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Let’s Picnic!

Before Christmas, the poem says, young children dream of sugarplums. Our Linda must have visions of gingham checks.  At the May 22 Master Gardener meeting, red gingham ribbon tied white picnic lunch boxes topped with blue gingham bordered menus, nestled by larger red gingham napkins.  Picnic tables were piled high with gingham quilts and vintage picnic baskets. An open picnic basket crowned the decorations, all ready for a party and filled—you guessed it—with red gingham napkins and red and white plates.

picnic basket close up


Master Gardeners visiting the Demonstration Garden were in for a treat.  Our Annette pulled out all her teacher skills and fascinated us with the world of earthworms.  How-to’s were flying right and left: we learned how to raise little wigglies in the laundry room, what to feed them, and how to sift out worm castings.

Sue and Michelle signed autographs after their unforgettable demonstration of how worms get close and friendly.

picnic-Michele and Sue cropped


Guests opened their picnic lunches to find a carefully packed feast wrapped in ladybug cellophane.  They enjoyed Arugula Rocket Salad with Nasturtium blossoms and Raspberry Vinaigrette, Copper Pennies, deviled eggs with candied bacon, crostini with Every Herb Pesto, Lemon Bars and Cupcake Brownies.   What a picture perfect day for a picnic.  Come back soon, fellow Master Gardeners!


picnic-boxed lunch


Salad with Nasturtiums and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Raspberry Vinaigrette



¼ cup raspberries

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar

½ teaspoon sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



1.  Using a wooden spoon, push raspberries through a handheld wire strainer to puree.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons raspberry puree, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar.

3.  In a slow but steady stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper.


Vinaigrette can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield:  Makes about ¾ cup

Adapted from Martha Stewart



6 large handfuls of mixed greens, including wild rocket arugula, herb salad mix, etc.

6 nasturtium blossoms


Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette.  Strew the blossoms over and serve immediately.  (Options:  may also toss with fresh blueberries and/or raspberries)

Picnic-deviled eggs


Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon



1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar

Cayenne pepper

Pinch ground cinnamon

1/8 pound thick-cut bacon (about 3 strips)

8 large eggs, straight from the refrigerator

¼ to ½ cup mayonnaise, or as much as desired

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 scallions, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Paprika, for garnish



1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and the cinnamon.  Place the bacon on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle each slice of bacon with some of the spiced sugar and bake, about 10 minutes.  Flip the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar and continue to cook until crispy, about 20 more minutes.  Remove the bacon from the oven and allow to cool.  When the bacon is cool, mince it and set aside, reserving a quarter of it for garnishing the eggs.

2.  Put the cold eggs in the bottom of a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring water to a boil and remove the pan from the heat.  Cover the pan with a lid and let stand for 12 minutes.  Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water.  Let the eggs cool a bit and then peel when they are still warm (eggs are much easier to peel when they are warm).  After they are peeled, you can then store them covered, in the fridge.

3.  Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, the scallions and the minced bacon in a medium mixing bowl.  Season with the salt.

4.  Slice the eggs in half lengthwise.  Gently remove the yolks by pressing your thumb against the back of the yolk to pop it out of the white.  Add the yolk to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture.  Mash together, using a fork, until smooth.

5.  Put the filling in a re-sealable bag.  Cut one end off and pipe the filling into the egg whites.  Sprinkle with the paprika, extra bacon bits and dill before serving.


Yield:  6 to 8 servings.

picnic-marinated carrots


Marinated Carrots


For any kind of summer backyard gathering, Grandmother always served these.



¾ cup sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup vinegar

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon prepared mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 lb. bag precut and peeled baby carrots

1 small red onion, sliced into rings

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 (15 ounce) can tomato soup


1. Simmer carrots in water to cover for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp tender.

2. Drain into a large strainer.  Immerse strainer in ice water to cover carrots.

3. Drain briefly then remove to a large bowl.

4.  Combine first seven ingredients and pour over carrots.

5.  Add sliced onion rings, green pepper and tomato soup.

6.  Refrigerate overnight.

Yield:  8 to 10 servings


Every Herb Pesto



½ cup Marcona almonds, toasted

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

½ cup grated Parmesan

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

½ cup fresh parsley leaves

¼ cup basil leaves

¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves

1/8 cup fresh mint leaves

1/16 cup fresh chervil leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Zest of lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Garlic-rubbed crostini, optional

Heirloom tomatoes, chopped, optional



1.  Blend the almonds and garlic in a food processor until fine.  Add the spinach, cheese, herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor.  Blend the herbs just enough so they are mixed, about 3 seconds.  Add the canola oil and olive oil while the food processor is on a low setting. Season with salt and pepper.  Blend to desired consistency.

2.  Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl.  Place the chopped tomatoes on top of the crostini if using and top with pesto.  Any leftover pesto should be placed in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap.  Press the plastic wrap right on top of the pesto and refrigerate.


Yield:  About 2 cups.


Luscious Lemon Bars


Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325°.  Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a sling made of parchment paper or foil.

Sift into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup powdered sugar


Sprinkle over the top:

12 Tbl. (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand.


Pour the crust mixture into the pan and press to an even thickness with the bottom of a measuring cup.  Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.


Whisk together until well combined:

6 large eggs

3 cups sugar


Stir in:

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)


Sift over the top and stir in until well blended and smooth:

½ cup all-purpose flour


Pour the batter over the baked crust.  Bake until set, about 35 minutes.  Remove the pan to a rack to cool completely before cutting into bars.


Just before serving sift with:

Powdered sugar


The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)


Cupcake Brownies


A “go to” recipe for chocolate lovers!



2 sticks butter

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

4 eggs

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans



1.  Melt butter and chocolate together in a fairly large pan.  Remove pan from stove and let mixture cool a few minutes.  Add remainder of ingredients and mix together by hand.

2.  Spoon batter into foil-lined cupcake pans (use either regular-sized pans or the mini cupcake pans – just be sure to use the foil cupcake pan liners).  Fill cups ½ full.

3.  Bake at 325 degrees F for about 20 to 30 minutes (adjusting time if using mini pans).  Let cool.

4.  If desired, spread a little of your favorite chocolate confectioners’ sugar frosting on each cupcake.

5.  May be wrapped well and frozen.


Yield:  About 2 dozen regular size brownies, or 3 ½ to 4 dozen mini brownies.

picnic lunch balckberry tea

Blackberry Iced Tea



3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Pinch of baking soda

4 cups boiling water

3 family-size tea bags

2 ½ cups cold water or sparkling water

Garnishes: fresh blackberries, fresh mint sprigs



1.  Combine 3 cups blackberries and sugar in large container.  Crush blackberries with wooden spoon.  Add chopped mint and baking soda.  Set aside.

2.  Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover and let stand 3 minutes.  Discard tea bags.

3.  Pour tea over blackberry mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour.  Pour tea through a wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding solids.  Add 2 ½ cups cold water, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Garnish, if desired.

Yield:  about 7 cups

Recipes by Linda

Pictures by Starla

About Dallas Garden Buzz

Dallas County Master Gardeners growing and sharing from The Raincatcher's Garden.

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