayonnaise gets a bad rap when it comes to potlucks and picnics. It’s low-acid foods that can cause a problem, and mayo, especially store-bought, is acidic. North Carolina State University has some tips on ensuring that homemade mayonnaise and other foods pass the picnic safety test. Keeping picnic food properly chilled is also key to food safety.

Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me