Whether you are thinking of throwing a family picnic, packing an impromptu luncheon outdoors, or wowing your significant other with a cozy, romantic picnic, remember it is supposed to be fun, easy and stress free. Here are a few things to consider beforehand:

Tatjana and her first picnic on the beach

Tatjana and her first picnic on the beach

1) Plan the day for your event and decide on a location.

2) Choose an appropriate cuisine or theme by considering who will be attending and the types of food you know they enjoy.

Some popular ideas for your basket are: sandwiches and wraps, kebobs, salads (pasta, bean, potato, garden, and fruits salads), roasted meats and poultry,  grilled or fried chicken, any kind of quiche or veggie pie – or if you intend to grill where you picnic bring marinated chicken and spice rubbed meats ready to throw on the grill to serve along side those salad.

Don’t forget dessert – bring anything from fresh fruit to pies, brownies, cookies, cake, or a wonderful cheese selection complete with grapes, pears, or figs to compliment it.

Picnic basket for the serious drinkers

Picnic basket for the serious drinkers

3). Bring along an ice chest filled with ice and a collection of bottled water, sweetened tea or fruit juices. If bringing raw meats, items with mayonnaise or eggs in them consider bringing a separate ice chest for those items to avoid food contamination, and be sure to find a shady spot to store it. If you are having wine remember to bring a corkscrew. Open the bottle thirty minutes before serving, allowing the wine to breathe.

5) Don’t forget to pack the following:

  • Salt and pepper and any other condiments you desire.
  • Serving and eating utensils, paper plates, drinking vessels, napkins and paper towels, three trash bags (recycling, trash and items to be washed).
  • Baby wipes, plus a gallon of water for cleaning hands, is helpful, too.
  • Blankets, towels, tablecloth, sunscreen, insect repellent just in case and antibacterial ointment, in the event someone gets bitten or stung.
Picnic in style

Picnic in style

Once you have your checklist written down, the next step is to coordinate when you need to begin preparing dishes. Separate anything that might make your sandwiches soggy – you can add these ingredients when you are ready to serve. When bringing already cooked hot items (like fried chicken) allow it to cook to room temperature, then wrap, and keep out of direct sunlight at room temperature. Be sure to  eat these items within two hours. Lastly, if you are using anything with mayonnaise or eggs, keep these items chilled in the cooler. Food safety is a must.

Picnics Fortnum & Mason Style

Picnics Fortnum & Mason Style

If you think you’d like to be a serious picnicker, here is a fun link for some more affordable picnic ware. You’ll see a good number of them have special places to hold glasses, stainless utensils and real dishes. There is something for every one, and for every event. Be safe and relax … because life sometimes really is a picnic!

Lemon Artichoke Pesto Chicken & Barley Salad

Chicken & Artichoke Pesto Salad&

None of us want to be slaves to hot kitchens in the summertime, so here is an easy make-ahead meal to have on the ready for when the temperature spikes. It tastes like summer with each flavorful burst and I love the contrasting textures. Decadent, yet healthy all the way, so indulge!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Lemon Artichoke Pesto Chicken & Barley Salad

  • 1 cup fresh basil packed
  • 28 ounces canned quartered artichoke hearts drained and divided
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated and divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted and divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 1/4 cup water divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 8 ounces chicken breast cooked, skin removed and chopped
  • 3 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes chopped

Directions

Lemon Artichoke Pesto Chicken & Barley Salad

  1. Cook 1 cup of barley in 2 cups of boiling water according to package instructions.
  2. While barley is cooking, make artichoke pesto sauce. Add basil, 1/2 of the drained artichokes, 1/4 cup of Parmesan, 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 cup water, and extra-virgin olive oil to a food processor. Process until smooth, seasoning to taste and adjusting consistency as desired with additional water or oil.
  3. Drain cooked barley well and add back to pan off heat. Quickly add 1/2 cup of the lemon Artichoke pesto (refrigerating or freezing any remaining for another use), chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and remaining artichokes, Parmesan and pine nuts. Stir well and serve warm, or cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serving Suggestions

Great served atop of a bed of peppery arugula or spinach tossed lightly in balsamic dressing, or with any steamed, roasted, or grilled green vegetable of your choice.

Heat To Eat

Serve cold; or remove from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before serving to allow the salad to come to room temperature.

Variations

Vegetarian Variation: Add rinsed and drained chickpeas in place of the chicken for a delicious vegetarian alternative.

Notes

I will often use store-bought roasted chicken to save time.

Tell me your picnic food favorites below? Click here for more about how to eat healthier, easier, and economically with the Personal Chef Approach™!

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