For many people, dining outdoors is one of the highlights of the summer. However, lunch or dinner alfresco doesn’t need to mean sweating over $14 margaritas on restaurant patios (not that we have anything against sweating over $14 margaritas). Sometimes, all you need for an enjoyable night out under the sun or stars is a picnic basket and a few friends.
Also: plenty of snacks.
We have four picnic-friendly recipes that you can pack in your basket, cooler, thermos and head to your favorite park or outdoor concert for a change of pace.
Creamy Chicken Salad with Cranberries & Almonds
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) coarsely chopped roasted almonds
Poach chicken: Fill a Dutch oven two-thirds full of water; bring to a boil. Wrap each chicken breast half completely and tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Add the chicken to boiling water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes. Unwrap chicken and shred; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cold.
Combine mayonnaise and the next 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined. Add chicken, 1/3 cup celery, cranberries, and almonds; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over salad greens.
Chilled Avocado Soup
1 whole avocado
1 large English (seedless) cucumber, diced
3/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used juice from one large fresh lemon)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper, to taste
Blend peeled, seeded cucumber, avocado, fat-free yogurt and fresh lemon juice in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and thin with salt and pepper as desired. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve cold, garnished with diced cucumber.
Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Spread
4 ounces crumbled Feta
1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
Crackers, for serving
In a medium bowl, mash together the Feta, yogurt, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the oil from the tomatoes until mostly smooth. Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Serve with whole wheat crackers.
S’Mores Cookie Bars
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
11 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1 C brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
2 packages graham crackers, broken into squares
3 regular sized Hershey’s bars (1.55 oz. each)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Start by whisking together the flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until blended.
Slowly add the flour mixture, with the mixer on low speed, until it’s just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and laying graham cracker squares side-by-side. Put a scoop (a little more than 1 tablespoon) of dough in the middle of each graham cracker and press down lightly with your finger. Put the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and place Hershey’s chocolate pieces on top of each cookie.Put the cookies back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes, until edges are golden.
Cool a bit in the pan and then move to wire rack to cool completely. Cut cookie bars with a sharp knife and keep in airtight container for up to five days (if they last that long).