The Perfect Picnic

Toss 4 Spectacular Salads

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.

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