A Moveable Feast

Alfresco entertaining has never been as popular as it is today. I feel there will be a surge of picnic and patio parties this spring! Here are a few simple recipes that are packed with protein and veggies, full of flavor, and easy to tote to the great outdoors.

Pesto Chicken Bites in a Bag

2 cups fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ cup toasted walnuts
½ cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
6 brown lunch-size paper bags
2 small yellow onions, sliced into ½-inch slices
Kitchen string

Preheat oven to 375°. 

In a food processor, place basil, garlic, and next 5 ingredients, and pulse; scrape down sides, and repeat, until mixture is uniformly combined. 

Place pesto in a medium-size bowl; add chicken pieces, tossing to coat thoroughly. Set aside while preparing the bags for baking.

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Cut off the top 1/3 of the brown paper bag. Place the removed piece of bag into the bottom of the bag to reinforce the bag during the baking process. Place 2 onion slices in the bottom of each bag. Divide chicken mixture evenly between bags on top of the onion slices. 

Neatly fold down tops of the filled bags, and tie with kitchen string. Place chicken-filled bundles on a rimmed baking sheet. 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 6

Learn from Leslie: Simply tear open the paper sack and dump the warm pesto nuggets onto your plate. They will stay warm in the bag for 30 to 45 minutes.

Strawberry-Avocado Salad

For the salad:
16 ounces fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced
2 medium avocados, chopped
½ cup red onion, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 cups loosely packed arugula
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently toss together strawberries, avocados, onion, cilantro, and arugula in a large bowl, reserving the pine nuts for the topping.  

Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar, whisking or shaking to combine thoroughly.

When ready to serve, toss salad with dressing and top with toasted pine nuts. Serves 6 – 8

Tomato-Cucumber-Orzo Salad

8 ounces orzo pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the orzo, stirring often so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook, uncovered, at a high boil about 9 to 10 minutes until al dente, cooked through but still a bit firm. 

Drain the pasta in a sieve, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. 

Toss pasta with olive oil and remaining ingredients. 

Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8 – 10

Easy Lemon Tart

Serves 8

1 tart crust (see recipe below)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks
½ cup fresh lemon juice, from about 3 to 4 lemons, plus lemon slices for garnish
Fresh mint leaves (optional)

For the crust:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 375°.

To make the crust, combine flour, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a pastry blender. Stir together egg and milk in a small bowl; add egg mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Shape into a ball; cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 15 minutes. 

To assemble the tart:

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle, about ¼-inch thickness. Then place into a fluted 9-inch tart pan. Press lightly into the tin. With the rolling pin, roll over the top edge to neatly trim off any excess dough. Pierce crust with a fork, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly brown. Allow crust to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. 

Whisk together the condensed milk and egg yolks. Add the lemon juice, and mix until combined. 

Pour the filling in the crust, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Then refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint leaves, if desired. 

Talk about a crowd-pleaser! This adorable nibble tray from Henhouse Antiques takes minutes to prepare. Fill each compartment with all your favorite bites. Guests of all ages will love it! (right)

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