Food & Drink

What to pack in your Fourth of July picnic basket

July 4th Picnic.
July 4th Picnic. Nancy Farrar

I don’t know about you, but I’m not having, or attending, an outdoor picnic in July unless there’s water, a boat or impending nightfall involved. It’s just too darn hot.

But for those who are fortunate enough to have one or all of these in your holiday plans this July Fourth weekend, I’ve got a picnic basket full of healthy recipes that will leave you with a relatively clean kitchen, a clean conscience and a very happy mouth.

If you’re not making your own hummus yet, you need to start. Now. It’s so easy and SO much better than anything you can buy. My roasted red pepper hummus uses jarred red peppers, which you can roast right on top of your indoor gas cooktop, if you’re so inclined.

If you don’t care for roasted red peppers in hummus, make it without them. Or add something else like sun-dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts. But do make it yourself. If you don’t have a food processor, use the blender.

Serve the hummus with healthy raw veggies and add some pita for those who must have their bread.

If you’re not making your own hummus yet, you need to start. Now. It’s so easy and SO much better than anything you can buy. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Next is my Greek tortellini salad. I went to Greece several years ago, and I have been cooking Greek-inspired recipes ever since. This one has no mayo, so you don’t have to worry about it being left out too long. Lots of tomato, cucumber, onion, olives and feta with a smidge of Greek dressing. (Bottled or homemade, up to you.)

The simplest thing in your picnic basket will be cool bites of prosciutto and melon with mint. The salty prosciutto and the cool, sweet cantaloupe will help keep your body temperature under 104 degrees.

And finally, for dessert, my rustic apple tart. I’ve made this a million times (or maybe 10) and if you know me, you know I’m no baker. But this I make because even us nonbakers can have success. Canned pie dough. A few sliced apples. Some spices. And voila. A rustic tart. Let it cool, then slice it up and wrap individual wedges for all to enjoy.

These easy dishes are great served at room temperature with no fear. Everyone should be able to pull this picnic off. Just don’t forget the bug spray and sparklers.

Nancy Farrar is the Chef Impersonator. Reach her at or visit View her food photography at

Red Pepper Hummus-2393
Red pepper hummus Nancy Farrar Special to the Star-Telegram

Roasted red pepper hummus

Serves 6

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (can be omitted, in a pinch)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 6 roasted red pepper pieces from a jar (or roast two whole, fresh red peppers, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Toss all ingredients, except olive oil, into a food processor or blender and mix on low. Slowly add olive oil until the hummus is the consistency you want. (Go slowly. You can always add more oil, but you can’t take it out.) Add more lemon juice or salt or pepper to taste. Serve with raw veggies or pita wedges or chips.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 210 calories, 13 grams fat, 21 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 574 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 52 percent of calories from fat.

Greek Tortellini Salad-2379
Greek tortellini salad Nancy Farrar Special to the Star-Telegram

Greek tortellini salad

Serves 6

  • 1 20-ounce package Buitoni three-cheese tortellini
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  •  1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Greed salad dressing (recommended: Girard’s Greek feta vinaigrette salad dressing)

1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Drain and allow to cool slightly and then drizzle very lightly with olive oil, if desired, to keep it from sticking together.

2. Place tortellini into large bowl and add all other ingredients. Drizzle with dressing to taste. Toss and serve at room temperature.

Nutritional analysis per serving, without olive oil: 406 calories, 18 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 794 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 39 percent of calories from fat.

Prosciutto melon Nancy Farrar Special to the Star-Telegram

Prosciutto and melon with mint

Serves 6

  • 1 large ripe cantaloupe
  •  1/4 pound good-quality prosciutto
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
  • Balsamic vinegar

1. Peel and cut cantaloupe into small squares.

2. Cut slices of prosciutto into  1/2-inch pieces. Fold the slice over onto itself into an “s” shape, and place on top of the melon. Top with a mint leaf and secure with a toothpick.

3. Place a few drops of balsamic on the plate for dipping, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 74 calories, 2 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 18 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 22 percent of calories from fat.

Rustic Apple Tart-2335
Rustic apple tart Nancy Farrar Special to the Star-Telegram

Rustic apple tart

Serves 6

If you really want to cheat on this one, use canned pie filling — they’ll never know.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  •  1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or unpeeled, if preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 15-ounce package refrigerated pie dough
  • Sugar, for sprinkling around edges

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place first 6 ingredients in a small skillet and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until apples are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Remove dough from package and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Place apple mixture into the center of the dough, and fold the edges of the dough toward the center all the way around the tart. The dough will only partially cover the apple filling. Wet the edges of the dough with a bit of water and sprinkle with sugar.

3. Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Let cool completely, cut into wedges and serve.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 448 calories, 22 grams fat, 60 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 23 milligrams cholesterol, 309 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.

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