Last evening, on our way to prayer meeting at church, my husband and I revived a long-ago custom we used to have : a picnic by the river on Wednesday night. We didn’t do this every week back then, but as often as possible. It was a fun way to squeeze some family time into our busy week. This summer, my husband has been suggesting that we try and do this again, just the two of us now. It just hadn’t worked out, until last night. It worked out well -- so well, in fact, that we are going to try and do this any Wednesday that it isn’t raining.
I didn’t have a lot of time yesterday to pull together a picnic, but I used one of my planned menus and it worked out just fine. We just had a simple main-dish salad and accompanied it with homemade bread (still warm!). The salad recipe I used was easy to put together at the last minute, but you could use a make-ahead salad (like a main-dish pasta salad, for example) and be even more prepared. I had to be out of the house almost all afternoon, so I put ingredients in my bread machine on the dough setting, and made it into loaves, did the final rising and baking after I got home. (I was experimenting with a recipe and was also away longer than I planned to be, so the dough sort of oozed out of the pan and into the bread machine a bit, but that’s another story. It was easily cleaned up, and the bread came out GREAT.)
I put the salad in a Texas ware bowl (covered with plastic wrap) and brought along a slotted spoon. I also brought the loaf of bread (in an open plastic bag so it wouldn’t steam -- a paper bag would have been even better); a cutting board and bread knife; butter in a tiny plastic container; plates, napkins, silverware, and bottled water. (Since we were going directly to church following our picnic, we also brought along toothbrushes and toothpaste in a ziplock bag.) And that was it.
We are blessed to have a beautiful picnic spot at a state rest area that’s right along our route to church, so we stopped there and found a picnic table right on the riverbank. What a treat... to just sit there and enjoy the beautiful tranquility of God’s creation as we ate supper. What a wonderful stress reliever at the end of a busy day, in the middle of a busy week!
For those who would like my recipes, here they are. The salad is one that I clipped from a newspaper years ago and had never tried. It’s definitely a keeper. It came from a feature called “Express Lane Cooking” by Bonnie Tandy Leblang that used to run in our daily newspaper. I made a few changes, but Bonnie still gets the credit for a great recipe.
SALADE HACHEE (which I think translates to "Chopped Salad" -- it may have a French name, but this salad has a definite Greek accent)
4 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano (or use 2 Tblsp. fresh, chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 small head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
Cooked chicken breasts (approx. 3/4 of a pound), cubed
Into a large bowl, squeeze all of the juice from the lemon. (Remove any seeds.) Stir in olive oil and seasonings. Add remaining ingredients; toss to combine. Serve.
Yield: 4 servings.
Now for the bread. This recipe comes from another old cookbook of mine called THE HUNGRY HIKER’S BOOK OF GOOD COOKING, by Gretchen McHugh. This book was published by Alfred A, Knopf in 1982. Although we are campers, we are not backpackers, but I have found many wonderful ideas for camping meals in this book. One of the author’s good ideas is to make homemade bread to take on a camping trip -- and she formulated some great recipes that hold up well even in a backpack. The one I made yesterday was one of her recipes I’d never tried before -- I’ve made her oatmeal, white, and whole wheat recipes many times, but not this one. As I mentioned, I made the dough for this in the bread machine, and it would have worked perfectly had I been home to remove it from the machine at the proper time. I’ll be doing this again. (But I’ll give the directions for making it the traditional way.) This bread is awesome!
SEVEN-GRAIN CEREAL BREAD
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. seven-grain cereal (I used the Harvest Grains blend from King Arthur)
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (or 1 envelope; I use bulk yeast)
1/2 c. warm water
1/3 c. honey (I cut this down from the original 1/2 c.)
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tsp. salt
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Pour the boiling water over the cereal in a large bowl. Let cool to lukewarm.
** Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the yeast and all ingredients except the all-purpose flour to the cooled cereal and mix well. Work in the all-purpose flour and knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Put the dough into a greased bowl, turning to coat all its surfaces. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until double in volume. **[Of course, if you are using a bread machine, you can eliminate all of the steps between ** and ** and just put all of the ingredients in the machine after cooling the cereal mixture.]
Punch the dough down, shape it into 2 loaves, and set these in 2 greased 8-inch loaf pans to rise until nearly double. Bake at 375ºF. for 35 to 40 minutes until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove the bread from the pans and cool on wire racks.
Yield: 2 loaves
By the way, the microwave makes a wonderful place for dough -- in the bowl, and later, in the pans -- to rise. Just bring a cup of water to boiling in the microwave, then place your dough in there along with the steaming cup. Your dough will rise beautifully!
Hope you all enjoy these recipes and that some of you will give the picnic-on-the-way-to-church idea a try!
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