Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Start packing

Packing lunches for school is one thing; packing for picnics is more fun. Think sunshine and green grass and then go out to play with your lunch packed for a big gathering of friends or for a party of one, you.

Hints and tips for picnic packers

1. Frozen drinks: Use drinks as ice packs. Freeze a juice box and use it as an ice pack in the morning. Put it in a plastic bag in the center of the chilled food. By picnic time it will have defrosted and be ready to drink.

2. Transporting food safely: Food stored without an ice pack or something to keep it cold shouldn't be out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Even with something to keep food cold, the maximum is four hours and foods shouldn't register above 40 F.

3. Salads: Quinoa, rice, pasta, bulgur wheat, etc., when packaged in plastic bags takes less room in the carrier than when packed in hard plastic containers.

4. Saving space: When possible cut fruits or vegetables into chunks and cut sandwiches into wedges or strips.

5. Leafy greens: You can enjoy a leafy green salad providing you don't add the salad dressing until you are ready to eat. Package greens in a plastic bag together with a paper towel. Transport the dressing in a small container (empty spice bottles are good for this).

6. Cookies: It is no secret that cookies are probably the easiest healthy sweet to bring for celebrating the end of a meal. They can even be gastronomically correct--oatmeal or peanut butter qualify. Bar cookies transport best of all.

7. Avocado: Believe it or not avocados are perfect picnic fare. Just halve an avocado and then remove the see by whacking it firmly with a sharp knife and then twisting to remove the seed (which can later be planted). Bring it to the picnic with the pit inside to prevent browning. Kids like scooping the avocado out with a spoon and eating it with salt or lemon juice. I like to spread it on bread instead of butter (which melts something that avocados can't do) or slicing it into a green salad where it becomes coated with a dressing. Avocados are great with any salad, even fruit. Lemon, lime and/or salt are musts when enjoying avocados.

Nice easy things to do for transortable lunches

A. Warm Arabic Fat Bread: Make it pliable by warming and then topping with goat cheese or feta, a few spears of cucumber, a whole green onion and if possible with sprigs of fresh dill, tarragon or mint. Roll or fold it up for an easy to hold and delicious sandwich.

B. Leftover Pizza: Top with a big handful of salad and then roll it up for transportation or you can assemble the pizzawich at eating time. No leftover pizza? Buy oven-ready for dinner and use the leftovers for the next day's picnic.

C. Humus: Add diced cucumber. Top with fresh mint or cilantro, or both if they are available.

D. Stuffed eggs: Must-haves on every picnic. You can mix the yolks with mayonnaise, diced pickles, a bit of sugar, mustard and anything else that comes to hand. When you reach the eating spot, fill the empty whites with the yolk mixture. It is so hard to make deviled eggs ahead and transport them over hill and dale without their becoming an edible but not beautiful mix. Or, stuff them at home and put two stuffed halves together to make a well-stuffed, and easily transported whole egg.

E. Rice salad: Make a little extra rice as your starch with dinner the night before. Dress up the leftovers with a bit of vinaigrette, a splash of wine vinegar (or Chinese rice wine vinegar) a dab of mustard and your choice of such things as: garlic, onion, peppers, parsley, olives, capers, anchovies, etc. Bring it dressed so the rice has a chance to absorb the flavors.

F. Ripe fruit with candied nuts: Choose the ripest, most ready, soft fruit that you can find. Lightly candy a handful of raw pine nuts, peanuts or other nuts by heating in a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Then sprinkle in a tablespoon or more of sugar, tossing and turning as you go until the sugar melts and coats the nuts. Cool and pack in a separate bag to enjoy with fruit for dessert or toss with a salad.

G. Breadsticks: Make your own using frozen puff-pastry or buy it frozen. Spread with goat cheese and then wrap each with slices of prosciutto.

Chilled Artichoke with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Half of a large artichoke per person is a great addition to a picnic and the Tartar Sauce is also wonderful with cold chicken, fish, and even tiny boiled potatoes. This can all be done a day ahead. Makes 4 servings.

2 large artichokes

Tartar Sauce:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon drained capers
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard or less
Cayenne pepper

Artichoke: Trim the sharp ends from artichoke leaves. Boil or steam until a fork pierces base of artichoke easily and leaves can be easily removed. Turn upside down to drain and cool. Cut each in half and scrape out the hairy choke. Wrap and store in refrigerator.

Tartar Sauce: Slowly whip olive oil into mayonnaise until well combined, and then add the lemon juice. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

French Salad Sandwiches

A round roll is sliced in half and filled with the basic ingredients for salade Nicoise.

Extra virgin olive oil
White or red wine, optional
Small garlic clove, finely chopped
Fresh basil or herbes de Provence
Thick tomato slices
Red and green pepper, slices
Sweet onion, thin slices
Hard-cooked egg, slices
Tuna fish or anchovies

Open roll and sprinkle both sides with first 5 ingredients. Layer slices of remaining ingredients on bottom of roll, cover with roll top, pressing together well.

Wrap and eat in several hours when juices have permeated the sandwich.

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