Bless Your Spoon: Summer’s portable feasts — a time for an abundance of veggies, herbs and fruits

Published 11:00 am Thursday, July 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Stephanie Williams Dean

There’s no season like summer to embrace fresh herbs, fruits and veggies, and old-fashioned picnics. The time is now for impromptu picnics, from the most basic to a gourmet spread — one of abundance with lots of choices. Whether enjoying your feast in a shelter at a community park, in your own backyard or on a large blanket spread across a green lawn, your family will enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures.

Whether planning a picnic on the go or serving al fresco style from your own yard, your gathering will capture all the fresh flavors of the season. Today’s outdoor picnics call for recipes that are easy to prepare and portable. Elevate your portable picnic to a whole new level with an abundance of delicious and flavorful foods — those dishes tastier than a sandwich.

The best part: today’s fresh recipes won’t require heating or refrigeration. All dishes can be prepared ahead and eaten at room temperature and will stay good without refrigeration for the duration. That way, moveable feasts can be enjoyed wherever you take them.

There are few examples of abundance any greater than a summer picnic and more specifically, a church picnic. A church potluck picnic has always been one of my favorite outdoor feasts.  I’ve never seen such an abundance of food and usually, with enormous variety from which one can choose. One thing’s for sure — you won’t walk away hungry for more food.

Grecian Shrimp with Feta Cheese

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ cup salted butter

• 1 juiced lemon

• 1 tsp. fresh oregano

• 1 sliced onion

• 4 ounces Feta cheese

• 1 pound peeled, butterflied raw shrimp

In a skillet, heat oil and melt butter. Add lemon juice, oregano and onion. Sauté onion. Add shrimp and cook until pink. Place shrimp mixture in a bowl and fold in the chunks of feta. Serve in a lettuce cup.

Picnic Pinwheels

• 10 ounces chopped thinly sliced turkey or ham

• 16 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix

• 5 chopped green onion tops

• 4 ounces drained, chopped black olives

• ½ cup chopped jalapeño/other chilies

• 10 large flour tortillas

In a bowl, combine chopped meat, cream cheese, salad dressing mix, green onions, olives and jalapeño chiles. Mix well. Spread cream cheese mixture in a thin layer over each tortilla. Roll tortilla to enclose the filling and place seam side down on a platter. Chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into slices and place on serving platter. You can use your favorite meat or meat combinations or any chiles you prefer. Makes 60 appetizers of you can half the recipe if less is desired.

Tartlets of Chicken Salad

• 6 halves skinless, boneless chicken breasts

• 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs

• 8 ounces sandwich spread

• 8 ounces premium mayonnaise

• ½ cup sweet salad cube pickles

• 1 ½ cups chopped celery

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 36 baked tartlet shells

Cook chicken breasts and finely chop. In a bowl, combine chicken, chopped eggs, sandwich spread, mayo, salad pickles and celery. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon chicken mixture into baked tartlet shells. Cover and chill until ready to transport. This recipe makes enough for 36 people, but you can half the recipe if less is desired.

Crab Quiche

• 2 beaten eggs

• ½ cup whole milk

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 6 ounces drained canned/fresh crab meat

• 8 ounces cubed Swiss cheese

•  ½ cup chopped green onions

• 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, mayonnaise and flour. Mix well. Stir in crab meat, cheese and green onions. Mix well. Spoon into pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until firmly set.

Tomato and Blue Cheese Salad

• 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

• 1 tsp. olive oil

• 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

• 1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

• ¼ cup diced red onion

• 1 diced avocado

• 3 minced garlic cloves

• 1 tsp. chopped parsley

• ½ tsp fresh oregano

• 4 diced plum tomatoes

In a bowl, combine cheese, olive oil, balsamic and red wine vinegar, onion, avocado, garlic, parsley and oregano. Mix well. Gently fold in diced tomatoes until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate until ready to transport. Can be a side dish or appetizer served with corn chips.

Tortellini Vegetable Salad

• 1 pound refrigerated tortellini

• ½ diced yellow bell pepper

• ½ diced red bell pepper

• 1 cup thawed, frozen peas

• 1 julienned small zucchini

• ½ chopped small red onion

• ¾ cup creamy Italian dressing

Cook tortellini according to package directions just until tender and drain. Rinse under cold running water and drain well. In a bowl, combine yellow and red peppers, peas, zucchini, red onion and salad dressing. Mix well. Gently fold in tortellini and mix. Chill until ready to transport.

Apple Raisin Salad with Macadamia

• 1 cored, chopped Red Delicious apple

• 1 cored, chopped Granny Smith apple

• ½ cup dark raisins

• ½ cup golden raisins

• ½ cup chopped celery

• ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

• ¼ cup chopped macadamia nuts

• 1 juiced orange

• 8 ounces vanilla yogurt

• Ground cinnamon

In a bowl, combine apples, raisins, celery, cheese and nuts. Mix well. In a bowl, blend orange juice into the yogurt. Pour yogurt mixture over salad and toss well. Sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Dressed Floret Salad

• 1 whole broccoli

• 1 head cauliflower

• 1 thinly sliced red onion

• ½ cup chopped green bell pepper

• ½ cup thinly sliced carrots

• 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

• 1 pound crisp-cooked, crumbled bacon

• 4-ounce package toasted slivered almonds

Dressing

• 5 Tbsp. vinegar

• 1 cup premium mayonnaise

• ¼ cup sugar

For the salad, in a bowl, cut the broccoli and cauliflower into florets. Add sliced onion, chopped bell pepper, sliced carrots, shredded cheese, crumbled crispy bacon and toasted almonds. Mix well. Fold the dressing into the salad and toss to coat. For the dressing, in a bowl, combine vinegar, mayo and sugar. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Great portable salad.

Pineapple Lemon Tea

• ¼ cup unsweetened instant tea

• 2 cups sugar

• 4 cups boiling water

• 8 cups unsweetened pineapple juice

• 1 cup fresh lemon juice

• Fresh mint sprigs, garnish

Fruited Ice Cubes

• water

• Maraschino cherries

• Pineapple chunks

In a large pot, combine tea and sugar. Add boiling water and stir until both are dissolved. Stir in pineapple and lemon juices. Chill in refrigerator. In 2 ice cube trays, place ¼-inch water into each section of the trays. Freeze until firm. For decorative ice cubes, place a cherry in center of each cube in one tray and a pineapple chunk in each cube of the other tray. Pour another ¼-inch water into each section over fruit and freeze until firm. Freezing in stages will prevent fruit from floating to top of cube. Serve tea over cubes and garnish with mint. A pretty presentation in a glass. Yield: 16 cups.

Sweet Orange Cake Squares

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• 3 2/3 cup sugar

• 4 egg yolks

• 1 cup cream of wheat

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• Grated rind of 1 orange

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 4 beaten stiff egg whites

Syrup

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 cups water

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a bowl, combine cream of wheat and milk. Add milk mixture to the butter mixture while alternating with sifted flour and baking powder. Mix well. Fold in orange rind and vanilla and beat well. In a mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Beat egg whites into the cake mixture a little at a time. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 13 x 9 baking pan in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Allow to cool. For the syrup, in a saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes while constantly stirring. Pour hot syrup over cooled cake. Cut in squares and serve.

TO DIE FOR CHOCOLATE PIE

• 4 beaten eggs

• 3 cups sugar

• 12 ounces evaporated milk

• 1 stick melted, salted butter

• 7 Tbsp. Hershey’s cocoa

• 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

• Pinch of salt

• 2 cups flaked coconut

• 1 cup chopped walnuts

• 2 unbaked 9-inch pie shells.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and mix well. Add milk, baking cocoa, vanilla and salt. Mix well. Stir in coconut and pecans. Divide the filling evenly among 2 9-inch pie shells. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until tests done. Make one for your picnic, and take another to a sick friend.

Scratch Sugar Cookie with Fruit

• 1 stick melted salted butter

• ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 can sweetened condensed milk

• 8 ounces softened cream cheese

• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 Tbsp. water

• 4 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 2 pints crushed fresh strawberries/other fruit

In a bowl, combine melted butter, sugar and flour. Mix well. Press into bottom of a round, rimmed pizza pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Allow to completely cool. In a mixer bowl, cream condensed milk with soft cream cheese until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well. Evenly spread over cooled crust. In a saucepan, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add fresh fruit only. Cook while constantly stirring over medium heat until thickened. Cool completely. Evenly spread fruit over the filling. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, cut in sections.