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Enliven Your Labor’s Day With These Easy Picnic Dishes

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The temperatures have started to drop, even if only slightly, which means it’s a fine time to venture outdoors again for a family picnic. In honor of Labor Day, we offer you a series of fast-and-easy picnic recipes that you won’t have to labor over to make.

Kentucky Beer Cheese

Kentucky Beer Cheese

Kentucky Beer Cheese

In Kentucky, beer cheese is considered by many to be one of the basic food groups, along with the cucumber spread Benedictine. You can often find an entire refrigerated case at the supermarket devoted to this spread, which is served with bread, crackers or crudités. You can also spread it on a burger or eat it by the spoonful right out of the bowl. Think of it as cold version of Welsh rabbit.

1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
2-4 pounds sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (see note)
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Sour cream, as needed for proper consistency

Boil beer. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, garlic and mustard powder until all is combined. Let cool. If needed, add sour cream to make it smoother.

Note: Use more or less cheese, depending on desired consistency. Already shredded cheese is often treated with potato starch or corn starch, which means that it will be thicker than cheese you shred yourself.

Makes 16-20 servings.

Adapted from Linda Servais

Mexican Slaw

“Thinly sliced cabbage accompanies countless Mexican dishes, from flautas to tacos,” writes Steve Raichlen in “High-Flavor, Low Fat Mexican Cooking.” “Its refreshing crispness and audible crunch make a pleasing counterpoint to stews and soft, moist tortilla dishes. From shredded cabbage, it’s a short jump to slaw.”

For the dressing:
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds (optional)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice

For the Slaw:
3 cups green cabbage, finely shredded (about 5 ounces)
1 carrot, shredded
4 to 5 ounces jícama, shredded
1 tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 or 2 jalapeños, minced (for a milder slaw, seed the chiles)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

For the dressing: In the bottom of a serving bowl, combine the garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and cumin, if using, and mash to a paste with a wooden spoon. Stir in the lime juice.

For the Slaw: Add the cabbage, carrot, jícama, tomato, jalapeños and cilantro, and toss to mix. Correct the seasoning, adding more sugar, salt or lime juice to taste.

Note: The sugar makes a U.S.-style slaw. To be more Mexican, you could omit it.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “High-Flavor, Low-Fat Mexican Cooking” by Steven Raichlen

Lemony Lentil Salad

This recipe from Martha Stewart’s is not only easy to make, it’s high in fiber and a colorful addition to any table.

1 1/2 cups lentils
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 orange, red, or yellow (or a mix) bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dices
4 scallions, thinly sliced, or 1 large shallot, diced
Coarse salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook lentils until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water to stop further cooking, and drain again.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, mustard, and tarragon. Add drained lentils, bell peppers, and scallions; season well with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Roast Beef Sandwiches with Sweet-and-Sour Red Onions and Blue Cheese

Complex flavors arise from this simple sandwich recipe.

Red onions:
2 cups thinly sliced red onions
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

4 large soft whole grain rolls, toasted
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
12 tomato slices
8 ounces thinly sliced roast beef
2 cups (packed) small watercress sprigs

Combine onions, vinegar, and sugar in medium bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand until onions are soft, tossing occasionally, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Place bottom halves of rolls on work surface. Sprinkle with cheese. Top each with 3 tomato slices, then 1/4 of roast beef. Top each with 1/2 cup watercress, then 1/4 of pickled onions. Cover with tops of rolls. Cut each sandwich in half.

Makes 4 servings.


Summer Fruit With Wine and Mint

This recipe from Giada De Laurentiis is a quick way to come up with a classy dessert that’s quite nutritious. Cut back on the sugar and still enjoy a summery mix of fruit and mint.

1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup sugar, or less, to taste
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, halved, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 basket (8-ounce) fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Bring the wine and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Chop and combine the cantaloupe, strawberries, grapes, and mint in a large bowl. Pour the warm wine mixture over; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until cold, stirring occasionally, at least 2 hours.

Transfer to the fruit mixture to a wide jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep chilled.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network

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