Guacamole Eggs

Makes 20 stuffed egg-white halves

Good ideas travel fast. One week, there was a recipe on the side of a bag of avocados that substituted guacamole for traditional deviled egg filling. The next week, a similar recipe turned up in the Penzeys spice catalogue.

Whatever the origin, the idea is a winner. The fresh, bright taste of guacamole is a perfect fit with the egg-white halves. In the version below, the guacamole is flavored with a healthy dose of lime juice and topped off with a sprinkling of sliced scallions.

PICNIC NOTE: Bring the egg whites in one container and the guacamole in another. Fill the egg whites just before serving.

Flesh from 2 avocados

3 to 4 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 large or 2 small limes)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 scallions, white and light green parts chopped, darker green parts sliced for garnish

10 hard-cooked eggs, each sliced in half, yolk discarded

In a small bowl using a fork, mash the avocado, leaving small chunks if desired. Add 3 tablespoons of the lime juice, the cumin, salt and pepper to taste and the chopped scallion. Mix well, taste and add more lime juice if desired.

Fill each egg white half with about a tablespoon of the guacamole and top with the sliced scallion greens. Serve immediately.

Per 2-piece serving: 81 calories, 4 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 88 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Asian-Inspired Brown Rice Salad With Snow Peas

4 to 6 servings

Toasted sesame seeds top this flavorful salad. The brown rice gives a nutty texture that is balanced by the snow peas, red bell pepper and sliced scallions. Medium-grain rice is used here, so the kernels remain soft when they are chilled. White rice can be substituted if desired, but reduce the water to 2 cups.

PICNIC NOTE: With its vinegar base, this salad's a perfect choice for summer picnics.

For the rice:

21/4 cups water

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup medium-grain brown rice

For the salad:

1/4 pound snow peas, blanched and cut on the diagonal into 4 or 5 pieces*

1/2 medium red bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch long matchsticks

1/3 cup chopped scallions (about 4), tough green tops removed and discarded

2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons low-sodium or light soy sauce

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

In a 2-quart pot, bring the water, sesame oil and salt to a boil. Add the rice, stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow the rice to simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl and let cool for about 15 minutes. Add the sliced snow peas, red bell pepper slices, chopped scallions, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Transfer the rice salad to a shallow bowl or serving dish and top with the remaining tablespoon of sesame seeds. Let cool before refrigerating.

*NOTE: To blanch the snow peas, bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, clean each snow pea pod. Prepare a bowl of ice water. When the water boils, add the snow peas. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the snow peas turn bright green. Use a slotted spoon to remove the snow pea pods and transfer them immediately to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry the snow peas before slicing.

Per serving: 175 calories, 4 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 169 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Hoisin-Glazed Grilled Shrimp

4 servings

These shrimp are a snap to make. The recipe uses two flavor boosters: a dusting of five-spice powder and hoisin sauce, which provides the base for a delicious glaze.

PICNIC NOTE: Extra-large or even jumbo shrimp should be used in the recipe so the shrimp can be a finger food. The larger shrimp are also easier to grill.

11/4 to 11/2 pounds of extra-large or jumbo shrimp, enough for at least 4 shrimp per serving, peeled and deveined

1/2 to 1 teaspoon five-spice powder

1 to 2 teaspoons low-sodium or light soy sauce

1 to 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons white wine or dry sherry

Preheat the grill.

Lay the shrimp on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the five-spice powder, soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss the shrimp to coat evenly.

In a separate small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, ketchup and white wine or sherry to make a glaze. Have a basting brush ready.

When the grill is hot, place each shrimp directly over the heat. Cook until the shrimp are done on the first side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and brush the cooked side with the glaze. Cover the grill, wait 2 to 3 minutes and then check the shrimp. If the shrimp are cooked through, turn them over and brush with the glaze. Cover and cook for 1 minute, or until thoroughly cooked. Transfer the shrimp from the grill to cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*NOTE: Five-spice powder contains cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves.

Per serving: 216 calories, 30 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 4 g fat, 216 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 574 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Chocolate Poundcake Tea Sandwiches

Makes 16 tea sandwiches

Since the frosting is sandwiched inside the cake layers, this dessert is outdoor-buffet and picnic-friendly. The chocolate sour cream poundcake recipe is adapted from Nick Malgieri's "How to Bake" (HarperCollins, 1995). The cream cheese frosting is from "The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking" (Scribner, 1997).

PICNIC NOTE: These sandwiches can be made a day or two in advance. Refrigerate overnight before packing so they stay cold in the cooler.

For the chocolate sour cream poundcake:

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into chunks

1 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for greasing the pan

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

For the cream cheese frosting:

4 ounces cold cream cheese

21/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 11/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, or more as needed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

For the chocolate poundcake: Butter an 81/2-inch-by-41/2-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper.

Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over hot, but not simmering, water (to create a double boiler), stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let the chocolate cool. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl using an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate, the eggs one at a time and the vanilla.

With a rubber spatula, combine half the flour mixture into the chocolate, then add the sour cream and the remaining flour mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake emerges clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer, peeling away the parchment or wax paper. Cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled.

For the frosting: In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and the confectioners' sugar until smooth and creamy. If the frosting isn't thick enough, add more confectioners' sugar.

To assemble the tea sandwiches, slice off the ends of the pound cake and cut the cake into 16 slices. Spread the frosting over 8 of the cake slices. Top each with another slice of cake. Trim off the ends and cut each sandwich in half, lengthwise, crosswise or on the diagonal. Place on a platter, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per half-sandwich: 242 calories, 3 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 9 g saturated fat, 96 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Roasted Grapes

4 servings

Roasting the fruit with a splash of red wine vinegar intensifies the sweetness of the grapes. Adapted from "A Good Day for a Picnic," by Jeremy Jackson (William Morrow, 2005).

PICNIC NOTE: The grapes taste great on their own, or with goat cheese and water crackers.

1 to 11/2 pounds red seedless grapes, washed and stemmed

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the grapes on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the red wine vinegar. Bake at 400 degrees until most of the grapes are soft and browned, 40 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the grapes to a shallow dish large enough to store most of the grapes in a single layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 week.

Per serving: 81 calories, 1 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g saturated fat, 2 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Sugar Snap Peas With Browned Garlic

4 servings

Here's proof that a few carefully chosen ingredients can produce something delicious.

PICNIC NOTE: Do not make this salad more than 8 hours before serving. The sugar snaps will start to discolor and, although perfectly good to eat, may lose their visual appeal.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

3/4 to 1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed

11/2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small pan on medium heat, heat the oil and the garlic just until the garlic turns golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the oil and garlic to a small bowl to cool. Set aside.

Have ready a large bowl of ice water.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the sugar snaps, cooking until they are bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. They should still be a little crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sugar snaps to the ice water to stop the cooking. After 5 minutes, remove the sugar snaps from the ice water and pat dry with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar snaps, the oil and garlic, sherry wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per serving: 112 calories, 3 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 159 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Grilled Steak and Portobello Mushroom Ciabatta Sandwiches

4 servings

Instead of the usual tomato slice, try thick slices of portobellos to add flavor and texture to a sandwich. Here, the portobellos top a thinly sliced marinated London broil. The meat and mushrooms are sandwiched in a ciabatta bread and dressed with the same garlic vinaigrette used to marinate the steak and the mushrooms.

About 10 years ago, roasted garlic was the ingredient of the moment, and overexposure set in fast. But maybe it's time to slowly and judiciously bring it back, not as a star but as the supporting player. This recipe shows how.

PICNIC NOTE: After cutting the sandwich, keep it together as though the bread had never been cut into four separate sandwiches. Toothpicks will help. Wrap it up this way and the cut ends will not dry out.

4 large cloves garlic

3/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 to 11/4 pounds top round or flank steak

2 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed

1 loaf (13 ounces) ciabatta bread

About 11/2 cups torn lettuce, preferably curly or green leaf lettuce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut a piece of aluminum foil into an 8- to-9-inch square. Place the garlic cloves in the center. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the oil over the cloves and form the foil into a packet enclosing the garlic and the oil. Bake at 425 degrees until the garlic is lightly browned and soft all the way through, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer the garlic to a small bowl and mash to a paste. Add the sugar, mustard, salt and pepper to taste and the vinegar to combine well. In a steady stream, add the remaining oil, whisking after each addition. Set aside.

Place the steak in a large resealable plastic bag and add 1/3 cup of the garlic dressing, spreading it evenly over the steak. Place the portobellos in another large resealable plastic bag. Add 1/3 cup of the garlic dressing to the mushrooms, once again making sure the dressing coats the mushroom caps. Seal the bags and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Heat grill when ready.

When the grill is hot, remove the steak and the mushroom caps and grill until cooked to desired doneness. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak. The mushroom caps should cook for about 12 minutes on a covered grill, turning them over once.

When the mushrooms and steak are done, remove from the grill and let cool thoroughly.

To assemble the sandwiches, slice the ciabatta bread in half horizontally as though it were a roll. Slice the steak thinly. Slice the mushrooms caps on the diagonal into 1/4 to 1/2-inch-thick slices. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of the garlic dressing over the bottom half of the bread. Layer the steak slices on the bottom, then the mushroom slices, and top with the lettuce. Pour about 2 tablespoons of the garlic dressing over the cut side of the ciabatta and then place the bread on top of the sandwich.

Cut the large sandwich into 4 smaller sandwiches. Serve immediately, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil or butcher paper and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per serving: 557 calories, 32 g protein, 49 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 6 g saturated fat, 707 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com

Panellets de Pinyons

(Almond and Pine Nut Cookies)

Makes 20 to 32 cookies

These slightly chewy macaroons are often served with an afternoon cup of tea or glass of Spanish muscatel. Adapted from "Barcelona: Authentic Recipes Celebrating the Foods of the World," edited by Paul Richardson and Chuck Williams (Williams-Sonoma/Oxmoor House, 2004).

PICNIC NOTE: They're ultra-light, nongreasy and easy to pack.

1 small russet potato (4 to 5 ounces), peeled

1 pound blanched or slivered almonds

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 to 11/2 cups pine nuts

Fill a small pan 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil. Add the potato and cook until it is easily pierced with a knife, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potato to a plate and mash thoroughly with a fork. Discard the cooking liquid.

In a food processor, chop the almonds until they become a nut flour. Add the mashed potato and lemon zest, and pulse until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a wide medium-size bowl and set aside.

In a small, heavy-bottomed pan on high heat, stir together the sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes syrupy, about 3 minutes.

Continue cooking until the mixture registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water forms a hard ball, then remove from the heat.

Pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the almond mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until a dough is formed. (You may have sugar syrup left over.) Let the dough cool for at least 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper and set aside.

Have ready two small bowls, one filled with the egg white and one with the pine nuts. Using your hands and working in assembly-line fashion, shape the dough into walnut-size balls, coat each ball in the egg white and then roll in the pine nuts, pressing them into the dough so that they don't fall out during baking. As you work, place the balls on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 375 degrees until the cookies are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Per serving (based on 32): 161 calories, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to food@washpost.com