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10 tips for a proper picnic

10 tips for a proper picnic

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When the weather is like this, everyone loves a picnic – however, some are better at organising them than others.

I have a reputation among my friends as being “the prepared one” when it comes to eating outside. Perhaps it’s just the nature of my job as a food stylist, but I’ve always had bits and bobs for all culinary occasions, and this is one of the secret to throwing a really great picnic.

One of the wedding gifts my husband and I received nearly three years ago was a super-cute picnic basket, lined with fabric and decorated with little buckles and a briefcase handle. It makes such a difference when preparing for an afternoon of outdoor dining.

It is really helpful to have something to make carrying and storing things easier – summer picnics should be about having fun and relaxing, not lugging loads of bags around! I have even been known to pack my leopard-print “granny trolley” and wheel it to the park – it looks ridiculous, but is the perfect way to transport a mass of goodies.

What you park yourselves on might seem inconsequential, but it can make a big difference, too. We have a beautiful yellow and red Brora rug that Ginny, head stylist in the food team, gave to me – it’s such a delight, and makes me smile every time we shake it open in our local park in Hackney to chill with friends, or just on our own after work.

Let’s be honest, though – the real difference between a good picnic and a half-baked one lies in what’s in the basket.

For me, standard picnic staples include a few essential items. It might sound geeky but as a couple we have become known for bringing these things, which everyone laughs about but secretly loves and uses, too. Often it’s more of a “What do we have in the fridge?” situation, but I always make the effort to have those extra little bits that really do make a difference:

1. A jam jar in which to make simple shaken salad dressings like balsamic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

2. Ice cubes in a Thermos flask, so you can chill your drinks as you go and not worry about them melting.

3. Wet wipes and bin bags. You never think you’ll need them, but you always do – picnics are messy!

4. Enamel plates – light, unbreakable and much more practical than paper ones. For a start, they don’t go soggy when you put dressed salad on them.

5. Chilled juice/wine/beer/cider (whatever is your tipple). Homemade flavoured water can be especially lovely, and won’t add much sugar to the meal.

6. A big bowl of hand-prepped mixed salad, ready to dress in situ.

7. Something a bit healthy – a tub of homemade houmous or yoghurt dip and chopped-up crudités – carrots, peppers, celery (whatever veg you have in the fridge).

8. A large tray of some sort of roasted veg with garlic, some herbs, salt, pepper and oil – usually butternut squash, beetroots etc (again, use whatever you have to hand).

9. A homemade slaw is a million miles better than shop-bought – fact. Check out Jamie’s slaw with these lovely chicken baps. For veggies, I just use what I have left in the fridge, so you don’t have to stick exactly to this.

10. If you’re super organised you can try to bake some sort of sweet treat – cakes for all diets, cheeky old-school tarts or naughty brownies always go down a treat and are easy to eat with your hands.

I hope this gives you a few ideas as to what to take to your next picnic and also a little insight into my world and how I do picnics…

Hamper images by Simon Mackenzie

101 Delicious Packable Recipes to Help You Plan the Perfect Picnic

Sunshine and fresh breeze make everything taste better, don't they?

Summer is finally here! Days are long, temps are warm, and we're rarin' to get outside and stay there as long as possible. We suggest gathering the fam for a picnic. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down (here are some of the best picnic blankets). If you can't make it to a park or a field, your yard, porch, or any flat surface with a little grass, some sun (or shade, if you prefer) will do! The important thing is that you enjoy the gorgeous weather and, of course, eat lots of tasty bites.

These picnic food ideas are not only delicious, but they&rsquore also going to make your life much easier. How so? Well, these picnic recipes take care of all the planning for you! So all you have to do is whip up these pleasing plates and enjoy the day with your family. If you&rsquore used to a boring spread at your summer picnics, prepare to be amazed by these recipes. Featuring creative summer dinner recipes, summer side dishes, easy summer desserts, and summer drink recipes, this list has you covered for every part of the picnic. Plus, these dishes will be enjoyed by both kids and adults (yes, even the picky eaters), so you won&rsquot have to worry about anyone leaving your gathering hungry. You&rsquoll wish it was summer all year long once you taste these seasonal meals. They&rsquore just too good not to whip up again and again!

Top 10 Picnic Foods

A picnic is a moveable feast, and being able to leave the table, television and fast food drive-through in your rearview mirror is one thing that makes an al fresco meal so special. If you're planning a walk to the park, afternoon on the beach or scenic drive, take along a few classic picnic foods that will satisfy your discriminating palate while celebrating the luxury of eating in the open air.

You probably remember potato salad fondly from picnics when you were a kid. Some newer versions of this American classic have a lighter base that won't pack on the pounds. If you want to transform your mom's recipe into something a little leaner, try using a low-fat mayo, or adding some fat-free sour cream as part of the oil requirement. Potato salad is a tasty side dish, and a lower-fat makeover will have everyone coming back for seconds.

  • Southwestern Potato Salad
  • Dill Potato-Ham Salad
  • Country Potato Salad
  • Little Red Potato Salad

Cold fried chicken served outdoors on a red checkered tablecloth is the essence of picnic nostalgia. If you want to make this traditional favorite, use a buttermilk batter. It'll give your breading authentic Southern flavor. For a lower-fat option, don't fry your chicken bake it instead. Just roll chicken pieces in seasonings and ground cornflakes. You'll end up with juicy faux-fried chicken with a great crunch and less fat.

  • Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken
  • Spicy Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken
  • Nutty Oven-Fried Chicken Drumsticks

To avoid bacterial contamination, you should always keep meats and mayonnaise-based dishes on ice before you serve your picnic meal.

No list of picnic specialties would be complete without the king of melons. Watermelon tastes refreshingly right when you cut and serve it outdoors. It's also easier to clean up and dispose of any seeds that way. Kids adore this simple approach, and taking a big bite out of a crescent shaped slice of watermelon is about as joyously basic as fruit-love gets. If you want a grown-up version that will satisfy your watermelon craving but spare your wardrobe, try chunking watermelon into a sedate salad or blending it into a smoothie. With watermelon, it's all good.

You probably remember those 1950s-style macaroni salad recipes that were swimming in mayo and smelled like pickles. Well, pasta salad has come a long way since then. Colorful and offering a distinctly international list of spices and ingredients, pasta salad can be a masterful meal all by itself. If you want to add some variety to your picnic, include a piquant pasta salad and discover a new family classic. We love the versions below, but don't hesitate to make them your own by adding your favorite olives, dressings and vegetables:

There are hundreds of different pasta shapes, and many go by more than one name. The shapes aren't arbitrary, either. The conventional name for bow tie pasta, farfalle, means butterflies. It's actually a great all-purpose pasta shape that works cold or hot and with thin soups or heavy sauces. Try it in your next pasta salad [source: National Pasta Association].

A sandwich makes for a tasty outdoor meal, but a picnic calls for something out of the ordinary. You can transform a simple sammy into something special by turning it into a wrap or roll-up.

Once you've created a rolled sandwich, cut it crosswise, and you have bite-sized pinwheels that look good and tastes great. Use soft flat breads like a lavash bread or flour tortillas to create the roll. To keep everything fresher, make the cross cuts at serving time. These recipes will show you why presentation makes all the difference:

  • Speedy Garden Roll-ups
  • Black Olive and Blue Cheese Bread Spirals
  • Chicken Tortilla Roll-Ups

5: Bread, Cheese and Cold Cuts

A French baguette, Italian bread or a Kaiser roll makes a delicious foundation for your favorite sliced meat and aged cheese. If you're thinking about a romantic repast under a shady and secluded tree, a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and a cold cut platter can be a simple and delicious way to get the ball rolling. How about a few slices of deli-thin rare roast beef with Muenster, or honey-ham with medium cheddar? If you're not sure about your companion's culinary tastes, an assortment of meats and quality cheeses is always a smart option.

You can make your own French bread baguette more easily than you think. Let your bread maker knead the dough form it yourself, and finish it off in the oven. The next time you want to be a whiz in the kitchen, indulge your inner baker the easy way.

50 Picnic Salads

Don't forget the sides! Round out your menu with these crowd-pleasers from Food Network Magazine.

Related To:


Pimiento Macaroni Salad (No. 2)

Pimiento Macaroni Salad (No. 2)

1. Classic Macaroni Salad Cook 1 pound macaroni drain and rinse. Mix 1/2 cup each sour cream and mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon each yellow mustard, cider vinegar and relish, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Toss with the pasta, 1 1/2 cups each diced ham and thawed frozen peas, and 1/2 chopped red onion. Top with dill.

2. Pimiento Macaroni Salad Cook 1 pound macaroni drain and rinse. Toss with 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar, 3/4 cup mayonnaise, one 8-ounce jar pimientos (drained and chopped), 4 chopped scallions and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne season with salt.

3. Grilled Vegetable–Pasta Salad Cook 1 pound fusilli drain and rinse. Grill 1 pound tomatoes, 2 quartered bell peppers and 1 sliced zucchini over medium-high heat until tender and charred, 15 to 20 minutes. Pulse in a food processor with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin until chopped. Toss with the pasta, and salt and pepper.

4. Broccoli-Cheddar Pasta Salad Cook 1 pound rotini, adding 4 cups broccoli to the water during the last 4 minutes drain and rinse. Toss with 2/3 cup diced smoked cheddar, 1 pound diced tomatoes, 1 minced shallot, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and salt and pepper.


5. Cold Peanut Noodles Cook 1 pound Chinese egg noodles drain and rinse. Whisk 1/2 cup peanut butter, 3 tablespoons each soy sauce, Sriracha and rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon each sesame oil and grated peeled ginger. Toss with the noodles, 1 each chopped red bell pepper and cucumber, and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro season with salt.

6. Soba Noodles with Edamame Cook 12 ounces soba noodles, adding 2 cups frozen shelled edamame to the water drain and rinse. Puree 2 chopped carrots with 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons each rice vinegar and chopped peeled ginger, and 2 teaspoons each sugar and minced shallot. Toss with the noodles and edamame season with salt.

7. Spinach-Pesto Pasta Salad Cook 1 pound farfalline drain and rinse. Puree 4 cups baby spinach, 2 cups each basil and parsley leaves, 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds and 3/4 cup olive oil. Toss with the pasta, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 cup grated parmesan season with salt.

8. Caponata Pasta Salad Cook 1 cup ditalini drain and rinse. Sauté 1 each diced eggplant, onion and fennel bulb, and 2 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil until tender season with salt and pepper. Let cool. Toss with the pasta, 1 chopped tomato, 1 cup torn basil, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.


9. Italian-Deli Pasta Salad Cook 1 pound penne drain and rinse. Mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 3 tablespoons each olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss with the pasta, one 16-ounce jar giardiniera (drained and chopped), 1 cup each diced provolone and salami, 1/4 cup each chopped parsley and basil, and salt and pepper.

10. Italian-Deli Bean Salad Make Italian-Deli Pasta Salad (No. 9), replacing the pasta with three 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (rinsed).


11. Three-Bean Salad Boil 1 pound each trimmed green and yellow beans until tender, about 7 minutes drain and rinse. Whisk 6 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon each dijon mustard and chopped tarragon. Toss with the beans, one 15-ounce can small red beans (rinsed), 1 sliced shallot, and salt and pepper.

12. Green Bean–Cucumber Salad Boil 1 1/2 pounds trimmed green beans until tender, about 7 minutes drain and rinse. Toss with 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 pint halved grape tomatoes, 1 sliced small English cucumber, 1 thinly sliced shallot, and salt and pepper.

13. Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Salad Cook 1 pound frozen black-eyed peas in simmering water, about 5 minutes drain. Toss with 1 diced red bell pepper, 1 cup diced ham, 1/2 cup chopped chives, 1/4 cup each olive oil, cider vinegar and chopped pickled jalapenos (plus 2 tablespoons brine), and salt and pepper.


14. Black Bean–Corn Salad Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons honey and the juice of 3 limes. Toss with two 15-ounce cans black beans (rinsed), 1 cup thawed frozen corn,1 diced bell pepper, 1 bunch chopped scallions, 1/2 cup cilantro, and salt and pepper. Add 1 diced avocado.

15. Southwestern Rice Salad Cook 1 1/2 cups rice with 1 teaspoon each chili powder and cumin in 3 cups simmering water, covered, about 18 minutes let cool. Toss with one 15-ounce can red beans (rinsed), 1/2 sliced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 minced jalapeño, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt and pepper.


16. Pecan Rice Salad Cook 2 cups brown rice in 4 cups simmering water, covered, 45 to 50 minutes, adding 1 cup chopped green beans during the last 5 minutes. Let cool. Toss with 1 cup each chopped mixed herbs and salted roasted pecans, 1/3 cup olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper.

17. Asparagus-Quinoa Salad Cook 1 1/2 cups quinoa in 3 1/2 cups simmering water, covered, about 15 minutes let cool. Boil 1 cup frozen lima beans, covered, about 11 minutes, adding 1 bunch sliced asparagus to the water during the last 3 minutes rinse. Toss with the quinoa, 1/4 cup each chopped mint and olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper.


18. Citrus Quinoa Salad Cook 1 1/2 cups quinoa in 3 1/2 cups simmering water, covered, about 15 minutes let cool. Toss with 1 bunch chopped scallions, 1 sliced fennel bulb, the segments from 1 orange, 1/4 cup each olive oil and orange juice, and salt and pepper. Top with fennel fronds.

19. Tabouli Cook 1 cup bulgur in 2 cups simmering water, covered, about 20 minutes let cool. Toss with 5 bunches chopped parsley, 2 cups shredded romaine, 3 diced plum tomatoes, 4 finely chopped scallions, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup each lemon juice and chopped mint season with salt.


Cauliflower Tabouli (No. 20)

20. Cauliflower Tabouli Make Tabouli (No. 19), replacing the bulgur with 1 grated head raw cauliflower. Use 2 bunches parsley.

21. Curried Couscous Salad Combine 2 cups each couscous and simmering water, 1/2 cup each golden raisins and diced dried apricots, and 1 teaspoon each curry powder and kosher salt cover and let sit 10 minutes. Let cool. Toss with 1 cup chopped parsley, 1/2 cup each chopped toasted pistachios and slivered almonds, 1/4 cup each mango chutney and olive oil, and the juice of 2 oranges.

22. Moroccan Couscous Salad Combine 1 1/2 cups couscous, 3/4 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon and kosher salt, and 1 1/2 cups simmering water cover and let sit 10 minutes. Let cool. Boil 1 pound sliced carrots, 4 minutes drain. Toss with the couscous, one 15-ounce can chickpeas (rinsed), 1/4 cup each chopped green olives, cilantro and olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper.

23. Mushroom-Barley Salad Cook 2 cups pearl barley in 6 cups simmering water, covered, about 45 minutes let cool. Toss with 8 ounces each quartered cherry tomatoes and sliced cremini mushrooms, 1/4 cup each chopped parsley and olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

24. Farro–Brussels Sprout Salad Cook 2 cups farro in 8 cups simmering water, stirring occasionally, 40 minutes drain and let cool. Toss with 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts, 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, 1/2 sliced red onion, 1/2 cup olive oil, the zest and juice of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper.

25. Grilled Vegetable–Bulgur Salad Cook 1 cup bulgur in 2 cups simmering water, covered, about 20 minutes let cool. Toss 1 each sliced zucchini and bell pepper, and 1/2 each sliced eggplant and red onion with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat, flipping, until tender, 8 minutes. Toss with the bulgur, 1/2 cup each chopped parsley and crumbled feta, 1/4 cup each red wine vinegar and olive oil, and salt and pepper.

26. Lentil Salad Cook 2 cups French lentils in 6 cups simmering water, about 25 minutes let cool. Whisk 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 grated garlic clove, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander. Toss with the lentils, 1 diced red bell pepper, 1/2 diced red onion, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and salt and pepper.

The best picnic recipes include:

Foods that can be served at room temperature. Camille made it clear in the hospitality days that room temperature could serve much more food than we thought. He said things like grains, roasted vegetables, roasted salmon and chicken, all of which we would normally think are hot dishes, work perfectly even at room temperature.

Food that travels well. Camille recommends gathering as much as possible in private containers that way, food won’t spill into your sack bag or picnic basket. Grain salads and light summer pasta can go perfectly together such vessels easy to clean.

Non-wet food. The key to this, according to Camille, is to know what to pack separately and assemble it. If you’ve made a green leafy salad, bring it to the beauty salon next door and toss it on arrival. The same goes for sandwich ingredients. Camille usually brings stuffing and bread and everyone lets her assemble her sandwich when she arrives.

6 classic recipes for a picnic potluck

Deirdre was invited to a picnic. Deirdre went to the grocery store and bought a plastic tub of potato salad. Everyone else brought homemade food and regarded Deirdre with barely concealed contempt.

It’s picnic season again. Even people who are not good cooks can take this opportunity to avoid embarrassment by making their own dishes for the occasion.

I’m not talking about anything fancy or difficult. It doesn’t have to impress. All your friends and family will be appreciative if it just comes from your own hands.

Let’s stick with the basics, the simple staples that are welcomed at every picnic and potluck: potato salad, coleslaw, pasta salad, egg salad and chicken salad.

OK, let’s get just a little fancy. We’ll make an ordinary American chicken salad and also a curried chicken salad.

What all of these recipes have in common is mayonnaise. None of them has a lot of it — too much mayo can detract from the main ingredient of the salad — but each has just enough to build flavors from a creamy, smooth base.


3 lbs. red potatoes (10 medium), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

3/4 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. minced sweet pickles

1 T. Dijon mustard

2 ribs celery, chopped fine

4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped coarse

3 T. minced red onion

3 T. minced fresh parsley

Bring the potatoes and 4 quarts water to a simmer in a large pot and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Gently toss the warm potatoes with the vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the mayonnaise, pickles and mustard. Toss the chilled potatoes with the mayonnaise mixture, celery, eggs, onion and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

(Recipe from “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.”)

Classic Egg Salad, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


1 rib celery, chopped fine

1/2 c. mayonnaise

3 T. minced red onion

2 T. minced fresh parsley

1 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped coarse, see note

Note: Do not chop the eggs too fine or they will disintegrate in the salad.

Mix the celery, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper together in a large bowl. Gently fold in the eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

Can be prepared up to 1 day in advance and freshened with a spoonful of mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice.

(Recipe from “The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.”)

Creamy New York Deli Coleslaw, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


1 head red or green cabbage (2 lbs.), cored and shredded (12 to 14 c.)

1/2 t. caraway seeds

1/2 c. mayonnaise

2 T. white vinegar

1 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. granulated sugar

2 carrots, peeled, seeded and grated

1 small onion, minced

Toss the cabbage with 1 teaspoon salt and allow to sit in a colander for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Meanwhile, toast caraway seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Rinse the cabbage, then thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Whisk the toasted caraway seeds, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar and 1/4 teaspon pepper together in a bowl large enough to hold the salad.

Add the cabbage, carrots and onions, and toss. Chill at least 1 hour before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Can be prepared up to 1 day in advance and freshened with a spoonful of mayonnaise and a dash of vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

(Recipe from “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.”)

Pasta Salad with Black Olives and Feta, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


1 T. plus 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 lb. pasta, small tubes or shells

1 c. crumbled feta cheese

3/4 c. kalamata olives

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 large red onion, diced

3 small (pickling) cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

2 bunches oregano, leaves only, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set aside.

Bring 1 gallon water to a rolling boil in a large stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the 2 tablespoons of salt and pasta and cook until al dente, according to the directions on the package. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well and transfer to another bowl, and toss with the remaining 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil.

Mix all the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Toss with pasta, adjust seasonings and serve. Makes 8 servings.

(Adapted from “City Cuisine” by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.)

Classic Chicken Salad, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


1 3/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

2 ribs celery, chopped fine

3/4 c. mayonnaise

2 green onions, minced

2 T. lemon juice

2 T. minced fresh parsley

1/2 T. chopped fresh tarragon or 1 T. chopped basil, optional

Put enough water in a frying pan to just cover the chicken and heat on high until it simmers. Add chicken and gently simmer until done, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts. Cut into thickest part of the chicken to determine doneness.

Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.

Cut the chicken into 1/4-inch pieces and toss with mayonnaise mixture. Makes 6 servings.

Can be made 1 day in advance to freshen, add a tablespoon of mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice.

(Adapted from “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.”)

Curried Chicken Salad, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)


1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast

Salt and pepper

1/2 c. sliced almonds

1/2 c. mayonnaise

2 T. fresh lemon juice

2 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. curry powder

2 ribs celery, chopped fine

1 c. seedless red or green grapes, halved

1 c. apple, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

4 green onions, sliced thin

2 T. minced fresh parsley

Put enough water in a frying pan to just cover the chicken and heat on high until it simmers. Add chicken and cook at a gentle simmer until done, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the breasts. Cut into thickest part of chicken to determine doneness.

Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes set aside. Mix together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and refrigerate until needed.

Cut the chilled chicken into 1/4-inch pieces and toss with the mayonnaise mixture, celery, grapes, apples, green onions and parsley. If serving within 2 hours, stir in almonds now otherwise stir in almonds just before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Can be prepared up to 1 day in advance and freshened with a spoonful of mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Tips for a Socially Distanced Picnic

My husband, sons and I have been able to have outdoor meals with my mom on a few occasions. And now we’re practiced and ready to have an open-air get togethers with some friends. Here’s how to do it.

Determine an outdoor spot to have your picnic.

Pick a place that you don’t think many others will choose. If any of you live someplace with a backyard, that’s perfect. If you are worried about other people being there, maybe pick a less-popular time of day. An alfresco breakfast might get you the seclusion you need.

Have a plain-talk conversation beforehand.

Everyone involved has to understand that a minimum of 6 (or better yet 10) feet between each person at all times is non-negotiable. This may need repeating to young children, and frankly may need repeating to some adults who might have a hard time resisting reaching out for a much-wanted hug. Remind everyone that something is better than nothing, and safety is the utmost priority.

Plan a menu.

Keep the food very simple. You are there to see each other in person, and that’s the most essential thing. Having said that, think about spring picnic food: portable, sturdy, and supremely un-fancy. Some of my favorite things to prepare are bean salads grain salads green salads sandwiches quiches pasta salads slaws chicken, egg, or salmon salads, and mixed vegetable salads.

This is super important: if you are cooking for everyone involved, make sure to be extremely careful when preparing the food.

Wash hands thoroughly and often, wear a mask and gloves when handling the food.

Pack the food that the people in your home will be eating in one set of containers, and if you are packing some food for your friends, pack that in another set of containers. Place the containers in separate picnic baskets or bags (wipe down all of the containers and bags, and then use fresh gloves to carry it to the picnic). Place the appropriate amount of disposable plates, utensils, serving utensils, napkins, beverages, cups, etc. in each bag, all sealed in another plastic bag.

Or, you can decide to bring food just for the people who live in your house, and ask your friends to prepare their own meal. Less festive and communal, but super safe.

Bring a garbage bag and put on a fresh pair of gloves to clean everything up.

Let your everyone clean up their own stuff!

Wear masks, wear gloves, and don’t go inside!

Without being graphic, figure out how you are going to handle bathroom needs, and bring lots of hand sanitizer. Make sure your picnic mates have the proper protection on as well.

Picnic Seating

Be considerate when arranging seating. If you are a family group having a picnic with a single person, try not to sit in a group of four with your friend 6 feet off to the side then everyone should sit six plus feet apart, so it feels like you’re on an even playing field of sorts.

Think about some socially distanced games.

Scattegories is one that we play often, sometimes on Zoom, and during our together-apart get-togethers. You can simply text a photo of the card with the list of categories. Charades is another good one for social distancing.

All of this would have sounded like crazy overkill just months ago, but now it’s the price of safe gathering, and keeping everyone safe. Worth it? Worth it.

A Picnic Basket, Hamper, Tote, Cooler, or Backpack

Whichever style you choose and whatever you call it, you need something to transport the food, the drinks, and the place settings. If your picnic food isn't perishable and you will be driving your car close to the picnic location, a traditional picnic hamper will be charming. If you plan to hike deep into the woods, a backpack-style picnic carrier may be more appropriate. And if you're bringing along a lot of food and beverages that should remain cold until served, a cooler may be best suited for your needs.

Pack Your Picnic Basket Like a Pro: Essential Gadgets for Your Next Outing

A longtime cook and baker, Donna Currie has written equipment reviews and bread recipes for Serious Eats. She's also the author of the cookbook Make Ahead Bread.

A picnic sounds like an easy-breezy sort of affair—just put some food in a basket, go to a local park, and enjoy a perfect meal outdoors. But packing for a picnic isn't quite as easy as making lunch to eat at home, because, let's face it: how many times have you gotten up from the table because you forgot a serving spoon or you dropped a fork and needed clean one? Or after one bite of the sandwich, you decided that you wanted a pickle or some chips? Or you forgot the mustard?

Unless you're picnicking in your own back yard, once you arrive at your destination, what you have is all you've got. That lovely bottle of wine won't get opened if you don't have a corkscrew.

A little strategic planning and some key gadgets can minimize the annoyances and make the picnic seem effortless.

Pick Out the Right Picnic Basket

A picnic basket doesn't need to be wicker. Or basket-shaped. There are a variety of basket styles available to fit your lifestyle and your picnic needs. Are you packing for two or four? Are you traveling by foot, bike, or car? Is this date-night supper, or a quick lunch in the park across from the office?

You can buy a backpack designed especially for picnicking. It comes complete with dishes, wine glasses, metal utensils, napkins, cutting board, serrated knife, corkscrew, and tiny salt and pepper shakers. Insulated storage for food is in a separate compartment, and detachable wine storage and a picnic blanket complete the set—and you can get the backpack monogrammed, as well. The backpack basket is great if you're doing a little hiking to your picnic space, whether that hiking is urban or back-country trails. Or, perhaps for a short bike ride. But since space (and weight) is limited to what makes sense to carry on your back, they're probably best for wine, cheese, and nibbles, or for a few sandwiches and a few sides, rather than a huge spread.

Wicker baskets evoke that old-timey picnic vibe. From Bambeco, the picnic basket for two includes bamboo plates and utensils, embroidered napkins, wine glasses, and a cutting board. Since the interior is roomy, this sort of basket is well suited for a larger and more varied array of picnic goods.

Keep Your Cool: How to Keep Your Food Cold

When it comes to food storage, we probably all know the mantra that heat rises and cold sinks, so for best preservation of chilled foods, it makes some sense to have the ice packs on top (if you're using them, but more on that in a bit). But there's another logic involved. Put the foods you'll want first on top, and leave dessert on the bottom. You'll conserve more chill by having the basket open for less time.

While freezer packs are useful, I found that using a freezable sports bottle filled with water worked just as well, and I had that extra supply of cold water at the picnic as the ice melted. I didn't fill the bottle completely before freezing, since I didn't want it to burst in the freezer, and it was the last thing to go into the basket when it was packed. They definitely cold enough for a quick trip to a nearby park for lunch.

Another option for chilling that serves double duty is the Rapid Ice Cooler from Vacu Vin. Actually, there are a variety of these sleeves, designed to fit cans and bottles to chill them and keep them cool. You can wrap them around your containers before putting them in the basket (which has the added benefit of cushioning them, if you happen to be bringing glass) or you can lay the coolers on top of the basket for travel and let people insulate their beverages as they're drinking. You can also use them to keep foods chilled, if you have them packed in containers of the right size.

Tips for Serving

One thing to keep in mind is that your chosen picnic spot might not be close to running water, so if you drop your serving spoon in the grass, maybe you'd rather grab a clean spoon instead of trying clean the dirty one.

In fact, I suggest bringing along plenty of extra utensils. They don't take much space, and for serving spoons and random cutlery, you don't need to go all-out with high-end equipment. A visit to a local thrift store will probably supply you with a big handful of unmatched and interesting flatware and serving spoons for cheap. When the picnic is over, wash them, put them in a plastic bag, and store them in the basket so you're ready to go next time.

Speaking of cutlery, bring along a few extra knives, as well. You don't need your best equipment, but I'd suggest something better than a butter knife. A knife that comes with its own sheath is a good idea, like the red utility knife from Good Cook or the Oni knife from Dreamfarm that's designed for cutting with one edge and easy spreading with the other. A divot in the handle has a tiny sharp edge for cutting—like when you're wrestling with one of those chip bags that just doesn't want to open.

A few small cutting boards can come in handy, too. Remember, you might not have a good way to rinse your used boards, so it might be handier to bring a few extras. While I love small flexible cutting mats, you might be working on a bumpy surface at the picnic area, so a solid board might be a better choice. The "small plates" boards from J.K. Adams are small enough to fit into your basket and the designs are pretty enough to use them as serving boards for your cheese—you did think about serving that cheese, right?

For the wine and cheese basket, don't forget the toothpicks! I packed cheese, olives, and some pickled items, none of which really required plates or utensils to nibble, but toothpicks are certainly more civilized than poking in the olive container with your fingers. Buy a little toothpick dispenser and keep it in the picnic basket.

While the picnic baskets I mentioned came with their own napkins, some extras in a dispenser that will keep them from blowing away is a good idea. After the picnic, leave it in the basket or use it for back yard dining. The Simply Roll napkin holder from OXO is a good choice.

Many of the baskets on the market come in 2-person and 4-person versions. Even if you think your picnics will only involve two people, the 4-person version might be a good choice, since you'll get extra plates and utensils that can be used for serving, and you won't need to pack up as many extras.

Planning the Menu

Recently, I conducted a completely unscientific poll and found that there were three distinct picnic menus. First is the comfort food version with cold fried chicken and potato salad. Second is the wine and cheese picnic. Third is sandwiches. My personal preference is probably based on my early infatuation with Aunt Bea's fried chicken packed in a wicker basket for Sheriff Andy. But I would never turn down wine, cheese, and nibbles.

I have a tendency to put way too much food on the table for dinner at home, but that's fine because leftovers are easy to pack and store. At a picnic, that's not necessarily the case. No matter how well chilled your food was when it arrived, it's probably going to be edging towards warm if it's been out of the basket for serving. Are you really going to pack that food up and put it in the refrigerator to serve another day? Some things, yes. The potato salad, probably not.

OXO's LockTop containers come in a variety of sizes, and the 4-ounce container was perfect for a single serving of cole slaw—no need to dish it out—just pop the top and eat. If you think someone will want a second serving, just bring extras in those small containers and keep them chilly in the basket.

A larger LockTop container was great for the chicken and a divided container kept vegetables and olives from getting to know each other too well.

While it's perfectly fine to pick up olives, hummus, and pickled vegetables from the olive bar at the grocery store, don't be tempted to use those containers for your picnic. I've had those flimsy plastic containers open and spill into my grocery bag, and that's not something you want to deal with at a picnic.

Besides, if you're packing munchies for your wine and cheese basket, you'll probably want a small amount of many things, rather than a vat of hummus and a quart of cornichons. And think about how fun it will be to unpack and nibble on a whole array of small portions, while you slice your cheese and sip your wine.

I used an assortment of containers, including colorful Veggie Savers from Mastrad for the fruit I brought for dessert. To go with the wine-and-cheese basket, star fruit in a bright purple container looked great.

Storing and Serving the Drinks

Remember that ice water in a sports bottle? I suggest bringing extra water or other beverages besides the wine. On a hot, sunny day, you might find yourself wanting to chug a whole lot of cold drinks. The PureFizz soda maker lets you bring your own carbonated water, flavored or not, and the Bormioli Rocco bottles are a beautiful way to carry your homemade lemonade or iced tea.

How about extra glasses? Both of the picnic baskets I used, and others that I looked at, included wine glasses, and you can refill them with lemonade or iced tea, but why not pack a couple extra glasses? Duralex glasses are durable enough to travel, and you can use them for serving that fruit salad you brought, just in case it's too messy to put on flat plates. If you're going to be sitting on the ground rather than at a picnic table, you might find that lightweight wine glasses are a little unstable on uneven ground, where the tumblers are less likely to, well. tumble over.

Sandwich Serving Tips

For sandwich packing, there are two options. The pressed sandwich would be fine wrapped in foil and stashed in a plastic bag to thwart leakage, but the Compleat FoodSkin offers another option. It stretches and molds around the food inside, keeping it snug.

For the make-your-own sandwich, sturdy plastic sandwich containers house bread nicely—one sandwich at a time—and meats, cheeses, and condiments could be stored separately, to avoid the dreaded soggy sandwich issue.

Then we have condiments. Depending on what you're serving, you might want mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, hot sauce, ranch dressing, oil and vinegar dressing, but you're only going to use small amounts. Rather than bringing a whole bottle, consider repacking, and then consider easy serving.

The travel bottle from Swissmar is designed to hold 3 ounces of liquid, and it's great for ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise on a picnic. For dressings and sauces that are more pourable, the small salad dressing shaker from OXO holds 8 ounces and has a pour spout.

If you want hot coffee with your meal, forget about carrying it in your picnic basket. Use an insulated bottle or travel mug and carry it separately. The same can be said about that hot German potato salad or the baked beans that you want to serve with your sandwiches, which you can store separately in insulated containers in bowl shapes.

Some Extras You Shouldn't Forget

If you'll be sitting on the ground, don't forget a blanket. The blue checked blanket (from Target not online) folds and zips to form a pillow with a carrying handle, and if you forgot one last thing, you can shove it into the zipped blanket for easy carrying.

Any blanket will do, really, but keep in mind that the ground might be damp. Bring a thick blanket, one with a waterproof underside (like the blanket that came with the backpack) or a combination of a waterproof ground cover (a plastic tablecloth or drop cloth are fine) along with your own festive blanket.

Don't forget to bring chips or crackers to go with the cheese, salsa and dips. They're lightweight, but bulky. It would be ideal if you could fit absolutely everything into the basket . but really, why stress? It's not like luggage. You won't get charged extra for bringing another bag. Any sturdy tote bag will do, since we're not worried about insulation.

While chips come in their own handy storage container to bring to the picnic, think about how you'll take them home without spillage. Bring bag clips. Not only do they seal your bags, but you can clip one to the corner of your napkin to keep it from floating away on a breeze.

Speaking of snacking, if you're bringing a little friend along who won't be partaking in the main event, whether a toddler or four-footed pal, bring something a special. Snickers was amused by this shark container designed for kids's snacks.

Now that you've committed to bringing a tote bag for the chips, a roll of paper towels might come in handy if things get really messy. And it's not like they're heavy to carry. Toss a pack of Wet Naps in the bag, too, if you tend to get messy.

Bring along a trash bag or two, for easy cleanup when the picnic is done. Remember that running water that might not be nearby? Well, after the picnic you've got a collection of dirty plates, utensils, and probably some now-empty storage containers. Do you really want them dripping into your basket? Collect them and put them in a trash bag (or other reasonably large bag) to keep your basket clean, and not make a mess of the storage containers that will be heading back to your refrigerator after the picnic.

Remember those chunks of cheese that came wrapped from the store? It made sense to slice and serve at the picnic, but now that the wrapper is ripped, how are you going to bring them home? Bring a few plastic zip-top bags. They take no space to carry and you might find other uses for them as well, like carting off the chicken bones when you realize there's no trash bin nearby.

If you drove to the picnic, there's one last thing you might bring, but leave it in the car: a plastic gallon jug of water. Sure, many picnic areas have running water, but what if it's not available? That jug will come in handy to wash sticky hands or rinse muddy feet, if need be.

And now you can pack up the car and go home.

Disclaimer: Some samples were provided to Serious Eats other products belonged to the author.

Picnic sandwiches and wraps

Our sandwich recipes are easy to follow, we have cut muffuletta and focaccia into squares so they're portable.

The Cubano sandwich

Take a look at this golden and crisp sandwich idea from the US which uses Cuban mojo pork and is oozing with Swiss cheese. It takes a while to make, but it's a great picnic idea in the summer. Check out our best sandwich recipes here.

Coronation chicken

For your next picnic, ma ke brilliant use of leftover roast chicken with this classic sandwich filling, great as a creamy filling for sarnies and jacket potatoes as it is for spooning into crisp lettuce leaves or over salads .

Muffuletta squares

This New Orleans muffuletta looks and tastes great, the zingy olive salad layer really makes this sandwich. Just cut into squares before packing up you're picnic and you'll be good to go.

Italian picnic loaf

Our door-wedge sandwich idea is simple and quick to make. Simply stuff ciabatta bread with an olive salad, salami, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and you've got the perfect picnic loaf.

Black bean crunch wraps

Looking for a vegetarian picnic wrap? Try our toasted crunch wraps with black beans, crunchy tortilla chips and avocado. Wrap in foil and take on your next picnic.

Salt beef and Swiss bagel melts

Our easy picnic bagel recipe is packed with a delicious combination of salt beef, melting Swiss cheese, gherkins and a generous dollop of sweet American mustard.

Stuffed focaccia

Stuff a classic Italian bread with mozzarella cheese and antipasti for an instant crowd-pleaser at your next picnic with friends. Learn to make this delicious bread recipe with our easy step-by-step guide. Many more bread recipes here.

Vegan burrito with black beans

A colourful, vegan burrito recipe, rammed with tomatoes, black beans, sweetcorn, lime, coriander, avocado and red chilli. This is a super quick picnic idea and can be ready to eat in just 30 minutes.

2. Be Specific About Ingredient Measurements and Forms

If I were writing a recipe for my Grandma Ellie, one of the most accomplished cooks I’ve ever known, I could safely substitute a “pinch” for 1/8 teaspoon or a “handful” for 1/3 cup. In fact, when Ellie wrote her recipes, that’s how she wrote her measurements. But this kind of provincial measuring system won’t help a reader who didn’t grow up in Ellie’s kitchen, a reader who wants to make the delicious dish you are promising.

You can see from my initial notes that I recorded precise measures as my beef stew came together. Different forms of the same food occupy different volumes depending on whether they are whole, coarsely chopped, finely diced, fresh, cooked, or liquefied. A carrot cut into 1/2-inch rounds will occupy less volume than if cut into 1-inch rounds. In other words, be specific about the form of the food to be measured. Again, make these notes on that working kitchen draft, as you prepare your original recipe.


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