"WHAT'S COOKING" with Heather McPherson
Orlando Sentinel Food Editor and restaurant critic
Artichoke Salad: The beauty of this easy salad is that it marinates en route. Simply mix two (12-ounce) jars of marinated artichoke hearts (including the liquid from both of the jars) with four sliced plum tomatoes or two beefsteak tomatoes. Drain a 14.4-ounce can of hearts of palm, slice into rounds, and add to artichoke mixture. Add fresh garlic and chopped basil to taste. (Tip: Fresh basil works best in this salad.)
Lean Pita Pockets: This is an easy, healthful option. Stuff whole-wheat pita pockets with shredded carrots, strips of red bell pepper, shredded lettuce, low-fat cheeses and lean cold cuts. Pack a bottle of ranch-style fat free dressing, hummus and guacamole in the cooler with the sandwiches and let hungry beachgoers dress their own sandwiches. (Tip: Gather the ingredients from the supermarket salad bar to eliminate preparation work and kitchen clean up.)
Sunrise Sampler: Don't forget breakfast on the beach for early risers. Fill a picnic basket with store-bought or homemade muffins and a mix of fresh fruit, such as washed apples, nectarines, plums and berries. In the cooler, stash individual serving cartons of fruit juices and fat-free yogurt. A Thermos will keep coffee or hot tea warm. (Tip: Choosing fruits that can be eaten out of hand or as finger food means you don't have to pack forks and extra serving plates.)
Skewered Lunch: This translates into lunch on a stick. No plate required - just a napkin. Thread boiled shrimp on 6-inch wood skewers alternating the seafood with chunks of fresh pineapple, papaya and sprigs of fresh mint. Add cooked cheese tortellini to the mix if desired. (Tip: Boil the shrimp with a flavorful seasoning mix such as Old Bay.)
If you're taking food to the beach, don't forget the basic rules of food safety.
Here are three key tips: