Even when the weather cools, outdoor feasting need not be abandoned. Instead of lingering long over summer night barbecues, embrace the golden warmth of an autumn afternoon and head to the woods or fields for a picnic. Gone is the time for sandwiches, salads, and ice cream. In its place is a welcome for all things warm, nourishing, and comforting.
Same Planning, Just a Little Warmer
To plan a cold weather picnic, choose a spot out of the wind where the sun can warm your bones. Bring along a stack of blankets to bundle up in when temperatures drop during late afternoon. Spread a thick wool blanket on the ground and, if it is especially nippy, add a few cushions to protect backsides from the cold seeping up from the ground.
Plan a menu that is simple yet fortifying: hot soup packed in a thermos, cheesy biscuits with warming pepper and paprika, individual plum cobblers topped with roasted nuts and cream, and cider mulled with cinnamon, cloves, and star anise.
Provide sturdy bowls and metal wine goblets so your guests won’t need to worry about breaking dishes and can focus on enjoying the glorious weather and delicious food.
Chicken Barley Soup
Hot Cider or Mulled Apple Wine
Spiced Plum Cobbler with Pistachios
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups fresh plums, halved and pitted
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 star anise
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup pistachios or other nuts
- sea salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place large saucepan over medium-high heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add plums and honey, stirring to combine. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Grind star anise in spice grinder or with mortar and pestle. Add half to plum mixture, stirring to combine.While plums simmer, in small bowl mix together melted butter, pistachios, remaining star anise, and salt.
Pour plum mixture into individual ramekins and top with pistachio mixture.
Place in oven and bake 30 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or ice cream.
Parmesan Pepper Shortbreads
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 400 F.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, and cheese. Add melted butter and mix until a moist dough forms.
Divide dough into eight pieces, roll into balls, place on paper-lined baking sheet, and press flat with heel of hand, about 1/2 inch thick.
Sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
Bake 10-12 minutes until edges begin to brown.
Cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Slow-cooker Chicken Barley Stew
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup celery, sliced
- 1 cup carrot, sliced
- 2-3 potatoes, cubed
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- sea salt, to taste
- 1 cup barley
In small frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and fry until translucent.
Remove from heat and pour into slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and turn on high.
Cook 3-4 hours until vegetables are tender and barley is soft.
All photos are courtesy of author.