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Cooks’ Exchange: Recipes for the perfect picnic | … |

Cooks’ Exchange: Recipes for the perfect picnic | …

Believe it or not, summer is on its way and how welcomed it will be for many after spending a long, cold winter trying to stay warm while shoveling snow. Spring becomes the first gift to celebrate with the entry of each new year, but for me, June’s arrival is like finding a priceless gem shedding light on the beauty emerging, especially in the Wisconsin we know and love.

Summer also reminds me of picnics in the park, my favorite being Hoyt Park where my 4th birthday was celebrated and continued to be every year that followed while growing up through the years and well into adulthood. Although the terrain may have changed along the way, this special place remains a memory tucked in the depths of my heart with old snapshots to remind me of days and years gone by. In fact, we always called it Sunset Point, and still do.

Surrounded by lakes, lagoons, ponds and rivers, Madison has many special places for you to celebrate the nice weather with a blanket and a basket or two filled with favorite food items from home.

Picnics can be small and romantic with food and drink for two, or a day when friends and family gather to celebrate anything in life worth remembering. Years ago our picnic food meant Oscar Mayer wieners poked at the end of sturdy tree branches to roast over an open fire. It worked just fine as long as the roaster was paying attention. Later, branches were replaced with a set of long slender metal adjustable stems with red wooden handles that we still use today.

Its’s easy to plan a picnic for two, but what if 12 or many more are expected in your backyard or favorite outdoor place? Here are some picnic recipes from “Community Suppers” by Jeanne Voltz in association with Womans Day to keep on hand just in case that might happen. The first one is best made a day before serving, but also is satisfactory kept for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator. The recipe can be divided; smaller quantities are best marinated in a narrow deep container, such as a jar. Recipe can also be multiplied as needed. It should be served cold as a relish-salad.

Summer crock salad

8 green peppers, sliced

3 pounds tomatoes, sliced thin

4 pounds onions, sliced and separated into rings

3 cups cider vinegar

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons celery salt

3 cups salad oil

Layer vegetables into deep glass bowls, crocks, or enamelware pans. Set aside. Stir together vinegar, sugar, salt, and celery seed until sugar is dissolved. Stir in oil. Pour over vegetables. Cover and marinate overnight. Serve 18.

Here is a bean salad that makes 24 servings, can be made ahead, and is best served at room temperature.

Bean salad with corn

3 cups drained and rinsed cooked garbanzo beans, or two 16-ounce cans, drained and rinsed

3 cups drained cooked red kidney beans, or two 16-ounce cans, drained

3 cups drained cooked green beans, or two 16-ounce cans, drained

3 cups drained cooked whole-kernel corn or three 10-ounce cans, drained

1 cup chopped onion

ª cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon dried basil

2⁄3 cup cider vinegar

2⁄3 cup salad oil

Combine garbanzos, kidney and green beans, corn, and onion in a 20-cup bowl. Blend sugar, salt, mustard, and basil in a medium-size bowl. Stir in vinegar and beat in oil until well blended and creamy. Pour dressing over salad. Toss lightly. Cover and keep at room temperature for up to 2 hours, or in refrigerator for up to 3 days. This salad is best served at room temperature. If desired, served on greens.

Makes 24 servings, ½ cup each.

This recipe is easily divided in thirds. To multiply recipes, use two or more bowls to make mixing easier.

What’s a picnic without baked beans that everyone always seem to love? Here’s a recipe to use throughout the year that is also great for potlucks.

Pioneer beans

1 pound ground beef

¼ pound sliced bacon, chopped

One medium onion, chopped (½ cup)

15-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained

15-ounce can pork and beans in tomato sauce

1 cup ketchup

½ to 1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

In a large skillet, cook ground beef, chopped bacon, and onion until meat is no longer pink and the onion is tender. Drain off the fat. Stir in drained kidney beans and butter beans, undrained pork and beans, ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, and mustard. Transfer the mixture to a 2 to 2 ½ quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover casserole; bake for 30 minutes more. Makes 12 servings

Note: For slow cooker, prepare beans as directed, except transfer meat and bean mixture to a 3 ½ to 4 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 5 to 6 hours, or on high heat setting for 2 ½ to 3 hours.

— Recipe from a February 2000 Hometown Cooking publication.

For a main dish, sloppy joes or pulled pork works well because it, too, can be made ahead and easily heated before serving. But here is a chicken dish that can be browned and casserole-assembled up to 24 hours before baking and will serve 18.

Chicken mozzarella

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons water

18 chicken breasts halves or thighs, boned

1 ½ cups fine cracker crumbs, approximately

2 ounces butter

4 tablespoons vegetable oil or as needed

9 thin slices of mozzarella cheese, about 14 ounces

4 quarts tomato spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or spray with nonstick coating a baking dish 13x9x2 inches.

Beat together eggs and water in a shallow dish such as a pie plate. Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, then into cracker crumbs. Spread on wax-paper-lined baking sheets and let set for 15 minutes before browning. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet or 2 skillets. Add chicken in a single layer, brown over moderate heat, turn, and brown other side. As chicken pieces brown, transfer them to prepared baking dish, overlapping if necessary, but not stacking. Cut cheese slices crosswise or diagonally into halves and lay a piece over each piece of chicken. Heat spaghetti sauce and spoon around chicken; drizzle a little over cheese and chicken. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve hot with rice, buttered noodles, or potatoes. Makes 18 servings.

— From “Community Suppers” by Jeanne Voltz And for dessert, the all-time favorite brownie with an exceptional recipe from a February 2000 copy of “Hometown Cooking.”

Mocha brownies

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup butter, melted

¼ cup coffee liqueur or 2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals dissolve in ¼ cup water

3 eggs

2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

2⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals

1 teaspoon water

16-ounce can vanilla frosting

Chocolate sprinkles, optional

Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, butter, and liqueur. Add eggs; beat with spoon just until combined. In small mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on wire rack. For frosting, stir together 1 teaspoon coffee crystals and 1 teaspoon water until dissolved; stir in vanilla frosting. Spread frosting over brownies; top with chocolate sprinkles, if desired. Makes about 36 servings.

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