Bike Picnics: 5 Steps to Reviving the Outdoor Family Dinner Tradition

Living in LA, it is second nature, for most, to just jump in the car and be on your merry way, but sometimes shaking up old family traditions make way for new perspectives and awesome adventures. This past summer our five year old took off her training wheels and sped into the world of cycling, so we thought, what better way to honor her new-found freedom than by starting a new family tradition; bike picnicking.

It’s a fairly simple concept. Pack up dinner. Secure it on your bike. Head to your favorite neighborhood park. Eat and be merry. But, we discovered very quickly there are many details that needed to be worked out in order for the whole family to enjoy, so here, in a nutshell are the lessons we’ve learned to get the most out of our new family tradition.

bike-picnic-burley
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

1. Respect Your Child’s Ability

Don’t choose a park clear across town if your little one’s legs generally only make it once around the block. Take into consideration the entire family’s endurance level and map your course accordingly.

2. Know the Code of the Road

Study up and then impart that adult-sized wisdom to your kids, empowering them with the knowledge to stay safe. Ride on the right side of the road, in the same direction as the vehicles. Stay alert at all times, and remember, a bicycle is a vehicle which should obey all traffic signals and signs.

bike-picnic-burley-2
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

3. Securely Stow Your Food

The last thing you want, after thoughtfully and carefully preparing and packing a lovely family dinner, is for it all to end up like roadkill, spilled out across the asphalt. Use a big front-wheel basket, or even better, a cool and convenient cargo trailer, like this Burley Nomad. Guaranteed to hold everyone’s eats, with room left over for mom and dad’s beer. I got my hands on one of these sweet Nomads when Burley invited me to be one of their #MothersOfNature Ambassadors and I can’t wait to find more cool uses for this cargo trailer!

4. Be Prepared for Mishaps

Being prepared is rule #1 of parenthood and biking is no exception. Invest in a small bike repair kit and a first aid kit, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Of course, chances are your ride will be smooth sailing, but you never know when it may come in handy.

Biking kids
Photo Courtesy Kerem Hanci

5. Feast Like Royalty

If there’s one thing I know for sure, any outdoor activity is better with a delicious reward. I am known for going a bit overboard, sometimes when it comes to make-ahead meals to enjoy in nature, but here are a few super simple ideas the whole family will devour.

Caprese
1 Heirloom Tomato
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Basil
Red Onion
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Thinly slice the tomatoes, mozzarella and red onions then lay them on a plate, alternating tomato, mozzarella, basil leaf. Once you have used up all of the sliced ingredients, sprinkle red onions on top, lightly salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar!

Roasted Broccoli & Fennel
2 heads of Broccoli
1 Fennel Bulb
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Cut the heads of broccoli into florets and slice the fennel. Toss everything lightly in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Fruit Salad
2 Large Apples
1 small container of Blueberries
3 Persian Cucumbers
1/4 pound of Grapes

Core and slice 2 apples. Remove grapes from stem. Peel and chop cucumbers. Toss everything into a bowl and serve!

Advertisements

5 Easy Meals That Transported Us Straight Back to Italy

It’s hard to fathom the idea that it’s been more than a year and a half since our family was hiking Cinque Terre and baking bread with the De Blasi family in Tuscany. Not a month goes by that we aren’t reminiscing about our donkey trek or devising a plan to get back to its iconic rolling hills. Until then, we’ll have to soothe our Italy desires by the warm hearth of Italian-inspired cuisine.

Everyone knows that making a traditional Italian marinara sauce takes hours and hours to perfect, but when you’re strapped for time and want to give your family taste without compromising on quality, try Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce. I love this sauce for so many reasons, and top on that list is, compared to most other jarred pasta sauces, Bertolli Riserva is very low in sugar, with only four grams of sugar per serving.

This sauce is made with artisanal ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil, freshly crushed garlic, vine-ripened, freshly crushed tomatoes, and imported Parmigiano-Reggiano. And at $5.99 a jar you can create exciting dishes to entertain a gathering of any size with even the most discerning of palettes without breaking the bank.

Buon appetito!

Mussels Marinara

mussels-marinara-web

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 large brown onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 4 pounds live mussels (about 4 dozen), well scrubbed, rinsed, and de-bearded
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 cup Bertolli Risvera Marinara pasta sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Remember that an open mussel that closes when pressed is good; if the mussel stays open after being pressed, it is bad and should be discarded. In a deeppot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, about 1 minute. Add the wine, Bertolli Risvera Marinara pasta sauce, thyme, parsley, pepper, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mussels are opened, 5 to 6 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard any mussels that have not opened. Transfer the mussels and their liquid to a large, deep serving bowl and devour with fresh French bread.

Minestrone Soup

minestrone-recipe-web

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 jar Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 head Savoy or green cabbage (1/2 pound), cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, plus torn leaves for serving (optional)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, rosemary, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to turn golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce; cook until some of the liquid evaporates, 1 minute. Add potato, cabbage, cannellini beans, and 7 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in green beans. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with basil and Parmesan.

Italian Meatloaf

meatloaf-recipe-web

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped brown onions
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce
  • 2 pounds ground chuck (81 percent lean)
  • 1 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce and Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf in a baking dish. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through. Serve hot.

Vodka Penne

vodka-penne-recipe-web

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat penne
  • 1 jar Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 brown onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/4 cup starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the vodka, Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce and salt to taste. Return the skillet to medium heat and simmer, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off, about 10 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and simmer on very low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and basil.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Season with salt. Serve topped with more Parmesan and basil.

Eggplant Rolls with Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 6 small Japanese eggplants (about 1 3/4 pounds), cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup store-bought pesto
  • 2 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino-romano cheese
  • 1 cup Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Season the eggplant with salt and pepper. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs and 4 tablespoons pesto. Pour the bread crumbs onto a large plate. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg mixture, then coat with the bread crumbs.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the eggplant until golden, 2 minutes on each side, using the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and 3 tablespoons pecorino-romano; season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon of the remaining pesto on each eggplant slice and top with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture. Roll up each slice. Bake until the eggplant is tender when pierced with a toothpick, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the Bertolli Riserva Marinara pasta sauce to a simmer. Serve the roll-ups with the sauce and remaining pecorino.

If you liked these recipes, check out 150 MORE ways you can bring Tuscany to the table! And join the Potluck & Fri@5 parties every Friday!