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High Protein, Veggie urban picnic

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I'm considering taking an "urban picnic" to my bf at a marine base on Sunday. there is nothing really remotely chow-ish near base, and if the weather stays at above 50, I might bring a blanket and just feed him from my kitchen on the run.

I'm looking for some good ideas.

the BEST would be if it could be made the day before, because I'll be heading down there around 8:30am.

Pluses: very high protein. He is in insanely high physical training, and he needs protein. He is a vegetarian (yes, I know, but he eats whatever they feed him to survive).

I'm thinking a nice asian inspired pasta salad with tofu, but not sure of a good tested recipe. Even though I don't cook fish, I could always pick up a piece of already cooked salmon for the side and he could toss it in his portion (he eats fish for now for the protein).

Or should I try an Orzo salad with some white beans? and cheese? Or would sandwiches be better? Hummus, avocado, etc?

I have lots of grocery options, and am a good cook. I just can't decide on whether a themed picnic is best, or if I should just show up with good cheese, fruit, good bread, and antipasta things and just graze. I can pack things decently enough, but am not adverse to picking up a small cooler if needed.

anything considered, as I want it to be good and healthy for him. I plan on bringing a lot because he needs the food.

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  1. You have lots of good ideas there. I'd say to choose one or two things you'd enjoy making and bring a collection of good cheeses, breads, fruits, antipasto items. You could make your own sandwiches from those items or not. If you like making desserts, you could make something high-energy, with dried fruit and nuts (or even whole grain flours), choc. chips etc. and possibly send the "extras" of those back with him!
    A middle eastern theme comes to mind: hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant salad, olives, feta, grape tomatoes, pita bread, salad.....with some baklava, maamoul, dates, figs, nuts...

    or

    cheeses, vegetarian pate, good breads, pickles, salad, fruit, homemade bar cookies with dried cherries, nuts, chocolate chips.

    Do you have a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or ethnic grocery stores near you?

    Make sure you keep it relatively simple for yourself so you can focus on enjoying the time together...have a wonderful time and best of luck!

    1. Make him some fresh Vietnamese vegetable wraps loaded with tofu, bean sprouts and egg. That should take care of the protein requirement. If it's not enough protein, then whip up some peanut dipping sauce or sesame noodles (use peanut butter in addition to sesame paste).

      You can make them the day before, but they tend to stick together. However, once they are made, they are super easy to eat.

      1. Aww, that sounds really fabulous. Other thoughts- frittata! You could do mexican or italian or almost anything, really, and if you wanted it super-duper protein, not only use real whole eggs but also top with cheese, and throw in some black or garbanzo beans as well?

        There was also a thread a while ago about pistachio-crusted tofu, which sounds pretty awesome and healthy on a variety of levels.

        I also second the leftovers idea; could you pack a cooler for him to take back? There are also some great recipes for homemade power and nut bars, which you can customize with whatever dried fruits/chocolate/spices he likes.

        Have fun!

        1. Ever made Quinoa? Make a cold salad of cooked Q. with chopped peppers, some nuts(pine?) whatever you like. Q. is a 'supergrain', high in protein and carbs.

          11 Replies
          1. re: marcharry

            I was thinking of making a quinoa salad actually. maybe with some chick peas, mint, parsley, feta, veggies and pine nuts...

            I do have tons of grocery stores near me (in DC), and I was going to get him a bag of good trail mix to munch on throughout the day.

            So, maybe I can do the Quinoa salad, some homemade hummus and toasted pita chips, a fruit salad, and maybe make some banana chocolate chip bread...he can't really have left overs, as they can't bring food into the barracks, but I'd like to bring extras in case other guys in his platoon are hungry for some home made items.

            I think I can do 99.9% of that the day before, except maybe adding the cheese to the quinoa.

            He isn't a foodie at all, but he needs food in his belly (or what's left of it), and I hate the thought of this week being a big training week full of nasty MREs.

            blech.

            1. re: Jeserf

              I haven't made this, but it's been on my "to try" list...a high-protein banana choc chip bread recipe from Mollie Katzen. I saw it in her "Sunlight Cafe" book but she also has the recipe up on her website:
              http://www.molliekatzen.com/recipes/r...

              She also has an excellent granola recipe (great for snacks!) that I've made...it's really good and she has lots of options for making it higher protein:
              http://www.molliekatzen.com/recipes/r...

              Your spread will be fantastic and he will love it. Being with you and eating your food will make him feel good in so many ways. Have fun!

              1. re: poptart

                hm...good recipe for the banana bread...

                I use a mix (because I'm lazy, and it tastes good!) but I was thinking of adding a few scoops of whey protein powder to it (we both prefer whey to soy, and he's discouraged in the Marines from using supplements).

                hopefully I can get stuff organized and make food that will stay with him for a few days and refuel his tired, broken body.

                And hopefully I can managed to pack everything well enough so it'll stay fresh enough!

                1. re: Jeserf

                  Good luck and let us know how it went. If you try adding whey powder to banana bread mix, or try the Katzen recipe I'd love to know how that worked, could be a good thing to make for take-to-work breakfast if there's protein in it.

                  1. re: poptart

                    i add protein powder to baked goods all the time. start slowly, subbing for about 1/4 cup of flour. whey protein can sometimes toughen baked goods, so i'd suggest either using agave nectar or honey as your sweetener, or increasing the fat by about 10%. some recipes can tolerate higher protein additions than others, so play around with it. you can also use whole wheat pastry flour in place of AP...personally i also like to use part buckwheat flour. it has a great nutty flavor that works really well in banana bread.

                    rice protein is a little heavy for baking, and the flavor & odor can be pretty nasty. it's difficult to get the right balance, so i only use it when i'm baking for a strict vegan who can't tolerate bean flours.

                    i don't use soy products anymore so you're on your own with that one. however i can tell you that soy flour/protein tends to have a beany odor & flavor that can be difficult to mask.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Thanks, good to know. I prefer whey protein myself. Bought some help protein powder recently which I really WANTED to like but it was waaaay too sweet (it had stevia in it). Do you have a partiicular brand of whey protein you like to use?

                      1. re: poptart

                        took me a second to figure that one out...i'm assuming you meant hemp protein?

                        fortunately, unflavored & unsweetened powders are becoming easier to find. "jarrow naturals," "NOW foods" and "jay robb" [finally!] all make good, pure, 100% whey isolate powders with no additives.

                        i've used and liked various other products from all three brands, but so far i've only tried the NOW Foods whey isolate, and i like the way it behaves in baking. it's extremely light. if you can't find it, however, jay robb & jarrow both make excellent products, so i'm sure either one will be fine.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Oops! Yes, I meant to type "hemp"!! :-)

                          Thanks for those recommendations. I will look for them next time I am in Whole Foods or the local natural foods store.

                          1. re: poptart

                            happy to help - hope you find one you like! oh, and if you do, look into online sources for stocking up in the future. the prices are always better on the web.

                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            yay for jay robb's.

                            have you experimented at all w/ isopure... i know it's got some soy in it, but still thought i'd ask your experience. i add it to cereals all the time, but have yet to try subbing out flour for it because it dissoves so readily.

                            1. re: Emme

                              emme, you know me so well :) but i was under the impression that isopure was all whey, not soy...? the reason i don't use it is because of all the artificial stuff in there - sweeteners, colors, flavorings, bulking agents...

            2. your comment about pasta salad with tofu got me thinking that a tofu pesto pasta salad would be perfect. it's a healthy high-protein way to do a vegetarian pasta dish. there are tons of recipes on the web, just choose one that contains flavors/ingredients you both like.

              for dessert [make extra for him as a leave-behind treat], how about baking some meringues in different flavors? they're a good source of protein thanks to the egg whites, and you can even blend in some flavored protein powder.

              most importantly, don't stress too much about the food, and enjoy your time together!

              1. You need to make sure you're giving him complete proteins, then. Beans aren't enough, you need brown rice with it to make a complete protein. I don't have any suggestions off the top of my head for complete vegetarian proteins but I'm sure a quick google would turn up the right combinations of food items that you can parlay into something yummy.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Morganna

                  Frances Moore Lappé, creator of the complete protein theory has long since recanted the idea.

                  "With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on [1] fruit or on [2] some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on [3] junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein."

                  -- Diet for a Small Planet, 10th Anniversary Ed.; 1982; Frances Moore Lappé; p. 162

                  Still, beans and brown rice with cheese, the original "complete protein" combo is packed with protein and in a wrap can be mighty tasty.

                  1. re: MplsM ary

                    I stand corrected. Thank you :)

                  2. re: Morganna

                    I was under the impression that quinoa was a complete protein....

                    i plan on mixing in some nuts and cheese, and unfortunately I don't have the time to BAKE banana bread, so I bought a tube of cookie dough to slice and bake...I know, terrible, but what can ya do?

                    I'll have some fruit, some homemade hummus, but i'll see if google has any ideas...!

                    1. re: Jeserf

                      Quinoa does contain the 8 "essential" amino acids that our bodies are not able to synthesize, so yes, it is considered a "complete" protein just like animal proteins.

                      I love quinoa salads, I make one with chickpeas, feta, roasted asparagus, parsley, and a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.

                      1. re: Jeserf

                        relax. don't stress out over the food so much that you lose sight of why you're really going - to spend time with him!

                        if you can find it at your local WFM or comparable store, pick up some ahi or salmon jerky for him...or some of the flavored vegetarian ones. it will certainly keep, and it would be a nice snack for him. i'm sure it's a step up from whatever snacks are available to him there.

                    2. If you want veggie and high protein, think lentils!

                      One of the Moosewood cookbooks has a Mediterranean Lentil Salad recipe that's insanely easy, tasty and healthy.
                      Here's a link: http://www.moosewoodrestaurant.com/re...