Labor Day Weekend is the perfect weekend for a picnic. To celebrate the end of summer I’ve organized a feast of some of America’s favorites – from fried chicken to chocolate cake, cheeseburgers to homemade strawberry ice cream.
Parsley Potato Salad
Mushroom Artichoke Salad
Chile-Spiced Bean Salad
Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts
Chocolate Buttercream Cake
Strawberry Ice Cream
Packing the picnic: The salads can be prepared a day in advance. It’s probably not necessary to double the recipes unless you have a large crowd to feed. Be sure to include a serving spoon for each salad. The Crusty Parmesan Chicken Breasts can be served either cold or warm. Either bake it a day ahead, refrigerate it, and carry it in a cooler; or pop it in the oven about an hour before you leave and transport it hot. The deviled eggs can be made from your favorite recipes or one from Tiny New York Kitchen. They will need several hours to chill and must be packed in a cooler, along with the assortment of vegetables (each in a plastic container). Take along a basket or platter for the chicken, a tray for the eggs, and serving forks.
All of the barbecue equipment can travel in a sturdy cardboard box, if there’s room, lay the buns and cheese on top so they don’t get squished. The hamburgers and condiments should be packed in a cooler.
You can bake the cake and prepare the frosting well in advance; both can be stored in the freezer. After thawing, the frosting should be beaten for a few minutes with an electric mixer. A round plastic serving plate with a high, tight-fitting cover is ideal for transporting the cake; remember to carry along a knife and a cake server.
In a cooler, pack the ice cream custard, berry mixture, and ice, each in its own container. Take a hammer and large, heavy dishtowel for crushing the ice cubes, and rock salt for the ice cream freezer (which would be a non-electric one). Pack the fragile ice cream cones and berries for garnish last.
Keep the beer in the cooler. For the lemonade and coffee, you will need a couple of thermoses. Preheat the one for the coffee; don’t forget to take cream (kept cold) and sugar. Pre-chill the other thermos and fill it with cold lemonade.
At the site: Assemble the ice cream freezer and begin hand-cranking, taking turns so that everyone can participate. If the ice cream is ready before it’s time for dessert, remove the dasher, cover the container, and let it stay in the freezer to ripen; don’t forget to dump out the salty water and pack the freezer with fresh ice.
Fire up the barbecue about 30 minutes before you want to begin cooking. Grill the cheeseburgers when the coals are gray. Arrange the chicken in a basket, set out the rest of the food, and dig in.
Salt, spray, sea air, and warm sand underfoot are all the pleasant sensations of a day at the beach which stir cravings for good and hearty food. A perfect refreshment is a traditional beach-blanket banquet, complete with charcoal-grilled corn on the cob. You can prepare this picnic to feed a crowd or simply the family on any summertime trip to the beach. For a small group, you may want to take only half of the salad and leave the rest at home for a midweek supper.
Crunchy Egg Dip
Red Onion Slices
Barbecued Corn on the Cob
Mixed Bean & Artichoke Salad
Honey Applesauce Cupcakes
Beverages of Your Choice
Bake the cupcakes on the day of the picnic or bake them ahead of time and then freeze them. If they are frozen then let them thaw to room temperature on the morning of the outing. Frost them after they have thawed (if you are frosting them). Prepare the bean salad a day ahead and refrigerate it so the vegetables have time to marinate. Hard-cook the eggs for the salad garnish and the egg dip at the same time. On the morning of departure, slice the onions and tomatoes, and prepare the lettuce leaves; seal them in individual plastic bags or in small containers. Then prepare the egg dip and get the corn ready. Refrigerate the food that needs to be kept cold before packing it in the cooler. Have ready one or more large bags of potato chips and enough hamburger patties and French rolls for your picnicking party. You’ll also need a portable barbecue; potholders, a spatula, and tongs; and charcoal, charcoal starter, and fireplace matches.
Packing Your Picnic: Place the chilled beverages in the bottom of a roomy cooler. On top, pack the ears of corn and the egg dip. Tuck in the parcels containing the hamburger patties, garnishes for the salad, hamburger condiments, and butter for the corn. Carry all of the barbecue equipment in a sturdy box. In a roomy basket, pack the unbreakable items first, including serving spoons for the salad, a bottle opener, salt and pepper, and a knife for the rolls (unless they’re presliced). Fit in the cupcakes and the salad. Place the rolls and potato chips on top. For a sandy picnic, it’s always wise to carry extra paper plates, napkins, and pre-moistened towelettes.
At the Site: Start the charcoal about half an hour before you want to begin cooking; wait until the coals turn gray before grilling the meat and corn. Meanwhile, spread the blanket and let people nibble on potato chips and dip. If your site is very sandy or some of your guests are quite young, you may prefer to wait until the hamburgers and corn are almost ready before you unpack the rest of the food. Before serving the salad, stir it well; then garnish it with the egg slices, if desired, and artichokes.
Have you ever come home from the market after purchasing fruit to find that you spent money for nothing? I have plenty of times and it ticks me off every time. Here are some Fruit Essentials that may help you have more fruit shopping success.
Did you know that many plants that are botanically fruits are not sweet? We think of them as vegetables or non-fruits. Avocados, beans, coconuts, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, okra, peas, pumpkins, sugar peas, string beans and tomatoes all fall in the fruit category. Some cookbooks make a distinction between fruit, vegetables and fruit vegetables. Fruit vegetables are foods that are botanically fruits, but are most often prepared and served like vegetables. These fruits are considered fruit vegetables: Aubergine, autumn squash, avocado, bitter melon, cantaloupe, chayote, chile, courgette, cucumber, eggplant, gherkin, green bean, green sweet pepper, hot pepper, marrow, muskmelon, okra, olive, pumpkin, red sweet pepper, seedless cucumber, squash, sweet pepper, tomatillo, tomato, watermelon, wax gourd, yellow sweet pepper and zucchini.
Pectin is a substance contained in some fruit which is used for making jams and jellies thicker. High pectin fruits are apples, cranberries, currants, lemons, oranges, plums and quinces. Low pectin fruits are bananas, cherries, grapes, mangos, peaches, pineapples and strawberries.
Low pectin fruits seem to discolor quicker than high pectin fruits ( bananas and eggplants). Lemon juice or vinegar slows the discoloring process. Other fruits and vegetables that discolor quickly are avocados, cauliflower, celery, cherries, figs, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, nectarines, parsnips, peaches, pears, potatoes, rutabaga and yams.
Bruising: When a fruit is bruised the cell walls break down and discoloration begins. The process can be slowed down by refrigeration.
Cleaning: It is important to clean our fruit and vegetables. Rinse fruit in cold running water and scrub as needed before cooking or eating. Soaking fruit in water for more than a few minutes can leach out water soluble vitamins.
Peeling: The fruit skin usually contains a lot of important nutrients, but if you need to peel a thick-skinned fruit cut a small amount of the peel from the top and bottom. Then on a cutting board cut off the peel in strips from top to bottom. A good way to peel thin skinned fruit is to place the fruit in a bowl with boiling water and let stand for about 1 minute. Remove and cool in an ice water bath. You could also spear the fruit with a fork and hold over a gas flame until the skin cracks OR quarter the fruit and peel with a sharp paring knife or potato peeler.
Wax: Oh those beautiful waxed apples that wink at us at the market. They are beautiful because they are waxed. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not eat wax. Wax can be removed from the surface of fruits by washing them with a mild dishwashing soap and then thoroughly rinsing them. This will remove most of the wax, but probably not all of it.
Purchasing Ripe: Purchase these fruits fully ripe: Berries, cherries, citrus, grapes and watermelon. All of the fruits in this list, except berries, can be refrigerated without losing flavor.
Purchasing Not-So-Ripe: Apricots, figs, melons, nectarines, peaches and plums develop more complex flavors after picking. Store these fruits at room temperature until they are as ripe as you would like them.
Refrigeration: You can refrigerate apples,ripe mangos and ripe pears as soon as you get them. Do not refrigerat bananas.
Seasonal Fruit: Winter is the season for citrus. Fall is the season for apples and pears. Late spring is the season for strawberries and pineapples. Summer is perfect for blueberries, melons, peaches and plums.
Washing: Dry fruit with paper towels or kitchen towels and then use a blow dryer on the cool setting to completely dry fruit.
Squeezing: A microwave can be used to get more juice from citrus fruits. Microwave citrus fruits for about 20 seconds before squeezing the fruit for juice.
Omelets are one of those dishes that you can have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The versatile omelet is low in calories too especially if you start with one egg and two egg whites (about 100 calories). Add the fillings of your choice and you have a protein packed meal that will satisfy your hunger.
Choose 1/4 cup of one of these cheese for your omelet.
Choose as many vegetables as you want because they are full of fiber and low in calories.
Choose1/4 cup of these delicious proteins.
Choose one of these for a total treat.
Summer is here and why pay top dollar going out when you can make delicious hot dogs at home? Here is a guide to the different ways Americans make their frankfurters around the country. I had the Sonoran style hot dogs while I was in Tucson in February and absolutely loved them.
New York Style
Served with brown or German mustard and sauerkraut or onions cooked in tomato paste.
Served on a poppy seed bun with mustard, pickle relish, sport peppers, onions, tomatoes, dill pickles and celery salt. Pepperoncini can be substituted for sport peppers.
Kansas City Style
Served on a sesame seed bun with brown or German mustard, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.
Atlanta “Dragged Through The Garden” Style
Serve topped with coleslaw.
Detroit “Coney” Style
Served with chili, onions, mustard and cheddar cheese.
Served with cream cheese and grilled onions.
Phoenix/Tucson “Sonoran” Style
Served as a bacon-wrapped hot dog with pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, mustard, mayo, jalapeno peppers and cheese.
Austin “Tex-Mex” Style
Served with queso, guacamole and crushed tortilla chips.
San Francisco “Wine Country” Style
Served with red wine caramelized onions and goat cheese.
Miami “Cuban” Style
Served with mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese.
I love going to farmers' markets, especially good ones. It's the closest to "farm to table" that I can get without growing my own fruits and vegetables. Yesterday was my first visit to the New Canaan farmer’s market. It’s a good one! I picked up beets, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peaches and plums. Everything looked great and even though the vendors were busy they were very friendly and seemed happy to be there.
New Canaan Farmers’ Market
Saturday 10am to 2pm
May 12th Through October
Old Center School Parking Lot
South Avenue & Maple Street
Saturday night I had dinner at The Schoolhouse At Cannondale. Dinner was well executed and excellent. The schoolhouse is very sweet and tastefully decorated. Owner, Tim LaBent, does such a good job of making customers feel welcome as well as cooking up a storm. I was invited to come into the kitchen, take a look around and get introduced to the staff. The kitchen was tiny, but hopping and everyone seemed to be in-tuned with cranking out dishes with love. The Schoolhouse At Cannondale is such a class act the menu personally welcomes you with your name printed at the top. Dinner consisted of “Baby carrots, avocado, radish, grilled scallion, lime, cilantro and sesame seeds;” “Posh n’ beans, ricotta, watercress, pea greens, and wave hill toast;” “Lamb sausage with cavatelli, broccoli rabe and preserved tomatoes;” “Squab with lacindo kale, spring onions, oyster mushrooms;” and “Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and vanilla bean ice cream!”
I will definitely be making my way back to The Schoolhouse At Cannondale. A great place to bring friends as well.
The Schoolhouse At Cannondale
Owner Tim LaBant
34 Cannon Road
Wilton, CT 06897
Dinner: Wed-Sat 5:30-9:30 PM
Lunch: Fri-Sat 11:30 AM-2:00 PM
Brunch: Sunday 10 AM-2:-00 PM