Picnic foods – Midland Daily News

I have loved picnics for as long as I can remember. When we were dating, my husband and I would go on picnics as often as we could. Sometimes it was just eating our bag lunch on a grassy area on campus. After we moved to Midland and he was working at Dow, I would bring a picnic lunch and a blanket and we would eat right on the lawn outside his building. When we had children, we would meet him by the Tridge and share our lunch together. I would carry a small cooler with all the refrigerated items to keep them cold and a basket with plates, utensils, etc. along with a blanket. It never took much time to put it together, but every minute was worth it so we could spend more time together. We would do picnics in the middle of a day canoe trip, on a hike with the kids, or in the boat on a day of fishing. A picnic does not to need to be a big ordeal to prepare for, although it can be more extravagant, but however you do it, it should just be fun. You can grill ahead of time or bring grilling food with you. When we were first married we would bring a hibachi with us and do our meat on it after the coals were hot enough. The best part of a picnic is being outside, seeing and listening to nature and spending time together.

Try these tips for an enjoyable meal eaten in the park, on the beach, on a boat or wherever strikes your fancy.

To-go items: Whatever food you pack, it must be easy to both transport and eat while sitting on the ground. Try salads or rice bowls packed in Mason jars. You can even go to the deli and pack those items in the cooler, just supply the utensils and blanket and you are set.

Bring on beverages: Be sure to plan for a beverage. Easy ideas include homemade lemonade in Mason jars or herbal iced tea in a big steel bottle. A Thermos of any beverage will keep cold if you use ice cubes frozen with some of the beverage or substitute ice for some of the water.  

The picnic basket: A basket will hold all the utensils, plates, napkins, etc. One nice thing about a basket is that all of your utensils are in there and if you replenished your supplies after you return from your last picnic, you just have to grab it and go for the next picnic. Remember to put in hand wipes to clean faces and hands afterwards.

The blanket: It doesn’t need to be fancy, just big enough so everyone has a clean place to sit. You could store it in a bag with a handle so you can carry it more easily.

When choosing picnic foods, keep in mind: Ease in preparing, serving, eating (no sloppy foods) and ease in clean up. Everyone wants to be able to enjoy the picnic, even you. If you complicate things, it is less enjoyable. So, choose easy, tasty foods your family will enjoy. Keep cold things cold and hot things hot. You don’t want to get food poisoning after your fun day.

Picnic appetizers: The best appetizer recipes to bring to a picnic are those that you can easily make ahead like dips, spreads and finger foods. Try fresh avocado dip, crispy crunchy pita chips with hummus, cheesy beer dip, mango black bean salsa, parmesan spinach dip, chili dip, deviled eggs, crab dip, BLT spread and/or mini quiches.

Picnic salads: Some of our favorite recipes for a summer picnic are deli salads. Popular picnic recipes like macaroni salad, potato salad and coleslaw are always party favorites; plus, they’re easy to make the night before and pack in a cooler for your picnic. Try coleslaw, chicken macaroni salad, potato salad, cobb salad, cucumber salad, rruit salad, southwest macaroni salad, seafood salad and/or cold tuna macaroni salad.

Picnic sandwiches: No picnic menu is complete without sandwiches. Picnic sandwiches are easy to make at home and travel easily, making them the perfect pack-along meal. Whether you prefer fancy wraps or classic sandwiches, you’ll love any of these tasty picnic sandwich ideas! Try croissant club sandwiches, BLT burritos, layered meat and cheese sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, pulled pork sandwiches, roasted vegetable sandwiches, chicken salad pitas, chicken and slaw wraps, chicken salad wraps and/or shrimp salad wraps.

Picnic drinks: You can’t plan a picnic menu without packing beverages. Cool picnic drinks are just the thing to enjoy when you’re dining outside. From homemade lemonade to a refreshing summer punch, any of these picnic drinks will hit the spot. Try fresh lemonade, iced green tea, lemonade cranberry cooler, tropical summer punch, peach melba cooler and/or my signature lemon mint ice water.

Picnic desserts: The perfect ending to a picnic meal is a delicious homemade dessert. Whether you include pie or cookies on your picnic menu, any easy picnic dessert recipes can be prepared hassle-free the day before your picnic. Try cherry berry pie, cookies of any kind, lime margarita bars, pecan pie brownies, chocolate almond bark, peach cake, five layer bars, frozen blackberry lemon pie, cheesecake squares and/or ice cream sandwiches.


With the help of my family, we made 100 of these for a 50th anniversary party. It was a lot of fun. We just kept passing the skewer around the table and each person skewered their item and passed it on for the next item and so forth.

1 9-ounce package fresh tortellini              

2-pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half if too large

1 package pepperoni                                      

2 cans artichoke quarters

1 can ripe olives                                            

1 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

 your favorite Italian dressing (My favorite is below)

Cook tortellini according to package instructions, rinse in cold water. Arrange all ingredients on skewers so there is at least one of everything on each skewer. Set in a non-aluminum cake pan, jelly roll pan, or Tupperware with sides. Pour Italian dressing over skewered food. Let marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Serve on skewers set on a chilled platter as an appetizer.

My Favorite Italian Dressing

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar or opal basil vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram

1 teaspoon freshly chopped basil

1 teaspoon freshly chopped oregano

pinch of salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a pint jar and blend with a wire whisk or blend with a handheld immersion blender. Let set for 15-30 minutes for the flavors to develop while you are putting together the skewers, then pour over the skewered items. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve, at least 6 hours.


1 12-ounce container of frozen pink lemonade

3 tablespoons lavender

1 cup water

Bring water to boiling. Remove pan from burner and add lavender. Cover and let steep until mixture cools. When cool, strain off flowers reserving liquid into a measuring cup. Empty frozen lemonade into a pitcher. Pour strained liquid into the empty lemonade can and fill can with water to the top. Add to the pitcher, then add remaining water specified on lemonade can to dilute frozen lemonade. Serve over ice and garnish with a lavender or mint sprig.


I first had this at an outdoor restaurant in New Orleans. It was the best sandwich I ever tasted.

1 loaf focaccia bread, sliced horizontally

4 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 medium bell peppers, any color, quartered lengthwise

2 small zucchini or yellow squash

1 medium to large onion, sliced

1 large portabella mushroom, sliced

Any thin sliced deli meat, if desired

1/2 cup pesto, store bought or homemade

6-8 large basil leaves


1/4 cup herbal vinegar (opal basil is great)

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons honey

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon freshly chopped oregano, basil and/or thyme

Put all cut vegetables in a shallow pan. Whisk all marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Grill all vegetables (put onions on aluminum foil to cook) on an outside grill over medium heat basting on any extra marinade. While vegetables are grilling, slice bread and cut into six to eight sandwiches. Spread a little pesto on both sides of each sandwich. Put on any meat (leave off if vegetarian sandwiches are desired.) When grilled vegetables are done, layer them on the sandwiches. Wrap up sandwiches. Refrigerate until ready to pack cooler. Right before serving open sandwiches and put on basil leaves.


1 box yellow cake mix

2 cups fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or whatever is in season)

4 cups filling (recipe below)

Mint leaves, whole berries, and chocolate chunks for garnishes

Bake cake as directed on box for a 9×13-inch pan. Cool. Break up cake into large chunks and place in a large bowl. Add berries and 4 cups of filling and mix only enough to combine all the ingredients. Chill. Dish up into stemmed glasses at the picnic (plastic if you have them). Garnish with mint leaves, berries and chocolate chunks.


1 large package instant chocolate pudding mix

3 cups milk

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 cup powdered sugar

6 cups Cool Whip, thawed in the refrigerator

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the Cool Whip. Process for about a minute, until everything is well blended. Pour out into a bowl and mix in the Cool Whip with a wire whisk, until there are no lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. Use in above recipe.

Donna Frawley is the owner of Frawley’s Fine Herbary and author of “The Herbal Breads Cookbook,” “Our Favorite Recipes.” and “Edible Flowers Book.” She also has her own DVD “Cooking with Herbs” and a weekly newsletter. She can be reached at 989-488-0170, [email protected] or www.frawleysfineherbary.com


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