Summer is picnic time: plan a healthy, child-pleasing menu

When going to the park or lake or playing in the backyard, ensuring that the children have nutritious food for a picnic lunch or snack will give them the energy they need and make everyone’s day happy and fun.

A picnic on a blanket with finger foods served on a paper plate is a great way to encourage children to relax, eat and socialize. Offer a variety of food, including proteins, fresh vegetables with a mild dip, fruit, a beverage and a muffin, pita chips or crackers.

Active children need protein food like cheese, yogurt, meat, eggs or legumes for growth and energy. Cut cheese into finger size sticks or interesting shapes with cookie cutters. Yogurt could be served as a dip for fruit or included in a smoothie.

Roll meat slices so they are easy for little hands to hold. Hard boiled eggs can be peeled and cut into quarters or remove the yolks and mix with a little mayonnaise and re-stuff the egg white.

An alternative is to make a tuna salad mixture to fill the yolkless egg whites. Cooked beans, lentils or chickpeas can be blended smooth to make a dip or used as a spread on bread or crackers.

Clean and prepare fresh vegetables. Use a wavy cutter to make interesting carrot coins and cucumber slices. Cut broccoli and cauliflower into small florets and slice cherry tomatoes in half or quarters.

Consider adding edible pod peas or fresh beans.

Kid Pleasing Dill Vegetable Dip

  • 1 c. mayonnaise 250 mL
  • 1 c. plain or vanilla yogurt 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. dill weed 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. celery salt 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. onion salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic salt 1 mL

Mix, refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

Offer sweeter food like fruit, muffins or cookies after the protein and vegetables have been eaten. For a beverage, offer water in kid friendly bottles. For older children, make homemade lemonade.

Honeydew lime popsicles

  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. water 60 mL
  • 1 ripe honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks approx 4 c. 1 L
  • 1/4 tsp. lime zest 1 mL
  • 1/3 c. lime juice 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. fresh orange juice 75 mL

Heat water and sugar together, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely. In a blender or food processor, blend half of the melon and juices together until smooth. Add remaining melon, juice and the cooled sugar syrup. Blend smooth mixture then sieve into a bowl, pressing out the juice. Eat the solids like applesauce or add to a muffin recipe.
Pour the melon juice into moulds and freeze at least six hours until solid. Makes six to 10 servings. – Adapted from Canadian Gardening.

Homemade Lemonade

  • 1 1/3 c. simple sugar syrup 325 mL
  • 1 c. lemon juice and pulp 250 mL
  • 4 c. cold water
  • ice

Simple sugar syrup:

  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1 c. water 250 mL

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Mix the sugar syrup, lemon juice and water and serve over ice.

Strawberry or raspberry lemonade

  • 1/2 c. berries 125 mL

Puree berries in blender and add to the lemonade, mix well serve over ice.

Gluten-Free Fruity Oat Muffins

These muffins are delicious and can be enjoyed by everyone. For those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it is best if the dried fruit is purchased in sealed containers to avoid contamination.

  • 1 c. gluten-free oats 250 mL
  • 1/3 c. brown or white rice flour 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. tapioca flour 75 mL
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch 75 mL
  • 1 tbsp. gluten-free baking powder 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum 4 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries 125 mL
  • 1/3 c. golden raisins 75 mL
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar 125 mL
  • 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest 10 mL
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest 10 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/4 c. plain yogurt 300 mL
  • 1/3 c. light-tasting oil 75 mL
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla 6 mL
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar 5 mL

Topping:

  • 1/3 c. gluten-free oats 75 mL

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Plump dried fruit and raisins by placing in a bowl and pour boiling water over to cover.
Let sit in water for five minutes, then drain and reserve.
In food processor, pulse oats until almost fine, transfer to bowl. Whisk in rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, cinnamon and salt. Stir in drained cherries, cranberries and raisins.
In large bowl, rub sugar with orange and lemon zests, then whisk in eggs. Whisk in yogurt, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Stir in flour fruit mixture until combined. Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups.
Sprinkle oats over batter. Bake in 375 F (190 C) oven until tops are firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan, then let cool on rack. Store in airtight container for up to two days.
Add ice to the reserved water used to plump the dried fruit or add to orange juice and serve with the muffins.
The reserved juice could also be added to a smoothie or popsicle mixture. Makes 
12 to 15 muffins. – Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.