Picnic Perfect

June is bustin' out all over, so plan a picnic and pack some Mushroom and Fontina Meatloaf Muffins to beef up your menu.

On the shelf of our hallway closet, there lives a vivid-plaid picnic blanket we affectionately call “Heywood” after the flamboyantly dressed sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun. I’m not sure where my wife, Laura, acquired the material, but we’ve been using it for outings to the park or the beach or bike riding for the last 17 years, and Heywood shows no signs of giving out.

You certainly don’t need one of those fancy wicker picnic baskets with leather hinges and special compartments for cutlery and dishes in order to enjoy a little bit of open-air dining. But a little advance planning will ensure that you have tasty foods that will travel well without fear of spoiling.

We’ve all heard horror stories about church picnics where a batch of potato salad sent half the congregation home with food poisoning. People often blame the mayonnaise, but it’s actually the potatoes and eggs themselves that are more supportive of bacterial growth. 

My personal criteria for bucolic dining includes the following: easy to pack and carry; not too messy to eat; tasty when warm or at room temperature. This recipe for meatloaf muffins really fills the bill, and because it is just as easy to make this in larger as in smaller quantities, you can make a big batch of these, wrap them individually and keep them in the freezer for impromptu picnic outings. Now you just have to find a snazzy blanket to spread out on a shady spot in the grass.

To complete the al-fresco dining experience, go to pittsburghmagazine.com and try my recipe for Asian Broccoli Slaw.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the mushrooms until they are tender and have given up their juices. Add the salt and pepper and garlic and cook for another minute. Set aside to cool slightly. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the egg with the 2 tablespoons of milk. Add the beef, cheese, breadcrumbs and mushroom mixture. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick spray (or use cupcake liners). Divide the mixture among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 45 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees. Remove and let cool before wrapping and storing.



Categories: Eat + Drink Features