Preparing Healthy Picnic Food

Preparing healthy picnic food using seasonal fruits and vegetables, including cooking recipes for grilled chicken breasts with vegetables, three bean salad with garlic dressing, grilling corn and creamy dill potato salad.

| June/July 1997

  • 162-078-01
    Rosemary Payne and her granddaughters, Karen and Kaila, kick back with Anne's favorite picnic treats.

  • 162-078-01

MOTHER's Kitchen column shares how to make easy, lighter, healthy, and sensible meals by preparing healthy picnic food using seasonal fruits and vegetables. 

When it comes to holiday time and preparing healthy picnic food, there's no arguing with tradition. Aunt Martha will bring her annual potato salad, and grandma Bea wouldn't think of coming without her chocolate cream pie, and there's no way that I'm going to work it off playing volleyball in this heat. Instead, I've been lobbying for a spread that's a little lighter so we can afford that piece of chocolate cream pie. I'm going to try lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables so when cousin Harry moans about the carcinogens on the grilled brats, I can tell him the chlorophyll in green vegetables limits the body's absorption of carcinogens from grilled meat. That little factual tidbit will also help take the starch out of the meat-eaters when they start to circle the wagons.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Vegetables Recipe

Since white meat is so much more expensive than dark, I sometimes have the butcher give me boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (I hate doing the cutting myself.) The chicken can be served hot or at room temperature.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half (12 pieces)
Possible vegetables for grilling:
Eggplant, sliced into 1/3 inch pieces
Circles of zucchini or summer squash, sliced length-wise into 1/3 inch strips
Red or yellow sweet peppers
Quartered portabello mushrooms
Whole fresh herbs, if available, for garnishing such as basil, oregano, thyme

Marinade Recipe

¼ cup chicken broth
1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons minced garlic, depending on your preference
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
A few dashes hot sauce
Freshly ground pepper

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Lay the chicken breasts in a rectangular glass pan or casserole and pour the marinade over the top just until it covers the chicken. In another pan, do the same with the sliced vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. After a few hours, turn the chicken and vegetables over in the marinade. Prepare the grill. When the fire is hot, lay the chicken on the grill with the vegetables around the edges if there's room. (The vegetables can be grilled ahead of time if you wish since they'll be served at room temperature.) Cover and grill for about 5 minutes per side, watching the vegetables so that they don't burn. Brush the chicken with marinade if it starts to dry out. Add mesquite to the coals after the chicken is turned over if you wish. Discard the marinade. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle with chopped herbs. Place the grilled vegetables around the edge of the platter.


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