Cooking Up an Awesome Summer Picnic


It wasn't that long ago that I hosted my very first outdoor picnic. It started out when we invited just one family, and then it blossomed into a party when 26 of our friends accepted the invitation and made the long trip into the country to celebrate on Memorial Day. It was a really fun day---and the inspiration for this article.

You see, somewhere between inviting people and gathering around the grill eating hot dogs and hamburgers, I had a panic attack. Early one morning I called my friend on the phone and said, “We invited everyone to our house, and I’ve never hosted a picnic before. What do I do?”

Through her laughter, my friend reassured me and suggested some easy recipes that would be “picnic-friendly”. After a little girl-chat, I started getting some ideas of my own. With a little organization and a few hours in the kitchen, we had a feast with plenty of food to spare.

Now that it’s over and everything’s cleaned up, I thought I’d share some easy to prepare picnic recipes that you can use the next time you decide to host a summer bash. Even if you’re not hosting, one of these recipes would make the perfect contribution to the next time you go to a family reunion, church picnic, or neighborhood block party. After all, ‘tis the season to picnic!

Baked Beans

You can’t have a picnic without Baked Beans, especially if you’re serving Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. If you’re looking for a never-fail recipe for Homemade Baked Beans, then try my Mom’s recipe. It’s easy and delicious.

Start by draining 1 large can of butter beans (15 ounce size).

Then pour the beans into a 4 quart casserole dish.

Then broil 2-3 pieces of bacon.

After the bacon is cooked, cut it into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle over the butter beans in the casserole dish.

Next add:

1 cup of brown sugar 2 teaspoons minced onion

3 teaspoons of mustard 1 teaspoon salt

1 cup of ketchup 2 Heaping Teaspoons Molasses

Dash of pepper.

Mix all of the ingredients together, and then cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Now you’re ready to serve your deep, dark delicious Baked Beans! I can almost taste them through the screen!

Here’s another side dish that will be a healthy compliment at your next picnic.

Broccoli Salad

This dish is made up of 3 basic elements: Broccoli, Bacon, and Dressing.

Preparing the broccoli is as simple as cutting the broccoli into bite-sized pieces, washing it, and allowing it to dry.

Making the bacon is simple, too. Just broil 1 pound of bacon and when it is cool, break it into little pieces.

The last step is making the dressing, which again is very simple.

Just mix together:

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 cup of sugar

2 Tablespoons Vinegar

Blend these ingredients together and pour the dressing over the broccoli and bacon. How easy is that! More importantly, how delicious is that!

Here’s another side dish that people expect whenever they are invited to a picnic: Potato Salad.

This is my Mom’s recipe. Although these measurements will only make a pint, you can multiply the ingredients to make as much creamy potato salad as you need. Whether you make a little or a lot, one thing’s for sure---everyone will love it!

Homemade Potato Salad

1. Peel and wash potatoes.

2. Cut potatoes into small cubes.

3. Boil potatoes for 10 minutes

4. Drain potatoes and allow them to cool.

5. Salt and pepper the potatoes.

6. Mix 7 Tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon mustard, 3 teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon celery seed.

7. Stir the potatoes into this mixture until the potatoes are thoroughly covered.

8. Refrigerate until you serve.

Easy to Assemble Trays

One of the things that my friend suggested when I called her in a frenzy was that I assemble several trays of fresh fruits and vegetables. Because it was late May, I went to the farmer’s market and bought fresh strawberries. I added some blueberries and had a tasty red, white and blue fruit tray.

For the veggie tray, I simply cut up some carrots and celery and placed an inexpensive veggie dip in the center of the tray.

Another thing my friend suggested was a cheese tray, which consisted of nothing more than cheese cut into bite-sized pieces.

Then I got an idea of my own and made pickle tray from jars of homemade pickles I had in the cellar. Want to know the best part? It took less than 1 hour to assemble all of these trays, and they stayed fresh in the refrigerator until the party.

Here’s an idea for those of you who don’t like dip with your vegetables. Why not try making your own salad dressing and serving it as a “dip alternative”? Here’s a great recipe for a light, summery salad dressing that my family loves. It’s easy to make and because there’s no cream, it won’t spoil in the summer sun.

Summery Salad Dressing

Combine in a blender or food processor:

2 cups of sugar

2 teaspoons celery seed

6 Tablespoons mustard

8 Tablespoons APPLE CIDER vinegar

3 cups of canola oil

Blend for 10 minutes and Walla! A light, delicious salad dressing that will spice up any vegetable tray.

Deviled Eggs

Okay, I have to be honest and admit that this was the first time I ever made Deviled Eggs. As I started this new adventure the day before the picnic, I was really nervous. I started off with 2 dozen eggs and a prayer that this picnic must-have would turn out right. Thankfully, they did, and my guests ate every single deviled egg on the plate. YEAH!

Just in case you’re like me and trying deviled eggs for the first time, here’s the recipe:

  • The first thing you need to do is hard-boil the eggs. Oddly enough, this was the most difficult part for me. It isn’t that I don’t know how to boil water. In fact, I wasn’t even worried about boiling the eggs until I started looking at recipes for Deviled Eggs. They were so confusing!

So here’s the straight, uncomplicated way to hard-boil your eggs: Fill a pot with cold water, and then put the eggs in the water. Bring the water to a boil, and then set a timer for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, take the pot off of the hot burner and let the water cool to room temperature with the eggs in the water. That’s all I did and the eggs turned out great!

  • The next step in making deviled eggs is removing the egg shells. Although this sounds intimidating, it isn’t, especially if you follow a tip that a friend shared with me. Start by lightly tapping the egg with a fork or knife to gently crack the shell. Then remove the rest of the egg under running water. This keeps the shell from tearing away at the egg! What a great tip!

  • Now that you’ve boiled your eggs and removed the shells, the rest is child’s play. All you have to do is cut each egg in half, remove the egg yolk and place it in a separate bowl. Then place the egg whites on a plate.

  • After you’ve separated each egg, it’s time to whip together you’re yolks. I say “whip together” because using a hand mixer will make your egg yolk mixture creamier. What ingredients should you add to the egg yolks? I added 4 teaspoons of mustard and 2/3 cups of mayonnaise, a little salt and pepper. (For 2 dozen eggs) You can also add a little Tabasco sauce or dill if your tastes prefer.

  • Once you’ve added all of your ingredients, mix them together with a hand mixer and you’re ready to fill your eggs. This step simply involves putting the “deviled” filling into the egg white with a spoon, and then placing each “deviled egg” on a plate.

  • The final step is sprinkling paprika over the deviled eggs, and placing them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

That’s all there is to it! Trust me, if I can do it, then so can you!

Another great idea for a summer picnic is a jell-o salad. Here are two recipes for healthy jell-o salads that will be SO refreshing on a hot summer day!

Cranberry Salad

Dissolve in 1 3/4 cup HOT water: 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1 package lemon jell-o

Stir until jell-o and sugar are completely dissolved.

Then place in the refrigerator until the jell-o is completely set.

Next, chop in a blender or food processor:

1 bag of washed cranberries

2 peeled apples

1 cup walnuts (if you choose, you can leave the walnuts whole)

Place all of the chopped ingredients in the jell-o and stir.

Add 1 can DRAINED crushed pineapple.

Stir all ingredients together. Keep refrigerated until you serve.

CARROT/PINEAPPLE JELLO SALAD

1. Make 1 package of lemon jell-o following the directions on the package.

2. Wash, peel and grate 3 carrots.

3 Strain 1 can of crushed pineapple or crush 2 cups of fresh pineapple in a food processor. Make sure to strain the juice.

4. Mix together jell-o, carrots and pineapple and stir.

5. Refrigerate until jell-o hardens

6. Serve and enjoy.

Here’s something I learned at my picnic: No matter how great the food is, on a hot day what people really want is something to drink. The more the temperature rises, the less interested they are in soda. They want something refreshing, thirst-quenching, and above all else: COLD. So be sure to have plenty of icy, cold water on hand.

Another easy and inexpensive drink for a picnic is Home-made Iced Tea. It’s very easy to prepare and tastes delicious. Nothing tastes better on a smoldering day than a tall glass of iced tea. But who wants all of the caffeine, artificial colorings, and flavorings of the store bought tea? This is our simple recipe for delicious iced tea.

Homemade Iced Tea

1. Start by filling a 4 or 6 quart pot with water.

2. Place 5-6 tea tags in the water (you choose caffeinated or decaf) and bring to a boil. Boil for 7 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat, and let the tea sit for 4-5 hours.

4. After a few hours, remove the tea bags and pour the tea into a large pitcher.

5. Fill the rest of the pitcher with water.

6. Add 1 cup of sugar, 6 Tablespoons of orange juice, and 6 Tablespoons of lemon juice. If you want to go all-natural, cut up 1 orange and 1 lemon and squeeze the juice into the tea.

7. Stir the tea and refrigerate.

Without much effort you have created a refreshing treat that everyone will enjoy. Here’s one last idea for a refreshing picnic drink. It’s something I tried on a whim, but it turned out to be the most popular drink at the picnic. All I did was simply combine equal parts of Hawaiian punch and ginger ale in a punch bowl. We kept it cold with giant iced cubes. When the thermometer crossed the 90 degree mark, people couldn’t get enough of this cold refreshing drink.

DESSERT

Now it’s time to talk about dessert. No matter how many hot dogs, hamburgers, salads, chips, and other side dishes you prepare, this is a party and people want something sweet. Here’s an easy recipe for decadent chocolate brownies that are easy to make and even easier to serve. Prepare these brownies with ice cream or frozen yogurt and you’re dessert preparation is done!

Quick and Easy Fudgy Brownies

Start by melting 4 bars of Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate in a large bowl in the microwave. (If you use a big enough bowl, you’ll only have to clean up one dish!)

Add 1 ½ sticks of margarine 2 cups of sugar

3 eggs 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Flour 1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

Mix it all together with a hand mixer and pour into a 13X9 inch GREASED baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To finish off the recipes, add this delicious, fudgy icing.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Frosting

Melt 3 Tablespoons margarine in the microwave.

Then add 3 bars/squares of unsweetened baking chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted.

Next, add: 3 ½ cups Confectioner’s sugar ½ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Mix all of the ingredients together with a hand mixer and spread over the brownies.

Cut into squares and serve.

These brownies are delicious. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re easy to make, too.)

Here’s one last recipe for a fun, successful picnic. The directions are simple: When your guests arrive, enjoy them.

Stop being a Martha, and become Mary. Honestly, I think this was the recipe that helped me enjoy our picnic more than any other. It was the best advice that my friend gave me.

On the morning that I called worried that everything wouldn’t be good enough she said, “Remember, they aren’t coming to inspect your house, critique your gardens, or sample your food. They are coming to spend time together.” Although I spent days before the picnic cleaning, cooking, and getting everything ready, when it was time for the picnic I prayed, “Lord, please help me stop worrying about all these things and enjoy my friends.” Then I stopped cleaning, stopped worrying, and relaxed.

This is the absolute best tip I can give any woman that’s hosting a summer bash---Plan ahead and prepare ahead, but when the guests arrive, relax and enjoy fruits of your labor. Remember, parties are about people. People are the most important. So, stop stressing and enjoy your picnic, your friends, and your summer.

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