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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dinner on the Ground!

For those in the group that are not sure what "Dinner on the Ground" is... that's Southern for picnic! I had someone remind me that Spring is here and picnics are the perfect outdoor activity. A picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors (al fresco or en plein air), ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view and possibly at a public event such as before an open air theatre performance, and usually in summer. Picnics have been depicted in art, literature, music and film...

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame begins with a boating picnic enjoyed by Rat and Mole that exemplifies an English tradition:
"The Rat brought the boat alongside the bank, tied it up, helped awkward Mole safely ashore, and swung out the picnic basket. The Mole begged to be allowed to unpack it all by himself. He took out all the mysterious packets one by one and arranged their contents, gasping 'Oh my! Oh my!' at each fresh surprise."

On romantic and family picnics a picnic basket and a blanket (to sit or recline on) are usually brought along. Outdoor games or some other form of entertainment are common at large picnics.

The best advice I can give you about picnics... Mason Jars!

They are the perfect vessel (besides the ever famous Red Solo Cup... but solos don't have a lid... yet!) to carry picnic items. They are fitted to the individual and you don't need plates and cups! You can freeze drinks overnight, and they will still be cold when you get to your destination! Use a cooler for your picnic basket... The frozen drinks will keep the food cold and no water down any sandwiches wrapped in plastic. Now days they have plug-in coolers that are so fancy, there's no use for a basket!

Here I have listed 30 picnic ideas plus some tips and items to bring to your picnic. I'm sure you can find something you'd like to bring along!

1 BEET SALAD: Peel beets and grate them (a food processor will keep the juice contained). Dress with orange zest and juice, and olive oil. Add bits of goat cheese and chopped parsley. 

2 PESTO CHICKEN ROLLS: Season and grill chicken cutlets. Brush any wrap-type bread with pesto; layer with the chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula; roll up and cut on the bias.

3 ROAST BEEF ROLLS: Start with your favorite rolls. Smear blue cheese on one side and prepared horseradish on the other. Add red onion and thin-sliced roast beef, pork or lamb. Wrap with plastic and Pack! Carry lettuce and tomato packed separately. Potato chips are a must.

4 CHICKEN BITES: Cut boneless chicken breasts into small pieces. Dip in milk or buttermilk, then dredge in seasoned crushed corn flake crumbs, cornmeal or panko. Pan-fry in oil, drain, cool and eat cold with celery sticks, with ranch or blue cheese dressing for dipping.

5 GAZPACHO: Combine a couple of ripe tomatoes, one cucumber, a slice of bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender. Chill and pour into a thermos.

6 GUACA-SALSA: Mash an avocado into some salsa
(it won’t get brown), even jarred if necessary. Don’t forget chips. 

CORNBREAD SALAD: Toss crumbled cornbread with basil, salt and pepper, bits of chopped-up lemon (preserved lemon is even better), chopped seeded tomatoes, chopped seeded cucumbers, bacon pieces and shredded cheddar cheese. Take ranch for last-minute dressing.

8 SLAW: Thinly slice Savoy or Napa cabbage. Toss with thinly sliced red onion and grated carrot. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, a touch of sugar, salt and pepper.

9 BEAN SALAD: Toss cooked or canned white beans with chopped seeded tomato, chopped anchovy, chopped olives, oil, lemon juice, lots of black pepper, salt if necessary and parsley.

10 MARINATED BEANS: Steam frozen (shelled) edamame or limas. Toss with chopped seeded tomatoes, cilantro, lemon or lime juice and a suspicion of sesame oil. Salt and pepper.

11 Take cold PIZZA and lemon. Squeeze lemon over pizza. YUM!

12 BURRITOS: Make burritos, using the biggest flour tortillas you can find: rice, beans, any stewed or grilled meat or chicken, cilantro, salsa.

13 CHEESE BALL: Mash together equal parts good grated Cheddar, crumbled blue and cream cheese, maybe thinned with a little sour cream. Store in a plastic container and serve with crackers.

14 FRUIT SALAD:Use a spoon or melon baller to make equal size pieces of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, add grapes, strawberries and pineapple. Mix together and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt or (better still) chili, sugar, salt and lime. Don't yell!!! Salt is optional! But chances are you may need it in the hot sunshine...

15 CANTALOUPE AND PROSCIUTTO: Cut melon into wedges and wrap with thin slices of prosciutto. Stack in a container and sprinkle with black pepper. Take romaine lettuce and serve the wedges over the greens, with the accumulated juices as a dressing. It works. 

Also pack condiments in mason jars
for salads dressing, sandwiches spreads,
pickles, relish, dips and much more!

16 SEAFOOD SALAD: Toss chopped shrimp or shredded crab or lobster with lemon juice, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Use this to fill lettuce cups.

17 BEAUFORT PICNIC: Boil potatoes, mini ears of corn, pearl onions and shrimp; drain and chill. Serve cold with crusty bread and lemon wedges along with mayo mixed with garlic.

18 SALMON SALAD:Combine a bunch of watercress or arugula with thinly sliced radishes and red onion; add flaked smoked Salmon. Dress at the last minute with olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. 

19 CHICKEN WINGS: Cut chicken wings into two parts, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill or roast until crisp and golden. Whisk together mustard, honey and lemon juice, and toss with warm wings. Chill overnight. (If they last that long!)

20 CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES: Split Cornish hens; grill or broil quickly, with lots of salt and pepper. Take them whole to the picnic with sandwich rolls, good barbecue sauce (mayo, if it's kept cold) and pickles. Pick off the meat and go to it. 

21 MUFFULETTA: Make chopped olive salad (I like onion, thyme, capers, a little garlic). Hollow out a medium-size round bread, or a few rolls. Put in olive salad and cured meats of your choice: ham, prosciutto, salami, mortadella, whatever; and provolone.

22 CHICKEN BACON RANCH SAMMIES: Fry chopped bacon until half done; add strips of boneless chicken and cook until done; pack. Take pitas, chopped seeded tomato, avocado, sliced red onion and shredded romaine and cheddar cheese. Assemble sandwiches and dress with Ranch Dressing.

23 STEAK SAMMIES: Grill a steak; slice it thin. Butter a baguette on one side; put Dijon on the other side. Pile the bread with steak, roasted peppers and onions, add something crunchy, like radicchio or fennel. A little blue cheese wouldn’t hurt either.

 Layer corned beef, Bavarian Sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese, Spicy German Mustard and Thousand Island dressing between two slices of rye bread.

25 FISH FINGERS: Dredge fish fillets in cornmeal. Sauté in abundant olive oil until crisp. Let cool and serve with lemon and cocktail sauce.

26 EGG AND SPINACH SAMMIES: Hard-cook some eggs; slice them. Sauté some spinach with oil and garlic until quite dry; chop. Make mustardy sandwiches with baguettes, rolls or any bread that can absorb some oil.

27 PICNIC TRIFLE: Cook a couple of pounds of berries with some sugar and a little water until they break down. Layer in a plastic container with slices of good pound cake. Pour any remaining juices on top. You might want some cream.

28 CAKE SANDWICH: Make sandwiches of angel food cake and ganache or fruit compote.

29 COOKIES SANDWICHES: Mix peanut butter and cream cheese. Spread between two good cookies and make sandwiches. Or mix honey, lemon zest and cream cheese. Make sandwiches with ginger snaps.

30 PICNIC FONDUE: Take a container of melted chocolate thinned with cream or crème fraîche with strawberries, pineapple or cubed pound cake for dipping.

***And one for the road... (but not literally... Don't Drink and Drive!!!)

JUDY"S LEMONADE FOR GROWN-UPS!: Freeze Lemonade Concentrate, Limeade Concentrate, 36 oz 7-Up and 1 fifth Bacardi Rum. Pack in a thermos. Shake and pour to serve.

Drink Serving Tip:
Freeze your drinks the night before
and set them out in a bucket of crushed ice.
Wrap the bucket in a towel
to help insulate it and
keep the ice from melting too fast.

Keep these simple tips in mind to ensure your day is all about rest and relaxation.
  • Freeze drinks the night before. Not only will your drinks stay cold the next day, they'll help keep your food chilled.
  • To keep your picnic festive, bring a colorful and comfortable blanket. Extra towels can serve as pillows when sunbathing or napping. 
  • Set up your picnic in the shade.
  • Although baskets can be quite stylish, a cooler packed with ice is safer. 
  • Make sure foods that are meant to be served cold are thoroughly cooled before packing. 
  • If you're driving, transport your cooler in the air-conditioned car, not in the trunk. 
  • Throw away any food that's been out of the cooler for more than an hour.
When packing a picnic, don't forget these essentials:
  • Blanket
  • Insect repellent
  • Napkins
  • Plates
  • Silverware
  • Serving utensils
  • Cups and wine glasses
  • Corkscrew or bottle opener
  • Paring knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Condiments
  • Damp wipes or cloths for washing up
  • Garbage bag


  1. Thanks dear Lynn... best picnic post I've ever seen! xoxo

    1. Thank you soooo much Michele! It took me long enough! LOL