Planning The Perfect Picnic

There are only a limited amount of beautiful days left here in New York. Summer is coming to a close and this week I realized that I haven’t been on a picnic all summer! Chris and I really love packing up a bag full of food and spending the day eating and lounging in the shade of a tree. We agreed that this past weekend, it was either now or never. So, I got my butt off the couch, went to the supermarket and dug out my Picnic at Ascot picnic tote, which had been collecting dust in the back of my closet since last summer.

Picnic BagWe had such a great time on Saturday that I wanted to post some tips on how to plan a really great picnic. It’s not too late for you to plan a picnic of your own. It’s quick and easy–especially if you follow these quick and easy planning tips:

STEP 1: PICK YOUR LOCATION

I think there are three key elements to consider when planning the perfect picnic. Those elements are location, menu and activities. The first thing to consider is the location of your picnic because the location will determine the mood. If you are going for more of a romantic feel you might choose to go picnic at a private beach or lake where you’ll be able to get some quality alone time. If you are going for more of a family outing then a local park would work perfectly.

If you don’t have any particular place in mind check out your state parks–they will give you plenty of ideas for places to go and offer a wide variety of amenities that will help you out with the third step in the picnic planning–your activities. Here’s a great list of state parks by state compiled by Wikipedia. On Saturday, Chris and I went to Belmont Lake State Park. It was only about a 25 minute car ride from my house on Long Island. We set up our picnic blanket right in front of the lake and had a great view of the wildlife that live there as we ate.

Chris and Marci Picnic

STEP 2: PLAN YOUR MENU

The second element to consider when planning your picnic is your menu. Depending on the duration of your picnic you want to bring enough food to keep you nice and full. Depending on your location, you will want to prepare food that you are able to eat cold or food that you can cook while there. Belmont Lake has fire pits that you can use for grilling, so if I wanted to I could have packed up some hamburgers or BBQ chicken and cooked them right there next to our blanket. But as I grill at home all the time I decided I wanted a meal that I could precook at home and then eat it cold at the park.

Chris and I arrived at the lake for lunch so I packed Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Bowtie Pasta Salad for the main meal. Both these recipes are super easy and quick to make. And they both taste delicious when cold.

I modified the chicken recipe a little bit by adding a generous amount of Adobo to the chicken before marinating it in buttermilk overnight. The morning of the picnic I dredged the chicken in flour (with salt, pepper and basil added in) then egg yoke and then in the flour again. The recipe calls for vegetable shorting for frying but I used canola oil. I fried the chicken pieces for 5 minutes on each side and then baked them in the oven for 30 minutes so they could fully cook.

Buttermilk Fried ChickenFor the Bowtie Pasta Salad I followed the recipe to a tee–except that I used peas instead of edamame.

Bow Tie Pasta and ChickenFor desert I made Chris’ favorite–Derby Pie. Now carrying a whole pie to a picnic can be difficult, especially if you have a small bag, so I made Derby Pie Bars. If you ever want to makes these for a picnic or a party, feel free to make these a day or two a head of time. They have Bourbon or Whiskey in them and they taste better as they age! They transported easily in a small food storage container.

Derby Pie Bars

I also packed fresh fruit and a water jug with a couple of lemon slices in it to give an added lemony twist to the taste of the water. Some other good picnic food items that I didn’t bring this time around are sandwiches, cheese, chips and dip and wine.

Water Lemon Twist

STEP 3: PLAN AN ACTIVITY

The third key element of a good picnic is the activity. If the goal of your picnic is relaxation then you might want to bring a good book and a pillow for napping. If you are a bit more active, pack your meal in a backpack and go hiking. If you’re in the middle, a Frisbee or a baseball bat and ball provide hours of fun. Since Chris and I were at a lake, we rented a pedal boat and pedaled around the lake, watching the lake’s wildlife in their natural habitat. We also ate our desert in the boat before heading for shore and then home.

Chris and Marci Water
Swan 2I hope these tips help you plan the perfect summer picnic. I had a great time last weekend and it might be my favorite picnic outing to date! Does anybody else love picnics? What’s your favorite picnic memory? Let me know in the comments section below!