Tidewater Kitchen - May 2006

The Family Picnic

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

     A good picnic entails eating a hearty sandwich at your favorite park or even at the beach. Especially for kids, this departure from the everyday family meal turns into an adventure, making it the perfect time for even the most finicky eaters to try new things.
      In this menu, I have chosen a variety of fun appetizers, salads and desserts which might just awaken a taste bud or two, and add new favorites to your family’s repertoire.
      When it comes to picnic preparations, keep it simple. It is always fun to get your families’ input on what to bring, and even have them help out with the preparations.

STRAWBERRY SOUP
This soup is best when thoroughly chilled, so it’s best to make this the night before.

1 32-ounce container plain yogurt
1½ cups white grape juice
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pint fresh strawberries
1 cup sliced kiwi

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt and white grape juice. Add the sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon and mix until thoroughly blended. Pour into a plastic container, cover and chill overnight.
Just before leaving for your picnic, wash, hull and slice the strawberries and place them in a separate plastic container. Do the same with the kiwi and place in another plastic container.
When you are ready to serve the soup, spoon several berries into a large cup and pour the soup mixture on top, then garnish with kiwi slices.

MINI QUICHES
I like to prepare these quiches in muffin tins. It is great for young chefs to practice rolling, cutting and shaping pie crusts.
Pastry:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
4-5 Tablespoons ice-cold water

Filling:
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
3/4 cup sweet corn, canned, fresh or frozen - drained
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

To make the pastry, stir together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles a coarse pea-sized meal. Add the water and mix well, until the dough holds together. Gently knead the dough, then gather it into a ball. Cover it in plastic wrap and chill for thirty minutes.
While the dough chills melt the butter over medium heat, add the onion and saute for five minutes or until translucent. Add the red pepper and corn and saute for an additional ten minutes or until both the pepper and corn are tender. Remove this mixture from the heat and set it aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs, add the cheese, and stir in the salt and pepper to taste. Add the red pepper and corn mixture and stir until evenly combined.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To assemble the quiche, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a wide-mouth cup or glass, cut the dough into twelve circles. Place the circles into the lightly oiled muffin tins, gently press the pastry to fit the mold, and crimp the edges.
For crispier shells, prick the pie dough with a fork and pre-bake the shells for 5 minutes. Let them cool, then pour the quiche mixture almost to the top of each muffin cup.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the custard has puffed up and an inserted knife comes out clean. This recipe makes 12 mini quiches.

MY FAVORITE POTATO SALAD
This potato salad is different in that it has a light oil and vinegar dressing. Be sure that the potatoes are still warm when you add the dressing so the dressing will absorb better. I always like to make this the day before so the flavors have time to blend.

1½ pounds baby red potatoes, washed and quartered
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 pound bacon, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled
3 eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1 small onion, grated
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons sweet pickle relish

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the potatoes. Cook them until just tender, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to over-cook the potatoes as they will quickly become very mushy.
Drain the water and transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Using a knife, roughly cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces.
In a measuring cup whisk together the oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the potatoes while they are still warm and toss to coat. Let the potatoes sit in the dressing for 30 minutes, then add the eggs, onions, scallions, relish and bacon. Toss gently until everything is combined. Chill, covered. Serves four.

SANDWICH ROLL-UPS
With these roll-up sandwiches, the presentation is everything. When it comes to these tubular twisters, even pbj can be fun to make and eat. You kids will love them. You can use almost any filling.

16 slices of soft bread
Fillings:
Peanut butter and jelly
Sliced turkey
Sliced roast beef
Sliced ham and cheese
Tuna salad
Cheese and sweet relish
Use your imagination!

The biggest secret to this sandwich is to make sure the bread is soft enough to stay together without breaking.
Cut the crust off each slice of bread and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Place a thin layer of filling on each of the slices then roll up, being careful not to tear the bread. Cover the twisters tightly with plastic wrap or foil to prevent the bread from drying out. Make sixteen sandwich rolls.

CHICKEN SALAD
Everyone loves this chicken salad, and the salsa it gives it a little extra surprise. It is great if you have leftover chicken, or buy the roasted chicken or even deli meat if you like. If not, cook 1½ pounds of boned, skinless chicken breasts to yield the amount you need.

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup salsa
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 cup corn, either off the cob, frozen or canned (drained)
2/3 cup small pitted black olives
4 cups cooked chicken, diced
Pickled jalapeno pepper
1 bag of mixed field greens

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salsa, salt and pepper. Stir in the bell pepper, corn and olives. Add the chicken and toss to mix. Cover and chill for up to 3 days. Top individual servings with slices of pickled jalapeno pepper, if desired. Serves 6-8. I like to serve this over a bed of mixed field greens.

BLUEBERRY and PEACH BUCKLE
This is a great cake to transport using your fresh fruits. This works best in a 9-inch round pan, but a square pan works well, too.

1/2 cup butter
1¼ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup blueberries, tossed in 1 Tablespoon flour
3 peaches, peeled, sliced, and tossed in 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate or any heavy pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Stir in the vanilla extract.
In a large measuring cup, mix the dry ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately to the sugar and egg mixture. Beat until just mixed.
Fold the blueberries in, then pour the batter into the greased pan. Arrange the peach slices over the entire top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serves 8.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BROWNIES
These are great by themselves, but when you add the chocolate chips, oh my, these are so decadent!

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Optional: I love to add walnuts, but they are not always a favorite of the younger crowd

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.
    In a medium saucepan, melt together the unsweetened chocolate and butter over medium heat. Be careful not to burn this! Set it aside.
    Meanwhile, beat together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the vanilla extract and then stir it into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake. This makes 16 2-inch brownies.

Some Fun Things To Pack
Carrot and celery sticks
Hollowed out bread with spinach dip
Chips and salsa
Grapes and cheese
Bagel chips
Chunks of canteloupe, watermelon and other fruits

Packing a Picnic
    Be careful when planning and packing to ensure that no mishaps occur such as forgotten main dish, a spoiled salad, or a crushed cake. We all love to soak up the sun when outdoors, but make sure your food isn’t out too long, as it will spoil.
    I always like to jot down a list of items that I will need, such as napkins, moist toweletts, plates, cups, flatware, serving utensils, salt and pepper, cold drinks, ice, bug spray, sunscreen and blankets. Don’t forget those trash bags for cleaning up.
    Pack delicate items in solid containers to prevent them from being crushed. Secure all lids with masking tape to keep the containers from spilling and then put them in plastic bags.
    Refrigerate all food until you are ready to leave. Pack your main cooler with the dessert and other items you plant to eat last on the bottom. Place the appetizer on the top.
    Remember to ask each child to bring their favorite toy or game.
    Keep it simple. You don’t want to be doing a lot of lugging back and forth.
    If your family picnics a lot, or plans to, you may want to invest in some citronella candles, collapsible coolers, ice packs, thermal containers and outdoor dining gear and chairs.
    Go out and have a blast!