Let’s pack some chocolate cakelets into the picnic basket. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

One of my favorite things is a picnic, the old-fashioned kind where goodies magically appear out of a bottomless picnic hamper and there are covered dishes galore containing all the foods my grandmother and aunties used to make.

I can dream, can’t I?

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net or 504-0545.

But for real, let’s make it happen. Why not have as many picnics as possible, and make it easy?

This recipe for ramen salad reminded me of something my Aunt Sally would have made in the ’70s. Ramen noodles, frozen veggies, a couple of other savory additions and crunchy bits are tossed with a sweet and sour dressing and left overnight in the fridge. It sounds kind of crazy but it’s ridiculously addictive.

I used sunflower seeds when I made it last time, but I also like to add flaked almonds. Roasted salted peanuts are good, too. To raise the bar, add diced celery, bell peppers, chicken and fresh herbs. Cilantro? Yes, ma’am! But if you don’t care about being an overachiever, just stick with the basic recipe.

What else should we tote to our picnic? Something chocolate, of course. A pan of brownies is always nice, but how about we surprise everyone with something cuter? Namely, plump little pillows of delight that will carry you away to chocolate nirvana.


These rich, decadent cakelets, which taste like they came from heaven and not your humble kitchen, don’t need anything. Don’t bother with whipped cream, ice cream, berries or even a dusting of powdered sugar. They are perfect just the way they are.

Next week there will be more picnic food. Keep your picnic basket and red-and-white checked tablecloth in a spot where you can grab them and go.

Dump-and-done ramen salad

3 packs chicken-flavored Ramen noodles

1 (12-ounce) package broccoli slaw (or shredded cabbage and carrots)

1 cup frozen peas and carrots

3/4 cup corn kernels, canned and drained, or frozen


1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced (or 1/4 cup scallions, chopped)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1 cup roasted sunflower seeds

Set the seasoning packets in the ramen noodle packages aside. Break the noodles up into small, bite-size pieces into a large bowl. Add broccoli slaw, peas and carrots, corn, and onion or scallions. Toss together.


In a separate bowl, add sugar, apple cider vinegar, oil and seasoning packets. Whisk together and microwave on high for 1 minute.

Pour dressing over salad while still warm and toss. Allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 5 hours). Sprinkle with sunflower seeds just before serving.

Yield: 16 servings

Chocolate cakelets

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70%), roughly chopped

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar


1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon flour

Flaky sea salt

Place chocolate and butter in a large heat-proof bowl. Either over a saucepan of simmering water or in the microwave in 30-second bursts, melt butter and chocolate, stirring frequently until melted. Take off the heat and whisk in sugar. Whisk in salt, then eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour. The batter will be very much like pudding.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The batter will thicken a bit more as it stands.


Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or line it with cupcake papers. Spoon batter into each cup to fill halfway and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakelets comes out batter-free. (Fudgy crumbs are to be expected.)

Let cool on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan. The puffed tops will fall a little as they cool.

Yield: 12 cakelets

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