End of Summer Picnic

Hi Friends!  It’s been two weeks since I moved into my new house and boxes are still everywhere.  Between unpacking and making the most of the few days of summer we have left, I’ve been neglecting my blog.  

I’m hoping to get back on my weekly schedule very soon.  In the meantime, I just wanted to pop in briefly to memorialize one perfect summer day.  Hopefully there’s still a few more to come.  My calendar says Summer ain’t over till the 21st!

Two weeks ago, my friends from the Chicago PPK Forum and I met up for one final picnic of the year.  We brought our blankets, eats, and treats (and Bob brought a Ukelele!) to the lovely Oz Park around brunch-time.

We decided this picnic’s theme at the tail end of our last one.  Since we often do International themes, Nissa asked “What Country should we cook from next?”  For some reason, the word ‘Country’ hit my brain differently this time and I thought aloud – “Why not instead cook ‘Country’ style?”… as in Southern, or Country-Western.

Nissa’s pup Oliver at Oz Park


I had a dual challenge when deciding what to make for the potluck – my new neighborhood’s annual block party was the day before – with limited time to cook, I needed a recipe that would be appropriate for both events…

…Something family-friendly that both vegans and omnis would enjoy – and ‘Country’ themed too… 

I decided to make a double-batch of the Three-Bean Salad from Meet the Shannons.  The recipe calls for canned beans, but boy those are unusually expensive at Whole Foods Market, so I replaced half with fresh green beans which were on sale.  I still can’t decide whether that should count as 2 kinds of beans or 1?  I was really happy with how the salad turned out, though I had to add a bit extra vinegar, salt, and pepper to compensate for the substitution of fresh beans.

I also decided to make a batch of Sweet Tea for the picnic.  I used this recipe for Smooth Sweet Tea which has the addition of Baking Soda to cut the tea’s bitterness.  I also subbed in turbinado sugar for the white sugar the recipe calls for.  It turned out delicious, though sweeter than I’m used to.  Next time I might cut the sugar by 1/3.

I wasn’t sure what type of Tea to use (though I wound up using English Breakfast), so I did some googling on Classic Sweet Tea and what I found on Wikipedia surprised me:

  • The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea, published in 1879, called for GREEN TEA.  Most sweet tea consumed during that period was green tea. However, during World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States (due to anti-Japanese sentiment at the time), leaving them with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India which produced Black Tea. Americans came out of the war drinking predominantly black tea. 

Considering how inexpensive it is to make Sweet Tea nowadays, I also found it interesting to learn that in the early 1900’s Sweet Tea was often served as a show of wealth since the three basic ingredients it calls for  (Tea, Sugar, Ice) were so expensive back then.  Ice was probably the most expensive of the ingredients since it usually had to travel very far, without refrigeration!

I was pretty proud of my picnic contributions, but as usual, Nissa and Megan’s cooking blew me away.

My favorite items of the day:

  • BISCUITS & GRAVY – Megan made the Herbed Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits and White Bean Gravy from Vegan Brunch.  The Gravy was still warm.  I definitely plan to make this winning combo sometime this winter, to cozy up an otherwise dreary day.
  • HOMEMADE BBQ SEITAN – I’ve still never made homemade Seitan before, so I’m always blown away whenever Nissa make some for our potlucks.  We all had seconds & thirds of this.
  • HOME PICKLED BEETS – Best Beets I’ve ever had, thanks to some sugar in the pickling liquid and Megan’s skills in the kitchen.

Photos by Nissa


At our potlucks, it’s always tough to choose favorites though!

Nissa’s Southwestern Quinoa Salad was fantastic, and generously studded with Avocado, Black beans, Red Pepper and Corn…

Megan’s Peach Cobbler was also still warm, with juicy peaches and a fluffy scone topping…


…and while Nissa’s cookies may have been my first ever Cowboy Cookies, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat another chocolate chip cookie that doesn’t also have oats, coconut, and pecans!

After the picnic, Nissa and I went to check out the newly opened Mrs. Green’s Natural Market across the street from the park.  We were impressed that their produce is 100% organic and their bakery had several kinds of Vegan Donuts for sale.  If I hadn’t had leftover Cowboy Cookies in my backpack, I wouldn’t have been able to resist the donuts!

After that, we parted ways and I headed for the train, but my perfect Summer Day didn’t end yet -When I got off the train, I walked home along Evanston’s Main Street during the celebration of StreetsAlive!  

With the goal of making Evanston a more sustainable community – environmentally, economically, and socially, StreetsAlive! closed several blocks of Main Street to drivers for the afternoon.  Instead, the streets were filled with walkers and bikers, and dozens of booths with crafts and activities.

Kids were painting a cardboard city, playing mini-golf, and (safely) running through the streets. 

I heard some classic rock floating down the street and followed it to Grey Park where a band was playing.  They sounded like pros, so I was amazed to see how young they were….scroll down a bit… aren’t you impressed?

… Then, after all that fun, it was time to go home and unpack a bit more :-)

I’d Love to Hear from You! 

What’s your favorite “Country Western” or “Southern” Dish?

How are you making the most of what’s left of Summer?

Note: This post contains Affiliate Links, however it is not a paid post and all opinions are my own.