Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nutritious and Delicious On the Go: Picnic Loaf with Sage & Garlic Potato Chips and Fermented Veggies for Sides

Welcome to a perfect meal for those of us who want something delicious to eat and can travel easily from point A to point B. Friday evening my family and I headed to a nearby park to enjoy a homemade meal while also getting to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. We even got a little play time at the playground with the kids. As the days of warmth are fleeting we couldn't help but want to take advantage of a 65° sunny evening. So, with my new Project Food Blog cooler slung across my shoulder and a meal anyone should be more than pleased to enjoy we set out and had ourselves a delicious and nutritious fall picnic.

Everything I prepared is easily enjoyed wherever a meal on the go is needed including a perfect lunch to take to work. So, what was it we all enjoyed? I took advantage of some of the fall flavors and prepared a picnic loaf with fresh made sourdough bread filled with layers of roasted eggplant, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, goat cheese and fresh apple. Along side our "sandwich" we enjoyed sage and garlic sweet potato chips, lacto-fermented zucchini, ginger-mint sparkling water and for the sweet tooth, cinnamon sugar apple bites. Can I just tell you how absolutely wonderful this meal was? Oh wait I just did! :-D We enjoyed every bite.

One of the great things about this meal is you don't need to bring along a bunch of extra stuff. There's no need for plates, utensils or extra cups. I cut the picnic loaf into wedges and wrapped each one in wax paper. When we got to the park we unfolded our sandwiches and used the wax paper as our plate. Nothing in the meal requires utensils and I stored the concentrated ginger mint water in individual mason jars. Once we sat down, I used some of the ice we had in a plastic bag to keep things cold, in our drinks and added the sparkling mineral water to the top. We were able to sit down and immediately eat without a lot of prep, which with a hungry 3-year-old, is always important. :-) This meal can easily be made a day ahead of time. Actually the picnic loaf tastes even better when the flavors have had at least several hours to merry together. I did make the sweet potato chips right before going, but you certainly don't have to and if you are at a place where you have access to a microwave you could easily reheat them if they have already been chilled.

To follow suit with the way I like to do things, everything in our meal was made from scratch, well except for the cheese, so I included a recipe for how to make the sourdough bread I used. I've made this recipe with both whole-wheat flour and unbleached bread flour. Both work excellent. The whole wheat is slightly denser, but still delicious. This recipe comes from Jules at Stone Soup: Minimalist Home Cooking. She has a wonderful website and it's well worth your time to check it out. I did not include her sourdough starter recipe for this bread because I used my own starter (recipe coming sometime soon). This bread is extremely easy to make. If you are a person who doesn't want to spend time kneading dough, punching it down, letting it rise a second time then this recipe is for you. I see myself making the recipe over and over because it's so easy and so delicious!

Rustic Sourdough Bread 
1 loaf 
487g (16.5oz) whole-wheat flour or unbleached bread flour
300g (12oz) sourdough starter
412g (15oz) water
1 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
semolina, optional

1. With a spoon, combine flour, sourdough starter, water and salt in a large bowl just until mixed.

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 8-12 hours, preferably in a room between 70° - 80°.

3. Put a generous amount of flour on a tea towel and scoop out the very soft, sticky dough onto it. Fold in the edges of dough to shape into a loaf.

4. Carefully flip dough onto a second tea towel, also with a generous amount of flour on it, so that the top or rough side is now on the bottom. Sprinkle semolina or more flour on the top of the dough and then cover with a towel or plastic wrap.

6. Heat your oven, with a covered oven-proof dish in it, to it's max (that's 550° for me). I used a cast-iron pot with a lid and I used my Le Creuset covered pot and they both worked very well. Allow oven to heat for at least 30 minutes.

7. Remove covered dish from oven and gently flip dough into it, so that the rough side is now back on top again. It can help to let the dough slide along the side of the dish. It doesn't matter if the dough doesn't look perfect or is lopsided, it will still rise beautifully.

8. Place lid on top of dish and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and turn oven down to 400° and bake for an additional 15 minutes. (Note: The original recipe has you cook the loaf for 30 minutes instead of 35 minutes, however because I did 1 1/2 times the original dough amount the loaf needed to cook just a bit longer.)

9. Allow loaf to cool on wrack for 30 minutes.

This picnic loaf can be made with any type of round loaf that sounds good to you. I love sourdough bread so that's what I went with. For the most flavor make your picnic loaf the day before you want to eat it and refrigerate it overnight. This would be a great meal for the work week. Make it on Sunday, slice it and wrap the individual pieces in wax paper and you have a couple days of lunch ready to go.
Picnic Loaf
Serves 8 
5 zucchini
1 medium eggplant
3 large portabella mushrooms
6+ tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2+ tsp. unrefined sea salt
1 round loaf of sourdough bread (recipe above) or bread of choice
Bucheron goat cheese
1 apple
Le Delice du Jura goat cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 400°. Slice zucchini, eggplant (skin left on) and portabella mushrooms, length wise, into 1/4" thick pieces.

2. Toss zucchini, eggplant and portabella mushrooms in a mixture of olive oil and salt. I like to use 3 tbsp. of olive oil to 1 tsp. of sea salt. Place onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and roast in oven for approx. 25 minutes or until golden brown. You can roast more than one cookie sheet at a time, simply switch sheets around about half-way through so that they each evenly brown.

3. Cut off top 1/3 of bread loaf and remove interior bread from the inside of loaf and the lid. Leave 1/2" of bread around edge.

4. Remove skin and core of apple. Slice into 1/4" pieces.

5. Begin placing single layers of each ingredient into hollowed out bread. I started with the eggplant, then did zucchini, portabella, Bucheron goat cheese, apple, a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and then repeated the ingredients until the loaf was filled. I then spread the creamy Le Delice du Jura goat cheese onto the "lid" of the bread.

6. At this point our picnic loaf is ready to eat. For best flavor, allow to sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Slice into 8 wedges and serve.

I might be slightly in love with these sweet potato chips. They're healthy for you and filled with flavor and perfect for the adult or child palate. If you have a mandoline slicer then your prep just gets that much easier!

Sage and Garlic Sweet Potato Chips
Serves 2-4 
1 large sweet potato
3-4 tablespoons of fresh sage, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and diced 
3 tbsp. olive oil 
1 tsp. unrefined sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Skin and thinly slice (1/16") sweet potato.

2. Toss together sweet potato slices, sage, garlic, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Then place sweet potato slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

3. Roast in oven for approx. 20 minutes or until golden and crispy.

This Lacto-fermented recipe is from a blog post I did this summer.  You can use any vegetable that sounds good to you. I keep fermented vegetables like this on hand at all times for a quick snack or an easy way to add a healthy side to a meal. Fermented foods help aid in the digestive process and are excellent for your overall health. If you've never tried them, do so, you might find yourself having a new favorite easy snack.

Lacto-Fermented Zucchini
Serves 4+
1-2 zucchini (or carrots, green beans or cucumber)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp. of unrefined sea salt
1 tbsp. whey
filtered water

1. Slice zucchini into 4" long spears. Put in a pint mason jar along with garlic, salt and whey.

2. Fill mason jar the rest of the way with water to about 1/2" from top.

3. Screw on lid and leave on counter for 3 days before placing in refrigerator. Can be stored in the fridge for several months.

These little "bites" are similar to a muffin in texture, but instead of eating a whole muffin you can simply enjoy a couple of these and still satisfy your sweet tooth. Alternatively you could also make them in mini-muffin pans, they would just have to cook for a bit longer. At the end I've also included a quick note on frying some of the batter to make some scrumptious old-fashioned donut bites. Perfect with a cup of coffee on a relaxing Saturday or Sunday morning!

Cinnamon Sugar Apple Bites
150+ "bites" 
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic sugar or honey
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. unrefined sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup or 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 whole apple, pealed, cored and chopped finely
1/2 cup organic sugar - for coating
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon - for coating

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well, then fold in chopped apple.

2. Put level tsp. full of batter in little mounds, about 1 1/2" apart, on a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 6 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and immediately roll in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

Note: Want a really yummy breakfast treat? Save some of the batter and refrigerate overnight. In the AM allow to come to room temperature. Heat 2" of oil in a small pot and drop 1/2 tsp. fulls of batter into hot oil. Cook until browned. Remove from oil and coat in cinnamon sugar mixture. Now you have your own homemade old-fashioned mini donut bites. Now that's a nice way to start the weekend! :-D

This is an easy and refreshing drink. I'm actually pretty much a water or milk drinker with my meals and rarely indulge in anything sweet, however a couple of pinches of stevia powder can add a touch of sweetness if that's your preference. Both ginger and mint help aid food digestion and the mineral water gives a little kick!

Ginger Mint Sparkling Water
Makes 4 cups

4-6 sprigs of fresh mint
1" of ginger root, skin removed and chopped
2 cups water
2 cups of sparkling mineral water
A couple pinches of stevia powder - optional

1. In a small pot with a lid, simmer mint, ginger, and water for 15 minutes.

2. Allow to cool. Mix in 2 cups of sparkling mineral water and a couple pinches of stevia powder if you like a little sweetness.


  1. Therese, I'm so happy you shared the sourdough bread recipe and website! The loaf looks absolutely beautiful! I can't wait to try it this week!! Everything looks delicious and I could definitely go for some apple bites right now! As usual, beautifully done! Best wishes!!!

  2. You and your family are stunning, as is this feast. From the sourdough bread to the apple pies, I was drooling. You have my vote, again and again. I'm consistently impressed with your blog....this has to be one of my most favorite places on the web. Thank you so much for sharing. I wish I could have joined you guys on your picnic!

  3. This whole meal looks wonderful. The sandwich is so cool. I've never had lacto-fermented veggies... I am very curious as to how they taste. I'm definitely going to be making this drink too.

  4. Oh Diana you'll just love the sourdough. It's a must. Having some sliced up this morning with breakfast! :-)

    Monet thank you for your wonderful comment, you are so kind! I'm glad you continue to enjoy my blog! :-)

    Thank you Mariko! These lacto-fermented veggies are great. They are fairly mild in flavor, but have a bit of zing to them from the fermentation.

  5. As always your account draws you in and I feel I was part of your picnic. The picture of your daughter (with your husband) is a real 'ah' moment - what a lovely expression on her face. Intrigued by the sour dough loaf in a Le Cruset pot and must try very soon. A quick question about the fermented veg - how do you get whey?

  6. I am having the loveliest time visiting everyone's picnics. The sourdough is a stunner - and the fermented vegetables draw me in. Lovely.

  7. what a boule, what a ball!
    Therese: I always look forward to your posts!!!

  8. What a wonderful picnic meal. I love that you made all the different elements from scratch, including the bread (which looks utterly gorgeous, BTW). Looks like the whole family had a great time, too.
    Good luck with the challenge! You've got my vote.

  9. Sally, Claudia and Amelia, thank you for the comments!

    Sally - if you make your own yogurt or cheese, whey is a bi-product. It's the clear yellow or green liquid that separates as you make either of these products. If you look at my recipe list, I have a recipe for making your own yogurt. Simply skim off the whey once it's done. Alternatively, you could use extra salt instead of whey (about an extra tbsp.) however it will make the veggies more salty. The salt or whey is essential so the veggies don't actually rot.

  10. Therese - what a delicious way to spend a warm fall evening! I see Noah liked those apple bites as much as my son did (we stopped by while Therese was baking and my 14 month old stole six off of her table top and popped them in his mouth when we weren't looking!)

    I'm definitely going to try making the sour dough. Thanks again for the inspiration!

  11. How inventive! There is no way those ingredients are slipping out of your "sandwich". GREG

  12. Hey Joelle, if you want some sourdough starter I can pass some on to you. I've got plenty. Might have to share some more apple bites with Ryan today! I made another batch and tweaked the recipe some more after you guys were here and I like the second batch better.

    Greg - thanks for stopping by and checking out my post!

  13. Love the picnic loaf idea! SO creative :)

  14. How do you find the time with 2 little ones? I need to start making meals from scratch. You are my inspiration, Therese!

  15. Love your story and photos as always. Please come cook for my family!!! -- Jill

  16. Wow, Your food just made my mouth water. Continued success and luck on the challenge.

  17. I simply love everything you make, and your photos are so beautiful. Thanks so much!

  18. This makes me hungry! I am coming over to get a better look in person... Those cinnamon sugar apple bites are in big trouble!

  19. Hooray for healthy living bloggers! This is my first time on your site, found you through Foodbuzz, and am so glad. Beautiful menu (and a beautiful family!) You have my vote.

  20. Wonderful Therese! You are such an inspiration...
    You've got my vote!

  21. Congratulation for making to challenge #6!!! You've got my vote again this round! Congrats & Best wishes to making to next round :)

    Have a great week
    jen @

  22. That sandwich on homemade bread is GORGEOUS! You have a vote from me!

    For my entry, I wanted to create a road trip and picnic for my boyfriend, who had recently given me a "do over" of one of my childhood memories. I decided to give him his own "do over" -- a special birthday picnic with a heart-themed meal. Come see if you'd like :)

  23. The picnic loaf is so super awesome!! GREAT job.

  24. Whoa! Those sandwiches are SUCH a good idea and they're beautiful!! Awesome post :)


  25. WOW am glad I peeked at your picnic! Just voted for you---and I just added sweet potatoes and sage to my grocers list. Your pics are fantastic---and I love all the step-by-step!
    Good luck--and nice to meet you!

  26. Thank you all for the wonderful and encouraging comments and thank you for joining me in this exciting journey. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to share another post for Project Food Blog!

  27. Theresa, this is beautiful! I really do hope I can make that bread soon! What kind of pot did you use? Please reply to me on Facebook. I rarely remember to visit the sites I comment on :o) THANKS!!

  28. This looks like a wonderful meal.


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