By Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet

When is the last time you went on a picnic? I mean an honest to goodness, basket full of goodies, let’s feed the ants picnic? I thought so. It’s been a while, huh? Me too. I think with our “go faster, get more done” lifestyles it just seems easier to eat at home or at a restaurant and then go. But there is something so delightful and memorable about a good old fashion picnic that I think we all need to slow down and make them happen more often.

Eating outside can take a simple walk and turn it into an enjoyable adventure, a romantic occasion or just a welcome change of pace. A picnic doesn’t really have to be a big production; you can just grab some peanut butter and celery sticks and head for the park or you can plan a bit and make it just a wee bit more special. Taking the time to enjoy life outside, particularly in these warmer summer months, is a great way to invite healthy lifestyle into your life.

There are many great foods to take but there are several wrong foods to avoid for picnics; foods that will spoil, foods that are meant to be very cold, or piping hot, since you can rarely guarantee either; and foods that require labor-intensive eating methods. (Messy is bad) Stay away from these foods and you will find your outdoor meals much more relaxing and fun.

There are the classic picnic foods that many of us grew up on and are devoted to like potato salad, sandwiches and watermelon. They are easy to fall back on. Yet I encourage us to expand our picnic repertoire and embrace some new and very easy foods. (Let’s keep it easy so we’ll actually do this!) I have compiled a list of some deliciously easy foods for your gastronomic soirée out into the great outdoors. Hopefully all these ideas will stimulate you to get out and enjoy nature and tasty food in this beautiful season. Go picnicking for a better tomorrow and life!

~Salad in a jar~

Get a large mouth mason quart jar and assemble a salad in it in this order; dressing on the bottom lettuce on the top with the details in the middle. If the lettuce mix touches the dressing it gets all wilty and gross, so dressing in first, then use a hearty veggie like shredded cabbage, carrots or peapods next. Layer from there with bite sized yummies like celery, cucumber, nuts, cheese, cherry tomatoes, apple chunks tossed in lemon juice, black olives, berries and sprouts. (avocados don’t work to well in this mix) Think color and flavors. Then, when you are ready, just dump your salad out of the jar on a plate and voila! A perfectly portable salad.

salad in a jar

Use your imagination on salad in a jar but here are a few examples to get you going:

-One of my favorite salad combinations: in this order in the jar, raspberry vinaigrette, peapods, shredded carrots, chopped hazelnuts, strawberries, finely diced red onions, feta cheese and spinach on top.

-A Caesar salad jar would go together something like this; Caesar salad dressing, shredded carrots, diced celery, chunks of grilled chicken breast, or salad shrimp, green onion, parmesan cheese, and top off with romaine. (Skip the croutons or bring them along in a separate baggie. They get all mushy in the jar.)

-Cobb salad in the jar; Red wine vinaigrette, celery, red cabbage, fresh corn kernels, red bell pepper, red onion, boiled eggs, bacon bits, chopped ham, grilled chicken breast and romaine. If you want avocado, bring a whole one and cut it up on the salad right before you eat it.

-And of course we must have Salad Nicoise; lemon vinaigrette, blanched green beans, boiled red potatoes, nicoise olives or any black olive, red onion, tablespoon of capers, hard boiled eggs, canned tuna and salad mix to top it all off.   Easy squeezy.

More picnic options

– Caprese salad skewers; on bamboo skewers thread washed cherry tomatoes, marinated mozzarella balls and basil leaves. So good you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before!

-Lightly steam a bunch of veggies like asparagus, green beans and carrot sticks and serve with your favorite dip. Or puréed jarred roasted red peppers with feta, marjoram or oregano and parsley, olive oil and garlic for the dip. Nom nom

-Try fresh skewers. Grill or cook chicken breast, tofu or a nice steak then cut into bite sized pieces. Skewer on bamboo skewers with fresh cherry tomatoes, pineapple and cucumbers. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

-Banh Mi sandwiches made easy! Just slice open a good baguette and fill it with chopped or shredded cooked chicken or pork tossed with fish sauce, chili, sugar, lime, garlic, scallions and basil. Layer on spinach and drizzle it with olive oil before you serve it.

-Make an antipasti loaf. Get a round loaf of sourdough bread, cut off the top and scoop out most of the insides and give to the birds. Layer roughly in this order, assorted coldcuts like ham, salami, roast beef, thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, little olive oil, jarred roasted red peppers, steamed long strips of zucchini, little olive oil, red wine vinegar and dried Italian herbs, little garlic powder or sautéed chopped garlic, red onions sliced thin more mozzarella and fresh arugula. Make sure and fill to the top. Put the lid on, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for 1-24 hours. Slice like a pie at the picnic and serve with fresh cherry tomatoes. (Super super delicious, fun to make and the crowd goes wild!)

-Bake your favorite brownie or cheesecake in the small one cup jars. After they are cool, top with a berry jam and fresh berries and put the lid on. Portable heaven.

So now that you are armed with all these abundant ideas, get out there and enjoy the great outdoors with fun food and family time!


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