Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tips for Picnicking Down the Shore

This is a sponsored post. 

As a young child, some of my fondest summer memories include my family renting a small efficiency in Point Pleasant Beach each summer on the Jersey Shore for a week where we would go deep sea fishing, lay on the pristine beaches with our picnic lunches and entertain ourselves with fun and games in the evening on the Point Pleasant Boardwalk. As I grew older, my grandparents retired to Hazlet, where we visited Island Beach State Park and Sandy Hook to enjoy the swells and sounds of the ocean year round.

In my teenage years, I looked forward to making the hour and a half trek down the Garden State Parkway to Exit 82 and Seaside Heights. Like all NJ teenagers, it was, and still is, a right of passage to go “Down the Shore” (a.k.a. DTS) after your Senior Prom here in the Garden State. We’d change into our beach attire, pack coolers full of sandwiches, beverages and snacks and head down to what will always be remembered as “the best time in our lives.” To this day, (uh hum…27 years later) I can still remember who went DTS after prom and what we did, but I can’t remember what our prom theme was!
The Jersey Shore is an integral part of New Jersey and it’s culture. It’s a part of what makes us who we are. After Hurricane Sandy, many of my favorite shore landmarks were destroyed, but we’re are a tough breed and like the Six Million Dollar Man said (ok, now I’m really showing my age!) “We can rebuild” and we have. NJ is “Stronger than the Storm” (#STTS) and has 45 glorious beaches open and ready for you and your families to enjoy this summer.
If you’re like many families, ours included, you’ll want to spend the day on the beach to enjoy the sand and surf this summer. That means brining the right things for a picnic lunch is a necessity. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your day.
Tips for Picnicking Down the Shore
The Basics
  • Bring the basics. A blanket, sheet or beach chair. If brining a blanket or sheet, make sure that they are large enough to seat each person in your party comfortably.  This will also help keep the sand away from your food; as long as no one steps on it!
  • An umbrella and sunscreen to block the sun. The summer sun is brutal; especially by the water where the cool ocean breezes mask the heat and rays. 
  • An insulated cooler. Sure, a picnic basket is pretty, but sand may get inside through the holes of the wicker. An insulated cooler is the best option to hold your food and beverages for a picnic on the beach, as this will prevent or prolong your food from spoiling in the hot sun.

The Food
  • Two words: Finger Foods. When dining al fresco on the beach, finger foods are best. Avoid bringing food that you need utensils to eat it with. It makes for easier clean up at the end of the day and creates less refuse and pollution.
  • Sandwiches are best. Sandwiches made on wraps or rolls hold up much better than sliced bread; where the bread tends to get soggy. Some great sandwich choices that hold up well and are some of my family’s favorites include peanut butter and jelly, turkey, grilled chicken or vegetables or the recipe below for Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Fresh Spinach, Campari Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella.
  • Choose the right condiments. Everyone loves a sandwich with mayonnaise, but it’s not the best condiment for picnicking in the hot sun. If you must have it on your sandwich, bring it separately or choose other condiments like mustard, pesto or vinaigrette based dressings.  
  • Single portion snacks. All of that swimming and sun make you hungry. Bring single sized portions of your favorite snacks like granola bars, pretzels or popcorn. Better yet, opt for whole fruit like apples, oranges, and peaches and cut up raw vegetables like celery, cucumbers and carrots for healthy snacking. These will also help keep you hydrated in the hot sun. Single portion packaging also helps to reduce waste; as well as help to eliminate any excess sand from getting into family sized snack bags.
  • Stay hydrated! Make sure you bring enough to drink for each person to stay hydrated throughout the day and try to stay away from carbonated beverages. Fruit or vegetable juices are a good choice; as well as plenty of water. If you freeze your water bottles the night before and place them in your cooler, they will act as ice blocks keeping your food cold and will be cool and refreshing when you’re ready to drink them.

The Entertainment
  • Ocean waves and food will only keep you occupied for so long. Bring along something to do to pass the time like reading a good book, playing cards, or throw a Frisbee or football.  The beach is not the best place for electronic gadgets as they will inevitably get ruined by the sand and salt air. 
  •  Battery operated radio. Put on your favorite NY/NJ radio station and listen to some tunes. It helps pass the time and informs you of local happenings; especially if you’re staying through the evening hours. Just be aware of the volume as to not disrupt the other people around you.

When picnicking, my family and I are not particularly fond of luncheon meat; however, we do enjoy a good sandwich every now and then. This Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Fresh Spinach, Campari Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella drizzled with Aged Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of our absolute favorites and we take it with us on every road trip or picnic outing. I’ve also made this sandwich with grilled chicken, arugula, other lettuces and pesto and it’s fantastic every time. Whatever part of the Jersey Shore you decide to visit this summer, I hope you make your own lasting memories!
Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Fresh Spinach, Campari Tomatoes and Buffalo Mozzarella
Prep Time: 15 minutes          Yield: 4
Cook Time: 10 minutes         Serving: 1
Total Time: 25 minutes
Ingredients
For the Chicken Cutlets
·      2  4- to 6- oz. Boneless Chicken Breasts
·      1 c. All-Purpose Flour
·      2 Eggs + splash of water (egg wash)
·      1 c. Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
·      ¾ c. Canola Oil
For the Sandwich
·      4 Breaded Chicken Cutlets
·      2-8” Ciabatta Rolls, cut in half horizontally 
·      2 c. Fresh Baby Spinach, rinsed and stems removed
·      2 Campari Tomatoes, sliced into ¼” thick slices
·      ½ lb. Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced into ¼” thick slices
·      4 tbsp. Aged Balsamic Vinegar
·      4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·      Kosher Salt, to taste
·      Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Directions
For the Chicken Cutlets
1.     Slice the chicken in half vertically forming four pieces; then using a meat mallet, pound the chicken flat until it is even in thickness.
2.     Prepare three bowls. One with the flour. One with the egg and water mixture. One with the breadcrumbs.
3.     First dip the chicken into the flour, then the egg wash and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat for all pieces.
4.     Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; then add the chicken. Cook the chicken approximately 3-5 minutes per side until they are golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.
For the Sandwich
1.     Slice the bread in half vertically forming eight halves.
2.     Drizzle 1 tbsp. vinegar and oil on both the top and bottom halves for each sandwich.
3.     Place one chicken cutlet on the bottom half of the bread, then top with fresh spinach leaves, tomato and mozzarella slices. Season with salt and pepper; then place the top of the bread on the sandwich. Cut in half and serve. Wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil to keep it fresh until ready to eat.
*If you like your bread on the crusty side like we do, bake the bread in a 425 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes, then allow to cool before cutting the bread in half.
For more information on the Stronger Than The Storm campaign(#STTS), please visit their website

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