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Budget Smart Outdoor Foods

One of my favorite summer activities is packing the picnic basket and heading to one of the local parks. And apart from the cost of the food, it’s free entertainment. Whether you’re planning a picnic or a cook out, here are some of my favorite picks for summertime budget smart food.

Hamburgers with a Twist
Everyone loves a hamburger and they’re easy on the budget. However, the biggest drawback is a plain hamburger can be shall we say, tasteless. Think about all the new ways you can serve a hamburger. How about putting the topping inside the hamburger before you cook it? I’ve tried filling them with foods like blue or feta cheeses. I’ve even mixed in caramelized onions. And another time I used ground turkey and filled them with roasted red peppers. The little extras don’t cost that much but they make the hamburgers taste gourmet.

Not Just Coleslaw
A couple of years ago I realized whenever I packed a picnic or had a cookout, there were two dishes I served every time, coleslaw and potato salad. I knew if I was getting bored, other people must be too. So I headed to the kitchen and started experimenting. I tried adding one or two new ingredients to each batch. Things like sun-dried tomatoes, Vidalia onions, fresh dill, roasted red peppers…of course, not all in the same recipe. And one combination everyone seems to comment on is a potato salad made with sweet potatoes. And as for coleslaw, I’ve used broccoli slaw and blue cheese dressing. I’ve also used a regular coleslaw mix and added either crushed pineapple or chopped mandarin oranges. I’m also experimenting with a recipe for coleslaw using all fruit…I’ll be sharing it with you soon.

I’m a big fan of potatoes and a BBQ wouldn’t be complete without some thrown onto the coals. Here’s an herb butter recipe I’ve been using for years. Add some to each potato as it comes off the grill.
Fresh Herb Butter
½ cup of a trans free spread, or if you’re not watching your cholesterol, even butter.
1 cup of fresh herbs. You should be able to find them in the produce department now. I know my own herb garden is already blooming, especially the chives. Any combination works, dill’s great if you’re serving fish. I like basil, thyme, etc. Chop it all together.
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Place the spread/butter in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything’s blended. Cover and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. This works great on just about any vegetable too.

Quick Picnic Fare
Sometimes the only drawback to a picnic is getting the food organized and packed so everything arrives safely. I sometimes put together this quick and easy sandwich that not only travels well, but it’s great because it’s supposed to be on the ‘soggy’ side. You can even make it the night before.
I like to use bread like a flat bread like a foccacia, and don’t use a loaf that’s pre-sliced. You want to slice it in half horizontally. On both halves, spread either some olive oil or pesto sauce. Then you just start layering on whatever you like. Turkey, cheese, peppers, artichokes, olives, etc. When you’re done, put the other half of the bread on the top and press everything together and then wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap.
Put it on a plate and then place it in the fridge. Next put something heavy, like two 28-ounce cans of tomatoes or a gallon jug of milk, on top and leave it overnight. When you’re ready to head out for the picnic just slip it into the cooler. Once you’re at the picnic site, just unwrap it and slice it into wedges. Serves 4-6.

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