You Can Take It With You: Light And Easy Picnics
by Laurie Burrows Grad
When I think of picnics, I think of evenings under the stars and lazy afternoons by
the lake. I've even had picnics in my living room. Picnics signify getting away from it
all, forgetting your cares, sitting on the grass or the floor, and eating wonderful food.
Kids love picnics. Not having to sit up straight at the dining room table is probably the
best part, not to mention watching a parade of chicken legs. When I was a child,
unfortunately, the word "picnic" conjured up an inedible image, full of smashed peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches, chips fractured into fine crumbs, and a piece of warm,
bruised fruit, consumed at a beach where sand mysteriously ended up in every bite. But
maybe that's just me.
By definition, picnics are a social entertainment, at which each person contributes
food to a common table -- an excursion, or an outing in the open, a time free of ordinary
cares and responsibilities -- and, a sink full of dirty dishes, which has never been my
favorite finish to a warm relaxing meal.The best thing about picnicking indoors, by the
way, is that there are no ants. And...you are very close to a sink. Which reminds me to
remind you ...when you do pack up this wonderful picnic food in either of the menus
below -- remember to bring along wet napkins. Do people ever discuss wet napkins
before you go on a trip in the car, or on a picnic? No, they tell you after you've come
home painted in barbecue sauce. So, I have compiled a not-to-be-missed list of essentials
for the well-packed picnic basket.
Essentials For The Well-Packed Picnic Basket
Plastic or paper plates
Reusable, heavy-duty forks, knives, and spoons (can be plastic)
Reusable, heavy-duty serving pieces (can be plastic)
Reusable, heavy-duty plastic glasses
Paper or cloth napkins
Roll of paper towels
Small cutting board, for cutting breads or meats
Bread knife or sharp knife
Can opener and corkscrew
Sturdy tablecloth that doubles as a picnic basket liner
Salt and pepper
Thermos for drinks or soups - and mugs if soup is on the menu
First aid kit
Another key issue to keep in mind when packing a picnic is safety. You are
notpacking a first aid kit with the hope of using it! First make sure that you had
cleanhands and clean surfaces when preparing the food. Store the readied foods in
tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator until the food is thoroughly chilled prior to
the picnic. If foods are to be served hot, keep them hot in a thermos. If foods are to be
grilled at the picnic, you might carry the poultry or meat frozen in a cooler. Remember
to pack the foods and drinks you know you are going to want immediately right on top.
Place frozen cold packs in the picnic cooler -- if nothing else when your husband's back
goes out carrying the picnic basket, he'll find some relief.
Now that we are in the 90's, planning a picnic involves selecting lighter foods -- foods
that allow you to enjoy the hot day without feeling like you ingested a bowling ball!
Plan to serve foods that allow you to look fit and slip into that tiny bikini, well, at least
slip into a bathing suit that doesn't look like it was made by Omar the Tentmaker.
Light Summer Supper
Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Fresh Herbs
Cold Salmon Baked In Foil With Light Watercress Sauce
Crusty French Bread
Iced Fruited Tea
This Chilled Summer Squash Soup should be served from a thermos into mugs. It is
prepared with low-fat buttermilk which gives the feeling of richness without added fats.
The soup utilizes both the yellow and zucchini squash that are so abundant in the
summer months. Remember to taste the soup after it has been chilled because the cold
diminishes the flavor of the soup. I like to tote along a sealed baggie of fresh herbs to add
at the last minute for color and flavor. And take along a loaf of crusty French or Italian
bread -- and don't forget your little bread cutting board and bread knife. For those who
really want an easy picnic, substitute rolls for the bread.
The salmon is cooked easily without a poacher by actually sealing in foilpackets and
baking at high temperature. The packets can be chilled and carried to the picnic and then
served. The sauce can be toted to the picnic in a small plastic container with an
accompanying serving spoon. An interesting historical note about salmon is that the
early Native Americans held the salmon in very high regard, and their superstitions
prevented certain tribe members from handling or eating the fish -- they did not want to
anger its spirit and have it disappear from their waters. Perhaps the Chief was just a
little squeamish baiting the hook, but I could be wrong.
I happen to love brownies -- but they are very high in fat. I have made some big
concessions with these Cloud Brownies by substituting a fruit puree for the fat, but the
results are still quite moist and flavorful. The brownies will make you good and thirsty
on a hot summer's eve so I have added some Fruited Iced Tea. Simply steep a bunch of
herbal teas -- cranberry, raspberry, orange, lemon -- together and chill. When chilled, add
some sliced oranges and lemons and frozen strawberries, pack in a thermos, and take to
Light and Easy Picnic Lunch
Cucumber Yogurt Soup With Fresh Mint
Buttermilk Baked Chicken
Mixed Fresh Berries with Fresh Berry Sauce
This second picnic has something for everyone in the family. The Cucumber Yogurt
Soup is a wonderful recipe I learned from a friend in the South of France. The soup is
creamy without being rich and the additional chopped vegetables and eggs made the
soup like a white gazpacho. Tote the soup in a thermos to keep it chilled and carry along
the garnishes in sealed baggies to add when serving the soup in mugs or plastic bowls.
The Buttermilk Baked Chicken is one of my favorite recipes. It is a perfect picnic
chicken, light and crispy but without the added fat of frying. I used to send my son to
school with several pieces of this delicious chicken and he actually ate it without the
usual "barter for Twinkies routine." Remember to bring plenty of wet napkins because
this is great finger food. The berry dessert is a feast of berries. It utilizes the fresh berries
of summer and tops them with a puree of berries. If you like, purchase one of the
low-fat or non-fat pound cakes, slice them in advance, place a piece of cake on a plate,
top with fresh berries, and spoon over the Fresh Berry Sauce. A few mint sprigs make a
nice presentation even in the great outdoors so tote them along in a sealed baggie.
And...finally, I want to leave you with a few practical picnic suggestions. Number one
-- do not set your picnic basket on top of a sprinkler head. Number two -- don't wear a
bee-hive hairdo. And, number three -- don't pack so much that you need a pack of
mules to get you there and back!
Eating outdoors should be great fun -- whether you are picnicking by the ocean, at a
city park, or in your own backyard. You can have a picnic that is elegant, healthy, and
These recipes are all from Laurie's book, Make It Easy, Make It Light and her national
cable cooking show, Laurie Cooks Light & Easy, seen daily on The Learning Channel.
Copyright © 1995 Laurie Burrows Grad. All rights reserved.