Hungry Husky: Spring is in the air

By Anne Baker

Ah, yes. It’s that time of the year. After a long and weary winter, the flowers are once again in bloom (sort of) and the weather has finally warmed up to a balmy 45 degrees. Celebrate by taking an afternoon picnic at the Fens. Just grab a few snacks, a blanket and a Frisbee, and you’re good to go.

With health always in mind, these lunch-friendly snacks were chosen and adapted from various TV shows to not only provide sustenance on a voyage to greener pastures, but also keep your figure ready for the looming beach season.

(Oven) Fried Chicken Adapted from “Sara’s Secrets”

2 large eggs, beaten lightly 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon dried thyme 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 package (5 1/4 ounces) plain Melba toast, crushed to fine sand-like texture 2 packages raw chicken tenders Vegetable oil cooking spray

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 2. Mix eggs, mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Put Melba toast crumbs in another shallow dish. 3. Evenly coat chicken pieces in egg mixture. 4. Roll each piece of chicken in Melba crumbs. Press a mix of crumbs into top of chicken. Gently shake off excess. 5. Set chicken on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed evenly with cooking oil. Spray top portion of chicken pieces with oil. Bake until chicken is nutty brown and juices run clear, around 25 minutes.

Oven-fried chicken keeps those memories of traditional picnics alive, but without all the messy Crisco and flour necessary for real fried chicken. It’s quick and will easily pack and save in Zip-loc containers for the trek.

You’ll want to keep a very close eye on the chicken. Using the tenders is optional, and you may want to choose the part of the chicken you like the best. This would alter the cooking time, but no piece should cook longer than chicken thighs, which max out at about 35 minutes. It’s important to note that eating undercooked chicken is not only gross, it’s a health risk as well.

It is recommended to take the chicken out and cut a piece open to see if it is done. This recipe can be altered to make popcorn chicken, another picnic favorite. Just cut the tenders up into smaller, bite-sized pieces and follow it from there.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Adapted from “How to Boil Water”

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped 3 ounces white chocolate, chopped 20 washed and dried strawberries

1. Put the semisweet and white chocolates into two separate heatproof medium bowls. Fill two medium saucepans with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Make sure the bowls are large enough to balance over the pot. You don’t want to set the bowl into the hot water. 2. Turn off the heat; set the bowls of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth. 3. Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. 4. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. 5. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Dip a fork in the white chocolate and drizzle it over the dipped strawberries. 6. Set the strawberries aside until the chocolate sets, or for about 30 minutes.

Green Bean Salad Adapted from “Food 911”

1/2 pound green beans, stems trimmed 1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/4-inch pieces 1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon hot water A pinch of sugar 1 lemon, juiced Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the green beans for four minutes, or until they are tender but still crisp. Drain the beans, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and drain well. Put the green beans in a mixing bowl. 2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crispy. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Add the bacon to the green beans, along with the walnuts. 3. In a jar, combine the mustard, water, sugar, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in the oil, put the cap on, and shake vigorously to emulsify. 4. If taking on a picnic, put the salad in a sealable plastic container and pack the dressing separately until ready to serve; otherwise drizzle dressing over green beans and dig in.

Hungry Husky Tips:

The green bean salad is delicious and amazingly simple. If you prefer your bacon with more of a crumbled texture, it’s easy to break up the pieces after they’ve been cooked and cooled. To lighten the dish, use imitation bacon bits, which can be found at most grocery stores.

As for the strawberries, the Hungry Husky recommends transporting them in a cooler. Anything less, and the chocolate will probably melt, ruining one of the best parts about chocolate-dipped strawberries – the crunch of the cold exterior when bitten.

To keep everything feeling light and springy, pack lemonade to drink.

Now pack up your finest wicker baskets and checkered-blankets and set off for a good meal and pleasant surroundings.

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