Cooking With Caitlin: Pull together a perfect Cincinnati picnic

CINCINNATI - WCPO is pleased to bring you food blogger Caitlin MacEachen Steininger  as a contributor. She has been tickling the food fancy of her family and friends since third grade. Check back next Monday for a new recipe!

Mark the middle of your summer break with a super fresh picnic in the Cincinnati sun. There are so many excellent areas to throw down a blanket for lunch, but our favorite perch in the city is Serpentine Wall at Sawyer Point. As a family we take turns picking the tallest step, the best view, the perfect curve along the water’s edge. We fill our bellies with the menu below. And then, we wrap our adventure with some serious splashing at Concourse Fountain.

Pull together the recipes here for an outdoor date with your own family. Make extras of the popcorn and chickpeas for snacking another day, and finish the meal with a stick of string cheese for everyone.

Almond Butter + Berry Sandwiches

Fresh fruit is a delicious substitute for sweet jellies. Use whatever berries are in season and your family likes the most.

Ingredients

  • Almond Butter
  • Blackberries
  • 4 slices White Bread

Instructions

  1. Toast your bread until golden brown.
  2. Smear 2 slices of bread generously with the almond butter. Cover the almond butter with the fresh berries and sandwich with the other slice of toasted bread. Repeat for second sandwich.
  3. Slice in half and serve

Cook Time: 3 Minutes Yields: 2 Sandwiches

TIP: When packing these toasty sandwiches for a picnic I wrap them in paper towels. Not only do the paper towels serve double duty in helping to clean messy faces after lunch, they keep the warm bread from getting soggy like a plastic bag might.

Cincinnati Popcorn

You can find dried Cincinnati chili mixes near the flavor packets and canned chili at your grocery. You can also make your own by combining chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cocoa powder.

Ingredients

  • 1 bag Microwave Popcorn
  • 2 Tbsp. Cincinnati Chili Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Follow the instructions on the back of the popcorn bag and cook accordingly.
  2. Open the bag of hot popcorn and pour in the seasoning. Toss together until everything is evenly coated.
  3. Serve in a big bowl to share or store in a plastic bag to nosh all day long.

Cook Time: 3 Minutes Yields: 3-4 Cups

TIP: Use either pre-popped cheddar-flavored popcorn or completely unflavored, unsalted popcorn. There is already salt in the seasoning mix, so be careful not to add too much more.

Pesto-Roasted Chickpeas

Just as you pull these from the oven, consider tossing them in even more flavor -- chopped fresh herbs, Parmesan cheese, and kicky red pepper flakes are all interesting additions.

Ingredients

  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp. Pesto
  • Salt 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Drain and pat dry a can of chickpeas; combine with the pesto and season with salt in a small bowl. Spread the seasoned chickpeas onto a cookie sheet.
  3. Place the cookie sheet into oven and cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, toss around the chickpeas so they cook evenly. Place back in the oven and cook in 15-minute increments, until the chickpeas are crispy.
  4. Once the chickpeas are just right, remove from the oven and let cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Prep Time: 5 Minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Yields: 1-2 Cups

TIP: These make for a delicious snack, but are also the perfect topper to a bowl of pasta or a crunchy salad. 

(Photos by Cara Hummel Photography)

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