Perfect Picnic Treats

School’s out, summer’s here, and we’ll soon celebrate the 4th of July. I say it’s time for a picnic. You choose the location — the beach, the mountains, a shady park, or your own backyard, but for you to really enjoy the event, keep the food simple. However, top it off with something everyone will flip over, like this Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip Skillet Cookie that they can eat with their fingers. If you really want to impress your family and friends, serve a slice with homemade vanilla ice cream you prepared “on site.” That will bring on a “WOW” reaction for certain!

If you love chocolate this cookie will meet all of your chocolate requirements — rich, gooey chocolate morsels and a double hit of fudgy flavor.  

The side prize of this recipe is that all the ingredients can be stirred up in one bowl, for a quick clean-up.

Chocolate-Chocolate-Chip Skillet Cookie



6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 ½ cups (10 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar with a wooden spoon. Stir in egg and vanilla, then flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir in chips. Transfer batter to a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet; smooth top. Bake until just set in center and pulling away from sides, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; loosen edges. Turn out onto a wire rack. Re-invert onto a plate, slice and serve.

Note: You should get 10 to 12 slices. To prepare ahead and transfer to a picnic for the 4th of July, wrap each slice in plastic wrap and decorate with a flag sticker. Find a basket with a handle large enough to hold the cookies and line it with a red napkin. Pile in the cookies and let a “reliable” child pass out the dessert. If you plan to serve the cookies with ice cream don’t wrap them but tote them to the picnic in a plastic container with a good lid — I like Tupperware or Rubbermaid. At the picnic, serve the ice cream in clear plastic drink cups with the point of the cookie sticking in the center of the ice cream. For more chocolate, don’t forget a sprinkle of red, white, and blue M&Ms!  

Picnics and apple pie are truly American — what can I say. This next recipe is for a crumb-topped apple pie and is a little different than most of the apple pie recipes I have on file. Since not everyone is a “chocoholic” you might want to offer them a slice of pie with that homemade ice cream.  

Crumb-topped apple pie


8 to 10 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks (Granny Smith is a    good choice)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 ½ tablespoons butter

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons apple cider

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 9-inch baked single crust pie shell

Topping (follows)


½ cup white flour

¼ cup oats

¼ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

¾ cup walnuts, chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Mix apples and lemon juice in a bowl. Melt butter in large skillet; stir in sugar and cinnamon. Add apples and sauté until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Whisk cider and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add mixture to skillet and stir. Increase heat and cook until nearly boiling to thicken. Stir constantly so mixture doesn’t stick. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the topping and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the cooled filling into a pie shell and sprinkle topping over the filling. Bake until the topping is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. (You may want to cover the crust edges with foil to keep from browning too much). Serves 6-8.

To make the topping:

Blend all topping ingredients, except butter, with fork. Mix in butter using fingers until moist clumps form.