Picnic Time

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Whether it's a picnic in Green Valley Park by the lake or listening to a concert under the stars, at Rumsey Park watching a ball game or in your back yard, food just tastes better outdoors. So, pack up and enjoy.

This trio of chilled salads is welcome warm-weather fare and offers something for everyone: a German potato salad and steak duo; Greek-inspired beets and shrimp; and a layered bean salad with a Tex-Mex twist.

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A very different dessert: Chipotle Beet Brownies

Just add crusty bread and favorite beverages, and off you go.

For dessert, it's home-baked brownies and fresh fruit. Moist and chocolaty brownies are made with a mix and two surprise ingredients: chipotle chile powder imparts subtle heat, and pickled beets make them extra moist and flavorful.

Steak and German Potato Salad

Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 15 minutes

1, 15-ounce can Read German Potato Salad, or similar

2 tablespoons coarse ground Dijon-style mustard

1/2 pound boneless top sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick

1, 10-ounce bag hearts of romaine lettuce

Stir together potato salad and mustard in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place steak in skillet and cook about 15 minutes to medium rare (145 degrees); turn occasionally.

Cool steak. Carve diagonally across grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices; reserve. Just before serving, gently toss steak with potato salad. Serve over greens.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: Recipe can be doubled.

Tex-Mex Layered Bean Salad

Preparation time: 20 minutes; chilling time: up to 8 hours

1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

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Picnic fare to feast on might include, from left, Steak and German Potato Salad, Tex-Mex Layered Bean Salad and Greek-Style Beet Salad

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1, 16-ounce bag iceberg lettuce, carrot and cabbage salad mix

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend

2, 15-ounce cans Read Three Bean Salad, or similar, drained

1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/2 cup crumbled tortilla chips (optional)

1 small avocado, sliced (optional)

In 3-1/2-quart salad bowl or soufflé dish (preferably straight-sided) layer salad as follows: bell pepper, onion, lettuce, cheese and three bean salad.

Mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream and chipotle peppers. Spread over top of salad. Cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle top with chips and sliced avocado, if desired. Toss to serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings (about 12 cups)

Note: Read Four Bean Salad can be substituted for Three Bean Salad.

Greek-Style Beet Salad

Preparation time: 15 minutes; chilling time: 2 hours

1, 16-ounce jar Aunt Nellie's Whole Pickled Beets, or similar, drained

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved

1/2 pound medium cooked shrimp, peeled, tails removed

1/2 cup seeded, chopped cucumber

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill

Prepared vinaigrette dressing

Drain beets well; cut into quarters. Combine beets and olives in medium bowl. Top with combined shrimp and cucumber. Sprinkle with feta; refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

To serve, sprinkle with dill, and drizzle with vinaigrette, as desired.

Makes 4 servings

Note: Recipe can be doubled.

Chipotle Beet Brownies

Preparation time: 15 minutes; cooking time: 28 to 30 minutes

1, 16-ounce jar Aunt Nellie's Sliced Pickled Beets, or similar

1, 19.5-ounce box milk chocolate brownie mix

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray bottom of 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Drain beets, reserving 1/4 cup liquid. Combine beets and reserved liquid in blender or food processor. Puree until smooth; set aside.

Combine brownie mix, oil, eggs, pureed beets and chile powder in large mixing bowl; stir 50 strokes with spoon. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 28 to 30 minutes as directed on package. Remove from oven; cool. Lightly dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Makes 24 brownies

All materials courtesy of: Aunt Nellie's Beets and Read Bean Salads (Seneca Foods Corporation) Visit www.senecafoods.com for additional recipes and serving suggestions.

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