SUMMER SNACKS

Now for my favorite part...the food! No picnic would be complete without a collection of munchies to keep those grumbling stomachs at bay. Dishes don't need to be outrageously expensive or time consuming. It's funny how favorites are usually the ones you threw together in a pinch, with ingredients you already had.

For those of you looking for inspiration, the New York Times has a list of 101 20-Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics. I love that these recipes add a little zest to the average picnic fare, allowing you to mix and improvise. There aren't complicated directions, rare ingredients, or exact proportions—anyone can throw these together.

Below are some of my favorite snacks to round out the week of picnic bliss!

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Cherry Tomatoes with Goat Cheese
Courtesy of Real Simple Magazine, August 2012

Top cherry tomatoes with fresh goat cheese. Sprinkie with chopped herbs such as chives basil and parsley.

Crustless Zucchini and Basil Mini-Quiches
Courtesy of The Kitchn; adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Makes about 48 pieces

1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Oil, for the pan
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 small zucchini, grated
1/4 cup grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, finely chopped

Heat oven to 450°F.

Prepare Batter: Put the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisking steadily, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the milk, mixing until quite smooth. Whisk in the whole eggs and egg yolks, mixing again until smooth, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, the cream, salt, and nutmeg. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to one day. If using the next day, be sure to re-whisk.

Prepare Zucchini Mixture: In a nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add grated zucchini, and stir until just softened, another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Oil mini muffin tins well. Put a pinch grated cheese into each muffin cup, a teaspoon of zucchini mixture, and pinch of chopped fresh basil. Pour 1 tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup.

Bake until the quiches puff and start to turn golden, 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then carefully run a paring knife around the rim of each muffin cup. Carefully lift each quiche out of its cup.

Mini quiches freeze very well. Let cool, then freeze in a single layer in a covered container. Reheat on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes.

Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Banana Bites
Courtesy of the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen

Makes about 36
Prep: 45 minutes
Total: 3 hours 45 minutes (including freezing time)

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons canola oil
Assorted toppings for coating bananas (such as crushed chocolate sandwich cookies, toffee bits, chopped Butterfinger candy bars, chopped salted peanuts, or toasted shredded sweetened coconut)
3 ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Stir chocolate and oil in heavy small saucepan over low heat just until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes to cool.

Place each topping in separate shallow dish. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange banana slices on foil. Using fingers, dip 1 banana slice in chocolate, coating completely. Shake off excess chocolate. Drop dipped banana in 1 topping. Using clean hand, sprinkle more topping over banana to coat; transfer to foil-lined sheet. Repeat with remaining bananas, chocolate, and toppings. Freeze until firm, about 3 hours, then serve.