By Melissa Bobrowicz

Spring is in full swing, especially here in Los Angeles. Before summer starts and BBQ season officially begins, we over here411 strawberry lemonade at Labor 411 can appreciate the art of lounging around outdoors on a warm sunny day with good company and a cooler full of our favorite foods. Personally, my favorite Spring activities are the Sunday backyard brunch, and the sunny picnic at the park.

Maybe it’s that Cali sun, or that mild spring weather – either way, eating outdoors is a Californian tradition.  I have found that the perfect midday outdoor meal stays true to a few practices: picnic food is generally prepared early (so it can be packed away easily), easy to serve, and most importantly, ready to eat!  Because there is a ton of excellent food out there which is union made, I figured why not take the time create my own version of a union picnic?

If you fancy yourself an ethical consumer by any means, you probably appreciate the concept of voting with your dollars, yet find it hard to take the time to research accordingly.  Over here at Labor 411, I’ve taken the task upon myself, and have researched and created my own version of a delicious and excellent quality picnic lunch!

First off, a warm Spring day begs for a sweet drink.  Prior to my picnic, I prepared strawberry lemonade from home, using the following ingredients:

•    1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed (Minutemaid)
•    1 (10 ounce) package frozen strawberries, partially thawed
•    4.5 cups of water
•    Garnish with fresh Dole strawberries

In a large pitcher, I mixed together the Minutemaid lemonade concentrate and water. For color and flavor, I stirred in frozen strawberries. I made sure to also purchase fresh Dole strawberries, to use as a garnish for my lemonade. For those out there over 21 who enjoy a little kick in their lemonade, I personally like to add a bit of champagne to the sweet drink. In fact, there are lots of union-made champagnes, with bottles ranging from the very modest Andre champagne, to the more fancy Le Domaine champagne. Whether you prefer strawberry lemonade and champagne to a more traditional mimosa (orange juice and champagne), or perhaps just plain lemonade, these easy drinks are the perfect complement for lounging around on a sunny day.

Along with my drink, I prepared an antipasto salad that would be easy to pack and enjoy during my picnic. To make my Antipasto Pasta Salad, I used:

•    1 pound seashell pasta (Ronzoni)
•    1/4 pound Genoa salami, chopped (Boar’s Head)
•    1/4 pound pepperoni sausage, chopped (Boar’s Head)
•    1/2 pound Asiago cheese, diced  (Boar’s Head)
•    1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and chopped (Goya)
•    1 red bell pepper, diced
•    1 green bell pepper, chopped
•    3 tomatoes, chopped
•    1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix (Chef’s finest, Hidden Valley)
•    3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (Goya)
•    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
•    2 tablespoons dried oregano (Durkee)
•    1 tablespoon dried parsley  (Durkee)
•    1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (Kraft)
•    salt and ground black pepper to taste

1.    First, I cooked the seashell pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, then drained and cooled the pasta under cold water.
2.    In a large bowl, I combined the pasta, salami, pepperoni, Asiago cheese, black olives, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and tomatoes. I then stirred in the envelope of Italian dressing mix.
3.    I was sure to cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour!
4.    While my pasta salad was getting better by the minute in the refrigerator, I went ahead and whisked together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This dressing was set aside to be served on top of the pasta salad just before serving! Pro tip: just make sure you mix your pasta well!411 pasta salad

I always find that my antipasto salad turns out the best when I make it the night before a big day spent outdoors, so I made sure to prep both the strawberry lemonade and pasta salad well in advance. Now that I had decided on serving my strawberry lemonade with a kick, along with my antipasto salad, I was having trouble trying to decide what kind of protein dish to include in my picnic basket. (A little research told me that cold fried chicken, usually prepared the night before with the other dishes, was traditional southern picnic fare; I, however, am not that talented.) I had to think of something easy to put together that was still really delicious. I really love great meats and cheeses, so I was especially excited to learn that Boar’s Head deli meats were union-made! Out here in Los Angeles, you can find a great selection of Boar’s Head delicatessen items at almost any Ralph’s supermarket.

The rest of the lunch was rather easy to put together as I just packaged together a few of my favorite cold cuts – in this case, salami, roast beef, and turkey breast – and some of my favorite cheeses, like Colby jack and Muenster. Some of my friends decided to make sandwiches, but most of us sat around and enjoyed the pasta salad and the sweet strawberry lemonade spiked with bubbly. All in all, the food was terrific and my sunny Los Angeles picnic was a really fun experience. It was Sunday, the weather was amazing, and I didn’t feel guilty at all for indulging in a decadent picnic, complete with champagne, strawberry lemonade, pasta salad, and fine meats and cheeses.

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