Sandwiches and salad may seem like a basic picnic, but it completely depends on their ingredients! Here are quick & easy recipes for a healthy, vegetarian, protein-packed lunch that will impress even an alfresco foodie.
SANDWICH: Italian Veggie Muffuletta is a stacked sandwich pressed with colourful layers within gourmet bread that will satiate hearty appetites.
5 sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped
1 fresh eggplant
5 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup olive tapenade (store-bought)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, halved, very well drained
1 cup baby arugula (or 2 large leaves romaine or spinach)
2 slices cheese (your choice) OR fresh grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Whole grain ciabatta, hearty sourdough bun, or Middle Eastern lavash bread
Preheat oven to 375F. Slice eggplant lengthwise into six 1/2" wide slices. Wipe each side with a little olive oil. Lay on sheet pan. Slice mushrooms into three and place on the sheet pan with a little olive oil, and cover with minced garlic. Roast all for 15 minutes. Take eggplant out of oven and turn. Stir mushrooms, adding balsamic vinegar and return to oven. Roast another 15 minutes. Let cool and drain very well.
Thickly slice the bread, or cut bun in half (lengthwise). Dig out just a little of the inside of the bread on both sides, leaving lots to keep the sandwich sturdy. Spread tapenade on both sides of the bread. On the bottom side of bread, layer eggplant, then mushrooms with garlic, and then artichoke halves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then layer sundried tomatoes and press down. Add cheese and finish with arugula. Place top bread on sandwich and press down. Tightly wrap the sandwich with tinfoil or stretch-wrap to ensure nothing leaks out and place in fridge with a heavy object on top, such as cast iron pan. Let it sit for a few hours. Cut in half for two people (or slice into four for smaller sandwiches). Rewrap tightly in foil for your picnic and refrigerate.
SALAD: This super-simple Curried Lentil Salad adds a little more protein (from lentils) to round out the meal.
1 can lentils, drained OR 2 cups presoaked & cooked lentils (preferred for better flavour)
1 red pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 cups spinach or kale, finely chopped
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons balsamic or wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch ground clove
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt to taste, if lentils aren’t canned with added salt
Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor. Add dressing to combined salad ingredients the day before the picnic to enhance the flavours.
DESSERT: Protein-rich Almond Hazelnut Chocolate Balls are sweet, quick to make, easy to pack… and healthy
1 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup Medjool dates, finely chopped
1 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
6 ounces organic dark chocolate, chopped (or chips)
Blend all ingredients except chocolate in a food processor and roll into 1" balls. Refrigerate overnight or freeze for 1-2 hours. Put chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Fill a saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat; set bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a microwave.) Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Dip each ball into the chocolate with a skewer or toothpick, lift and twist slightly, letting excess chocolate fall into the bowl, and set on waxed paper. Keep balls refrigerated until it’s time to pack them into your cooler.