RECIPE DEVELOPMENT, FOOD STYLING, PHOTOGRAPHY, and ARTICLE BY LIZ BUSHONG
In late afternoon, the sun begins to slowly melt into the horizon, like butter on a warm southern biscuit. That’s the time to grab a comfy old quilt, pack a picnic basket and head to the pond for a pond-side picnic.
Setting the tone for this spontaneous alfresco picnic begins with a vintage picnic basket and a red plaid thermos. The classic red, white, and navy, with a pinch of black creates the simple but sassy color scheme. Brightly colored boxes, take-out containers and buckets are filled with pre made picnic fare. This menu features a mouth-watering muffaletta that is packed with flavor. Tangy olive relish and layers of cold cuts are neatly stacked in a hollowed round loaf of crusty bread or as a wrap, tightly rolled in a flour tortilla. A plate of soft Brie with cracked pepper water -crackers are served with a cluster of green grapes that will refresh the palate from the tanginess of the sandwiches. In a star-studded navy cooler, soft drinks in small glass bottles are chilled to perfection. Last, but not least, is the dessert. Dark chocolate cupcakes with ‘ant’ candies remind us that summer will soon be arriving. These cute candy ants are made from plain and peanut M & M’s ® with chocolate frosting as legs and antenna. Kids of all ages will enjoy these cute cupcakes.
When planning your picnic think of foods that will travel and pack well. Avoiding foods prepared with cream sauces or egg based items will keep everyone safe from bad bugs, aka unwanted food borne illnesses. Here are a few helpful tips to keep bad bugs at bay:
- Avoid leaving prepared foods in the danger zone: 40-140 degrees F. more than two hours. You can expose them to 90 degree temperatures for one hour.
- Wash hands before and after handling food. Pack sanitized towelettes.
- Pack chilled food in an insulated cooler, with plenty of ice or ice packs to surround the food. Consider two coolers, one for food and for beverages.
- If you are serving chicken and meats, place in separate tightly sealed bags or containers at the bottom of your cooler.
- If grilling, designate separate plates for the raw meat and cooked foods.
- Keep grilling and eating utensils separate to avoid cross-contamination.
- While grilling, use a meat thermometer to make sure meats reach a safe internal temperature. That is 170-180 degrees for chicken. Beef, steaks and roasts should be 145-160 degrees F. Avoid partially cooking or grilling food with the intent of finishing the cooking later.
A little bit of common sense and planning ahead about picnic food safety will keep everyone healthy and allow you to create wonderful memories. Knowing you have prepared the best and safest menu for your family and friends will give you peace of mind.
When the sun has melted into the horizon and the orchestrated evening concert from the sounds of spring has begun, gather ’round to relax for one more moment at the pond, taking in all the delights of the afternoon and thinking about your next pond-side picnic.
Muffaletta-Sandwich or Wrap
1 large round Italian loaf of bread or Hawaiian sweet bread round loaf
1 1/2 cups olive relish
10 thin provolone cheese slices
10 slices hard salami
10 thin Swiss cheese slices
1/2 pound black forest ham, sliced thin
1/2 pound peppered turkey, sliced thin
1 cup Spanish olives, drained and chopped
1 cup black olives, drained and chopped
1 cup pickled vegetables, drained and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut upper third of round loaf in half. Hollow out top and bottom of loaves to make a pocket. Reserve bread pieces for other recipes
2. Spoon 1/4 cup of olive relish into bottom loaf, then 1/4 cup inside top loaf.
3. In bottom loaf, layer cheese and other ingredients in order listed above.
4. After turkey slice, repeat with provolone cheese, then go backwards with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and end with hard salami if desired.
5. Place lid of sandwich on top of round loaf.
6. Wrap entire sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
7. Slice into wedges to serve.
To make a wrap: Same ingredients, except for cheese and tortilla wrap. I used a cheddar/mozzarella cheese stick in the middle of the tortilla wrap for added presentation when sliced in half. Spread relish on wrap, then layer ingredients and roll up. Also refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: 4-6 slices
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Candy Ants
1-18.25 ounce package dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1-3ounce package chocolate instant pudding and pie mix-dry
1 1/3 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
½ cup mini chocolate morsels
2 cups vanilla butter cream frosting
72 peanut M & M’s
1 cup dark chocolate frosting
½ cup white sprinkles or jimmies
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare cupcake pan with liners. Combine all ingredients except frosting. Beat batter for 2 minutes to blend.
- Fill plastic zip lock bag with batter, clip end of bag to ¼ “. Pipe batter into cupcake liners.
- Bake cakes 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla butter cream frosting.
To make candy ants: Place 2 peanut M &M’s in a row in center of cake, add regular sized M & M for head, and pipe legs using chocolate frosting on the center M. Then add eyes and feelers to head of ant.
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. She makes elegance easy for her audience and encourages them to add their own Sassy touch to make it unique. Liz is famous for creating her own version of a beautifully presented tablescape – which she calls a
Sassyscape ™ -and she also creates magic beyond the dining experience. In 2009, 2010, and 13, she was selected from thousands nationwide to be part of an elite team of 100 professionals entrusted with decorating the White House for the Holiday. In 2011, she was part of seven-person team selected to decorate the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion for the holiday.
Liz has been featured as the monthly guest chef on Daytime Tri-Cities, television show on WJHL, the CBS Affiliate for the Tri- Cities Area of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Daytime Blue Ridge in Roanoke, Virginia and Daytime Tampa, Tampa Florida. She is also the creator and host of her own one-hour seasonal television show called “Serve it up Sassy!” for the same market, which aired in 2011. She is also a contributing writer for the regional magazine VIP Seen and Lovely Bella magazine in Roanoke, Virginia.
She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Consumer and Family Sciences from Purdue University and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Fashion Design from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is also certified in Decorative Finishes and has been trained as a volunteer Master Gardener.
Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook. Liz turns dessert into the fifth basic food group and features recipes for her signature specialty, delicious “mini-desserts and appetizers.”
Liz makes her home in Johnson City, Tennessee. She continues to perfect her sassy approach to turning simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments.
Liz Bushong, Serve it up Sassy! ™
To purchase cookbooks, find recipes, cooking, and decorating demonstrations, go to www.lizbushong.com.