A Picnic Epiphany
Guest post by Anita McVey of Picnic Life Foodie
Tis the season for bundling up in coats and hats to go outside and build a snowman, sled down the hill or have a snowball fight. Suggesting a winter picnic might cause even the most amiable of midwesterners to question your sanity. Make that same suggestion to kids and watch their eyes light up! Everyone will be happy to learn a winter picnic can be warm and cozy, right inside your home.
Calling this idea an “epiphany” may be a bit of an exaggeration. If, however, the rejuvenation and relaxation typically associated with an outdoor picnic can be achieved indoors when the weather is frightful, it’s not just an epiphany … it’s a miracle!
Set the Stage
The only prop needed to create an indoor picnic is a blanket. Choose one that is easy to wash (especially if kids are involved) so the inevitable spills cause minimal concern. An old quilt urges people to sit and relax. Seldom used seasonal tablecloths make family feel like the special guests they are.
Place the blanket, quilt or tablecloth near a fireplace or in an unusual room of the house. Turn off the overhead lights and add candles (monitored closely, of course) or a string of lights on or near the blanket.
Choose a Menu
As with any picnic, choose simple foods that are easy to transport and eat. Here are a few suggestions:
- Sliders (like these Ham and Cheese Sandwiches): can be made ahead, kept warm and require no utensils to eat;
- Wraps: easy to customize, packaged individually and secure the meat, cheese and veggies in one tortilla;
- Skewers/Kabobs: meatballs (like these Buffalo Chicken Meatballs), lunch meat, cheese, fruit and even desserts are more fun on a stick!;
- Pizza: fresh from the oven or delivered to your door.
Pack a Basket or Tray
Just as the sight of a blanket on the floor will draw attention, the approach of a picnic basket or tray is sure to pique curiosity. Pack extra napkins (or a roll of paper towels), any required plates/utensils, drinks (individual servings can be poured into Mason jars with lids for easy transport) and a trash bag for easy clean up.
Think of a few questions to encourage conversation and extend the occasion. If the picnic happens around Christmas, ask everyone about their favorite moments or the best things they ate. Ask about goals for the New Year. Find a list of trivia questions or conversation starters online and choose a few that relate to your family/guests. Ask each person to share memories of a favorite picnic or ideas for a future one.
During those cooped up winter days when time outside is limited, engage the imagination and create a summer oasis. Turn up the furnace a little, spread out beach blankets or towels, and tell everyone to put on swimsuits (or shorts and t-shirts). Pick up some fried chicken from the grocery store or a restaurant, add some potato salad and drink lemonade! Start dreaming about an ideal summer vacation (in detail) and finish with some ice cream or a S’more snack mix (honey graham cereal, marshmallows, chocolate chips).
Who doesn’t love to hang out in their pajamas? A breakfast picnic would be a great way to start a day. Some excellent options for food would include: muffins and fruit, breakfast burritos, egg casseroles, and yogurt parfaits. Ask each other questions about dreams (literal and figurative), look up information on constellations, or watch some old cartoons.
Please do not assume a winter picnic is for children. Couples can have a quiet meal together with some adult beverages and charcuterie, fondue or a favorite pizza.
Warm and Cozy Winter Picnic
The picnic in these photos features the comfort food of winter: tomato soup. Poured into individual containers, the soup can be eaten with a spoon or sipped right out of the cup. Breadsticks, cheese rounds and clementines are all easy finger foods, requiring no additional utensils. Some cranberry sparkling water with a few fresh cranberries makes a festive drink. For dessert, leftover frosted sugar cookies were crumbled and layered into plastic cups with pudding, raspberry jam and fresh raspberries. A trifle like this can be made with any leftover cake, brownie, cookie or bar. Whipped cream or vanilla yogurt can be used instead of pudding and some fruit will add texture and freshness.
A New Tradition
This could be the start of a new tradition. Once a year, on January 6th, have a winter picnic … an Epiphany picnic. Celebrate the close of the Christmas season. Pack up some good bread, grapes, olives, cheese and wine (or sparkling grape juice). Read about the arrival of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12. Talk about the significance of gift giving. Say a prayer asking for guidance and protection in the New Year.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 3 garlic clove(s) minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 pounds ground chicken
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 large eggs
- 2-3 cups bread crumbs see note
- 2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 bottle Hot Wing Sauce
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Saute celery, onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until tender, 5-6 minutes.
Add vinegar to pan to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the "fond" or "yummy brown bits" off of the bottom). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine ground chicken and pork, cooled celery/onion/garlic, eggs, 2 cups of the bread crumbs, and seasonings. Gently, mix by hand until evenly distributed.
Form into balls (1 1/2 inch in diameter). If the mixture is too sticky, add more breadcrumbs (1/2 cup at a time) until they will hold their shape. Place in a pan(s) lined with aluminum foil and lightly coated with cooking spray (for easy clean-up).
Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 400°.
Turn meatballs over and drizzle half of the sauce over meatballs.
Return to oven for 15 minutes.
Drizzle meatballs with remaining sauce, turning meatballs to coat. Continue baking for 5-10 minutes or until sauces are bubbly and meatballs are fully cooked.
Image and recipe sourced from https://picniclifefoodie.com/buffalo-chicken-meatballs-bbq-asian-sauce-pork-recipe-food-blog/