It's a wrap ... to go

When I was growing up, my best friend lived right across the street from me. During the summer months her dad would often load a big heavy food-laden cooler into their station wagon along with lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic basket.

When I was growing up, my best friend lived right across the street from me. During the summer months her dad would often load a big heavy food-laden cooler into their station wagon along with lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic basket.

Once the family was situated in the car, they'd back out of their driveway in our northern suburb of St. Paul. I would wonder if they were going to the beach at Turtle Lake Park for the day, or maybe Taylors Falls. Como Park was always a popular picnic place. I knew for sure, though, they were going to be enjoying a picnic at an away-from-home location, and they would be having lots of fun.

My mom and dad's idea of a picnic was hauling our entire supper outside to the backyard picnic table that was protected from the sun by a big umbrella propped up in a hole at one end of the table. No cooler, no picnic basket. No lake, no park, no zoo, no waterfall. But we were outside, and we were together enjoying my mom's good cooking.

These days my picnics are usually served on the pontoon boat as we float down the river. And, yes, I have a cooler, and I have the picnic basket my mom and dad bought for me when I was first married. How did they know I always wanted one?

Summertime is picnic time, especially on the Fourth of July. From watermelon, salads, burgers and sausage straight from the grill, it's a portable-foods feast in your own picnic style.


Spicy Chicken Wraps with Creamy Chipotle Spread can be packed into a cooler and still be great hours later when you're ready to eat after an outdoor game of bean bags at the park or in your own backyard. You won't even need a grill.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are sliced into strips, soaked in buttermilk just like good old-fashioned fried chicken, then coated with a spicy (but not too spicy) dry mixture. This can be done days ahead of time, because, once prepared, the strips are placed in the freezer for at least a few hours before baking. Once the frozen strips are baked, they can be rolled up in a tortilla with lettuce, cheese, crispy bacon, avocado slices and Creamy Chipotle Spread.

The baked strips can also be served as chicken fingers with the smoky-flavored chipotle spread used as a dipping sauce. Toss the sliced chicken strips in a salad of fresh greens and vegetables for a quick meal.

Tuck these Spicy Chicken Wraps into your cooler to enjoy at your next picnic, no matter where that may be.

Spicy Chicken Wraps with Creamy Chipotle Spread
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 cup cornmeal
4½ tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1½ teaspoons dried leaf oregano
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound bacon
8 flour tortillas
4 avocados, skin and pits removed and sliced
Fresh salad greens
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine chicken and buttermilk in shallow dish. Set aside.

Combine cornmeal and next 8 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine flour and black pepper. Remove chicken strips from buttermilk and transfer to another bowl, reserving buttermilk. Dip buttermilk-soaked chicken strips in flour mixture, back into reserved buttermilk and then in cornmeal mixture, coating well. Place on waxed-paper lined baking sheets and freeze for at least a few hours or until frozen solid. Transfer frozen chicken strips to large freezer-strength zip-top plastic bag and keep frozen until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen chicken strips on a lightly greased baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through.


Make Creamy Chipotle Spread by mixing sour cream, chipotle pepper and minced garlic in a bowl.

Fry bacon strips until crisp and drain on paper-towel-lined plate.

Spread each tortilla with a generous amount of Creamy Chipotle Spread. Top with some fresh greens. Sprinkle with cheese. Slice baked chicken strips and lay several pieces at one end of the prepared tortilla. Nestle some avocado strips beside the chicken and top with 2 slices of crispy bacon. Roll tortilla as tightly as possible. Wrap the rolled tortilla in waxed paper and refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, cut each Spicy Chicken Wrap diagonally in half, right through the waxed paper. Makes 8 wraps.

Tips from the cook

--Uncooked boneless chicken breasts are easier to slice when they are slightly frozen.

--Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are smoked chile peppers, typically jalapeno, in a red tomato-based sauce. Find them in cans with the Hispanic foods in the international aisle of most grocery stores.

--When shopping for avocados to use right away, choose those that give a little under gentle thumb pressure. If you won't be eating them immediately, buy those that feel hard and let them sit out on the kitchen counter for three or four days.

--Try using whole wheat tortillas to add fiber and nutrients to the wraps.

What To Read Next
Get Local