Packin’ It Up!

picnic lunch

Nothing says “summer” to me more than picnic lunches.

There are plenty of things I dislike about living in Los Angeles County.  Housing is ridiculously expensive.  Traffic can be a bear.  Some parts of town aren’t so nice…

There are plenty of things I absolutely love about living in Los Angeles County.  The weather is ridiculously gorgeous.  The crowds are made up of people from all over the world.  Some parts of town are way cool.

If I focused on the dislikes, I’d be frustrated.  Due to big-city-modern-day-life-issues my children will never grow up like I did; roaming the neighborhood freely on bikes without mom knowing their exact whereabouts at all times.   This ain’t southern Minnesota (and it ain’t the 70’s either!)

So I focus on the cool stuff.  My kids have soooooo many experiences at their fingertips that I never even dreamed about when I was a child.  There are free summer concerts (often with big-name recording artists!) and multicultural fairs.  There are free/cheap museums galore.  There parks everywhere and (my personal fave) there are miles and miles of beaches.

When we head out for our various summer excursions–my regular reminders about the positives of raising a family ’round here–I do like to pack some tasty and healthy food for my crew.  We partake in food events, of course, but often I bring along the staples and we splurge on a treat here and there.  This meal planning not only serves the purpose of keeping us healthy, it is the more economical approach to travel.  I know my grandmother is smiling down on me when I say that. 🙂

A typical Calva-Despard lunch-on-the-go looks like what I have pictured above.  Sandwiches containing nitrate free meats are prepared on whole grain bread.  Summer pea pods and fresh carrots are ready for mouth popping fun.  Fresh watermelon awaits our finger tips.  Roasted peanuts are fun and packed with protein.  Kalamata olives are a salty treat, and for our sweet desires I baked homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars.  These are not “healthy” per se, but as I prepared them myself I control the ingredients and don’t worry about multisyllabic hydrogenated goop.  (They are also sliced into small squares as a little sugar is nice, but we don’t want to go overboard now do we.)

You will also notice a 3/4 bag of Trader Joe’s baked cheese curl things.  Again; not a “healthy” choice, but better than most.  A small portion for everyone brings a smile to faces without too many nasty calories to other places. (plus, I don’t like them so I’m not tempted.  Ha!)

One thing not pictured is our beverage.  Usually water, although I have been known to grab some small cans of apple juice or small carbonated juicey-drinky things.  I’m not big on the waste producing juice box scene, but I will admit that an occasional little something special to drink is appreciated even by me.

Ahhh… summer time!

 

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Fruit Salad: Yummy! Yummy!

fruit salad

Here you see the remnants of my strawberries that taste great but are already turning soft (will have to talk with my farmers market vendor next week… just got these on Saturday!), my oranges that Rhea says have “too much white stuff around them” and some on-the-verge-of-banana-bread bananas.

And what does a economizing mama do with all the above ingredients?  Cut off the “white stuff,” sift through the berries and toss a few pieces of each banana–and then make a fruit salad, of course.

Served in the fanciest breakfast establishments, one would think that fruit salad is a tad high brow.  But I have my suspicions that people more along the lines of my frugal Grandma Millie came up with this concoction.

“What shall we do with all this fruit that has bad spots here and is starting to turn, ma’am?”

“Cut out the good pieces and put it in a pretty glass bowl.  And we shall call it: fruit salad!”

Many vendors at farmers markets have special buckets for people (yes–people like me) who are willing to cut out a spot here and overlook a mark there; and pay 1/3 the price of the pretty produce.  For example, I often purchase organic apples for $1.25 lb just because they aren’t picture perfect.  Then I chop’em up, throw out the few brown parts, and make apple sauce.

Beautiful, delicious, healthy, economical–these are some of my favorite things!