August 18, 2017
With a record number of sunny days this summer, we’re packing a lot of picnics.
Calgary has seen more hot, sunny days this summer than any years on record — which means more patio days, more dining al fresco, more backyard barbecues, and more opportunities to pack up dinner (or lunch, or even breakfast) and hit the park, trail or campground.
We’re planning an old-school picnic with cold roast chicken (pheasant is so 1800s), grainy mustard, a crusty baguette and potato salad, watermelon wedges, a big jar of lemonade and a pan of brownies. A speedier way of roasting a whole chicken—starting it out in a hot cast iron skillet on the stovetop before stuffing it with fresh herbs and half a lemon and sticking it in the oven to roast—minimizes oven time. And it’s just as easy to roast two, while the oven is on—have one for dinner and stick the other in the fridge for a picnic in the next day or two. (If I do this, I like to rub each bird with different spices so it doesn’t feel like we’re eating the same thing all over again.)
Sometimes, we’ll make an event of it and reserve a spot at the park with a barbecue, or bring our own portable one—and of course when we go camping, there’s plenty of time to putter around the campsite and get dinner ready. With the opportunity to cook onsite, patty melts will be on the menu—burgers and melty cheese sandwiched between two slices of rye bread and browned grilled-cheese style, they’re perhaps the ultimate in summer sandwiches. (Is it a burger, or a sandwich?) They can be further streamlined with frozen patties, which will thaw just enough in transport to make them easier to handle. These are completely amazing, equally so for a weeknight dinner in the backyard, when you have no plans to go anywhere.
For dessert, because BC cherries are here and amazing this year, I’ll make braised cherry cheesecakes in jars—the no-bake kind, which are so easy to assemble. Crush graham crackers or Digestive biscuits into the bottom of small 125 mL jars, beat cream cheese (or mascarpone, even) with a bit of sugar or honey, a drop of vanilla and enough cream to help it along, until it’s creamy and smooth, then spoon into each jar and top with cherries simmered with sugar until they’re broken down and saucy. These could, of course, be made with blueberries or apricots or whatever is in season, but cherry cheesecake is classic. You just screw on the lids and pack them to go.
Happy picnicking, everyone!
whole roasting chicken
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