One of my favourite things of all time is eating food with friends. And one of my favourite things of all time about summer and warm weather is being able to eat food with friends OUTDOORS.
Eating without the constraints of doors or walls or chairs is a different kind of freedom that I try to take advantage of as much as possible in the warmer months.
I have gotten pretty good at picnics over the years and with these tips, you too can venture into the realm of DIY outdoor eating.
We are so lucky to live in a country so pretty and green. If you are looking to make a day of it, Parks Canada has a search engine to help you find a national park near you. There you can also find hiking trails, access information and tips on planning your visit.
If you are looking for a local park, check out your hometown’s website. Most places have them and they can be quite useful. Toronto has a wealth of parks and green spaces to visit. These websites will also have information on where to find barbecues and how to get fire pit permits.
If you live on a body of water, then ignore everything I just said and go have a picnic on the beach. Beach day trumps… well, pretty much everything. And that is a fact.
Picnic food can be tricky. It needs to score low on perishability and prep time but high on convenience and deliciousness (duh). Here are some general tips to think about when establishing your menu.
Appetizers: Charcuterie is my favourite thing to assemble for friends whether we are eating outdoors or not. It is an easy thing to pack up and is always hella delish. Bring some crackers, cut up an apple, pick two cheeses and two cured meats and you are on your way.
Salads: Leafy greens don’t keep well and things like potato salads can be heavy and nap inducing. Try out a panzanella or tabouli salad, which taste best when they have had time to marinade a little.
Mains: Sandwiches are a picnic staple, but we can do better than your average peanut butter and jam. Try chicken with balsamic sautéed mushrooms and brie. If you want to add any condiments, try fresh basil or a slice of cheese on the bread first so you don’t end up with a soggy mess.
Dessert: Stay away from icing, which can get melty and messy in transit. Go for pastries or brownies either homemade or pick them up from a bakery on your way to the park.
Mason jars are your friends. I use an average of three separate mason jars a day for various reasons. And that number goes way up at a picnic.
- Bring individual pre-mixed cocktails in mason jars, bonus points for sangria (make mocktails or flavoured water if your local law enforcement has no chill)
- Shake up your salad dressing in a mason jar
- Put any liquid solid or gas that you don’t want to escape into a mason jar because mason jars are straight up the best
Have everything divvied into single-portion containers. This removes the trash-factor of paper plates and makes everyone’s meals resealable so they are protected from bugs and birds(!) and everyone can take home their own leftovers.
If you don’t have a cooler, wrap cold things together in your blanket with some ice packs or freezies. This will keep them cold and on a hot day, it will be nice to sit down on a chilled blanket. Plus! Having your blankets chilled sounds fancy for some reason.
And finally, don’t forget to invite me to your picnic. I promise you, I am a delight.
Main image via Freutcake