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FD Healthy: The Perfect Spring Picnic

By: Chef Lauren "Ratatouille" Wood

With spring comes warmer weather and light breezes. This makes it the perfect time of year for picnics. There is nothing like enjoying a meal with friends and family at your favorite outdoor spot. Whether on a beach or in the mountains, it wouldn’t be a picnic without a full basket of food. Quick, portable, delicious recipes are key. But sometimes the pack-and-go picnic style can lead to bags of chips, store bought slaws, or fried chicken buckets.  Ratatouille, FD Chef and nutrition extraordinaire, has some recommendations for how to bring the freshness back to the basket.  Her number one tip?  A way to boost nutrition and flavor in your picnic meal is to buy produce that is in season.

Buying in season is beneficial.  Buying in season is often a great way to save money.  When foods are out of season stores have to pay high transportation costs to receive those foods from elsewhere.  Further, produce always tastes better when grown and picked at their peak. Also, produce loses flavor with long transportation and all of the preservatives added to accommodate for travel.  Finally, along with longer travel times comes loss of nutrients. It is best to consume produce as close to the harvesting time as possible.  The closer that you consume produce to harvest, the more nutritional value your food will have.

Produce will vary in different areas depending on weather and growing conditions.  Before planning your picnic, check out this seasonal produce guide to learn about peak seasons for your favorite fruits and veggies, ensuring the most mouthwatering and nutrient-packed feast possible.

Here are some fun, simple, in-season recipes to bring on your next Spring picnic!

Chard and Artichoke Dip

This dip is simple and can be served hot or cold. You can swap out chard for collard greens, spinach or even kale. These leafy greens are packed with vitamins and essential minerals like potassium. Enjoy with your favorite in season vegetable strips such as, carrots or celery, or whole grain chips!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method of Prep:

  1. Slice artichoke hearts into strips.
  2. Sautee chard until wilted. Squeeze to drain extra liquid. Roughly chop chard to smaller pieces.
  3. In a blender, add cashews, water, garlic, vinegar/ lemon juice, and mustard powder. Blend on high speed until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Fold cashew cream into artichokes and swiss chard.
  5. Chill immediately or Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until slightly browned on the top if serving hot.

Waldorf Garbanzo Bean Salad

This salad is a spin on traditional waldorf chicken salad but adds more fiber and plenty of plant based protein. Goes great as a dip or in a sandwich or wrap.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Chickpeas
  • 1 Apple, small diced
  • 1 cup Red Grapes, halved
  • 1 stalk Celery, fine diced
  • 1 small Red onion, fine diced
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted, cooled and chopped
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ Mayo (can use vegan alternative)
  • 1 Lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon tabasco
  • ½ tablespoon Fresh Dill
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method of Prep:

  1. In a mixing bowl, slightly crush chickpeas with hands or potato masher.
  2. Add diced apple, grapes, celery, onion, walnuts, and raisins. Toss to mix.
  3. In a small bowl add mayo, lemon juice, tabasco, dill, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a spoon to make a dressing.
  4. Add dressing to chickpea mixture and gently mix to combine.
  5. Serve cold on your favorite bread or in a Bibb lettuce cup.

Picnic Day

  • Assemble sandwich if using bread. Top with lettuce and tomato if desired. Store in sandwich bag. For lettuce cups, scoop desired amount in center of a bibb lettuce leaf. Place in a container.  

Apricot Frangipane Tart (from FD Out Cooking It cookbook)

This tart is simple to throw together and impressive to serve. It’s not too sweet and gluten and dairy free. Works well with other fruits, like blackberries or peaches. Can be served warm or cooled.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • ¼ cup Honey
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 Whole Eggs
  • 1 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1 ¾ Almond Meal
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon Cardamom
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 8 whole Apricots
  • ¼ cup Sliced Almonds
  • 2 teaspoons Lavender buds

Method of Prep:

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together until light: coconut oil, sugar, honey and salt.
  2. Gradually add eggs one at time mixing well, then add vanilla.
  3. Add almond meal, spices and lemon zest, stir to combine.
  4. Pour batter into 8 inch fluted tart pan or spring-form, brushed with coconut oil.
  5. Arrange apricots on top of the batter and sprinkle with sliced almonds and optional lavender buds.
  6. Bake at 350 until set and lightly browned (about 20 minutes). Cool completely.

Picnic Day

  • Wrap portions in plastic wrap or place in a shallow Tupperware to be put in picnic basket

Bon appetite!

To order a copy of our very own Out Cooking It with First Descents cookbooks, explore our FD Store.

Please note that First Descents does not conduct nutritional research studies, nor does FD encourage readers to ensue any dramatic dietary or nutritional shifts without first consulting a doctor or certified nutritionist.

Sources: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide

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