Picnic Pickings: 8 Recipes Ideal for Outdoor Dining

The sun is shining and a well-welcomed spring is finally arriving. With winter keeping us all within its cold clutches, it is officially time to get outside for any reason you can think of — and what is better than a spring or summer picnic? Bring out your baskets, roll up your blankets and tablecloths, and purchase your disposable cutlery and plates, because these eight recipes will have you heading for a picnic in the park ASAP.

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1. Curried Chicken Salad With Apples and Raisins

Spread this chicken salad from Cooking Light on crackers or put it on a whole-wheat sandwich. For the meat, you can prepared a grilled lemon chicken or make use of any leftovers you have.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped skinless, boneless, grilled lemon-herb chicken (about 4 ounces)
  • ¾ cup chopped Braeburn apple (about 1 small)
  • ⅓ cup diced celery
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Directions: Combine mayonnaise, curry powder, and water in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add the grilled lemon-herb chicken, chopped apple, celery, raisins, and salt; stir mixture well to combine. Cover and chill.

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2. Mango Blueberry Quinoa Salad

As Wendy Weston, founder of Perfect Picnic NYC, explained to Oprah, you want a grain-based salad for your picnic. “I see people picnic with lettuce salad all the time, and I’m like, ‘Guys, it’s baking in the sun.’ Wilted salad is a picnic catastrophe,” Weston said. If you do insist on leafy greens, Weston says to use kale. But that won’t be necessary if you make Dash of East‘s quinoa salad with mangos and blueberries. 

Ingredients:

Salad

  • ½ cup quinoa (washed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 mango cut into cubes
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 medium cucumber cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries

Dressing

  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon orange marmalade
  • 10 basil leaves chopped finely
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Boil the water in a medium skillet, then add the quinoa. Turn heat down to medium, cover the skillet, and let simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked. Remove from heat and let the quinoa cool to room temperature.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Combine the fruits and cucumber in a medium bowl. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients, except the basil.

When the quinoa has cooled, combine the basil with the dressing and mix half of the dressing into the quinoa. Combine the quinoa with the fruits and cucumber mixture and serve immediately with the rest of the dressing.

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3. Muffulettas

Muffulettas are fantastic fare for picnics because they can be made one to two days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. This means less prep work the day of the picnic, and you’ll have a sandwich made for cooler traveling. Depending on the size of your wedges, you’ll have six to eight servings with this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 10 large pitted green olives, chopped
  • ⅓ cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) round bread loaf (about 7 inches in diameter and 3 inches high)
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ham
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced mortadella
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced salami
  • 4 ounces sliced provolone
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1½ ounces arugula leaves

Directions: Whisk the first three ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Gradually blend in the oil. Stir in the olives and roasted peppers. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Cut the top 1 inch of the bread loaf. Set the top aside. Hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread some of the olive and roasted pepper mix over the bread bottom and cut side of the bread top. Layer the meats and cheeses in the bread bottom. Top with onions, then the arugula. Spread the remaining olive and roasted pepper mix on top of the sandwich and carefully cover with the bread top.

You can serve the sandwich immediately or you can wrap the entire sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator a day before serving. Cut the sandwich into wedges and serve.

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4. Avocado Wraps

For a vegetarian picnic option, try Edible Vegetable’s avocado warps. Wrap the tortillas around the fillings tightly, and then wrap everything up in plastic wrap to ensure nothing spills out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber, diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 cups washed spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 1 sliced avocado
  • 1 cup fresh plain hummus
  • optional: 4 ounces vegetarian goat cheese
  • 4 plain white flour tortillas
  • salt and course ground pepper to taste

Directions: Start by warming your tortillas in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Spread 1/4 cup of hummus over the entire tortilla. The hummus is your glue and will hold everything else together. Layer about 1/2 cup of the spinach leaves over half of the tortilla. Layer a quarter each of your chopped tomatoes and cucumbers down the empty side of the tortilla.

On top of the other veggies, layer one quarter of the sliced avocado. Crumble about one ounce of the goat cheese on top of all this. Sprinkle salt and coarse ground pepper to your taste preference. Wrap up and slice in half. Enjoy your healthy and filling yet creamy and delicious lunch.

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5. Crispy Chicken

Crispy chicken may not seem like the best offering, but this recipe from Taste of Home can be enjoyed hot or cold, so either way, you’ll have a delicious picnic dish that serves between four and six.

Ingredients:

  • 20 butter-flavored crackers, crushed
  • ⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3½ to 4 pounds), cut up

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the first six ingredients. Place the butter in a shallow bowl. Dip a few pieces of chicken at a time in butter, then place in bag; seal and shake to coat.Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes or until chicken is tender and juices run clear. Serve hot or chilled.

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6. Churro Chips

Keep the crunch factor going with these three-ingredient churro chips from Free Spirit Eater. A wok was used to fry the chips, but any heavy-bottomed pot or pan will work as well. It will need to hold more oil — about two inches — so keep this in mind when pouring oil in. Pack the chips in Tupperware so they do not break en route to your picnic destination.

Ingredients:

  • 2 flour or corn tortillas, sliced into eighths
  • cinnamon
  • sugar
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil

Directions: Place oil in a wok and turn up the heat to medium. Let the oil heat up for a couple of minutes; test the heat by adding a tiny pinch of a tortilla into it. If it immediately begins to bubble around it, the oil is ready. If the oil is beginning to emit smoke or the tortilla crumb turns brown or black immediately, lower your heat. You know your stove: some burners heat stronger than others. Trust yourself!

When oil is hot enough, place about 6-8 slices –just don’t overcrowd the pan. When bubbles begin to form on the top of the chips, gently check the bottom with tongs. You want to achieve a golden-brown exterior. When you’ve got a golden-brown color on the bottom, flip and fry until the other side is the same shade. Make sure you have a plate or tray with a few layers of paper towel to soak up the excess oil while the chips cool down.

As soon as the chips are removed, make sure to sprinkle them with a generous coating of sugar. Then shake a small amount of cinnamon on them, as well. Flip and season the other side. Let dry and slightly cool. Repeat directions with the remaining chips.

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7. Lemon Hand Pies

Skip the mess of cutting a pie by baking hand pies for your next picnic. Lemons for Lulu has an easy recipe for making mini lemon pies using refrigerated pie crust.

Ingredients:

Pie

  • 1 (14.1 package) refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Crust
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup lemon curd
  • ⅓ cup white chocolate chips
  • ⅛ teaspoon vegetable oil

Lemon curd

  • ¼ cup butter melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lemon zested
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Directions: In a bowl, combine sugar and eggs. Whisk in lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir in melted butter. Microwave lemon mixture for 1-minute stir. Continue to heat lemon mixture in 1-minute intervals until mixture begins to thicken and easily coats the back of a spoon. Refrigerate to set.

Meanwhile, bring pie crust to room temperature. Unroll one pie crust on a floured surface. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter or cup, cut crust into circles and place dough on a cookie tray. You should get about 10-12 circles. Repeat with remaining pie crust. Place trays of dough in the refrigerator to chill about for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare egg wash by lightly beating together the egg and the water. Remove dough from refrigerator and place a spoonful of lemon curd onto the center of one tray of dough. Brush edges with egg wash and place circles from second tray over each lemon topped pie. Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal the pies. Generously brush the tops of each pie with remaining egg wash. Using a paring knife, carefully cut three slits into the tops of each pie. Bake pies for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely.

In a small bowl, melt chocolate and vegetable oil together. Drizzle white chocolate over pies. Let set completely before storing.

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8. Gluten-Free Brownie Cookies

This recipe from Cookies or Biscuits ticks so many boxes that it would be wrong not to include it. The dessert is a cookie, a brownie, gluten-free, and appropriately portable for picnics. You’ll get about 24, depending on the size of your brownie-cookies.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the flours, flaxseed, cocoa, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and baking powder. Using a standing electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar by beating on medium-high for about 3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar mixture appears pale and creamy. Add the two eggs to the butter and sugar, mixing until they are combined.

Slowly add the flour by adding ¼ of the flour at a time, then mixing until the flour is combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Roll the dough into approximately 24 balls. Place each ball on the parchment paper, leaving about 1-2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies begin to crack. Allow the cookies to cool slightly, then transfer to a cooling rack.

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