Our short but oh-so-sweet summer has arrived at last! Dinners are no longer in the dark. We can sit in the grass and not sink into mud! Layers of clothing have been shed and we are now free to pack up ourselves, maybe our kids and dogs, a basket of goodies, and joyfully head up the mountain, to the beach or the park, or into our lush green woods!
Picnic season has come once again–that glorious time of year when we can actually eat outside! The sun is shining and we are anxious to get out the door! We check the pantry and the fridge, but find nothing we can throw together quickly–we are not prepared for a Quick Picnic!
Here’s how to remedy that. A little trip to the Co-op can fill that picnic basket with delightful delicacies to please the palate and the tummy. Want some ideas on what might quickly turn an ordinary lunch into a picnic feast?
Picture this! You have arrived at your destination. Some of you hiked there. Others biked or drove your energy-efficient car. Along the way, some snacking has been happening–on Grizzlies (Westside) or Back Roads (Eastside) gluten-free granolas, some cashews, almonds or pistachios (keep the kids busy on car rides), maybe some dried fruits (try mango or apple slices) you picked up in the Bulk department. (Good for you! You remembered that you can buy just the amount you want with no waste and less packaging!)
But that just whetted your appetite. Now you are really hungry! And you are prepared! Let’s see what else you might have brought along with you from your Co-op shelves.
You sit down on a log, throw down a blanket on the grass or a cover on the picnic table, reach into your backpack or basket, and start to unload your culinary feast.
Out comes a colorful display of veggies–ready for easy dipping–baby carrots, mini cukes and sugar snap peas, straight from local farms. You have with you some crackers and chips, even some gluten-free (Jalisco tortilla chips are great with more than salsa!). Maybe a bag of Barbara’s Cheese Puffs for the kids. Can’t do crackers? What about plantain chips from Inka Chips? These work really well for those who can’t do grains. Try them with a little Chop or Olli salami, some sliced cuke and nut-butter spread for a dairy and grain-free delight!
And what for dipping or spreading? Here come Cobb’s vegan cashew cream cheeses! Green Onion, Balsamic and Tomato, and Garlic and Truffle for those veggies or crackers. Or maybe you brought some of Kite Hill or Miyoko’s yummy vegan nut-cheese spreads also in little packable containers. So creamy and tasty! Or for that Middle Eastern flavor, perhaps you picked up some Exquisite and Traditional Hummus, Pesto, or Babaghannouj. Organic paté (look for it at the Eastside), makes a great picnic snack with fresh fruits like berries and apples, and is another spreadable for bread or crackers.
You may even have gotten some Greek Mix olives you found in bulk or some handy packages of kalamata and green olives from Mediterranean Organic to top those crackers.
And then your protein-craving kicks in and out come the cheeses! You might have gone for a few of the hard cheeses from the dairy case like Manchego, Gruyere, Drunken Goat, or a lesser known one like Comte “le saut de doubs”, which is made with summer milk, and goes well with the pears or apples you have packed with you. Then there may be some fresh sheep cheese from Black Sheep Creamery, for your bread or perhaps for the local 8 Arms crackers or Livin’ Spoonful sprouted crackers you have slipped into your stash. The Co-op carries such an amazing assortment of local and imported cheeses, it is hard to decide! Maybe you have selected a package of our own local Steamboat Goat Farm Halloumi or Aged Cheddar. Or could it be you got some Karamage—made in Seattle with goat cheese, peppermint, and garlic—and great for dipping with pretzels, cucumber, or those little baby carrots? Or perhaps some Goat Chevre from Lost Peacock Creamery or pop-into-your mouth Cheese Curds from Beecher’s or Tunawerth?
So reader, are you drooling yet?
While we are on the protein train, let’s see what you found in the meat department. Most of these don’t even require a cooler to bring them along as a safe picnic snack. Organic Prairie Summer Sausage comes in both a log and slices, is mild enough for kids, and works by itself or added to a sandwich. Olli salami pairs deliciously with bread and fruit. Smoked salmon–the northwest snack classic–is good on about everything and travels really well. If a backpack is carrying your picnic fare, you may have found several varieties of dried jerky, along with enough energy bar choices to satisfy even the pickiest eater, at the Eastside store on the “candy wall.” And oh! I see you found the Loki Salmon Jerky! Thanks for supporting northwest sustainable fisheries on your hike!
How about your quick sandwich makings? Breads from local bakers like 8 Arms or the Blue Heron abound at the Co-op, and sliced meats from Organic Prairie, Diestel, or Applegate. The chunks of Niman Ranch Ham can be sliced for a crowd too. Or all the different tuna options from great companies, including shelf-stable tuna pouches from Wild Planet.
Or if you were looking for something even quicker, you might have tossed some ready-to-eat sandwiches or salads, such as those made in the Co-op Deli, into your yummy collection. The selection varies from day-to-day, but I am sure you found several salad and sandwich options to help your adventure take off. Whatever you got, it was made fresh that day, with only the best ingredients and special diets in mind. Rawk Star raw sandwiches and wraps, made locally with simple ingredients are another good option to explore!
And last, but certainly not least,—I know, I know, for many these came out of your basket or backpack well before your savory treats!—comes dessert!
Fruit from the produce aisle tops the healthy list—some like pears and apples have already been pairing with your cheeses. And then there are those grapes! Everyone agrees grapes go well with lots of different meats and cheeses, and buying organic at the Co-op means you avoid harmful pesticide residues, and did you notice? Sometimes there are even fair trade options. Cherries, if in season, well—we all know it doesn’t get any better than these! And watermelon—what could be better for a summer picnic (OK, not so much for backpacking, huh?)? Hope you remembered to bring a wet towel for the hands!
But wait! Do I see you bringing out even more yummy sweet treats? If they were not already munched before lunch, here come the Chocolate Cups (peanut, sunflower, walnut and pecan) and the Half-Baked Cashew Cream Cheesecakes (all plant-based and grain-less) from the Cobb’s kitchen. Or are those Naimo Bars or German Cacao Cakes from Peace, Love and Raw that I see? Might be some sweet fruity bars made right in the local 8 Arms Bakery kitchen. Can’t tell. I’m in a swoon!
And lest we forget–which is hardly possible–somewhere in that amazing store of Quick Picnic stores is the chocolate! Did you know that Salazon chocolates have several varieties that benefit trails such as the PCT? I see some amazing looking dark chocolate in that backpack, along with some Theo peanut butter cups. And those Honey Mama’s chocolates–I know you know–don’t last long out of refrigeration, but rarely make it past the car ride without being devoured anyway! So for your next exquisite picnic in our beloved Pacific Northwest, I say, “Bon Appetite!”
By Desdra Dawning, Board Member