When the summer season arrives, it always turns me into a romantic sort of mama. This season makes me want to run away with my babes and enjoy all the nostalgic things — swaying on wooden swings under trees bursting with cherry blossoms, laying lazily for hours in fresh-cut grass, and toting checkered blanket-lined picnic baskets full of homemade eats.
Although wooden swings are a rare commodity in our urban backyard, and laying on fresh-cut grass leaves itchy legs, I’ve decided I can still totally nail the summer picnic basket. So the kids and I purchased a 12-pack of mason jars at a local thrift store and conjured this easy-to-pack Mason Jar Picnic. We layered ingredients together for Raspberry Kale Quinoa Salads, Homemade Honey Lemonade, and tiny jars of Berry Parfaits.
Each one of these recipes is so easy, my 6th graders were great help in assembling it all. I chopped and prepped most of the salad ingredients, then let them create their own mason jar masterpieces. A quick twist of metal lids, and we tucked them in a picnic basket without any worry of drippage or mess. The mason jar seals are wonderfully airtight, making this a perfect way to tote an earth-friendly picnic that’s as easy on the organizing mama as it is on the environment. Just toss in some dishware and silverware and you’re on your way to a picture-perfect picnic.
Salads made in mason jars are an ideal picnic treat. They’re easy to prepare, unlikely to spoil in the heat, and — best of all — highly customizable. Invite your children to layer their favorite salad ingredients together to ensure a no-complaint picnic. In my experience, kids are much more likely to eat what they get to make themselves!
For our entree, we went with a simple kale salad. Because kale leaves are benefitted in taste and texture by being marinated, mason jars work especially well. You can place the dressing at the bottom of the jar, layering kale over that. As it sits, the leaves soaks up the vinaigrette and become tender and tasty. For best results, chop your kale into very fine ribbons.
Raspberry Kale Salad in a Jar
Makes: 2 jars; 4 servings
2 cups raspberries
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups kale, finely chopped
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups quinoa
Special equipment: 2-quart mason jars
1. In a blender, puree 1/2 cup raspberries, olive oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spoon this dressing into the bottom of each mason jar. Top with kale, carrots, quinoa, and remaining raspberries. Cover with lid and store in fridge until ready to serve, up to overnight.
Ever since he was 4 years old, my son has loved making lemonade. He’d beg for me to buy bags of lemons, then stand on a step stool twisting the golden citrus around and around in our little glass lemon squeezer. If you’ve got a lemon-loving kid of your own, invite them to prepare fresh lemon juice. Or, go the easy route and use store-bought juice in this simple recipe. No matter how you prefer to make your lemon juice, this lemonade is a sweet treat, absolutely perfect for picnics.
Homemade Honey Lemonade
Makes: 2-4 servings
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Special equipment: pint or half-pint mason jars
1. In a heatproof pitcher, stir together honey and hot water until honey is dissolved. Add lemon juice and mix until well combined. Serve over ice.
Tip: when toting in a mason jar, don’t forget to pack a few paper straws for serving!
Summer desserts are best when they embrace simplicity. This easy treat is exactly that. So simple your toddler could make it, these Simple Berry Parfaits call for creamy store-bought yogurt and fresh berries. That’s it! Best when stored on a bed of ice, they’re delicious with any favorite yogurt flavors, though my kids say coconut yogurt with a little drizzle of honey tastes the very best!
Simple Berry Parfaits
2/3 cup mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries)
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup creamy yogurt (we prefer Noosa honey or coconut flavored)
Special equipment: four 4-ounce mason jars
1. Place a layer of mixed berries in the bottom of each mason jar. Drizzle with a small amount of honey. Top with yogurt and more berries. Place the lids on each mason jar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.