Food for Thought: Health’d-Up Picnics!

Herbed Cauliflower Salad.jpg

As seen in Haddam-Killingworth News, June 20, 2019

Picnics here, picnics there, picnics everywhere… I don’t know about you, but it seems there is one every weekend and sometimes in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love picnics because it means getting together with friends & family, usually being outdoors, and kicking back to enjoy the summer season. Having said that I bring my own food to stay away from the ingredients that leave me feeling sluggish and heavy.

The classic picnic foods tend to be processed meats on the grill, salads with thick goopy dressings, and sugar laden desserts to sink a ship. You know what I’m talking about! Most of these foods are made with bad fats, like partially hydrogenated oils, or are high in saturated fat. In addition, they commonly have high fructose corn syrup or refined white sugar and flours, and if you’ve been following my monthly column then you know this can lead to chronic inflammation and ultimately disease.

Okay, so rather than go on and on about the bad stuff and even the good stuff, I wanted to focus this column on some healthier picnic recipes that I have “ReDesigned” using better options. To keep your creations super healthy, do your best to use organic or locally grown produce and ingredients. I hope you enjoy them and that you experiment with some of your favorite picnic fare, giving them a health’d-up makeover. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions.

Herbed Cauliflower Salad (like potato salad)

My friend introduced me to the idea of making a potato salad with cauliflower and so I decided to try it and I was ever so happy with the result! There’s nothing wrong with using some good old fashioned organic potatoes as well, but if you are trying to reduce starchy carbs this is a wonderful option.

I head cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
½ cup vegan, soy free mayo
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
4 stalks chopped celery
½ large red sweet pepper chopped
Assorted fresh or dried herbs like chives, tarragon, dill, fennel, parsley, etc.

Steam the cauliflower in a small water bath for about 10 minutes or until just tender. In a large serving bowl, whisk all other ingredients, except the celery and pepper. Add the celery and pepper and the cauliflower onceit has been cooled, toss and stir until fully coated with the dressing. You can make this the morning of your picnic. It was delicious the next day as well, but gets a bit watery overnight.

Sweet & Sour Broccoli and Carrot Salad

I love that sweet & sour flavor and over fresh broccoli & carrots it is so yummy! I like to make this in the morning the day of the picnic.

1 head broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
3 large carrots sliced into bite size chunks
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp paprika

Place the chopped veggies in a serving bowl. Whisk, or shake in a jar the remaining ingredients and pour over the broccoli and carrots. Stir well, refrigerate and stir again before serving. Adjust flavors as preferred (more sweet, or sour).

Curried Kale Slaw

This is so yummy, it is great leftover and it is a nutritional powerhouse with all the cruciferous veggies! This is one of my go to salads for potlucks and it always gets rave reviews!

¾ cup vegan, soy free mayo
½ cup lemon juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. spicy mustard
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 bag organic veggie or broccoli slaw
1 bag baby kale, or large kale leaves chopped or torn off stems
1 chopped apple
1 can chickpeas (bpa free can)
1 cup raisins or fruit juiced sweetened cranberries
½ cup cilantro or parsley

Whisk the first 9 ingredients in a large serving bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients. This can be made the morning of the event and lasts up to two days.

Watermelon Fruit Salad

There is nothing more refreshing and hydrating on a hot summer day than watermelon! I like this recipe drizzled with a non-dairy vanilla yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.

1 small water melon chopped into bite size pieces.
Other assorted fruit chopped
1 non-dairy vanilla yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg

Toss the fruit in a bowl and drizzle with the yogurt or place the yogurt in a small bowl with the fruit around it.

Lemon Infused Water

Staying hydrated on a hot summer day is so important. In place of sugary drink options, I like to have a big pitcher of lemon water available. This refreshing lemonade is so yummy and won’t raise your blood sugar! Be sure to use organic lemons for this recipe.

2 lemons juiced
1 lemon sliced thin
A large pitcher of filtered water
6 drops liquid stevia (I like Stevita brand), or even better fresh stevia leaves, slightly rolled to allow the plant oils to release. I place the leaves, stem and all into the water/lemon mix and it gives it just enough sweetness.
A spring of lemon balm, optional, (looks oh so pretty and adds a bit more lemon flavor)
5 drops of lemon essential oil, optional (I use doTERRA brand)

Combine all ingredients into the pitcher, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. I like to prepare this the night before for best flavor, but anytime is fine.

Lemon Ginger Cookies

Last, but not least, I had to throw in a health’d-up dessert recipe! These cookies are vegan, gluten free, grain free, and nut free, but certainly not lacking in flavor! They are super easy to make, using only one bowl!

1 Tbsp. psyllium husk (this is an Indian herb – I buy an organic brand on Amazon)
1 Tbsp. avocado oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon or 5 drops of lemon essential oil
½ cup avocado oil
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
1.5 cups coconut palm sugar
Zest of one organic lemon
1 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 ¼ cups chickpea or garbanzo bean flour

In a large bowl whisk the first 3 ingredients and allow to sit until thickened. Add the next seven ingredients and gently whisk. Stir in the chunks of crystalized ginger. Stir in the chickpea flour until blended. The dough will be thick and slightly sticky. Using two teaspoons, scoop onto a cookie sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. Bake at 325 degrees for about 11-12 minutes. Cool on the counter. Store in a tin in the fridge. Make approximately 30 small cookies.

Okay, so there you have it, six new recipes to health-up your next picnic! Now I’m off to create something new in the kitchen.

If you have a topic you’d like to learn more about, please email me at Until next time!

Janet Verney