This post has been sponsored by Jewel-Osco. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Now that spring is here, I’m starting to think about outdoor gatherings. One of our favorite outdoor activities is getting together with friends to watch a movie in the park—we bring a picnic and chat before the movie starts at dusk.
I love picnic food, namely because someone always brings cheese, crackers, and charcuterie! I lean toward dishes like fruit salad and fun drinks to round out the meal.
Serving food outdoors does present one issue: how do you stay conscious of the environment while not lugging heavy dishes from home or throwing away plasticware?
I was excited to receive an Open Nature® Earth Day Box from Jewel-Osco, packed with solutions to this issue!
The box contained a variety of compostable* dishes and utensils, including leak-resistant plates and bowls, BPA-free straws, plastic-free cold cups, and dishwasher-safe forks.
I couldn’t believe that the forks were dishwasher safe. This is always a pain point between my husband Longe and I—he wants to save plastic forks and I don’t want to wash them, so I prefer to throw them away after use. But these can be washed in the dishwasher, and I can handle that!
Open Nature products are available exclusively in my local area at Jewel-Osco, at a great value compared with national brands. The Jewel-Osco app has even more savings available—I love that the days of cutting out coupons from the newspaper (my mom was the queen of this) are over.
Jewel-Osco is within walking distance of our house, so I can run out and grab a few things for a picnic—including the food and now all of the sustainable serving products.
Speaking of the food, here are a few fun ideas for an Earth Day picnic:
Fruit salad is one of my go-tos for outdoor gatherings. It holds up well in the heat and it’s so refreshing in the summer. I use whatever fruit is in season or looks good at the grocery store, focusing on less-expensive fruits like apples and grapes for the bulk of the salad and adding a few more-expensive fruits like kiwi for garnish.
Sparkling Water Spritzers
Sparkling water is all the rage, but I know more than a few people who don’t love flavored sparkling water. My solution is a refreshing mixture of fruit juice and sparkling water. I grab a few exotic juices from the ethnic foods aisle, such as mango nectar and papaya nectar. I fill a cup one-third to halfway with the juice and finish filling the cup with sparkling water.
People go bonkers over this! You could also add alcohol to make this into a cocktail. These spritzers held up really well in the Open Nature compostable cold cups, which were sturdy enough for the perils of uneven ground while picnicking.
A Gigantic Italian Hero
This sandwich has one whole pound of deli meat and half a pound of provolone, so it is made for sharing!
Here’s how I made it:
I cut a hole in the top of a sourdough loaf, similar to how you would cut a lid on a pumpkin. Then I scooped out the bread, leaving about ½ inch on all sides.
I layered a mixture of sliced pepperoncini, olive oil, and dried oregano in the bottom. The bread soaks up that delicious olive oil!
Then, I alternated layers of meat and cheese. Since this is an Italian hero, I used genoa salami, sopressata, capocolla, and provolone cheese.
I added another layer of pepperoncini, put the lid on, and wrapped the whole sandwich tightly in foil. The sandwich is best when it’s left to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, with something heavy on top to weight it down (I used a cast iron pan).
The end result is this beauty—an Italian hero that serves 4–6 people!
I’d recommend cutting it into sections while at home, then putting the sections back together and wrapping it all up in foil. Then, when you get to your destination, you can easily hand out sections of the sandwich to your guests.
One other note on the Open Nature plates and bowls, my husband insisted upon warming up the sandwich leftovers. Thankfully, the plates and bowls are microwave safe. So they not only can be used for outdoor picnics but also for heating up leftovers at home.
I’d love to know—what’s your favorite outdoor dining activity in the summer? Chicago provides hundreds of (free!) movies in various parks all summer long, so we make it a point to hit up a few. Picnics on the beach of Lake Michigan are another favorite!
*A note on these compostable items: All components are made of plant-based material certified compostable in industrial composting facilities. Check locally, as these facilities may not be available in your area. No current certification for backyard composting.
Gigantic Italian Hero
- 1 1 lb round sourdough loaf
- 1 16 oz jar pepperoncini, drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅓ lb genoa salami thinly sliced
- ⅓ lb sopressata thinly sliced
- ⅓ lb capocolla thinly sliced
- ½ lb provolone cheese thinly sliced
- Finely chop the pepperoncini, and toss with the olive oil and oregano in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut a large circle in the top of the bread bowl, leaving about 1.5 inches of an edge all the way around the edges. Carefully lift the circle away from the bread bowl.
- Use your hands to remove the inside of the loaf, leaving about ½ inch of bread on all sides. Remove the excess bread from the slice that you cut off the top of the bread bowl, leaving about ½ inch of bread attached to the top to create a lid.
- Spread half of the chopped pepperoncini mixture in the bottom of the bread bowl.
- Place a layer of genoa salami slices on top of the pepperoncini mixture. Then place a layer of the sopressata, capocolla, and provolone. It’s ok if the slices overlap a little bit. You can also cut them to fit nicely, if you wish. Don’t be afraid to push the meat and cheese down—there is a lot to pack in!
- Repeat the layers with the remaining meats and cheese until you reach the top. Spread the remaining pepperoncini mixture on top, and replace the lid.
- Wrap the sandwich tightly in foil. Place in the refrigerator with something heavy on top (I used a cast iron pan). Let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Unwrap and slice into 4–6 wedges to serve.