How to Plan a Picnic: Menus, Recipes, and Packing Tips

Updated on August 4, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

"The Picnic", Thomas Cole
"The Picnic", Thomas Cole | Source

Picnic [pik-nik] noun

1. an excursion or outing in which the participants carry home made food with them and share a lovely meal in the open air.

2. fast (take-out) food consumed at a park. The food is predictable, substandard and boring.

Guess which one is my choice?

How It All Began

Although cavemen no doubt ate outdoors, their repast was hardly what one might deem a "picnic." (Could you relax knowing that a man-eating beast might be lurking behind the very next rock?)

Originally, the term picnic (piquenique in French) was the term used for the foods assembled at a social gathering rather than the gathering itself. Each invitee was expected to contribute something to the function. However, over time, the meaning of the word shifted to punctuate the alfresco element of the meal.

What Constitutes a Perfect Picnic?

There is no single plan for the "perfect picnic." This is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and that is why I am writing. Picnics can be as easy or as complicated as you want them to be. What is key is the planning. Here are the things you should keep in mind:

Packing Tips

Getting There:

  • Every picnic requires utensils: plates, eating implements, etc. A spur-of-the-moment picnic can be done with paper plates and plastic spoons and forks. A more romantic or formal (planned) meal might utilize real plates and silverware.
  • Tablecloth or blanket--even if there is a picnic table, you will want to cover it so that you are eating on a clean surface.

Being There:

  • Food safety: unless you will consume everything that you bring with you, consider packing foods that are less perishable. Mayonnaise-laden potato salads and fried chicken are not safe if left un-refrigerated for more than 2 hours.

Leaving There:

  • Clean-up: Have available wet-wipes to clean sticky fingers.
  • Trash bags: Never leave a mess for someone else to deal with. If you carted it in, you should cart it out.

Breakfast/Brunch Menu and Recipes

fresh strawberries
fresh strawberries | Source


  • Strawberries Balsamic (below)
  • Sliced smoked ham or smoked turkey
  • Caramelized onion tart (below)
  • Champagne or other sparkling wine

Strawberries Balsamic Ingredients:

  • 2 pints strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions:

Toss all ingredients in bowl. Cover and let stand 1 hour before serving.

Caramelized Onion Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound cipollini, vertically sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 of a 14-oz. pkg. refrigerated pie dough
  • 1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Peel the onions. Using a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor, thinly slice the yellow and red onions. Slice the cipollini with a sharp knife. Line a baking sheet with paper towels; place the onions on the paper towels, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes to remove some of the excess moisture. (Did you know that onions are 89 percent water?)
  3. Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Place the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally about 20 minutes or until the onions are softened and begin to turn golden brown. Don't hurry the process by turning up the heat--the onions will burn and taste bitter. You want them to caramelize.
  4. Line a 10-inch tart pan with the pie dough.
  5. Sprinkle feta cheese on the pastry, followed by the parmesan and gorgonzola cheeses. Top with the onion mixture. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool for 10 minutes.

Romantic Meal for Two Menu and Recipes

asparagus
asparagus
  • Asparagus, Parmesan and Prosciutto Bundles (recipe below)
  • Fresh baguette
  • skewers of grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, zucchini chunks
  • Dark Chocolate Salted Brownies
  • Sauvignon Blanc or any other fruity (non-oaked) wine

Asparagus, Parmesan, and Prosciutto Bundles Ingredients

  • 6 thin asparagus spears
  • 6 slices of prosciutto
  • About 1.5 ounces of Parmesan cut into sticks 3 inches long x ½ inch thick

Instructions:

  1. Snap the tough ends from each asparagus spear. Cook in boiling, salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately plunge into ice water. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Cut each spear in half (one half will contain the tip and the other half will contain the bottom of the spear).
  3. Lay prosciutto slices in single layer on work surface. Place one asparagus tip and one asparagus bottom crosswise near the short end of each slice of prosciutto. Place one cheese stick on top of each pair of asparagus spears. Roll up prosciutto to enclose asparagus and cheese. Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Vegetarian Feast (Menu and Recipes)

tabbouleh salad
tabbouleh salad | Source

Tabbouleh Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained

Instructions:

  1. Combine bulgur wheat and boiling water in large mixing bowl. Let stand for 15-20 minutes, or until all water us absorbed.
  2. Stir in the salt, lemon juice, garlic, scallions, and olive oil. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate 2-3 hours.
  3. Just before serving stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

"With the Kids" Menu and Recipes

trail mix
trail mix | Source
  • Homemade trail mix (any combination of pretzels, dried fruits, nuts, dry cereal)
  • Fresh fruit kabobs made with grapes and melon chunks
  • Turkey sandwiches (oatmeal bread, sliced deli turkey, dried cranberries, cream cheese)
  • Homemade or store-bought cookies

A Grown-Up Gathering (Menu and Recipes)

"When Harry Met Sally" Cake
"When Harry Met Sally" Cake

Provolone Terrine Ingredients:

  • 1/2 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 lb. provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • garlic cream sauce (recipe below)

Garlic Cream Sauce Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts

Combine cream cheese, butter, and garlic in bowl of food processor. Blend until combined and smooth. Stir in nuts.

Instructions:

  1. Line a 4x8-inch loaf pan with dampened cheesecloth (soak the cloth and then wring out).
  2. Cut provolone slices in half. Slightly overlapping slices, cover bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the loaf pan (use about 1/2 of the cheese). Divide the remaining half of the cheese into 3 equal portions and set aside.

Now, begin layering as follows:

  • Spread one-half of the pesto over the provolone in the pan.
  • Cover pesto with 1/3 of the remaining provolone.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 of the tomatoes
  • Spread garlic cream over the tomatoes
  • Sprinkle remaining tomatoes over the garlic cream
  • Cover with the 2nd third of provolone
  • Spread remaining pesto over the provolone
  • Lay remaining provolone over the pesto.

Fold cheesecloth over the loaf; press gently with your hands to compact.

Chill about 2 hours. Fold back cloth, invert on serving plate and unmold. Remove cheesecloth. Serve with toasted baguette or crackers.

Wild Rice Spinach Salad

Ingredients and Instructions for the Salad

  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 slices turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 cup smoked turkey breast from the deli, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  1. Squeeze as much water as possible from the thawed spinach.
  2. Mix the spinach and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Ingredients for the Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

So, Let's Recap

Here is a table showing all of the suggested dishes in today's menus. The items for which I have given recipes are in bold type. I hope you will feel free to pick and choose from the columns to create your own perfect picnic meal.

Menu
Main Dish #1
Main Dish #2 or Salad
Dessert
Brunch
Onion tart
deli ham or turkey
strawberries balsamic
Romantic
Asparagus Bundles
fresh veg.
dark chocolate salted brownies
Vegetarian
Tabbouleh salad
 
carrot cake
Kids
turkey sandwiches
fruit kabobs
cookies
Grown-Ups
provolone terrine
rice spinach salad
chocolate cake

Do you think you might try one of these picnic menus?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Linda Lum

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Bravewarrior - It was a fun list to put together. I hope you find an opportunity to put together a picnic meal and use some of these recipes.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        2 years ago from Central Florida

        I haven't been on a picnic in forever! These all sound delicious and perfect for a summer meal in the backyard - or the beach, or wherever....

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, happy Friday to you as well, although today does NOT look like "picnic" weather, does it? The history lesson? I would have written more, but sometimes you just have to get down to business and write about food.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I always love that you give us a little history lesson. The French? Well bully for them!!!

        Thanks, Linda, and Happy Friday to you!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Good morning Eric. My favorite thing in all of these is the tabbouleh salad. It has a bright refreshing taste (from the lemon juice) and it is quite filling. And, if you are a chocolate lover (I honestly don't understand those who are not--what a sad existence), you must at some point in time bake the dark chocolate salted brownies.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Oh my this sure beats granola trail mix, carrots and an apple. I either hike in a few miles or picnic at the beach. Some of these could work for both. Really fun read. As always you make me hungry.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        2 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Hi Jackie - Haven't heard from you for a while. So happy you came by. I LOVE to cook, and I love to share my food with those I love. The only thing that (I think) can make that better is enjoying this food outdoors.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        2 years ago from The Beautiful South

        Yum, yum, would love to go on your picnic! Been awhile, sure sounds like fun.

        Sharing!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, delishably.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://delishably.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)