Friday, February 22, 2013

Springtime Picnic Ideas: Great Salads

Springtime Picnic Ideas Great Salad

Springtime Salad Picnic Ideas

When spring is in the air, we all feel that wonderful sense of renewal. Those who live in four season climates appreciate seeing the buds on the trees and the daffodils poking their heads through the grass. Even people who live in warmer climates sense that something special is about to begin as schools wind down for the year and people begin to make plans for their summer vacations.

What is it you like about the spring? Is it the warm breezes? Is it the color of the flowers? Perhaps it’s the opportunity to spend more time outside after being cooped up in the house or busy at school. For many nature lovers, the best thing about spring is the onset of outdoor activities from walking and jogging to playing sports or simply the chance to head outside without being wrapped up in your parka and snow boots.

With that increased outdoor activity also comes the opportunity to pack up that picnic basket, spread out the blanket, and enjoy an al fresco meal. Nearly everyone – from little ones to senior citizens – enjoys a picnic, though everyone’s idea of the perfect picnic might be a little different.

But whether you prefer a quiet time in the park with one or two closest friends or a noisy picnic with all the kids in tow, you’ll need some great food to take along.


Spring brings a plentiful bounty of produce that you might not have in the wintertime, depending on your location. So use them in a salad! Salads are light and easy to prepare and you won’t feel overly stuffed by the time you’re finished. Furthermore, you’ll have room for a few cookies if you don’t eat a bunch of heavy food for the main course. Try one of these:

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Avocado Salad
3 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, cut into small chunks
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

Dress the 3 items above in:
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vinegar (use your favorite!)
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with basil

Tortellini with Spring Vegetables
8 oz. tortellini, cheese or some other favorite
3 c. fresh spinach
1 c. shelled peas
1 lb. asparagus, cut in 2 in. spears
¼ c. pine nuts
6 ounce herbed feta cheese
¼ c. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Cook the tortellini in boiling water for about 5 minutes then add the asparagus and cook for 3 more. Add the peas just before turning off. Strain then add spinach, pine nuts, and feta cheese. Toss with olive oil and vinegar and season to taste.

Layered Garden Salad
6 c. torn mixed salad greens (use your favorites!)
1 15 - ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. shredded carrots
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 9-oz. package frozen whole kernel corn
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup broccoli florets
1/4 c. green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 c. finely chopped cooked ham or Canadian bacon
1 10-oz. package frozen peas, thawed
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

Use a large glass bowl and layer the ingredients beginning with the greens and continuing in the order listed. Save half the cheese for top garnish. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. Bring individual dressing packets with you in an insulated cooler so picnic guests can choose their favorite for this yummy salad.

Combine St. Patrick’s Day Traditions with a Fun Picnic

Combine St. Patrick’s Day Traditions with a Fun Picnic

Fun St. Patrick’s Day Picnic Ideas

Okay, admit it. Even if you’re not Irish, you kind of like the idea of celebrating that holiday where it’s okay to drink green beer and consume large amounts of a fatty meat accompanied by plenty of cabbage and spuds. No doubt you’ve got that green outfit already picked out, just waiting until March 17th rolls around when you can wear it along with a silly hat or perhaps some sort of shamrock icon.

Seriously, Americans have fun with this holiday that’s designed to honor St. Patrick, the designated patron saint of Ireland, who is said to have banished all the snakes from that island country…along with a whole bunch of other legends. Truly, however, he was a great Christian missionary who did much to help the poor of Ireland and it’s fitting that not only Irish but others who believe in the spirit of giving honor him on the anniversary of the day of his death.

Happily, for many in the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day falls at that time of year when the weather is getting warmer, so many festivities include parades and other outdoor activities. That means it’s also a good time of year to consider a picnic, so instead of keeping the party indoors this year, bring it out into the pretty March sunshine and organize a picnic that’s worthy of this great man.

What’s on the Menu?

There are many traditional Irish or St. Patrick’s Day foods that are actually pretty easy to pack in your picnic basket or cooler and take along to your favorite green space.

Start with a great loaf of Irish soda bread. Around the time of this March holiday, it’s pretty easy to find this bread at supermarkets or other specialty stores, but it’s also quite easy to make. You can pair it with just about anything or simply enjoy it with some good, creamy butter slathered on top. (Calories don’t count on St. Patrick’s Day!)

Of course, a perennial main entrée favorite for this special day is corned beef, and the nice thing about this particular meat is that it can be enjoyed hot or cold. So, you can cook the roast ahead of time, refrigerate it, and then slice it up to bring along on the picnic. You can eat it as is or use it in a sandwich, perhaps putting it on some good hearty oatmeal bread and adorning it with mustard.

And then there’s the potatoes. You can go with the usual potato salad or even make some sort of potato casserole you can keep warm in an insulated container. Whether you choose hot or cold, be sure to keep this and other offerings at the right temperature for serving so as to avoid having anyone get sick.

Why not add a few more traditional Irish items to the menu? Cheeses go great with corned beef and are ideal for any picnic as they are easy to cart along and enjoyed by all ages. You can slice or cube them ahead of time or bring along a cheese board and knife. Types of cheese to consider include Ardrahan, a semi-soft with a salty, nutty flavor; Irish Porter Cheddar (who wouldn’t love a cheese made with beer!); Crozier Blue, a very intense cheese from Tipperary; and Gubbeen, a pink-and-white rind cheese from County Cork that often has a mushroom-like flavor.

Finally, end your meal with some tasty little morsels – Bourbon Fudge Balls, a wonderful blend of two great ingredients, chocolate and a little Irish bourbon. Here’s the recipe, which is easy to make as it requires no baking.

Bourbon Fudge Balls

  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (like chocolate wafer cookies)
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

  1. In a food processor, pulse together the cookie crumbs and pecans until the nuts are finely ground.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the bourbon, 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and honey. Add to the mixture in the food processor and pulse until just combined.
  3. Let the dough rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 4 hours or, lightly covered, overnight. Dough will be drier after the rest period.
  4. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in the remaining confectioners' sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Celebrate the Light with a Daylight Savings Time Picnic

We all get the doldrums when the days are short. It seems its dark when we get up and dark when we get home from work. During the winter, we barely get the chance to enjoy the sun, especially if we’re cooped up in an office or busy at home, rarely venturing outside during the daylight hours. So, when it’s time to “spring ahead” one hour, we rejoice at the opportunity to grab some extra minutes of light which – undoubtedly – helps us shed the winter blahs.

Spring Ahead Picnic Party

When daylight savings time arrives, there’s more than reason to celebrate! Some particularly festive types mark its arrival with a party. And why not? A get-together is a great way to mark the coming of spring and the joy that extra daylight brings, and if the weather permits, why not make it a “Spring Ahead Picnic Party”?

For those who really enjoy being outside, a picnic is the ideal way for marking the return of longer days. So, gather your like-minded friends and pack a special meal that pays homage to the extended daylight. How about stocking your picnic basket with items related to the sun or those that are sun-colored? You can include items such as:

  • Oranges, clementines, or tangerines
  • Orange juice or lemonade
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Round cookies with sunshine-colored frosting (orange or yellow)
  • Circle-shaped orange cheese sandwiches
  • Mini lemon tarts
  • Cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto
  • Simple grilled chicken topped with mango salsa
  • Carrots with your favorite dip
  • Dried apricots
  • And any other orange or yellow foods!

    One particularly healthy orange food is sweet potatoes and, if you have time to prepare ahead, there are many ways you can serve them at your picnic. Of course, traditional potato salads are a picnic favorite. Here’s one that uses these vitamin-packed sun-colored tubers and another sunny fruit as well!

    Sweet Potato Salad

  • 6 med. sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 (8 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1/2 c. sliced celery
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 c. mayonnaise, low fat
  • 1/4 c. sour cream, low fat

    In a large pot, cook sweet potatoes in boiling water for about 30 minutes or until fork tender. Let the potatoes cool and then cut into ½-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, pineapple, celery, and pecans. Combine the mayo and sour cream and fold into the other ingredients. Chill and place in an insulated container for transporting to the picnic. Serves 8-10.

    Springing Ahead to Festive Days in The Sun

    Sunday, March 10th is the 2013 date we get to “spring forward” and 10 short days later on the 20th is the spring equinox, the official beginning of spring. Make an excuse to get away, out of the office and into the sunshine for a Daylight Savings Time Picnic!