Vegan Picnics

Dining al fresco is a fun change from the ordinary, whether you’re a single person who takes your lunch outside in the park on nice days, or a large family enjoying a day at the beach.  It’s also an inexpensive and entertaining way to feed yourself good food when you can’t be home for lunch.  For example, my husband and I are attending the Atlanta Film Festival as I’m writing this article.  This week we’ve eaten lunch and dinner out at restaurants a few times, but some of our most enjoyable meals have been simple sandwiches that we’ve packed at home, along with some fruit, veggies, and snacks.  (We got some envious looks from other festival attendees when we unpacked our hummus picnic.)

A picnic can be as plain or fancy as you want to make it.  Your picnic basket can be just that – a lovely old-fashioned picnic hamper – or a canvas tote bag, or one of those fancy insulated picnic backpacks that all the “organizer” stores are selling these days.

In order to make it simpler to take your food “to go”, try keeping your picnic basket or bag ready with flatware, napkins, cups, and plates.  Disposables are OK, but I found some terrific vintage stainless cutlery at a thrift store for a song.  I don’t have to worry about losing my matched pieces, and the vintage starburst designs on my “picnic-ware”delight my husband.  Melamine plates and cups are inexpensive, lightweight, and durable.  Terry cloth kitchen towels are cheerful and make great picnic napkins.

Some other things to keep in your picnic basket are hand wipes (individually wrapped ones last a long time) and mosquito protection.  You’ll also want a blanket or tablecloth.  I’ve found thrift stores to be a great source for vintage linens at great bargains.  The same is true for woven picnic baskets.  And don’t forget the bottle opener and/or corkscrew.  A stainless steel thermos for coffee is a nice touch.  I have one I’ve been banging around the world for 14 years, and it still looks and works great.  (Sandwiches and a vacuum flask of coffee makes a great “British mystery novel” picnic.)

Try some of these recipes for your next picnic or potluck.  All the salad recipes are raw, which makes them very easy to prepare.  They are cool and delicious, and hold up well in a picnic basket.  For more recipes, check out my recipe archive at  Hint – brownies and cookies make great “to go” desserts.  Have a great summer!

Lemony Garlicky Hummus

I like my hummus garlicky and lemony.  Play with the proportions until they suit your taste.  If everyone at the picnic eats the hummus, no one will even smell the garlic.  Add cayenne (carefully) if you like your hummus spicy.

Recipe By:  Lisa T. Bennett
Serves 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

1  15 ounce can or 1 1/2 cups fresh-cooked garbanzo beans  (chickpeas)
2 -4   garlic cloves, chopped
2  tablespoons  lemon juice (freshly squeezed or Santa Cruz bottled)
2  tablespoons  tahini  (sesame butter)
2  teaspoons  salt  or to taste
water to thin mixture
cayenne  to taste, optional
extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients into food processor work bowl, process until smooth.  Add water as desired to smooth texture.  Spoon into a bowl – pour on a little olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne if desired.  You may also dress bowl with chopped parsley (fresh or dried) and a little paprika.

Serve hummus with pita bread or with raw vegetables (cucumber slices, baby carrots or carrot and celery sticks,), or use as a sandwich spread, especially in wraps.

One wrap suggestion:  spread lavash, thin wrap bread, or whole wheat tortilla with 1/2 cup hummus, spread on 2-3 lettuce leaves, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, and about 2 tablespoons chopped black or green olives.  Roll and eat!  Wrap tight in plastic wrap to take on picnic or in lunchbox.

Notes:  It’s important to chop the garlic cloves so that you don’t end up with a whole clove or two in the finished product.  I love garlic, but biting into a whole clove can be a bit overpowering!

Hummus will thicken upon standing (tahini sucks up water like a sponge).  Taste leftovers and add lemon juice first if it needs any to perk up the flavor, then add a little water as necessary to get desired consistency.

Herbed Tempeh Salad

Recipe By:  Lisa Bennett
Serving Size:  4
Preparation Time:  0:30

8 ounces tempeh, cubed
1/2 cup Vegenaise or tofu  mayonnaise  (see below)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion or 2-3 green onions, minced
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill, minced
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans and/or walnuts (optional)

Steam the tempeh for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare and combine the remaining ingredients. When the  tempeh is ready, drain well, let cool for 10 minutes, then stir into the rest. (Mash the salad up with a potato masher if you want to make a sandwich spread.) Chill and serve.
Notes:  If you don’t have a steamer, you can make do with a saucepan and metal  colander. Put an inch of water into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Place the tempeh in the colander and set in the saucepan. Cover with the  saucepan lid and simmer.

Tofu Mayonnaise

Recipe By:  Lisa Bennett
Serving Size:  8
Preparation Time:  0:10

1 package MoriNu silken tofu  (12.3 ounce) drained and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  pepper
1/4  cup  olive or canola oil

Place all ingredients except oil in a small food processor (preferred) or a blender jar.  Process until smooth.  Add oil in thin stream while processing, and let the machine run until the mayo is perfectly smooth and glossy.
Notes:  You can use white vinegar or rice vinegar if you prefer.

If you prefer a sweet “salad dressing” (like Miracle Whip), add your favorite sweetener to taste.

Corn Husker Salad
Raw corn?  Yep – it’s sweet and delicious, and abundant this time of year.

Recipe By:  Imar Hutchins,  Delights of the Garden, 1996
Servews 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4  ears  corn – shuck and remove silks
1    red bell pepper, chopped
1    tomato, chopped
1/2    red onion, diced
pinch  red pepper flakes
4  teaspoons  curry powder
3  teaspoons  chili powder
2  teaspoons  sea salt
1/4  cup roasted sesame oil

Don’t cook the corn – cut the kernels off the cob raw.  In a large bowl, combine the corn with all the vegetables and mix.  Add the spices.  Stir again.  Add the oil.  Stir thoroughly.
Kamitian Broccoli
Even if you’re not fond of raw broccoli, you’ll like this salad.  The vinegar in the dressing softens the fibers of the broccoli florets so that they feel lightly cooked and are more digestible.

Recipe By:  Imar Hutchins, 30 Days @ Delights of the Garden, 1997
Serves 6
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

8  heads  broccoli
2  cups  raisins
3  cloves  garlic  minced
1/2  cup  olive oil
2  tablespoons  fresh ginger  grated or minced
1/2  cup  apple cider vinegar
2  tablespoons  tamari soy sauce
1  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
1/2  cup  water

Cut the florets from the heads of broccoli.  Reserve 2 of the stems and coarsely chop them for this recipe.  The rest can be sliced and used in a stir-fry.

In a food processor, combine just 3/4 cup broccoli florets, the two chopped stems, and all of the other ingredients.  Process until smooth.  If this mixture is too pasty, add more water.  When smooth, pour contents of food processor over the florets and stir until sauce is evenly distributed.  You can serve immediately or let sit for 30-45 minutes first, or make up to one day in advance.

Ma-Ne Net Seaweed Salad
Chock-full of vitamins and minerals, seaweed is not only good for you, but delicious, too!

Recipe By:  Delights of the Garden – Imar Hutchins
Serves 6
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

3  cups dried wakame seaweed
1/2    red bell pepper, chopped
1/2  cup  red onion,  chopped
1 1/2    tomato,  diced
1/8  teaspoon  cayenne
1/2  teaspoon  onion powder
1/2  teaspoon  garlic powder  or 1 large clove, minced
1/8  teaspoon  dry mustard
pinch  sea salt
1  tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1  tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1  tablespoon  tamari soy sauce
1  tablespoon  maple syrup, agave nectar, or natural sugar

Put wakame in a large bowl and add just enough hot water to cover it.  0Allow this to sit for 5 – 6 minutes, until the seaweed has absorbed most of the water and has a green-leafy consistency.  Squeeze the remainder of the liquid out of the greens.  Add the chopped vegetables and mix well.  To this mixture add the dry ingredients and again mix well until the spices are evenly distributed.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well and serve.