HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Ideas for a cold lunch basket

I am trying to come up with a cold lunch menu I can do for my garden club next spring. I do not want to do a sandwich. I plan on lining a basket with tissue, adding the lunch and tying a floral bandana around the handle to be used for a napkin. I would really like to do something really nice. Like some type of cold chicken dish, a salad of some sort, and dessert and maybe a take-home cookie or something. Any ideas appreciated. I was thinking I could include knife for cutting or using food on a kabob.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I like Ina's chinese chicken salad, although I use thighs instead of breast and change the vegetables. It's great w/ a roll. Chop the vegetables to bite size.


    1. You could do individually-sized quiches along with a green salad, a fruity dessert and a little take-home bag of spiced or candied nuts.

      3 Replies
      1. re: biondanonima

        Do you serve your quiche cold. That would go with French feel of luncheon but I've never had cold quiche. Seems like Ina made a cold chicken breast thing once on one of her show.

        1. re: Cflower5

          Quiche, frittata, Spanish tortilla are all basically similar things, different countries.
          They can all be served room temp, with the chill off, so that flavors can bloom.
          I think someone else mentioned that you could make individual servings in cupcake molds.

          1. re: Cflower5

            Room temp quiche is fine for me.

            I wouldn't do anything that required a knife. Quiche can be eaten with fingers.

        2. Of course, cold fried chicken is glorious.
          Spanish tortilla
          Hummus with veggies
          pasta salad with cheese tortellini
          Strawberry Rhubarb bars
          Asparagus with a light, bright vinaigrette

          But, don't rule out elegant and delicious sandwiches!

          My favorite picnic sandwich is sliced steak (flank, flap, skirt) with a Greek salad on top (feta, lettuce cucumber, tomatoes, pepperoncini, dressed with Greek salad dressing), on a crusty baguette, sliced for individual portions.
          The longer the sandwich sits, wrapped tightly in foil, the better it gets!

          4 Replies
          1. re: monavano

            I like the idea of the hummus and vegetables. Would a torta taste good cold. Maybe a pasta salad with some type of cold lemon chicken. Fried chicken would not go over with these ladies. I love the idea of cold chicken for a picnic though. I would probably not do a sandwich unless it was the type they could put the salad in a roll or eat it with a fork without the roll.

            1. re: Cflower5

              A torta is a sandwich.
              Do you mean tortilla?

              1. re: monavano

                I thought a torts was a spanish potato dish similar to a quiche or made in a pie pan.

                1. re: Cflower5

                  That's a tortilla espanol, or Spanish tortilla.
                  A Mexican torta is a sandwich.
                  A tort, or torte, is a layered cake.

          2. Frittata? I've been making those and sending slices in for my daughter's lunches.

            1. some quick pickles/relishes/ (see current dish of the of the month here)

              a nice fruit salad...kiwi, berries, maybe melons, pineapple, with or without a lime dressing. I'd cut up the fruit as it's really awkward to have apple or peach juice dripping down your face as you eat a whole fruit.....I'd go by color, it's a garden club.....!

              asparagus....see ideas recently for asparagus sauced here.

              an asian cabbage salad with peanuts or other nuts

              a noodle asian peanut salad (veg)

              I personally worry about cold chicken dishes. They are great when you can keep them cold until serving. If not...kind of dangerous.

              for protein, some kind of pan bagnat...use tuna with olive oil, roasted colorful peppers, some olives....with or without pesto. Turn it into a pasta or grain salad if eating the pressed bread sandwich turns into another awkward experience. Grilled peaches are great with cheeses, as are grilled apples and pineapples.

              love this idea of the basket with the bandana for the napkin. that is really nice! sounds lovely.

              15 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  the best recipe I've seen for picked shrimp is at the anson mills website.....I should have thought of it myself! thanks!

                  1. re: Madrid

                    I have some big fat peeled shrimp in the freezer- I'll look that recipe up!

                      1. re: Madrid

                        I love pickled shrimp I did that on my blog at Rosemary and the goat.com but for 45 ladies that would get pretty expensive

                      2. re: monavano

                        That was one of my first thoughts. Check out Shirley Corriher's "Best ever marinated shrimp" recipe in her book Cook Wise. Its been a staple for years.

                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                          Thank you.
                          I think I'm going to do pickled shrimp for an annual July 4th picnic, and serve it up in a big jar.

                      3. re: Madrid

                        Love the pan bagnat idea - only gets better the more it sits and soaks.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          but she said she didn't want an sandwich, which I didn't catch until after I posted. I think it could still be done as a sandwich, let it soak, then make the bread into some kind of croutons? and turn it into a kind of panzanella salad? I'l have to try this.

                          Lulu's mom, I live in Boston but I'm from NC RTP area. I've loved reading your posts and have a fantasy that someday I'll meet you in RTP somewhere. You and Lulu are so charming!

                          1. re: Madrid

                            There are sandwiches, and then there are sandwiches.

                            1. re: monavano

                              yeah, I know. I love pimento cheese sandwiches on toast....

                              1. re: Madrid

                                I would love to do pimento
                                cheese sandwich and cucumber sandwiches but I think these ladies would not go for all the bread. He normally have our luncheon in May at a restaurant or country club where they have a choice of three menus usually a fish chicken and pork so next year I'm giving them one choice and that will be whatever is in the basket

                            2. re: Madrid

                              Thank you so much Madrid! LulusDad makes it to Boston at least once a year ... maybe we'll tag along next time and take you out for a drink.

                          2. re: Madrid

                            Fruit cup always good with a nice dressing. And asparagus would be cheaper in the spring. I know I'm planning almost a year in ad advice but I usually do that when I know I have something on my calendar. I have huge coolers that chicken dish can be out in and we can out together lunches at the garden farm. I have had a hard time. Finding peach baskets for a couple of dollars if I can't find those I might go with a colored gift bags to match the color of the florals tablecloths and then Tie handles together with the bandannas

                          3. I always love chicken salad - maybe coronation chicken?
                            Shrimp remoulade
                            Fruit salad
                            Tomato and cucumber salad
                            Roll or bread

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Tara57

                              I could always go with salads have a container of a fruit salad a pasta vegetable salad and some type of meat salad with A ciabatta roll in the basket. And a slice of pie or cake. Then I'm going to have to come up with all those little serving containers.

                            2. my favorite lunch basket may not be dainty enough for a ladies garden club lunch but I love a French picnic (or a picnic as had by an American tourist in France anyway LOL) - some hard salami, a crusty baguette, soft cheese - a bunch of grapes and a pastry, maybe a small crudité for a salad.... and a bottle of wine of course

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JTPhilly

                                This is a lunch I would like to take to a jazz festival here in the woodlands

                              2. If you do any type of Asian salad, I would pack it into Chinese take out containers. You could also use smaller ones for fresh fruit salad. Add chopsticks, and homemade almond or fortune cookies in cellophane bags. For a fancy luncheon salad, I like Ina's Roast Salmon Nicoise. I've also made it with cold poached salmon.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: critter101

                                  So how do you think in Asian salad and the Chinese takeout cartons would look using the French table cloths these are all Williams-Sonoma calls that I bought when I worked there and to me they have a real French Provence look

                                  1. re: Cflower5

                                    I used to see those containers in small flower prints, but haven't shopped for them for several years. Perhaps a place like Michaels, or another craft shop, carries them in colors. Blue and yellow would work with your French cloths. But if you want a French theme, tarragon chicken salad with mini croissants would work, along with some fruit and cheese, and Madeleines for dessert. If you switch to baguettes, you could have a half sticking out of each bag, and tie the napkin around the bread

                                2. Until I encountered the term - I think on CH - a year ago, I'd never heard of the Kentucky spread called Benedictine. It's basically cream cheese, grated cucumber, and some form of onion. Recipes abound.
                                  I use English cucumber, skin on, julienned on a mandoline. Sweet onion, preferably red, or scallion. I add a bit of minced red bell pepper for color, garlic powder, and Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. I like it light on the cream cheese, heavy on the cuke. It is a delicious spread, or a dip for crudite or firm crackers/pretzel pieces. That would be a nice extra to accompany a more substantial dish like the already-suggested quiche/frittata.

                                  Is this supposed to be a picnic situation or other non-table service? I ask because of your mention of kebabs and putting a knife in everyone's basket. That's a significant consideration for readers to take into account.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    We will have tables set up at the Gardens and will be sitting in chairs of course. When I was pregnant back in the 70s I craved Benedictine spread when we lived in Louisville Kentucky my recipe is from Those years. I make the cucumber spread but also put a cucumber slice on the sandwich I cut mine with flower cookie cutters you can see at www.rosemaryandthegoat.com under cold appetizers.

                                    cucumber sandwiches at http://rosemaryandthegoat.com/2009/06...

                                  2. This is a great picnic:


                                    Probably a bit much to tackle, but some good inspiration can be gotten from it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sandylc

                                      That is a great picnic idea but for 45 ladies would probably get over our budget the ladies normally pay $20 each for lunch in the club pays about another eight per person but next year will going to try to do it just on the budget which would be about five dollars per person and have the ladies pay nothing.

                                    2. You could do jam tartlets for the treat.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        The jam tartlets sound very good and would be pretty colors

                                        1. re: Cflower5

                                          They are very easy, too. Shells made from pate sucree, topped with good jam (I like St. Dalfour or homemade), then pipe a whipped cream rosette on top. The only challenge is transporting them without disrupting the whipped cream.

                                      2. These salad in a jar ideas are very practical (make ahead! No soggy lettuce!) as well as pretty and can be very creative. A flat of large mason jars can be about $1/jar from a hardware store or amazon.
                                        Including a layer of protein (chicken, egg, beans, etc) could make it both the salad and entree.
                                        Lots of versions here:

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                          Sounds awesome for a picnic. Cold fried chicken and a mason jar salad. And I already have a lot of mason jars....Bed Bath and Beyond sells 8 oz wide mouth if the OP wanted to do this. More of an individual size.

                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                            The mason jars would be pretty expensive to buy 45 ladies but I could announce at our September meeting for everyone to bring a mason jar at one of the meetings it could be a mayonnaise jar or any quart size jar I would have several months to collect these and that would be great saving money.

                                            1. re: Cflower5

                                              It could be very quaint and precious to have an assortment of jars that everyone brings in! Or you could of course use tupperware but it somehow doesn't feel as sophisticated...

                                          2. I realize that the concept is a bit overdone (in our region, anyways), but the mason jar is a great container for picnic lunches. Easy to pack. Compact, so therefore easy to chill if needed. Glass, so also retains temperature for "a while" Available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
                                            Floral bandana as napkin sounds charming and lovely. Remember to include water. Does your budget allow for the take-home cookie to be wrapped in another bandana or reusable container?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: KarenDW

                                              I think Hope Garden Farms provides drinks. This is a cool little garden this lady is only open 30 days out of the year. the gardens are on her property around her house and she brings in about 8000 plants to sell. She has the plants set up in the areas that they like to grown in. She has shade plants set up in the shady part of her yard under the plants that she has growing like those. in sunny parts of our yard she has her sun plants and anything she also has growing she has for sale. sHe also has wagons and carts people can put their plants in. She will be open only for us since it will be a Thursday as she is only open to the public Saturday and Sunday she does this for 30 days and she has a half-price sale the last weekend and then she starts getting ready for the next year. Think our ladies will really like this for our end-of-the-year luncheon as we normally just go to a restaurant install officers eat and leave

                                            2. Fried chicken was meant for this. The key with fried chicken is cooling it properly: cool down on a rack on the counter, and then finish chilling with full air circulation in the refrigerator (if tight on space, you can loosely stack but the more air circulation, the better - the less humidity you trap, the better for maintaining the texture of the crust) before putting into any container for transit.

                                              1. I just had a lovely salmon mousse at a church pot luck. It was served with crackers. I'm pretty sure the salmon was smoked.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Berheenia

                                                  I've done that w/ friends where I made the smoked salmon mousse, someone else made crepes and another made creme fraiche sauce w/ dill. You can roll them and wrap individually. Delicious. We carried the theme to dessert and make nutella/fruit crepes.

                                                2. How about a composed Nicoise salad with a crusty roll on the side? Something for everyone.

                                                  This one looks gorgeous: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                                  1. http://food52.com/recipes/6896-pan-ba...

                                                    I"ve been making this lately. Use full size baguettes and cut into serving sized pieces. It's the best sandwich I've ever had and has major wow taste factor.

                                                    1. Tabouli or a chickpea salad.

                                                      1. Has anyone ever seen this cold lemon chicken breast that either Ina or Giada did on one of their shows. I feel like it was a breaded lemon chicken breast, baked and then served cold. That would be good I think with one of the salads or side dishes mentioned below.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Cflower5

                                                          I remember some years ago a recipe for cold poached chicken breast with mustard-cream sauce.

                                                        2. I'm a guy so really not sure about "ladies who lunch".....but.........

                                                          A bunch of sliced (on the diagonal) dried sausages such as Chorizo, Italian soppresata, hard salami(real stuff).......Heck, even Wisconsin summer sausage!

                                                          A variety of cheeses, also sliced,.... a Cheddar, a smoked gouda, other firm cheeses, not the crumbly or soft stuff

                                                          Sliced baguettes or even melba crackers......add a soft cheese "spread" with green onions and or garlic. Add those plastic forks or knives and let them build their own.

                                                          A "cup" or glass jar (capped) of cut up fruit..apples....grapes, ...pears if you can find good ones
                                                          Throw in some of those Belgian laced cookies (The Jules Destrooper brand is readily available) Maybe some Nutella or a choco-nut spread, possibly even almond butter with some fancy finishing salt to sprinkle on top.

                                                          Heck, throw in a home-made 'trail mix" of Cashews, coconut chips, raisins, dried pineapple.and some form of choco-bits..maybe crushed up gourmet chocolate bars. More a "garden sweet gardinere" than a trail mix

                                                          Since it will be spring, you may even be able to build it around some sort of bulb theme, depending on selections and country of origin.......or make "petal plates" out of the sliced stuff.

                                                          Ok..going back to my beer and Cheetos

                                                          The upside..........No Cooking! no spoilage for a day or so,no worries about last minute stuff. The downside, especially for arthritic hands..a lot of slicing

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                            You have some great ideas. Some sort of greenery would round out this type of thing.

                                                          2. i'd do a cold quinoa and brown rice salad, with a nice bright dressing, cranberries, some celery for crunch, any other veg, whatever other veggies, green onion, whatever else on top, with turkey meat in it. it kind of tastes like a summer version of the holidays.