As the heat of summer begins to fade, an evening in the great outdoors becomes even more desirable. Fill a picnic basket with a quilt, cloth napkins, a bunch of sunflowers and a hearty yet healthy meal and enjoy the lingering beauty of the season.
Hearty Vegetarian Deli Sandwich
Choose the best-quality whole grain bread you can bake or buy. The filling of a deli sandwich should be at least as thick as both of the slices of bread. For each sandwich you will need the following ingredients:
2 slices high-quality whole grain bread
1½ ounces low-fat cream cheese
8 thin, peeled cucumber slices
¼ ripe Hass avocado, pitted, sliced and skinned
4 thin slices of tomato, about half of one tomato
2 red onion slices
a small handful of salad greens
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of provolone cheese
¼ cup of thinly sliced portobello mushrooms
1½ tablespoons of light Caesar-style salad dressing
Lightly spread the cream cheese on both slices of bread. Stack half of the ingredients on one slice of bread and the remaining ingredients on the second. Sprinkle the salad dressing on one half. Carefully combine the halves, cut, spear with toothpicks and wrap securely. Chill until time to serve.
Skip the soda and fill canning jars with fresh fruit, ice and cool water. For a delicious and beautiful drink, select fruit in an analogous color palette; cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, red grapes, peeled nectarines or peaches. For each quart jar, use:
½-¾ cups of fresh fruit
2 cups filtered ice cubes (clear)
Fill with cold water and attach lid. Chill until time to serve.
Fresh Fruit Medley
Cut up an assortment of garden-fresh fruit and sprinkle on coconut shavings if you wish. Enjoy seasonal favorites such as watermelon, fresh pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, strawberries, pitted cherries, peeled peaches, nectarines and sliced plums. Avoid bananas as they tend to turn mushy and brown. For each serving, plan on ½-1 cup of fruit.
This rich and delicious no-bake dessert is perfect for late summer meals. Layer the ingredients in small canning jars for easy transporting.
12 purchased shortbread or oatmeal cookies
cheesecake filling (see below)
2 cans berry pie filling or 1 recipe of fresh berry sauce
1 pint fresh berries, washed, stems and leaves removed
Coarsely crumble the purchased shortbread or oatmeal cookies into six 12-16 ounce canning jars. Drizzle ¼ cup of the berry sauce or pie filling in each jar. Divide the creamy cheesecake filling into six portions, about a cup each, and spoon over the berry sauce. Add another ½ cup of the remaining berry sauce or canned pie filling and a handful of fresh berries to each jar; if using strawberries, cut in ½-inch slices. Attach lids and refrigerate.
1½ cups heavy cream
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 ounces light cream cheese, softened
In a mixing bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the cream cheese.
Fresh Berry Sauce
1½ cups sugar
2½ tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups boiling water
3 cups of fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or a combination
4½ tablespoons lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg and salt. Slowly add boiling water. Whisk and cook over medium high heat until mixture boils; cook an additional two minutes. Stir in the fresh berries and return to boil. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Cool. Makes about 4½ cups.
Keep the food chilled while transporting. When you arrive, unfold your picnic quilt, stretch out and enjoy an evening of dinner and music under the stars.
Pam McMurtry is an artist and writer with a bachelor's degree in art teaching/drawing and painting. She is the author of "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook."