Picnics are synonymous with glorious sunny days, chilled drinks, yummy food and fun activities in a park or by the lake but don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying outdoor activities and the all-important warming snacks.
Although at first glance winter might not seem like the most ideal time of year to have a picnic, it truly is a wonderful season to get outdoors, burn off some energy and shake the cobwebs from your mind. Sledding, skating, snowshoeing, snowball fights and snowman making contests can be enjoyed by all ages and are great activities to not only burn calories but to bring family and friends together for an afternoon of old-fashioned fun.
Remember to dress in layers, bring along a washable thick blanket or sleeping bag to sit on and keep your refreshments simple to carry and enjoy. Use insulated vacuum bottles to hold hot drinks or soup, crockpots with locked lids, biodegradable dishware and an insulated and waterproof backpack for carrying your items. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese is the perfect meal to snack on for winter days and my picnic friendly versions will have you planning your own outdoor event this coming weekend.
Roasted Tomato Soup
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Notes: This soup can easily be made the day before you plan on serving it. Just keep covered in the refrigerator and gently reheat in a pot over medium heat. Transfer to an insulated vacuum bottle or thermos and when ready to enjoy, pour into biodegradable cups for sipping on.
1 kg plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
8 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
65ml ( ¼ cup) white wine (or water)
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 ¼ teaspoons dried
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 ¼ teaspoons dried
¼ teaspoon (or more) dried crushed red pepper
1.5 Litres (6 cups) chicken stock
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 200C/400°F. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.
Transfer tomatoes and any accumulated juices to a food processor. Using on/off turns, process until smooth (or a consistency you prefer).
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine (or water), stirring to release any flavours from the bottom of the pot. Stir in tomatoes, rosemary, thyme and dried crushed red pepper. Add chicken stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grilled Cheese Sticks
Makes approximately 48 cheese sticks
Preparation Time: 15 minutes + 3 hours freezer time
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Notes: The beauty of these cheesy delights are that you have to freeze them prior to baking, making it a great do-ahead nibble.
1 loaf of whole-wheat sandwich bread, unsliced and crusts trimmed off
1 egg white
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g Old Nippy Cheese, or a strong cheddar, grated
Slice bread horizontally into 3 equal layers. Cut each layer crosswise into ¾ inch strips.
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat egg white with butter and cheese until well blended and smooth.
Spread mixture on all sides of bread strips except bottom of bread. Place on baking sheet, 1 inch apart, and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until firm; at least 3 hours.
Bake frozen sticks in a 325F oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Enjoy with Roasted Tomato Soup.