By STEVE PETERS
When the weather’s nice, there’s nothing quite like ditching the dining room table (or perhaps the couch) and heading outside to enjoy a meal. Forget the dishes and embrace the simplicity of the beach, the forest, the lawn or maybe even the boat. Wherever you might find yourself in the coming months — whether biking the trails of Pine Hill Park or cooling down at Lake Dunmore — packing up your meal and dining out in nature always makes for a fun outing.
A picnic is a great idea for a date or family gathering. The three keys to a successful picnic involve simple foods that travel well, won’t quickly spoil and can be easily enjoyed. It turns out that foods that are easy to prepare tend to fall into these categories as well. But sorry, the charm of the picnic is lost with the fast food route, as convenient as that might seem.
This summer, take a few extra minutes to try some recipes and ideas that work well for picnics. When shopping, stock up on these foods. With a blanket already stowed in the car, you’ll be ready for a picnic any time you’re looking for a quick summer escape. Here are a couple of my favorite picnic recipes to get you started.
Thai chicken wraps with spicy peanut sauce
I like this wrap because of the bright mix of flavors. I find that grilled chicken wraps can often be bland, but with mint, basil and the peanut sauce, this is anything but boring. And the crunch of the veggies keeps this feeling fresh even after transporting.
3 (6-ounce) chicken breasts
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grill seasoning
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup shredded carrots
3 scallions, sliced
12 leaves basil, torn
3 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
Spicy peanut sauce:
1/4 cup room temperature chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (12-inch) tortilla wraps
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss chicken with tamari and oil and grill 6 minutes on each side.
Combine cucumber, sprouts, carrots, scallions, basil, mint and sesame with a generous sprinkle of sugar and vinegar.
Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar and cayenne together. Stream in vegetable oil.
Slice cooked chicken on an angle. Toss with veggies and herbs. Pile chicken and veggies in wraps and drizzle lightly with spicy peanut sauce before wrapping and rolling. Pack additional peanut sauce separately, if desired.
Makes 4 wraps. Recipe from foodnetwork.com
The times when I most often enjoy a picnic are when I’m out doing some activity. The energy boost provided by these power bars makes them well worth packing. Without any baking required, they’re quite easy to assemble and chill in the fridge before heading out.
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or regular butter)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup (unsweetened) shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons ground espresso beans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking pan with the coconut oil. If you like thick power bars, opt for an 8 by 8-inch pan; for thinner bars, use a 9 by 13-inch pan.
On a rimmed baking sheet toast the pecans, almonds and coconut for about 7 minutes, or until the coconut is deeply golden. Toss once or twice along the way. Mix the oats, toasted nuts, coconut and the cereal, together in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine the rice syrup, sugar, salt, espresso and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. Pour the syrup over the oat mixture and stir until it is evenly incorporated.
Spread into the prepared pan and cool to room temperature before cutting into whatever size bars you desire.
Makes 16 to 24 bars. Recipe from 101cookbooks.com.