Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: summer is time for alfresco dining

Cathi Litzenberger debates the merits of picnics over outdoor barbecues and offers recipes for both

Recently I heard a funny debate on CBC Radio, comparing the attributes of a barbecue versus a picnic; each was trying to convince the audience which was better.

For me, barbecues take less preparation time as most are held at home with all the conveniences. Picnics, on the other hand, require a little more thinking and prep time because we usually are going outdoors to a park, or to the mountains, a beach, or to some other remote spot where we spread a blanket for a table and enjoy whatever has been packed into some sort of picnic basket/cooler. There usually is no available electricity at our fingertips but today’s coolers allow us to enjoy many more options than the sandwiches of olden days.

For me a must is a potato salad, perhaps baked chicken, raw veggies, and some kind of dessert, as well as plenty of cool drinks. If you’re planning a picnic, remember to pack activity things like balls, gloves, Frisbees, or other outdoor games like bocce or croquet. And to all our American friends celebrating their Independence Day today, we wish you a peaceful day, time with family and friends, at perhaps a barbecue or picnic?

Today’s recipes feature a delicious picnic dessert using fresh strawberries, now in season, as well as a tasty baked chicken; perfect for any picnic.

Strawberry Pretzel Squares

2 cups finely crushed pretzels

1/2 cup sugar, divided

2/3 cup margarine or butter, melted

1-1/2 pkg. (250 g. each) Philadelphia Brick Cream Cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. milk

1 cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping

2 cups boiling water

2 pkg. (85 g each) Jell-O Strawberry Jelly Powder

1-1/2 cups cold water

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Heat oven to 350 F.  Mix pretzel crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and margarine; press onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan. Bake 10 minutes; cool.

Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, and milk in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Stir in Cool Whip; spread over crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Add boiling water to jelly powders in large bowl; stir 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 1-1/2 hours or until thickened. Stir in strawberries; spoon over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Slice into squares.

Variation for calorie watchers: Prepare using light cream cheese, light Cool Whip topping and Jell-O No Sugar Added Strawberry Jelly Powder.  — Recipe courtesy Kraft Foods.

Picnic Baked


1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

4 chicken breasts or 1 frying chicken, cut into pieces

1-1/2 cups corn flake crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the mayonnaise, salt, garlic salt, and rosemary.

Brush mixture on chicken, then roll the chicken in the corn flake crumbs. Arrange skin side up, without touching, in a lightly greased baking pan.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour, or until done. Chill well before packing into picnic basket.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.