Planning the Perfect Picnic

A picnic is always a good idea! Whether you are packing a basket to take to the beach, a hamper for your next fishing adventure, a romantic gourmet lunch to enjoy on a road trip, nibbles to accompany that outdoor movie or sustenance to take along to a sporting event—a little planning can ensure you create a memorable moveable feast.

It doesn’t matter if you are planning an outdoor meal for two or 20, these easy recipes are sure to satisfy without a lot of fuss. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind to ensure yours is a successful outing. The first thing to consider is a menu of simple foods that travel well. Also, consider finger foods and items that can be enjoyed with minimal utensils.

Determining how to transport everything is a great first step. If you want that charming, rustic vibe, you can scour local thrift shops and antique stores for a not-so-perfect wicker basket. But there are some great modern options to give your picnic the desired aesthetic, from practical and chic coolers to stylish natural wood serving trays. Agapanthus Ocala has a great selection of items for your next culinary excursion. And no picnic would be complete without a cozy blanket or classic quilt.

Here are a few simple suggestions to ensure your outing is a success:

Rather than using paper or plastic, consider a lightweight and colorful reusable option instead. I love the idea of using pretty melamine or enamelware dishes and cups.

Similarly, paper napkins tend to blow away when even a soft breeze passes through. Consider cloth napkins instead, which will give your spread a stylish look. Here’s a plan-ahead tip: When you start to notice that your “special occasion” cloth napkins, usually reserved for special gatherings, are starting to look a little worn from washing, tuck them in your picnic hamper for future outings. That slightly weathered look that makes them unsuitable for formal dinners is perfect for dining al fresco. Go ahead and mix and match patterns and colors for a perfectly imperfect look. Local thrift stores are often a treasure trove of these sorts of items.

If you are planning to serve chilled salads or other cold food items, keep those items in a cooler when you transport them. Bring long pans and some extra ice so you can place the serving dishes containing those items into the larger pans lined with enough ice to keep them cold.

Be sure to pack the things you’ll need to ensure the day is a perfect one: lots of water, trash bags for cleanup, sunscreen and bug spray.

Shown above: Berry and Thread melamine plates, Juliska Indigo Stripe napkins, Swig insulated steel wine chiller, Real-Touch tulips, Isabella acrylic wine glasses, pillows, cable throw and Turkish beach throw, all available at Agapanthus Ocala.

Caprese Sandwich

4 focaccia squares (3 1/2 inch), sliced in half
1 8-ounce fresh mozzarella ball, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
Handful of arugula
Basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1/3 cup roasted cherry tomatoes, pickled onions

Layer the arugula, mozzarella and tomato slices on the focaccia. › Add the roasted tomatoes and a few pickled onions, if desired. › Top with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. › Season with salt and pepper.

Pickled Red Onions

2 small red onions                    2 cups water
2 cups white vinegar               1/3 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt             Optional: minced garlic or peppercorns

Thinly slice the onions and divide between two 8-ounce glass jars. › Heat the vinegar, water, cane sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring until the solids dissolve. › Let the mixture cool, then pour over the onions. › After the jars cool to room temperature, put on the lids and put them in the refrigerator. › They are ready to use when tender and pink (from an hour to overnight).

Best Egg Salad

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1⁄4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinches of celery seed

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, olive oil, mustard, capers, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric, salt and black pepper. › Mix in the eggs, then stir in the celery seed, dill and chives. › Chill until ready to serve.

Quinoa Veggie Wrap

4 large whole-grain tortilla wraps
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 small cucumbers, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers,
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
Juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
Flora Pesto Genovese
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Lightly mix the quinoa, cucumbers, kale, peppers, feta, chives, pine nuts, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a bowl. › Spread the wraps with Flora Pesto Genovese (right out of the jar or mix with a touch of mayo to make aioli). › Spoon some of the mixture onto each wrap. › Sprinkle on some mint leaves. › Drizzle with olive oil. › Roll the wrap, being careful to tuck in the ends. › Cut in half, on a slight diagonal angle, before serving.

Note: You can use a lemon/white bean spread or hummus as the spread and then mix up the veggies, such as adding spinach or avocado.

Spring Pasta Veggie Salad

1 pound farfalle pasta
1/2 bag fresh green beans, cut in half and blanched in hot water
8 quartered artichoke hearts, cut in half
1 large can Lindsay black olives, drained
1/4 cup pickled onions
1 red pepper, julienned
Garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Optional: 1 teaspoon minced garlic or package of sweetener

Boil pasta according to package directions, or a little bit less for more firmness. › Prep veggies while pasta is boiling. › Drain the pasta and run under cold water. › Place the pasta, vegetables, garlic salt and pepper in a large bowl. › Add dressing and blend. › Chill for at least one hour. › This salad will hold up well for up to four days.

Lemonade Iced Tea

4 cups cold water (to add later)                  1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves 
3 cups water for boiling                               1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed 
2 family-size tea bags                                  Optional: Fresh citrus slices; 1 cup bourbon or spiced dark rum 1/2 cup sugar

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. › Remove from heat, add tea bags and stir in mint. › Cover and steep 10 minutes. › Discard tea bags and mint. › Stir in sugar until dissolved. › Pour tea into a 3-quart container and stir in 4 cups cold water and lemonade concentrate. › Serve over ice. › Garnish with citrus slices if desired. › To serve as a cocktail, add bourbon or rum.

 

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