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The Perfect Picnic

1. Roasted Vegetable Ciabatta
Roasted Vegetable Ciabatta

Alison Miksch

You can substitute any grilled vegetable for the yellow squash.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl, toss together 2 sliced yellow squash and 2 tsp. olive oil. Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes until soft. Slice open 1 loaf of ciabatta bread (or a baguette). Spread the top and bottom halves with 1 pkg. (4 oz.) garlic-and-herb cream cheese. Layer 1 drained jar (7 oz.) roasted red peppers, 2 cups fresh baby-spinach leaves, and the cooked squash on bottom half.

Wrap entire sandwich in plastic wrap or foil. To serve, cut into crosswise slices at picnic. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 209 cal; 6g protein; 14g fat; 24g carb; 25mg calcium; 3g fiber.

2. Monster Sub to Share
Monster Sub to Share

Alison Miksch

We made a submarine sandwich special by using homemade relish instead of mustard and mayo.

In a food processor, combine 2/3 cup green olives stuffed with pimento, 8 pitted kalamata olives, 1/2 cup diced celery, 2 Tbs. diced red onion, 1/2 tsp. oregano, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 minced garlic clove. Pulse mixture several seconds to coarsely chop. Slice open an 18-inch baguette lengthwise. Spread half of olive relish on the bottom of the baguette, then layer on 1/4 pound ham, 1/4 pound salami, and 1/4 pound provolone cheese. Spread remaining relish on cheese, and top with bread. Wrap entire sandwich in plastic wrap or foil. Cut into crosswise slices at picnic. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 357 cal; 16g protein; 22g fat; 23g carb; 193mg calcium; 2g fiber.

Try 1 Big Basket of Unfried Chicken

Cornflakes make the perfect crispy coating for our healthy baked chicken.

In a large freezer-weight resealable plastic bag, combine 2 cups buttermilk, 2 tsp. red hot-pepper sauce, and 1 tsp. salt. Add 1 pkg. (1 1/2 pounds) skinless drumsticks, 1 pkg. (1 1/2 pounds) skinless thighs, and 1 pkg. (1 1/2 pounds) skinless breasts. Turn bag to coat chicken well. Refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. In a shallow bowl, combine 2 cups cornflake crumbs, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and 1 tsp. salt. Drain chicken well and coat with crumbs. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Bake 40 minutes. To keep crust crispy, let chicken cool completely before packing in a container with a tight-fitting lid or wrapping in foil. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 495 cal; 57g protein; 9g fat; 43g carb; 75mg calcium; 1g fiber.

1. Thai Beef Bowl
Thai Beef Bowl

Alison Miksch

Nope, cold steak salad isn't classic picnic fare -- but we guarantee it's about to become a family favorite.

Grill or cook 3/4 pound skirt steak, flank steak, or London broil to medium rare or medium. Let rest 10 minutes, then slice. Set aside. Place 1 pkg. (3.75 oz.) cellophane noodles, 1 cup shredded carrots, and 1 cup sliced snow peas in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let sit 5 minutes. Drain well. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 2/3 cup cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez), 1/3 cup lime juice, 1 Tbs. green hot-pepper sauce, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Shake well. Pour over noodles; add 1 cup sliced radishes and 2 Tbs. each chopped basil, cilantro, and mint; toss well. Add sliced steak and toss again. You can make this the night before your picnic and refrigerate; pack in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 243 cal; 15g protein; 10g fat; 23g carb; 36mg calcium; 2g fiber.

2. Italian Tortellini Salad

We've combined all the best flavors of an antipasto platter into one bowl.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook 1 pkg. (20 oz.) refrigerated cheese tortellini according to package directions; drain well and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 can (5.75 oz.) drained pitted black olives, 1 jar (12 oz.) drained marinated artichoke hearts, 1/3 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes, and 1/4 pound thick-sliced Genoa salami, cut into wedges. Pour 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing over hot pasta, and toss again. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs. each chopped basil and parsley, if desired. Let cool, then pack in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate up to 3 days. Makes 11 cups.

Nutrition per cup: 292 cal; 10g protein; 15g fat; 29g carb; 89mg calcium; 3g fiber.

3. Two-Potato Salad

Our sweet-potato version is safer than your mom's recipe -- no worries about spoiled mayonnaise!

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a bowl, toss together 1 1/2 pounds peeled and diced sweet potatoes, 1 Tbs. vegetable oil, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet and bake 50 minutes. Meanwhile, cook 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes in boiling salted water to cover until just tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then peel and dice. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, and 2 Tbs. cider vinegar. Shake well. In a large bowl, combine cooked potatoes, 2 diced celery stalks, and 1 diced Granny Smith apple. Toss salad with dressing. This dish tastes best if it's made the morning of your picnic; pack in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 8 cups.

Nutrition per 1/2 cup: 124 cal; 2g protein; 6g fat; 17g carb; 10mg calcium; 2g fiber.

4. Napa Coleslaw
Italian Tortellini Salad, Two-Potato Salad, Napa Coleslaw

Alison Miksch

Asian dressing adds some bite to this all-American side dish.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1/2 cup Asian ginger salad dressing, 1/4 cup carrot juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Shake well. In a large bowl, toss together 8 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage and 2 cups shredded carrots. Pour dressing mixture over slaw, and toss to combine. Put in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid for transport.

Pack 1 cup chow-mein noodles in a resealable plastic bag, and sprinkle on slaw just before serving. Makes 8 cups.

Nutrition per 1/2 cup: 45 cal; 1g protein; 3g fat; 5g carb; 28mg calcium; 1g fiber.

1. Creamy Orange Bars
Creamy Orange Bars, Summer Fruit Salad

Alison Miksch

You can't take ice cream in your picnic basket, but these sherbet-y dessert bars are just as good.

Using the packets from an 11.1-oz. package of no-bake cheesecake, prepare crust in bowl according to directions on box, using 2 Tbs. sugar and 5 Tbs. melted butter. Press crumbs into an 8-inch baking pan. In a medium-size bowl, stir 1 packet unflavored gelatin into 1/2 cup thawed frozen orange-juice concentrate. Let mixture sit 10 minutes. Microwave in 10-second intervals until heated and gelatin is completely dissolved. Following package directions (decreasing milk by 1/4 cup), in a large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat together cheesecake-filling mix and milk for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium, and beat mixture 3 minutes more. Beat in orange juice-gelatin mixture and 1 to 2 drops orange food coloring. Pour over crust in pan, and smooth surface. Chill at least 3 hours. Cut into bars; to transport, cover pan with 2 layers of plastic wrap secured with rubber bands. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition per bar: 246 cal; 3g protein; 13g fat; 31g carb; 112mg calcium; 0 fiber.

2. Summer Fruit Salad

Whip up the vanilla syrup as much as a week ahead and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to take it to your picnic. You can use the syrup on any fresh fruit; here are our favorites.

In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 1 vanilla bean, split open. Bring sugar-and-vanilla mixture to a boil over high heat and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes more. Transfer syrup to a bowl and let cool completely. In a large bowl, combine 1 pint each blueberries and raspberries, 2 cups halved seedless grapes, 1 quart strawberries, cut into quarters, and 3 nectarines or peaches, sliced. Toss fruit with vanilla syrup right before you leave for your picnic, and transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 124 cal; 1g protein; 1g fat; 31g carb; 18mg calcium; 4g fiber.

Copyright ? 2006. Reprinted with permission from the June 2006 issue of Parents magazine.