Lately I have been a little obsessed with picnics. There’s something about sitting out in nature enjoying a plate full of delicious food that gets you thinking: “Life does not get much simpler than this!” Whether it’s spur-of-the-moment sandwiches or well-planned out menus, what’s not to love about packing up a basket, inviting some friends and enjoying the great outdoors?
If you are a fan of the PBS series Downton Abbey, you have probably lost yourself in the lavish picnic settings and feasts. Even though in real life we don’t have Mr. Carson serving our every whim, that does not take away from the magic that happens when we disconnect from technology and simply enjoy each other’s company. In reality, a picnic is nothing more than a portable party, so it is just a matter of choosing a great location, putting a guest list together, planning the menu, and bringing something to sit on.
So today, I share with you some of my “Picnic Basics 101” to make the best of your next meal al fresco.
Where: When thinking of location, also think of how you will be transporting the food. Is there a hike? Are you biking there? Pack it up accordingly. If your pets are joining, consider whether this is a pet-friendly location. How popular is this place? Do we need to show up early to save a spot?
When: What time of the day would the picnic be? Should you pack an extra blanket or two? Is this an evening picnic? Electric lanterns or appropriate lighting may be needed.
Who: Think of your guest list. Is Grandma joining us? Hopefully so, so let’s pack a folding chair so she doesn’t have to sit on the ground. Kids? How many? Time to come up with some creative games! I always pack a ball, because you can place two rocks on the ground on each side of the “field” and you have a soccer game. Frisbees and kites are always great too!
What: The menu. For me the simpler is always the better. Pre-cutting your fresh fruits and vegetables makes for easy snacking. Salad-in-a-Jar is always popular. Stop by the local bakery and pick up a loaf of bread, cheeses, and cured meats and you are ready to go! When kids are part of the party, I find that sandwiches are always a must. One of my favorite sandwiches (or wraps) is the Veggie Sandwich: hummus, shredded carrots, chopped olives, Feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado on whole wheat bread or in a wrap!
Whichever menu you settle with, remember to keep the food at the proper temperature to avoid any food illness. While we’re on the subject, baskets are pretty to look at but coolers are practical. Plan for how long you’ll be staying out and try to keep your food at a cool temperature for as long as possible.
As for the drinks, they get heavy quickly so I like to pack individual bottles of water, lemonade or juice and when possible make each guest to carry or bring their own.
Last but not least, there are some other essentials you might want to pack: of course a blanket or a picnic rug, insect repellant, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, condiments (salt and pepper), paper towels, matches, band-aids, zip-lock bags, garbage bags and if you are like me: baby-wipes, they clean everything! Trays are great for setting drinks on so they don’t tip easily. Eating utensils, paper plates, bottle openers and maybe an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
Now it is time to have fun and relax. A good book, magazines, and the right music are the last details to make your picnic adventure unforgettable!
Sara Balcazar-Greene (aka. Peruvian Chick)
Peruvian Food Ambassador
2 slices whole-wheat bread or a tortilla wrap
1/4 cup hummus
1 tbs chopped olives
1 tbs feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 coarsely grated carrot
1/2 tomato, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
Spread 2 slices of bread or the wrap with hummus. Top hummus all other ingredients and voila Wrapping this sandwich in wax paper instead of plastic wrap will prevent the bread from absorbing too much moisture and will keep the sandwich fresher.
30 ounces EDEN Garbanzo Beans, 2 cans, do not drain
1/4 cup organic roasted tahini (sesame butter)
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 Tbsp EDEN Umeboshi Paste, or to taste (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced and seeds strained out
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy, adjusting the consistency with a little cold water if needed.
Photos property of The Purple Turtle, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.