Monthly Archives: July 2010

A Sensuous Fruit Salad


OOooo lala figured I’d do a sexy recipe just in time for the weekend!  So let me explain the title of this recipe: I find fruits like figs, plums, blueberries, very sensual.  Sensual in the sense of their color, texture, apperance — I mean come on, figs?  They are sexy! 

Now just because it’s called a sensuous fruit salad doesn’t mean it’s strictly for lovers.  I am sure friends and family would enjoy it too, just don’t be too sexy when serving it (they might think you’re really weird).

The recipe showcases simplicity at its best — there is literally no other ingredients than the fruit itself.  I think it is really important for any cook to learn how to pick good quality produce — that way the ingredient can showcase its beauty on its own.   So today, I will give you a few tips on how to pick summer produce.

How to pick Brown Turkish Figs:

  • Look at the color — a ripe turkish fig should have a brownish yellow skin with purple hues
  • Ripe figs are soft to the touch, similar to a ripe peach.  The skin is very thin and can even crack due to the plump juicy flesh within.
  • Look underneath the fig, do you see droplets of “syrup” collecting around the eye?  That is a sure tell-tale sign you’ve picked a sweet fig.

How to pick Plums:

  • I always use my nose when picking plums.  Smell at the top of the plum, where it was picked — if the scent is very fragrant and sweet it is a winner for sure.  If you don’t smell nothin…put it back.
  • Depending on the type of plum you are buying, pick colors that are rich in dark purples (almost black) and reds.
  • Feel the plum, if it is rock hard it’s not ready yet.  It should be plump and soft, the flesh should slightly sink with the pressure from your fingers.

How to pick Melons:

  • Use your nose again! Same rule of thumb with plums, smell at the top of the melon where it was picked.  Remember: fragrant and sweet smells!
  • Thump the mellon — if it sounds nice and dense it is packed with juice.  Also if the belly of the melon is yellow that is another sign it is ripe.
  • Make sure the outerskin is nice and firm, any soft spots on a melon is a no go.

How to pick Blueberries:

  • Pick berries that are not smushed and are rich in blue/purplish hues.  Avoid blueberries that look red or even white — those are definitely NOT RIPE.
  • Blueberries that are large in size are usually very sweet, avoid eating any blueberries that feel very hard — they are very sour!

Ingredients for Sensuous Fruit Salad: (serves 2-4)

  • 6 brown turkey figs, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup blueberries, washed
  • 1 cup melon balls
  • 3 black plums, washed pitted and quartered

Gentle mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Serve chilled with some vanilla ice cream or eat it plain.  For those who want more sweetness, feel free to drizzle some honey on top!

So below are some pictures of our new home — please excuse the mess and random assortment of furniture scattered around.  There’s still much to be done but we are getting close :)!!!

My mom will actually be staying with us mid August until…well whenever she feels like leaving.  Hopefully NEVER…but in reality probably a month…or two? *keeping fingers crossed*  Then she will be moving to Shanghai permanently to enjoy retirement and to be closer to her hubby and family.  Once she moves in a lot of recipes I’ll be featuring on here will probably be the meals she teaches me to cook — I’ve asked her to teach me everything she knows before she leaves!

The End. Have a great weekend yall :)!

Wacky Wednesday


I am feeling a little wacky…I have not cooked in over a week, well if you don’t count grilling. And it feels strange — who am I? It’s like I don’t even know me anymore! We’ve been surviving on pizza, bbq, you know anything that pretty much clogs your arteries…+ no gym…=very very sad and frumpy Zhang. Aside from the second ass I’m growing, improvements at the new house have been going fabulously! I can’t wait to show the “before” and “after”, the transformation has been incredible. Literally, blood sweat and tears have gone into this project and I am happy it is almost over!

I am definitely missing my beach vacation this year but next year (hopefully) I’ll be enjoying the beach in my wedding dress :). Speaking of weddings, I finally completed my very dear friend’s wedding a few weeks ago. Tammy and Jason, the most adorable couple in Nashville, TN threw an incredible wedding. I loved the beautiful reds throughout — her dress, the flowers, THE SHOES! Since red is a very significant color in Chinese culture, I thought it was a unique way of bringing the two cultures together. Their marriage made me reflect on the beauty of uniting two completely different cultures– having an American fiance myself, over the years we’ve learned so much from each other.

Since moving to America, my entire goal has been “To live the American dream”. I told my mom when I was 9 (after watching Legends of the Fall) — “Mom, when I grow up I’m going to marry a boy just like Brad Pitt.” I also told her I wanted to live in a house with picket white fences and have beautiful dresses like Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (we didn’t have cable, I watched a lot of classics and Sesame Street).

When I met Collin and knew he was “the one”, I told my mom

“Mom, I found my Brad Pitt and he is hot!”

She raised her eyebrow “Oooh I see…white boy?”

“Yeah mom, he’s white.”

“OOooooh! His paren’t dont care you Chinese?”

“Hmm..not that I know of!”

“Oooooh. Your grandma? She LOVE white boy, she always say white boy better to look at, so handsome, so tall!”

“Yeah, I gotta agree with Grams on that one ma.”

“Yeah, grandma, she funny lady.”

I guess after living here for so long, I consider myself “American”. I often forget that no matter what, my Chinese culture will always be a part of me, and the older I become the more I learn to appreciate it. I think the melding of two cultures really makes relationships more interesting in the sense that you are able to take the best of two worlds and learn so much from each other.

Collin is now fluent in chopsticks, some Chinese and eating any animal part without hesitation. He knows to take off his shoes in any Chinese household and that more than likely they will not have flipflops to fit his size 13 feet. Not only that, at work he is able to deal with Asian customers better as a result of the exposure of the culture from my family. He understands that respect is huge in Asian culture and sarcasm just doesn’t exist.

(Left: Wild Ginger House Salad ; Right: Sushi Sampler Platter)

I’ve learned that it’s okay to rock out at family functions, and getting a little wastey with relatives can be fun. I live for Christmas and Thanksgiving (two holidays my family seldom celebrated)– the food, traditions, decorations, I am totally there. And that it’s okay to be outspoken (though I can be a little too outspoken at times), and it’s okay to be confident and toot your horn every once in awhile. I am also now a master of (great bear) hugs and kisses, and have extended physical expressions of love onto my parents. Granted my mother still becomes stiff when Collin hugs her, I think we’re starting to break her down and shes getting more use to it :).

Yet at the end of the day, no matter how different of backgrounds two people may come from, love is always the inevitable factor that brings people together. My 6’2″ hairy giant with the baby blue eyes inevitably melts my heart every day. Even when he is rocking out hard on his guitar, pretending he is the lead singer of Metallica I can’t help but smile because it’s cute.

I really had a great time photographing Tammy and Jason’s wedding — I am truly honored that Tammy picked me as her photographer.  After pulling my hair out and stressing out (for months) about getting perfect shots on her big day, I realized when two people love each other as much as these two do — it makes the job easy.  Now I am patiently waiting for the two to pop out some spuds (or what Collin’s mom likes to call them: pandabears).  Have a fantastic time on your honeymoon lovebirds, bon voyage!!

Electrolux #splits: Caramel Banana Split with Bourbon Praline Pecans


When Foodbuzz sent out an e-mail about supporting Ovarian Cancer Research, it really touched a special place in my heart  My late grandmother battled Ovarian Cancer and throughout her struggle we offered her endless love and support.  I miss her dearly and wish she were still here so I could’ve fed her this Banana Split:) (Love you nainai!)


Foodbuzz is offering to donate $50 for every banana split entry done by a Featured Publisher, so I knew I had to support the cause! The cause is run by Electrolux who has teamed up with Kelly Ripa to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research, you can find more information at Kelly’s website here.

Ovarian cancer effects tens of thousands of women each year.  It is hard to say why one woman will be effected while another will not but there are certain risk factors.  Women who have family histories of cancer, personal history of cancer, menopause, any woman over 55 and those who have never been pregnant all pose as risk factors for ovarian cancer.  Therefore it is important to get annual exams at your gynecologist to ensure the health of your reproductive system.

So without further ado, here is my version of Banana Splits.  I decided to make some caramel from scratch and paired it with some bourbon praline pecans — it’s pretty much heaven in your mouth. 🙂

Ingredients for Bourbon Praline Pecans:

  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Grease two baking sheets; set aside. In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in the sugars, then cream; cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 236F° (soft-ball stage), about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat; stir in the pecan halves, chopped pecans and bourbon. Immediately drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Let stand until pralines are set and no longer glossy. Chop the pralines into small chunks using a large knife.  Store in an airtight container.

Ingredients for Caramel:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Few drops of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a small, deep saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down the side of the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and cook without stirring, until the caramel just begins to color around the edges, about 5 minutes. Gently swirl the pan and simmer until the caramel turns a medium amber color, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Using a long-handled wooden spoon, stir in the heavy cream. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Ingredients for Caramel Banana Split: (serves 2)

  • 1 pint of vanilla ice cream (I like Haagen Daz)
  • 1 banana, halved vertically
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup caramel
  • 1/4 cup bourbon praline pecans

You can assemble your banana splits however you like!  I like to put my bananas down first, then place a couple scoops of ice cream on top.  Then I will top it with whipped cream and garnish with the pecans and drizzle GENEROUSLY with the caramel 🙂 You can garnish with a cherry if you’d like, I’m not such a fan of Maraschino so I used fresh cherries!

Dover Sole with a Raw Summer Coucous


There are many things in life that are unpredictable — but there’s one thing I’ve always believed every person is able to control and that is his/her health.  Sure we are inclined to certain genetic factors, however by maintaining a healthy diet, exercise regimen and an overall spiritual well-being we can insure ourselves a better life.  Too often I will see friends and family eating foods that clearly are not beneficial to them, whether it be processed foods like microwavable meals, mystery meats or foods high in sugars and sodium found in candies and snacks to high saturated fats in meats, cheeses and fried foods.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint myself. There will be times where there are no other options but the bad, but what can you do? Socially ostracize yourself and only eat at home?  Subjecting yourself to a life of healthy eating but suffer the consequences of lonely solitude?  No not necessarily.  But being conscious of what we put into our bodies is better than living in ignorance, which in this case will not bring you bliss but a myriad of health problems — high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes just to name a few.

Maybe next time when you go out to eat with friends, opt out for the vegetarian option or maybe a salad (with no dressing). With most lessons in life, prevention is key, the whole “better safe than sorry” shpeal makes a lot more sense now that I’m older.  How can you even imagine enjoying your retirement when you can barely climb up a flight of stairs?  Or not be able to travel on a plane or even a train because of your heart condition?  How can your mind possibly be in a good mood when everything inside your body constantly hurts?  These are all important things we need to think about at an early age, and for those that are older, it is never too late to change.

I received this e-mail this week from Mommy Wells about causes of cancer along with cancer prevention techniques and really wanted to share it with you guys.  The following information was obtained from John Hopkins Research —

  • Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer
    cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have
    multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients
    that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after
    treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the
    cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable
    size.
  • Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a
    person’s lifetime.
  • When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer
    cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and
    forming tumors.
  • When a person has cancer it indicates the person has
    nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic,
    but also to environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
  • To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing
    diet
    to eat more adequately and healthy, 4-5 times/day and by including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
  • An effective way to battle cancer is to starve the cancer
    cells by not feeding it with the foods it needs to multiply.

Cancer Cells Feed On:

  • Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses, but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in color Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.
  • Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk cancer cells are being starved.
  • Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little other meat, like chicken. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
  • A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes to nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C)
  • Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer fighting properties. Water-best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
  • Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines becomes putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.
  • Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor. Anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to
have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer
cells.

1. No plastic in microwaves.

2. No water bottles in freezer.

3. No plastic wrap in microwave.

Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don’t freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic. Recently, Dr Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital , was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn’t bad but you don’t know what is in the paper. It’s just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper The dioxin problem is one of the reasons. Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.

What better way to share healthy information than to pair it with a healthy (yummy) recipe? 🙂 I discovered Dover Sole while working at a French restaurant, since then it has become one of my favorite fish.  The meat is very delicate and moist, but because it is very thin it cooks very quickly.  Therefore, when cooking your dover be sure not to over cook the fish or it will taste dry.

I paired the dover with a raw summer couscous that I found in Raw, a cookbook written by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein.  I found it interesting that they put red grapes with the cauliflower.  I was quite hesitant about it at first but it really put the finishing touches on the couscous itself, providing a very nice sweetness and playfulness to this dish both in flavors and textures.

Ingredients for Raw Summer Couscous:

  • 1 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/8 cup yellow bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/8 cup parsley, minced
  • 1 cup grapes, washed and halved
  • 1/2 cup radish, small diced
  • 1/8 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed
  • salt pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and honey together.  Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix with honey lemon mixture.  Taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and serve with dover sole.

Ingredients for Dover Sole: (serves 2)

  • 2 x 6oz dover sole fillets
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon shallot, minced
  • salt pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat (about 4-6) and once it is bubbling add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute.  Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper and fry 3 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the fillets it may take longer, but remember that the fish will also continue to cook once it is taken off the pan so plan accordingly!). You can check the “doneness” of the fish by using the tip of the knife or fork — if it pierces through the flesh easily, it is done, if it still feels rubbery it needs more cooking time. Serve immediately with couscous.

To Plate:

I topped my plate off with some orange segments — I always love a little citrus with my fish.  Feel free to leave it off.  Using a hollowed out can or cookie ring cutter (I used a 4″ ring), fill the mold with the couscous mixture.  Immediately plated the fish once it has finished cooking and garnish with orange segments.  This dish would go well with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc.

I think dishes like these are perfect for the summer.  The contrast in textures, the whimsical bright colors and flavors — all it takes is a little creativity to make eating healthy…fun! Bon appetit and hope everyone is having a fabulous summer :).

Shakespeare in the Park


Every Summer and Fall, one of my favorite outdoor events to attend in Dallas is Shakespeare in the Park. They feature different plays every year and this Summer they are holding Cymbeline and The Comedy of Errors.  It’s a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, what can be better on a warm Summer’s night than a picnic with a side of Shakespeare?

“As the area’s veteran producers of Shakespeare in the Park, Shakespeare Dallas has invited audiences to enjoy accessible productions in an open-air amphitheatre since 1971, reaching over 50,000 people every summer and fall.” — Shakespeare Dallas

As celebration for this Summer’s Shakespeare in the Park, I have come up with a simple and healthy Picnic menu!  Though you can bring anything you like on your own picnic, I’ve included some easy recipes and suggestions to help you plan a picnic fit for kings 🙂 Below is some additional information on Shakespeare Dallas and short synopsis of the performances playing this summer.

Cymbeline
By William Shakespeare
Directed by SD Artistic Associate Rene Moreno

Previews: June 16-17
Opening: June 18
Continuing June 29 through July 24
on Sundays, Tuesdays and Saturdays
With additional performances on June 19 & 20

Performances begin at 8:15 p.m. at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre

“Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”

Shakespeare weaves a tale of the beautiful princess Imogen and her new husband, Posthumous, parted by circumstances invoked by her wicked stepmother and her distant father, the King Cymbeline of Britain. Posthumous’ impoverished state makes him undesirable to King Cymbeline as a match to his prized daughter. Under the influence of his wife, King Cymbeline banishes Posthumous and confines Imogen to the castle. While exiled in Rome, Posthumous meets the foul Iachimo who finagles him into a wager on Imogen’s chastity. Iachimo goes to Britain and through trickery gains access to Imogen’s bedchamber. He manages to slide off a bracelet Posthumous gave Imogen to use as proof. Posthumous believes Iachimo’s treachery, and enraged, sends his faithful servant Pisanio to murder Imogen in retribution — although when he learns falsely of her death, he is devastated and repents his action. Imogen, meanwhile, has escaped to Wales in man’s clothing, unknowingly meets up with her long-lost brothers and is eventually reunited with her husband and the truth is revealed amidst the victory of Britain against Rome.

Fri. & Sat.: $10 adults/$7 seniors and students.
Tues. – Thurs. & Sun.: $10 donation requested.
Children 12 and under are free.

Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre
1500 Tenison Parkway
Dallas, Texas 75223


The Comedy of Errors
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matthew Tomlanovich

Previews: June 24-25
Opening: June 26
Continuing June 30-July 23 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
With an additional performance on June 27.
*Please note there are no performances on June 22 or June 23.

Performances begin at 8:15 p.m. at the Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre

“Was there ever any man thus beaten out of season,
When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?”

Take one pair of estranged twins (both called Antipholous) and one pair of twin servants (both called Dromio), keep them in ignorance of each other and throw them into a city with a reputation for sorcery and you have the chief ingredients for theatrical chaos. Fast-paced, hilarious and seemingly irreverent, the young William Shakespeare explores themes in this comedy that recur again and again in his later work: mistaken identity, coincidence and the importance of family.

Fri. & Sat.: $10 adults/$7 seniors and students.
Tues. – Thurs. & Sun.: $10 donation requested.
Children 12 and under are free.

Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre
1500 Tenison Parkway
Dallas, Texas 75223

Season Sponsors
570 KLIF, 1310 The Ticket, Brierley+Partners , City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, e-Rewards Market Research, Fossil, Star Newspapers, TACA, Target, Texas Commission on the Arts, The Dallas Morning News, The Hall Agency

Shakespeare Dallas
3630 Harry Hines Blvd. Dallas, TX 75219
(214) 559-2778

———————————



The Perfect Summer Picnic Menu

Assorted Cheeses and Fruit Platter

Smoked Gouda, Bleu Cheese, Colby Jack, Fresh Strawberries, Green Grapes, Apricots with Rosemary Triscuits

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

with broccoli, tomatoes, corn, avocado, red onion, and black beans

Finger Sandwich Platter

cucumber tea sandwiches with cream cheese and sprouts & vegetable sandwiches with hummus and olive oil

Summer Fruit Salad

cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries, green grapes soaked in honey and vanilla

Ingredients for Assorted Cheese and Fruit Plate : (serves 4-6)

  • 8 oz Smoked Gouda
  • 8 oz Bleu Cheese
  • 8 oz Mozzarella
  • 8 oz Colby Jack
  • 1 box Rosemary & Olive Oil Triscuits
  • 8 oz Fresh Strawberries, cleaned and hulled
  • 8 oz Green Grapes, cleaned
  • 8 oz Apricots

Bring a cheese knife and board along with you on the picnic, if you do not have these items a simple butter knife and paper plate will suffice.  Arrange the cheese crackers and fruits to your liking and serve with a nice Riesling or light red like a Pinot or Syrah.

Also feel free to experiment with fruits and cheeses.  You can use other fruits such as apples, figs, raspberries or peaches.  Or perhaps try interesting cheeses like a sharp Gruyere, a creamy Brie or maybe a nice mild Cheddar.  You can find a helpful wine and cheese pairing guide at Gourmet Sleuth here.

Ingredients for Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 lb of Fusili or Penne Pasta, cooked
  • 1 cup of broccoli florettes, blanched
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh yellow/white corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • 1/4 cup of green bell pepper, small diced
  • 1/4 cup of red bell pepper, small diced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and small diced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt.  Pour in the dry pasta and cook for 4-6 minutes or otherwise stated on the package.  Once pasta is “al dente” or semi-firm, strain pasta and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients listed above and toss with cooked pasta.  If more salt/seasoning is needed, simply add additional flavor according to your taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ingredients for Finger Sandwich Platter: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 french baguette, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup spring mix
  • 1 cup hummus
  • 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

To assemble cucumber sandwiches, take your baguette rounds and slather each side generously with cream cheese.  Add sliced cucumber and sprouts and hold together with toothpicks.  Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and refrigerate til ready to serve.

To assemble veggie sandwiches, take your baguette rounds and slather each side generously with hummus.  Place the field greens, tomatoes, avocado and onion in between and hold together with toothpicks.  Refrigerate and drizzle with olive oil when ready to serve.

You can make all different types of sandwiches — ham and cheese, turkey and swiss, blts — feel free to be creative!  You can also assemble the sandwiches at the picnic, just bring your pre-sliced ingredients and allow your guests to make their own.

Ingredients for Summer Fruit Salad (serves 4-6):

  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1/2 honey dew
  • 1/4 watermelon
  • 1 pint of blueberries
  • 1 pint of raspberries
  • 2 cups grapes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 fresh vanilla bean

Using a melon baller, remove the seeds from the cantaloupe and honeydew.  Carve as many melon balls you can get from the cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.  Set aside.  Reserve the remainder of the melon scraps for a refreshing juice.

Place balls in a large bowl and add the berries and grapes.  Whisk the honey with the vanilla extract/bean and pour over the fruit mixture.  Allow the fruit salad to “marinate” for at least an hour before serving.

Now remember when I told you to set the melon caracasses behind?  Well you can use the leftover melons to make a refreshing drink for the picnic! Now take the melon scraps you set aside and scrape off as much of the flesh as you can.  Transfer the juices and melon flesh into a large bowl or jar and mix with a cup of simple syrup, blend throughly with a hand held blender.

Ingredients for Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

If you want to make other drinks you can try this refreshing Mango Lemonade and Watermelon Lemonade or perhaps some of my Limeades !  Simply serve over ice and you are ready to go 🙂

I hope everyone who lives in Dallas takes the time to take part of Shakespeare in the Park.  It truly is a wonderful experience!  Not only do you get a picnic under the stars (boys, girls like these things) but you get to watch talented actors and actresses from Shakespeare Dallas put on an amazing performance.  Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and remember — no picnic is complete without a picnic basket :)!  (I got mine from Target for $15)