Host a winter picnic

Discovering the joy of feasting alfresco

Host a winter picnic

Often picnics are thought of as a cooler full of cold drinks and food spread out under the summer sun on a hot day. But picnics can also be mugs of hot chocolate or warm soup enjoyed wrapped in a warm blanket amid the still solitude of a snowy day. Whether it’s a quiet and cozy meal for two or a family fuel-up, food always tastes better outdoors in the brisk, clean air!

Chai-Spiced Hot Apple Cider

Sweet apple cider partners perfectly with fragrant chai-inspired flavors for a delicious and warming beverage sure to spice up any winter picnic!

9 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
3/4 tsp (4 mL) fennel seeds
4 cups (1 L) nonalcoholic apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
6 – 1/8 in (3 mm) slices fresh gingerroot
10 black peppercorns
3 apple slices (Honeycrisp, Gala, or Ambrosia)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) apple cider vinegar

Using mortar and pestle, lightly crush cardamom pods, cloves, and fennel seeds.

In medium saucepan on medium heat, add apple cider, cinnamon, gingerroot, black peppercorns, apple slices, apple cider vinegar, and crushed cardamom pods, cloves, and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, discard apple slices, and pour apple cider through nut bag or cheesecloth to remove spice remnants. Divide and enjoy!

For a stronger and spicier cider, after discarding apple slices, refrigerate overnight and strain spice remnants before reheating to desired temperature.

Serves 4

Each serving contains: 132 calories; 1 g protein; 0 g total fat (0 g sat. fat); 41 g total carbohydrates (29 g sugar, 2 g fiber); 108 mg sodium

Creamy Mushroom and Leek Soup

Full flavored yet easy to make, this simple but refined soup is cozy and rich in earthy mushroom flavors and cashew creaminess.

1 cup (250 mL) raw cashews
2 cups (500 mL) boiling water
2 Tbsp (30 mL) avocado oil
1 medium-size leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
8 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp (5 mL) sherry vinegar
3 cups (750 mL) mushroom broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

In small bowl, place raw cashews and add 2 cups (500 mL) boiling water. Let soak while preparing soup.

In large soup pot on medium, heat avocado oil. Add leeks and onions and saute for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and sliced mushrooms and saute for a further 5 minutes, then add sherry vinegar, broth, and thyme sprigs. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and discard thyme sprigs. With immersion blender, blend mushroom broth mixture well. Alternately, ladle all into blender and blend until smooth before returning to soup pot.

Drain water from cashews and add cashews to high-speed blender. Add 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) blended mushroom mixture to cashews and blend to create smooth cashew cream. Slowly whisk cashew cream back into remaining mushroom mixture in soup pot and bring to desired temperature. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Each serving contains: 275 calories; 11 g protein; 17 g total fat (3 g sat. fat); 24 g total carbohydrates (6 g sugar, 2 g fiber); 440 mg sodium

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad Wraps

Roasted sweet potatoes and zesty Dijon mustard transform a classic picnic salad concept into a new and fresh menu item for your basket.

1/2 cup (125 mL) unsweetened plain plant-based yogurt (or plain yogurt)
1 Tbsp (15 mL) apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 mL) Dijon mustard
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped chives
1 to 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper, divided
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into uniform 1/2 in (1.25 cm) squares
2 Tbsp (30 mL) avocado oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 to 5 whole wheat tortilla wraps
1 cup (250 mL) spinach
2 avocados, sliced

In medium bowl, whisk yogurt, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, chives, garlic, and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper; set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).

In large bowl, toss sweet potato with avocado oil, sea salt, and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper and spread evenly on large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place in preheated oven on middle rack and roast until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

When sweet potato has cooled, add diced red bell pepper and dressing, and mix well. This can be stored in the fridge overnight to assemble wraps the next day.

To assemble wraps, lay out tortillas on counter. Divide spinach among wraps, placing it on the bottom third of each tortilla. Top spinach with evenly divided avocado and then sweet potato salad mix. Fold in tortilla’s two sides and then roll up from the bottom, folding and tucking in the two sides as you tightly wrap the tortilla to the end. Wrap each individually in parchment paper or place in resealable container small enough to keep wraps rolled up.

Makes 4 to 5 wraps

Each serving contains: 373 calories; 8 g protein; 14 g total fat (2 g sat. fat); 61 g total carbohydrates (8 g sugar, 13 g fiber); 490 mg sodium


By Susan Rossit, RHN