Thursday, April 22, 2010

Picnic Weather

Thoughts of picnics past bring to mind soooo many happy memories. In my family, dining outdoors is a tradition that has withstood the test of time. A meal eaten under open sky in the company of loved ones is an occasion in its own right. The very character of picnics makes them a wonderful way to unwind from stress, reconnect with people and nature, prolong playtime and create new memories. There is something magical about picnicking. A blanket, a basket, and a landscape pleasing to the eye seems to make food more delicious and helps us see the beauty of a lazy afternoon spent out of doors.

Image via Visit CT.

I love these black and white photographs. They totally transport me to a kinder and simpler time. They are so great... don't you think?

Image via Lisa Larson.

Image via Allen Grant.

Remember, if it should happen that your picnic is disrupted by inclement weather, the pleasures of good company and good food are just as enjoyable when savored on a blanket spread indoors!

Images via Filth Wizardry.

Not long ago I stumbled on this lovely little picnic guide. It is full of wonderful picnic ideas and sweet watercolor illustrations. You can pick up your own copy here.

Here's a collection of my favorite picnic baskets. Some rather old fashioned and others more cool and modern.

Image via Dotty Spot.

Bike basket via Kate Spade.

Image via Optima.

Image via Nigel's Eco-Superstore.

Images via Guzzini Picnic Balls.

These are a few of my tried and true picnic recipes. I love Whole Food stores!

Heirloom Tomato and Melon Salad


2 large red tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges (about 2 cups)
2 pounds melon, cut into 1/2- by 2 1/2-inch wedges
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced


Make the salad: Gently toss tomatoes, melon, cucumber, and onion together in a large bowl and set aside. Combine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour vinaigrette over the melon mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Asian Noodle Salad


1 (8-ounce) package brown rice spaghetti or other thin pasta
1/4 cup wheat-free, reduced sodium tamari
2 tablespoons sesame tahini
2 tablespoons roasted smooth almond butter
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Hot sauce to taste (optional)
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup sliced green onions
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


1. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta thoroughly.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together tamari, tahini, almond butter, vinegar, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil and hot sauce. Add pasta, cabbage, carrots and green onions. Toss to coat noodles thoroughly with sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Ham and Avacodo Sandwiches


2 ficelle loaves, about 18 inches each
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon coarse black pepper
3/4 pound sliced Virginia ham
3 large avocados, peeled and sliced


1. Cut each ficelle loaf into 3 equal pieces, and split each horizontally along one side, leaving the other side intact. Open the pieces so they lie flat.

2. Stir the butter, mustard, and pepper together until smooth, and spread on both sides of the bread. Layer with the ham and avocado, and sprinkle with the sea salt.

3. Wrap the sandwiches with parchment, and tie with a string to secure. Keep chilled and serve within 3 hours.

Tip: Ficelle is a thin, chewy baguette loaf. Substitute one standard baguette for 2 ficelles: Just cut the heels off the ends and make each sandwich a little bit shorter.

Pistachio and Carrot Cupcakes


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 cups chopped pistachios
4 large organic eggs
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup organic milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract


Make the batter: Heat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and line an 8-cup muffin pan and set aside. Combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in a large bowl. Toss the carrots, apricots, and nuts in the flour mixture and set aside. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl and add to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Transfer 3 cups of batter to each cake pan and 1/4 cup batter to each cupcake liner. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean - about 40 minutes for cakes and 20 minutes for cupcakes. Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Release cakes from pans and cool completely on the rack. Frost with your favorite icing.

Recipes and images via Whole Foods.

Picnicking is an activity best shared with the people you care for. Spending time outdoors with others to eat and to play and to be merry will revitalize you, reminding you that life's most sacred pleasures are often the simplest.

When was the last time you enjoyed a picnic?


  1. M.E., wonderful post! I love picnics - so simple and enjoyable. I am so inspired about this post and I LOVE the Great British Picnic Guide. I might just get that and frame some of those watercolors for my son's room. They're perfect!

  2. The Asian noodle salad sounds divine! I'll have to bookmark that one for all of the summer picnics and backyard barbecues.

  3. SUCH a fabulous post! I've included a link to it on my blog! Thanks, Mary Ellen!