The winter blues are long gone, but don’t underestimate the burden of summer boredom.
Sometimes those lazy days of summer get just a wee bit too lazy as everyone starts running out of things to do. It’s time to give in to the allure of the green grass and chirping birds, pack up some blankets and snacks and go have a picnic.
Summer picnics truly are the perfect way to get outside; either as a large group, for a birthday party or just for an intimate family gathering. They don’t need much preparation (though if it’s going to be a large group, you may have to book a spot in a park ahead of time), so they’re also great for a last-minute activity.
Anywhere outside! Try going to a local playground (this offers kids something to do), a park, an outdoor pool or a beach. No cool spots nearby? Set up shop in the back yard or on a patio.
If you’re having a large group picnic, you won’t need to plan many activities. Kids will play amongst themselves, and adults will chat. If you’re going as a smaller group, bring along some sports equipment to keep the kids occupied, and a book for yourself. A picnic should be fun and relaxing. If you’re going to a park or another busy place, try to arrive early to make sure you can get a good spot. Set up your blankets and chairs near a tree or shaded area to keep cool.
Perfect Picnic Checklist
Sunglasses and hat
Mini first-aid kit
This is the best (and tastiest) part! You’ll need to pack a ton of snacks; kids tend to get hungry at strange times, so make sure you’ve got a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. Remember: picnics are less about having proper meals and more about just enjoying yourselves so don’t skimp on the tasty items like muffins, brownies; and if there’s a campfire, s’mores. Aside from those tasty treats, pack a variety of sandwiches, cut into quarters so everyone can have a sample of each different sandwich. Salads are always a great picnic option, as they tend to get more flavorful over time. Fruit salad is quick and easy to prepare, and if you’re going for a green-based salad (lettuce, spinach, arugula, etc.) make sure you don’t add the dressing until just before serving.
Need a recipe? Greek Pasta Salad is yummy and perfect for a picnic. All you need is equal amounts cooked pasta (like corkscrew or fusilli), diced cucumber, diced green peppers and cherry tomatoes. Toss with equal parts (about one-half the previous amount) of feta cheese, diced purple onion and kalamata olives. Add a few splashes of olive oil and vinegar, a decent amount of Greek seasoning and toss. Keep cool until ready to serve.
Or try out these fruity recipes that your kids are sure to love!
Mixed Berry Muffins
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. egg white
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, make a well in the centre. In a small bowl, mix buttermilk, oil, egg white, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture; mix well with a wooden spoon. Add berries, mix well. Pour into greased 12-cup muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes.
Fruit Skewers and Dip
Bamboo skewers (two per person)
Mix fruit cut into 1-inch square cubes (try watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi – cut
into quarters), and strawberries (leave whole)
1 package low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Thread fruit cubes onto skewers, leaving 2 inches at base. Place in a large container and refrigerate. For the dip, put the cream cheese in a large bowl, and with whisk attachment on an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat for one minute at medium speed. Reduce speed to low-medium, and add sour cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Skewers and dip can be prepared the day before, keep in fridge or cooler until ready to serve.
If you’re planning a picnic for a special occasion, like a birthday, kick it up a notch. Bring along some balloons, extra blankets (spread them out so there’s a larger picnic area, layer them for comfort), a few chairs and some music.
Stephanie is a freelance writer specializing in travel and food writing. For more information, visit stephaniearsenault.ca.
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