Heading North: a Picnic and a Hike

In a season baked by sunshine, a summer hike through the woods—shaded, quiet, and surrounded by nature—offers a bit of relief from the balmy heat and the busyness of pool parties and summer camp. In search of a day outdoors that doesn’t involve long lines or sunburns, a few of us at Smart Lunches like to stuff a backpack full of picnic fare and head north of Boston to Concord, MA.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.51.12 PMLocated about forty minutes outside of Boston, Concord, MA is a small town with a rich literary history (past residents include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne) and a quintessentially New England atmosphere— church bells, maple trees, hand-made candy, artisanal cheese shops, and yellow colonial-style houses with black shutters and chipped paint. Yet the thing we love most about Concord—besides perhaps the homemade salted caramels from Priscilla Candy Shop—is the beautiful area known as Walden Pond, a state reservation located a bit beyond the edges of Main Street. It was here, during the nineteenth century, that the writer Henry David Thoreau removed himself from society to live in solitude, completely alone in a shack in the middle of the woods.

Listening to Thoreau’s advice to spend as much time outdoors as possible, we took a gorgeous summer day—the kind when the air conditioner is clicked off and the windows are wide open—to break out the sneakers and hike around Walden Pond. Remembering Henry’s words—“simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!”—we packed a picnic lunch of clean, unpricey, unfussy flavors: orange-spiced trail mix and zucchini ribbon pasta salad. We also bought strawberry-banana smoothies from Main Street Market on the way there—definitely a must.

Orange-Spiced Trail Mix (4 Servings): 

Of course, the best thing about trail mix is really the ability to jumble together anything you have on hand, but here’s one of our favorite combos if you want to give it a try.

Vegan, no refined sugar

This recipe CONTAINS NUTS—for a nut-free recipe, substitute cashews for 1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds, almonds for 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and add 1 cup cranberries

You need:

Ten whole, dried figs

2 cup cashews

2 cup almonds, whole or sliced

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoon orange juice

pinch cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

  1. Cut figs into quarters. In a bowl, mix cashews and almonds. Add 3 tablespoons of orange juice, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg to the bowl and mix through until every thing is lightly coated. Place the nuts on a baking sheet to toast until slightly golden. Allow cashews and almonds to cool, and then add figs, cranberries, and chocolate chips.

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta Salad (4 servings):

One of our interns works at a small farm in Cohasset, MA during the summer, and the months of July and August produce crateful by crateful of fat zucchini. You can roast them, grill them, or bake them into bread, but one of our new favorite ways to enjoy this summer veggie is in long ribbons for a pasta salad:

You Need:

4 medium to large zucchini

2 cups dry pasta (any pasta you like: whole wheat, regular, and gluten free all work well)

½ cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon garlic

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a medium saucepan ¾ way with water and set to boil over
  2. If the zucchini is organic, wash the whole vegetable and keep the skin. If it is not organic, wash the zucchini and take skin off with a peeler.
  3. Cut 1 inch off the bottom of the zucchini to provide a stable base. Hold upright and run a peeler down the sides, creating ribbons. Repeat until all of zucchini is in ribbons (stopping at the core, when the seeds begin producing flimsy, watery zucchini ribbons). Place ribbons in a bowl (or a portable container if you’re picnicking)
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper.
  5. Pour olive oil and lemon dressing over zucchini ribbons and mix until all of the ribbons are coated. Add sunflower seeds, shredded Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta.

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