Summer and early Fall are great seasons for a picnic. And I’ve got some near perfect picnic ideas and recipes to share with you. Honestly, I hope that picnics never go out of style but sadly, I’m not sure they are as appreciated as they once were. Perhaps with the perfect picnic ideas plus recipes, we can change that!
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
O, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
~ Omar Khayyam
When I was much younger, I possessed a wonderful wicker basket. Inside it was lined with red checked cotton and had leather buckles that would hold serving items secure. A place for plates, glasses, and cutlery which also came with the basket. It was similar to this one. I lugged it to so many outings that I did finally wear it out. It was a sad day and I never replaced it. Or rather, I suppose it was replaced with an igloo cooler. Even if you are lucky enough to possess a lovely picnic basket, I’d suggest you have a least one small ice chest or soft-sided cooler for the more perishable food items.
Of course, above I mentioned ways to transport your outside meal but there are few other considerations to make your picnic perfect. Even if your location will be equipped with a pavilion and picnic tables, please bring a nice tablecloth to use. If your day will be on the grass, take along additional quilts or blankets that you can spread out for seating along with a tablecloth for spreading out your lunch. Some people also opt for folding chairs as well as a collapsible table to use instead of being on the ground. It’s not possible to enjoy the perfect picnic if you are uncomfortable!
Other things to make the day easier, include a trash bag, handwipes, paper napkins, dinnerware (doesn’t have to be disposable), drinks/drinkware, utensils, serving spoons, and possibly bug spray and sunscreen. You could toss in some pillows, books, or games for after everyone has eaten. The best tip, however, is only take what you need. A quick picnic for two to share at an afternoon concert may only require a blanket, a beverage of choice, fruit, cheese, and crackers. To keep your picnic experience perfect, do not tote things you will not use!
Perfect Time of day and picnic settings
Finally, before we head into recipes, be creative and flexible with settings and time of day for your outing. There is no rule that it must be a noontime feast. (Think of that iconic scene with Audrey Hepburn holding a coffee and danish as Holly Golightly outside Tiffany’s early in the morning.) Create your own picnic at breakfast with a thermos of coffee, fresh muffins, fruit, and a couple of folding chairs beside the lake watching the sunrise. In the hottest parts of summer, planning for sunrise or moonrise outdoor events may be ideal.
Thinking of all the places I’ve enjoyed picnics with family or friends, here are a few for you to consider. A park, a beach, a lake, the backyard, a zoo (if allowed, please do NOT feed the animals), an outdoor concert, after church on the lawn, on a sailboat (or any boat), a farm, formal gardens, and anywhere else you can enjoy the beauty of nature and good food is perfect for picnicking.
FOOD IDEAS plus RECIPES
How many times do you think of fried chicken and potato salad as the standard for picnic fare? Or maybe for you it’s ham and cheese sandwiches washed down with soda. Well, let’s shake it up a bit!
Starting with beverages, I’ll suggest that water is important to bring even if you are serving other iced beverages. Soda may be your jam and nothing else will do, but if you up for something different, stir up a fresh, homemade lemonade or a pitcher of iced tea. Teas may be herbal, black, green, or decaffeinated. Fruit juice spritzers are also delightful. One I’ve made often combines a quart of herbal tea (red or lemon zinger work well), a quart of juice, and twelve ounces of ginger ale. Refreshing, fizzy, and pretty; especially if you opt for clear drinkware.
Not your average PB & J
How about a sandwich spread that will keep very well without a cooler? Peanut butter! Or of course any nut butter as a substitute works. But I’m not talking your average PB&J. You can “fancy it up” by blending your nut butter with honey and slightly softened cream cheese. It’s easy to make to the consistency you desire for spreading on apple slices, cracker, celery sticks, or fresh sliced bread. A rule of thumb to get you going is one cup of peanut butter, one cup of cream cheese, and 2 T honey (or maple syrup). Experiment to find the perfect spreadable version for you. When thinking about crackers, consider graham crackers topped with your spread for a simple dessert. (Yes, you can drizzle chocolate sauce on top!)
There are many variations on this black bean salsa/dip hybrid, but it is delicious and vegetarian. All you need is something to scoop it up in, like tortilla chips. Or top a bowl of salad greens with it. Yum!
Combine 3 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and diced; 2 ripe avocados, diced; 1 1/2 C frozen roasted corn, thawed; 1/3 C red onion, diced; 2 cans 15-ounce black beans, rinsed and drained; 1 bell pepper, diced (green or red); 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced very small; and 1/3 C cilantro, finely chopped in a large bowl. Toss/stir well so that ingredients are well-combined.
For dressing: in a smaller bowl whisk together 1/3 C olive oil; 2 T lime juice, 2 T apple cider vinegar, 1 t sugar, ½ t salt, ½ t black pepper, ¼ t garlic powder.
Pour dressing over vegetables and toss well. Serve with tortilla chips (I prefer the blue corn ones). Refrigerate leftovers.
Enjoy your perfect picnic
Whether you sneak away alone with your favorite books (one of mine, I hope!). Or gather up a half dozen friends or family members, the most important part is to enjoy it. If you forget something. Don’t sweat it. If there is a sudden rain shower, dance in it. Let your inner child come out to play.