A Fall Picnic

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Somehow, picnics seem to evoke a picture of summertime- warm weather and eating outdoors just seem to go together.  But while I’m certainly not opposed to dining al fresco in the steamy months, there are a few warm weather distractions that can detract from a perfect meal.  Sand is nice between your toes, not so nice between your teeth.  And while our buzzing friends do deserve a place in this world, on my lunch is not that ideal location.  That’s why fall picnics are the best.


I love fall weather, and this fall has been one of the best I can remember.  The changing colors are proving to be a real hazard while I’m trying to drive (really, watch out for me), and the air is so crisp and fresh that I can’t wait to get outside each day and breathe some of it in.  That’s why I was desperate to make a trip to Hanging Rock State Park while the autumn gettin’ was still good.  So that’s exactly what we did this past weekend, and I’m so very glad that we did.


There’s nothing like nature to recharge a cranky, stress ridden battery.  The calm of the forest is pretty healing, even when you have to share it with a lot of other nature-seeking humans.  Sometimes the best things in life have to be shared.  I’m ok with that- plenty to go around.


Except for this pear/aged Dubliner/prosciutto combo.  That I had some difficulty sharing.  I did though, because you never know when you’ll need a favor from someone down the road.


Plus, that was the agreed upon arrangement.  I’d pack the picnic if my dear friend Helen drove the four of us up the mountain.  That was sort of my plan all along- so that I could gawk at the fiery foliage without killing us all.  Helen was kind enough to put up with my distracting fall-leaf-tone admiration (obsession?).  That kind of concentration would work up anyone’s appetite.


And so would these stairs.  And don’t think about stopping halfway up for a break- not when you’re sharing the nature with a line of weekenders clambering up the steps behind you.  I don’t remember any of the leaf scenery from this part of the trail… too busy watching my feet.


Needless to say, this was a pretty good incentive to make it to the top.  And what could be nicer than to share a picnic with a few of your favorite people after climbing to the top of a mountain? Not much, if you ask me.


The boys had some sandwiches, because, boys love sandwiches.  The bigger the better is usually how it goes with that kind of thing.  It’s easy and portable and it’s all they need to be happy, really.  Who can argue with that.


But as ladies, we’d prefer not to limit ourselves to your old run-of-the-mill picnic fare.  That’s why we distracted the guys with a sandwich while we tucked into this cold Asian shrimp noodle salad.  The diversion worked as planned, and we had all those noodles to ourselves.


Those noodles are one of my favorite things, by the way.  Made of one ingredient: black beans.  How do they get black beans to look, taste, and bite like a noodle? Don’t ask me.  But they are amazing.  Twirl in some zoodles and almond sesame dressing? That’s elevated picnic provisions for ya.


And that’s what makes a successful picnic. A little to share, a little all for yourself.  Enjoying it with good people is also highly suggested.

Recipe for the salad:


for the salad

  • 4 oz black bean spaghetti (or other noodle)
  • I yellow squash or zucchini, spiralized
  • 1/4 lb wild caught shrimp
  • 1 tbs coconut oil, divided
  • cup cabbage, shredded
  • medium carrot, diced
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • juice of one lime or lemon
  • 2 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • green onion and sesame seeds for garnish

for the dressing

  • 2 tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbs almond butter or other nut butter
  • juice of one lime or lemon
  • 1/2 tbs coconut aminos or organic soy sauce
  • tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • salt/pepper/red chili flakes to taste


1. Prepare pasta according to package.  Drain and combine in a bowl with spiralized zucchini or squash.

2. Heat half of oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add cabbage and carrots with a pinch of salt, saute for 4-5 minutes until slightly softened.  Add peas just enough to warm and add mixture to pasta bowl.

3. Heat remaining oil over high heat.  Add shrimp with pinch of salt and cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side until they are opaque, careful not to overcook.  Transfer to pasta bowl.

4. Add all dressing ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Pour over the pasta ingredients, toss to coat.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow flavors to combine.  Serve cold.



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