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"Healthy" and portable: picnic menus & recipes?

Patches of green are peeking through the snow, the days are getting longer, and the geese are returning from their Mexican villas. I have some SERIOUS spring fever and am, therefore, already planning my first picnic of 2008. Realistically, it won't happen for another 3-4 weeks, but, I have to keep the dream alive. That and waiting for the crocuses to bloom are all that keep me going, really.

As I'm still trying to lose weight, fried chicken and mayonaissey potato salad (as much as I adore them) are off-limits. What are your "healthy", yet delicious, picnic recipes? Ideally, the dishes would be able to stand up to a little rough and tumble, that is being tossed into a daypack for a few hours, and less-than-optimal temperature conditions (sure, I can throw an ice pack or two in there, but you can't really count on that keeping mayonaisse safe on a 3 hour hike or bike ride, for instance.)

Thank you, as always, for your sharing your ideas.


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  1. for spring picnics, i often head to the whole foods salad bar and pick up things like taboulleh, marinated artichoke & roasted vegetable salad, seaweed salad and some deli-sliced turkey.

    2 Replies
    1. re: soypower

      Those all sound terrific--if you or anyone has recipes for those, that sounds like a delicious menu!


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        i'm so bad w/ writing recipes, but i found these and they sound about right:

        parsley taboulleh

        artichoke & roasted pepper salad

        seaweed salad
        i make a version of this with salt packed seagreens that are string-like...
        soak and rinse the seagreens several times to remove all the salt. cut into 2-3 inch strings if necessary. in a separate bowl, combine 1/4 c. rice vinegar, 2-3 T. dashi stock (or instant dashi mixed w/ water), 1/2 T. sugar, and one 1 tsp of sesame oil. taste to make sure there is an appropriate amount of sugar..toss this into the seagreens along w/ some sliced green onions. chill for at least 15 minutes before serving.

        Edit: actually, i would add closer to 1 T. of sugar...it's important that the vinegar to sugar ratio taste both sweet and sour.

    2. America's Test Kitchen had a recipe for "spice rubbed picnic chicken" that sounded delicious. It is available free if you register as a user of http://www.americastestkitchen.com--no need to register for a trial membership to CI to gain access to current recipes.

      Something I have tried and love eating cold are skinless chicken thighs and legs marinated overnight in a mixture of non-fat yogurt and store-bought tandoori rub. I throw it in a ziploc in the refrigerator for 24 hours, take out out and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Tastes great out of the oven and just as good cold the next day.

      1. I remember seeing on a PBS cooking show an idea of searing a tenderloin then wrapping it in a baguette (perhaps you can use whole wheat baguette if you can find one). Basically she cut the baguette almost all the way through the long way, put a seared and seasoned tenderloin in it, and then closed the baguette on top, tied it with butchers twine and roasted until done. It looked so good to me. For a healthy option I would serve with green beans in a light lemon vinaigrette.

        Recipe: 2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
        2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary
        1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
        1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
        4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        1 pork tenderloin, trimmed
        1 loaf crusty baguette

        On a work surface, mince the sage, rosemary, pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and fennel pollen together.

        Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cook the pork, turning occasionally, until golden on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Roll the pork in the herb mixture and set aside. Cut the baguette in half the long way and scoop out the soft insides. Brush the inside of the baguette with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place the pork on the inside of the baguette so that the pork is completely enclosed. Trim off the excess ends of the bread. Tie, at 1 to 2-inch intervals, with kitchen string.

        Preheat an oven to 375°F. Place the pork on a baking sheet and roast until done, 155 to 160°F when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part, 25 to 35 minutes.

        Remove from the oven, let rest 10 minutes. Remove the strings and cut into slices. Serve.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jsaimd

          Asparagus or pea soup in a thermos.

          1. re: jsaimd

            that sounds so good! I'm trying this!

          2. I have been making the yummiest whole grain salad which can be customized in all kinds of ways. Basically I take equal parts cooked wild rice and cooked wheat berries or farro, add in any of the following: toasted chopped pecans or walnuts, currants, celery, red onion or scallion, parsley, and then add in a vegetable, such as blanched broccoli or asparagus, and if I want protein, anything from diced roasted chicken breast to shrimp to cubed firm tofu. For the dressing I make a vinaigrette with raspberry vinegar, a little minced garlic, dijon mustard, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, and half olive oil and half vegetable oil (100% olive oil tends to overwhelm it). You can make it early in the day or even the night before and refrigerate it, but without meat it keeps just fine at room temperature. Obviously you can customize it a million different ways, but the basic salad gets me through a lot of picnics!

            1 Reply
            1. re: farmersdaughter

              Thank-you farmersdaughter... a great basic recipe idea!

            2. You also might want to do a search- there was a thread a couple of weeks ago with high protein, vegetarian recipes for someone making a picnic for her army ranger sweetie. A lot of tasty ideas that should appeal to even those not in boot camp!

              1. Oh, I love these ideas--the soup in a thermos, the tenderloin sandwich, the whole grain salad. Wonderful! Here's the thread "high protein vegetarian urban picnic" thread chocolatstiletto mentioned. Some of those recommendations, like the stratta, are applicable, although, in our case, we most definitely would want to avoid cheese...http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49329...


                1 Reply
                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Or have a simple Italian antipasti picnic. A selection of sliced mortadella, proscuitto, porchetta, provolone. Marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, crusty bread, fennel salad. And a bottle of Chianti.

                2. When I want something with your specifications, I make one of these:

                  1. Persian Rice Salad from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                  (you can use less oil and NOTE that this is a great potluck dish since it is delicious and unusual yet just happens to be both vegan and gluten free


                  2. A couscous salad from one of the Silver Palate books that is amazing. Reconstitute couscous with chicken or veg broth with a little orange juice mixed in and add orange zest, some olive oil, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and Italian parsley, and s & p to taste or not at all if the stock is salty or you like a sweeter salad.

                  3. Taboulleh made with quinoa.

                  All three of these are fine at room temp or in pack for a couple of hours and actually taste better with the chill taken off.

                  1. Hubby and I are doing great losing weight on WW and love food so here's my two favorites if I were to pack a picnic:

                    smoked salmon pita bread pizza's - Whole wheat pita pocket with laughing cow cheese spread, capers, chopped red onion, fresh lemon juice and dill and of course smoked salmon.

                    Shrimp coleslaw - coleslaw mix, throw in some sauted shrimp (or you can use shredded chicken or turkey too) and I like to add other favorites like edamame, sliced radishes, diced tomatoe, etc. Dressing is simple with rice wine vinegar, little oil, splendar (or sugar), salt and pepper. Even some almonds or walnuts is nice but adds more calories. Or cranraisin are very nice too. Sweet, salty, crunchy. I've done this with the mayo (light) base dressing as well and it's fantastic but not sure it's best for a picnic.

                    1. I love cold noodles for a picnic. This recipe is particularly lovely to look at, with its pink/green/dark brown palette.

                      serves about 4

                      12 oz soba
                      6 oz salmon filet
                      1 bunch broccoli rabe
                      1 T roasted peanut oil
                      1 T sesame oil
                      4 garlic cloves, minced
                      1 T hot pepper flakes
                      1/4 c mirin
                      2 T soy sauce

                      Cook 12oz soba noodles as directed and rinse under water. Set aside.
                      Meanwhile, throw the salmon under the broiler, topped with a little soy.
                      Saute the garlic and hot pepper in the oils (wait til they're quite hot). Add the greens and stir until coated with the oil. Then add the mirin and half a cup of water; cover, and cook til the greens are tender, about 5 minutes.
                      When the greens are wilted, add the soba noodles, soy sauce and the salmon (I like to flake it off the skin). Stir together til the noodles are warmed through.

                      There's a great recipe on epicurious for a nice quinoa salad with black beans and corn
                      (ignore the fancy quinoa directions and just steam as you would rice). This is delicious and really benefits from a day or 2 in the fridge.

                      And my favorite sandwich? Smoked turkey with honeycup mustard and (wait for it) leftover roasted brussels sprouts.

                      Happy cycling!

                      1. Cabbage salad (not slaw).

                        Shred or coarsely chop half a head of cabbage. Put in roomy plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Dress with grapeseed oil, cider vinegar, dill (start with 1/2 tsp), caraway seeds (optional), salt, and pepper. Put on lid and shake thoroughly. Taste, correct seasonings, and shake again. If you're not going to eat it for a few hours, and you don't want it too liquid-y, omit the salt until just before you eat it.

                        It's not the right season yet, but in summer my favorite picnic dish is ratatouille.

                        1. I make whole wheat dough, stuff it (w/ whatever you want--turkey, oven dried tomatoes, tapenade, pesto, hard boiled eggs, etc), braid, and bake. It's hearty and stands being tossed around.