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.

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

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.

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