- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Picnics are for all the occasions in summer musical concert, art festivals, fishing trips, you name it. They beg us to slow down, count our blessings, our friends, our good times.

When my children were little and we had no plans on a summer day, I would prepare lunch and then instead of serving the sandwiches on plates at the breakfast room table, I would pack them up in a basket, grab an old tablecloth and head to the front yard. There we would spread the cloth on the grass, and proceed to enjoy our meal out of doors.

To this day, my children recall with joy this simple act. Food does taste better out of doors, even if it is only a few steps from your front door. With this menu in mind, you can head out the door, or down the street, or to the park, or wherever it is beautiful and peaceful this summer.

Begin with a chicken you roast yourself or pick up from the deli. Serve it with crusty bread and Dijon mustard. Add to the side lightly steamed green beans tossed in a nice vinaigrette, sliced tomatoes with basil, your favorite potato salad and these yummy biscotti.

Five time-shaving sweets to pack for a picnic

• Gingersnap cookies sandwiched with lemon curd

• Sugar cookies sandwiched with strawberry jam

• Strawberries with light brown sugar and sour cream for dunking

• Dried apricots dipped into melted dark chocolate and cooled

• Raspberries and blueberries drizzled with orange liqueur

Biscotti with white chips and sweet cherries

The preparation time is 15 minutes, the baking time is 30 to 35 minutes for first baking and 10 minutes for second, and the resting time in the oven is 30 to 40 minutes.

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s food cake mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup white chocolate chips

1/4 cup finely chopped dried sweetened cherries

½ teaspoon pure almond extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

Place the cake mix, melted butter, eggs, flour, white chocolate chips, cherries and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended, 3 to 4 minutes.

The dough will be thick and come together into a ball. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

With floured hands, shape the dough into a rectangle about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide by half-inch thick. Mound the dough so it is slightly higher in the center. Place the baking sheet in the oven.

Bake the biscotti rectangle until it feels firm when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.

Cutting on the baking sheet, use a sharp, serrated knife to slice the rectangle on the diagonal into 1-inch-thick slices. Carefully turn these slices onto their sides, using the slicing knife to arrange them on the same baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake the biscotti for 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, and let the biscotti remain in the oven until they are crisp, about 30 to 40 minutes more.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the biscotti to a rack, and allow them to cool completely for 2 hours.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks. Makes: 18 biscotti.


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