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Put Some Color in That Picnic Basket

Posted: 6/1/2012

Posted June 1, 2012

Memorial Day launches a new season -- the picnic season -- a season in which we spend time with friends and family over the picnic table sharing good food and good memories.

A challenge that some of us often struggle with, though, is making something that will be portable yet nutritious. I want to share the key to packing a nutritious yet delicious picnic meal. The key is packing a picnic basket full of color.

When you pack a meal full of nature's natural colors, you are automatically boosting your nutrition because each color group in the fruit and vegetable world holds a special set of nutrients -- vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy, not to mention the fiber.

Packing a colorful picnic basket not only ensures a nutrient-packed and health-promoting meal, it also provides a meal that is more appealing to our eyes and appetites.

Think about all the natural ways you can add more color to your picnic meal:

Red: Sliced tomatoes, salsa, strawberries, sliced red bell pepper strips, sliced apples on salad with the skin, radishes, watermelon, raspberries, cherries.

Blue/Purple: Blueberries, purple-skinned onions, blackberries, plums, purple cabbage, grapes and raisins (raisins have no added sugar -- naturally).

Green: romaine lettuce, spinach salad, kiwi, green grapes, sliced pears, snap peas, avocado, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, honeydew melon.

Orange: orange bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, cantaloupe, orange tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peaches.

Yellow: grilled yellow squash, pineapple, yellow bell peppers, corn.

White/Brown: jicama sticks, potatoes with skin, sliced turnips, mushrooms, onions, cauliflower, bananas (it's the edible part that counts).

Pack a perfect meal including all the colors of the rainbow for something fresh and simple.

-- Chicken pesto wraps: whole grain tortillas, pesto mayonnaise (mix pesto into mayonnaise to your taste), shredded rotisserie chicken, shredded carrots, yellow pepper strips and romaine lettuce leaves.

-- Broccoli-Bacon Salad (see recipe)

-- Memorial Day jar dessert: layer strawberries, blueberries, light whipped topping and one vanilla cupcake split in half in 1/2-pint jars. Screw on lids and stick in the cooler. Jars are for any time of year, not just canning season -- they make the perfect portable dessert to put into the cooler.

And just a few safety tips when you pack your picnic:

1. Wash your hands -- always -- before and after you handle food.

2) Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate -- in separate coolers ideally.

3) Cook to proper food temperatures.

4) Keep foods below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees to prevent foodborne illness. Foods can be out for up to two hours, but if temperature is above 90 degrees, refrigerate promptly.

Broccoli-Bacon salad

Serves 6 (1 cup each)

Active Time: 20 minutes -- Total: 20 minutes

All you need

-- 1 clove garlic, minced

-- 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

-- 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

-- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

-- 1 teaspoon sugar

-- 4 cups finely chopped broccoli

-- 1 (8 ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped

-- 3 tablespoons Hy-Vee bacon crumbles or 3 slices cooked Hy-Vee bacon, crumbled

-- 3 tablespoons Sun-Maid raisins

-- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

All you do

Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl. Add broccoli, water chestnuts, bacon, raisins and pepper; stir to coat with the dressing.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Nutrition facts per serving: 106 calories; 5g fat (1g sat, 2g mono); 11mg cholesterol; 13g carbohydrate; 3g added sugars; 4g protein; 3g fiber; 194mg sodium; 196mg potassium.

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (74% daily value), Vitamin A (30% dv).

Source: Adapted from Eating Well, Inc.

©2012 the Austin Daily Herald (Austin, Minn.)

Visit the Austin Daily Herald (Austin, Minn.) at www.austindailyherald.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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