Real Food Picnicking

Today is National Picnic Day! It’s probably no coincidence that National Picnic Day is in April. Spring picnics timed right practically guarantee the warmth of the sun on your face, a soft breeze stirring your hair, the rustling of leaves in the trees, and the fresh smell of new blossoms and cut grass. Mother Nature is rejuvenating herself and it’s hard not to notice and feel inspired!

There is nothing like eating natural (real) food in nature–that’s al fresco dining at its best! My family loved the cultural norms of eating fresh foods “in the fresh (air)” while we lived in Italy, but this time of year always takes me back to Japan. Cherry blossom season in Japan elevated picnicking to an artform–the sake is freeflowing, the delicacies are intricate, and both are to be enjoyed with friends under a canopy of beautiful sakura blooms celebrating the start of spring.

But you don’t have to leave the country to enjoy a spring picnic. Even in your own backyard, your real food picnic can be relaxing and provide nourishment well beyond the food. Because being outside just makes you feel better, doesn’t it? Why is that?! I think it’s partly because being outside makes you feel small in a big world; seasons come and go and weather changes daily and we are not in control. Yet, the fact that many aspects of nature function in an orderly way, without our input, is predictable, and therefore, comforting! Plus there are all those pretty views.

So, a picnic is the marriage of two of my favorite things: being outside and eating real food! But it can be stressful to feel pressured to make fancy foods and to literally haul a bunch of stuff outside to enjoy the meal. It doesn’t have to be stressful, if you keep things simple.

Three Tricks to A Stress-free Picnic

  1. Use real foods you have on hand or items you usually make.
  2. Finger foods are easiest for everyone (and may even eliminate the need for plates and utensils–hey, every day is Earth Day)!
  3. Sometimes you just need to find a different way to transport (i.e., mason jars or skewers) the same easy, real foods you usually enjoy!

Here are some of my favorites:

Real Food Picnic Ideas

Happy picnicking! Grab a blanket and get ready to embrace some serenity today, even if it’s in your backyard or on the floor of your living room (kids love that!)

From Our Kitchen: Chicken Parmesan

chicken parmesan

Thanks to my day of rest on Mother’s day, I’m starting the week off way behind on my meal planning. Anyone else have that problem? A day of rest means double time the rest of the week. Whether it’s meal planning, work, laundry, errands…I’m sure I’m not the only one. Oh well, the break was nice while it lasted!

But who am I kidding??? I often let Monday slide by before I get my act together. Especially if it’s yet another rainy dreary day. Then I rally as only a good procrastinator can. Yet, despite the sophisticated flavors I try to serve up daily, even on weekdays, my meal planning is hardly elaborate or time consuming. You might be surprised to learn you don’t even need an app for it! But make no mistake, I believe planning ahead–any way you feel comfortable–is the key to serving easy, delicious real food. And your method of planning doesn’t have to take too much of your time, if you have a variety of go-to meal options up your sleeve. (Note the new, ever-expanding recipe index tab at the top of the blog!)

So, for me, meal planning is low-tech and old school. (I may know what you’re thinking. Just stop–I do at least keep all my recipes in Evernote, which I highly recommend. It comes in handy to check a recipe for ingredients while grocery shopping, particularly if you’re winging it, which I don’t recommend…) In fact, my meal planning generally consists of a dry-erase board on the fridge with usually no more than four meals planned at a time and scrawled in a hurry. Why four? I try to plan for slow cooker meals or leftovers at least twice a week, on our busiest weeknights. And I leave one meal open for one of these options: letting my mood decide, eating out, or–my personal favorite–letting B cook when time allows and the mood strikes.

However, tonight we have gymnastics, B works late as usual, and I didn’t plan on a slow cooker meal or leftovers…so whatever we are going to have has got to be easy! Naturally, I thought of this simply delicious baked chicken parmesan. I hope it can come to your rescue, too.

Chicken Parmesan

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 chicken breasts
  • about 1 cup of blanched almond flour
  • olive oil, spray
  • 1 jar of Rao’s marinara sauce (this is amazing sauce, from Italy, with an all natural short ingredient list, but you could use another favorite of your own that doesn’t contain sugar)
  • about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, freshly grated

 

Directions

  1. Slice each chicken breast in half lengthwise, to form two thinner breast pieces. (You can pound it with a meat tenderizer, but I skip this for simplicity.) Or you can buy your chicken already sliced thin.
  2. Dredge each chicken breast in almond flour. Place in a baking pan. Spray lightly with olive oil (I use a Misto spray bottle) or use a pastry brush and dab olive oil onto chicken breasts.
  3. Top with about 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce. Bake for about 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese (the real, aged, good stuff from Italy). Bake 10 minutes more or until chicken is done. We like to
  5.  


Serve with a roasted green vegetable like broccoli and a simple side salad.