Eating Wisely: Recipes For Summer Gatherings

Play date in the park picnicThe summer months are often filled with outdoor gatherings: camping trips, picnics, family reunions, park playdates. More often than not, food is part of these get togethers. Whether you’re eating in your backyard with just a few loved ones or gathering with a large group of friends or extended family, here are a few recipes from La Leche League cookbooks that might be just right for the occasion. Vegan (V) alternatives are suggested by La Leche League daughter Delia Monken, New Jersey, USA.

As always, we’d love to hear from you with your own favorite recipes or how you altered these recipes to meet your family’s preferences.

(Editor’s note: When my children were younger, summer included one weekend of camping with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. On the last day, one of the grandparents would bring out the griddle and make French toast for the dozens of hungry campers gathered around. The French toast recipe was very basic – just cinnamon, please! – but we thought you’d enjoy this recipe in case you’d like to add a little something extra for your own breakfast or brunch contribution.)

Nutty Fruity French Toast – Whole Foods For The Whole Family, p. 9 – Yields 6 servings

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup chopped raisins
  • 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 12 slices whole grain bread
  • 2 eggs (V-combine 2 tablespoons fine ground flax seed with non-dairy milk. Let this mixture sit and thicken for about 5 minutes, then add other ingredients)
  • ½ cup milk (V- non-dairy milk, such as almond milk)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (V- dairy-free butter alternative)

Combine peanut butter, fruit, preserves and cinnamon in bowl. Spread six slices of bread with mixture. Top with remaining bread. Beat eggs with milk in shallow bowl. Dip sandwiches in mixture, draining excess. Brown on each side in melted butter in skillet over medium heat. Serve warm.

There’s nothing easier to prepare (or eat!) for an outdoor gathering than a plate of sliced vegetables. If you have a little extra time, you might like to try making this yummy eggplant dip to accompany your plate of vegetables.

Easy Microwave Eggplant Dip for Crudités – Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family, p. 95 – Yields about 3 cups

  • 1 large eggplant (1 to 1 ¼ pounds)
  • 1 15-ounce can no-salt-added white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper

Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork. Place on a paper-towel-lined microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn eggplant over, and microwave until the skin collapses and the flesh is very tender, about 5 minutes longer. Let cool.

Remove and discard the stem, then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon and transfer to a food processor; discard the peel. Add the beans, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic. Process until smooth and creamy. (If you don’t have a food processor, combine the eggplant, beans, lemon juice, and tahini in a bowl. Finely chop the garlic, add it to the mixture, and mash everything together. It will be a bit chunky.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper; cover, and refrigerate until cold. The dip can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve with your favorite crudités.

It wouldn’t be a potluck or a picnic without a salad! This salad requires only a few ingredients and doesn’t take long at all to prepare.

Ramen Slaw – Whole Foods From The Whole World, p. 32 – Yields 8 servings

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons honey (V-agave nectar)
  • ½ to 1 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 3 ounces ramen noodles, broken

Combine vinegar, honey, oil and salt in bowl; mix well. Add cabbage and noodles; mix gently. Serve immediately for crunchy salad or chill for several hours for less crunch. May add 2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds or sesame seeds, ¼ to ½ cup sliced almonds, 4 sliced green onions, or 1 slivered green bell pepper if desired.

Let’s not forget about dessert! These Old-Fashioned Raisin Bars are a delicious way to top off any gathering.

Old-Fashioned Raisin Bars – Whole Foods for Kids to Cook, p. 92 – Yields 3 dozen

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter or margarine (V- dairy-free butter alternative)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (V-Substitute “flax egg” or a commercial egg substitute. The basic ratio for “flax egg” is one tablespoon flax seeds and three tablespoons of water to replace one egg. You’ll need to grind the flax seeds into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder (or use 2 ½ teaspoons pre-ground), and then you simply whisk in the water until it becomes gelatinous.)
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9×13 baking pan. Combine raisins and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in butter with spoon. Cool to lukewarm. Add sugar and egg and mix well. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into a medium bowl. Add to raisin mixture and mix well. Spoon into 9×13 baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].

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