Tis the season for picknicking-whip up one of our team’s 10 must eat dishes.
With record high temperatures soaring around the world, there’s no better time to keep the cool outdoors—under a tree and on a grassy knoll. And, foodie or not, the principles behind ecopsychology say there’s no better way to reconnect and nurture relationships than out in the fresh air. Breaking bread together with brie (or sticky chocolate cake), makes the whole picnicking affair that much more meaningful.
So, grab a blanket and try one (or all 10) of our favorite picnic recipes—a compilation of our team’s favorites and enough to make a complete menu.
Snacks & Appetizers:
- Fruits & Nuts
- Brie & Bread
- Picnic-side Guacamole
- Quinoa Salad
- Smokey Jicama Salad with Kale and Corn
- Cold Soba Noodle Salad
- Sticky Chocolate Cake
- Nutella Donut Muffins
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Honey Ginger Sparkling Lemonade with Rosemary
1. Fruits and nuts
For our shelter writer, K. Emily Bond—who sometimes seeks refuge under trees—fruits and nuts are a staple picnic snack. While it may sound sinfully simple, we know that sometimes it’s the simple things that make life so much sweeter. All it takes is 5-minutes in your kitchen, and you have a delicious medley of homemade trail mix. We love this “Not Your College Boyfriend’s Trail Mix” from our archives.
2. Brie & Bread
If you’re anything like Behind the Label columnist Jessica Marati, whose picnic mantra is “take knife, dip in Brie, slather on baguette,” you’ll love this grab & go solution. It’s literally that simple.
- Pick up your favorite brie & local, freshly baked bread
- Grab a knife and voila, enjoy!
3. Picnic-side Guacamole
Crowd pleasers like me, (your Vegan This columnist and fashion writer) will agree, there’s nothing like fresh, made-on-site guacamole to get a picnic party started. My boyfriend and I love this dish because it’s so versatile (avocados are your canvas), so fresh (see everyone’s eyes light up as you whip this up before their eyes), healthy (packed full of heart- and skin- healthy fatty acids and vitamins) and easy to tote (just pre-chop your garnishes, grab a few avocados and a to-go container, and you’re out the door).
- Ripe avocados (as many as you need depending on the number of people you’re serving—to be safe, plan on 1 avocado per person)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 handful cilantro leaves
- 1/2 red or yellow bell pepper
- 1/2 lime
- 1 teaspoon, or so, salt
- 1 bag organic tortilla chips or crackers of your choice
- To-go container
- Serrated knife
Note: Adjust the lime, salt and garnish amounts according to taste and the number of people you’re serving
Pre-chop the onion, cilantro leaves and bell pepper. Put in a to-go container large enough to hold the finished guacamole (this will also serve as your mixing bowl). Squeeze the lime and sprinkle the salt over the veggies and mix together. When you arrive at your picnic spot, simply cut your avocados open, remove the seeds and scoop out the fruit. Add to your veggie, lime and salt mix and mash together until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Grab some chips or crackers and enjoy!
4. Quinoa Salad
Life, according to Foodie Underground columnist Anna Brones, is all the better when quinoa is involved. “Quinoa salads are my go to summer meals. They’re easy to make and easy to pack, which means that if you make a big batch one day you have leftovers for a few more. They’re also the perfect picnic item, light enough that they feel like summer food, dense enough that you’re full after eating them. As a base I tend to do a mixture of red and white quinoa, greens and some type of vinaigrette. Then you simply add in whatever you have laying around the kitchen. Nuts, vegetables, fruit… whatever you’re in the mood for. But the Summer Carrot and Date Quinoa Salad is one that I can’t live without, so if you’re in need of a recipe, start there.”
5. Smokey Jicama Salad with Kale and Corn
One of our resident raw foodies and trendy fashion columnists, Johanna Björk, packs her picnics with a healthy punch.
“This cold salad is super easy to make, which makes it perfect for an impromptu summer picnic. It also doesn’t get soggy easily, which means it can keep for a while in that picnic basket, even if you didn’t bring a cooler. The jicama is fresh, somewhat sweet and crunchy, the kale is hearty and nutritious, the fresh herbs are so summery delicious, and the chipotle gives it a bit of a kick. It also just happens to go really well with a cold beer.”
- 1/2-1 jicama (depending on how large it is), thinly sliced or grated
- 6 leaves kale, thinly sliced
- 1-2 cups corn (leave out if you want it to be 100% raw)
- 1 large handful mint leaves , olive oil, hemp seeds , chipotle chili powder , sea salt
Mix the jicama, kale, corn and mint leaves together. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and chipotle chili powder and mix well. Finish with a sprinkle of hemp seeds.
6. Cold Soba Noodle Salad
Fashion and food really go hand-in-hand, and Rowena Ritchie, our west coast fashion editor, proves it with this dish from none other than Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.
“Goop’s cold soba noodle salad is my go-to pot luck recipe because it’s so easy to make. I generally have soba noodles, mirin, soy, and sesame oil in my cupboards, so I just have to grab some scallions and cilantro. My meat-eating friends seem to love it as a side, and if it’s the only vegan dish at the party, it makes for a full and nutritious meal for me! If you can get hold of Eden Shake’s Furikake, I highly recommend using it—it’s full of protein, vitamins A, B & C and calcium and it tastes great. And, I’ve always found the recipes on goop to be top knotch. Gwyneth Paltrow is known for both loving food and for being health conscious.”
7. Sticky Chocolate Cake
There’s nothing like a fika-style picnic to elevate the mood. Just take it from our Swedish chef and artist extraordinaire Johanna Kindvall. And, if you tend to picnic with a core group of friends, this sweet delight will never get old—change it up with a splash of rum, a dash of mint or even some licorice or cardamom.
- 2 eggs (or one large duck egg)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4-6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)
- 1 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)
- 1 cup freshly milled almonds (or almond flour)
- 4 oz butter
- mint leaves (optional)
- powdered sugar (optional)
Whisk eggs and brown sugar together in a bowl. Stir in the milled almonds, cocoa powder and salt. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Pour the mixture into a greased 9” spring form.
Bake the cake in the oven at 350 F for about 15 minutes. The cake should just be set on top and sticky inside. Let the cake cool down. Decorate with some fresh mint leaves and/or powdered sugar. Serve it plain or with whipped heavy cream.
Note: if you want to spice up the cake I suggest the following flavors: rum, cognac, mint, licorice or cardamom. Just add the flavor to the batter before baking.
8. Nutella Donut Muffins
If you’re picnicking with sensitive foodies like me (think vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and more), then this delicious, easy to pack recipe is the perfect picnic companion. All you need is a re-usable container to carry these in, and you’re sweet-tooth ready.
For the donut muffins:
- 1 ¾ cup flour – follow the following gluten-free flour blend:
- ¾ cup sorghum flour
- ¼ cup sweet rice flour
- 3/8 cup white rice flour
- ¼ tapioca flour
- 1/8 cup almond flour
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup oil (I used cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 egg substituted (I blended 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water)
- ¾ cup non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Nutella (I made this homemade, vegan version)
For the coating:
- 3-4 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Earth Balance coconut spread)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a muffin tray with vegan butter or coconut oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together your gluten-free flour blend, and add in the baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, egg-substitute and non-dairy milk. Add the dry ingredients and stir only until fully combined.
Follow these instructions to whip up your Nutella hazelnut spread.
Place 2 tablespoons of the muffin donut batter into your prepared muffin tins. Add 1 teaspoon of Nutella and cover with approximately 2 more tablespoons of batter until the muffin tins are ¾ full. Bake for 18-22 minutes. (Mine were perfectly done after exactly 18 minutes).
Prepare your coating by melting your vegan butter in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together your cinnamon and sugar.
While the muffins are still warm, shake them out of the pan on to a cooling rack. Dip your muffin donuts into your melted vegan butter and then into your cinnamon sugar mixture. Allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes. These are perfect when warm and still wonderful when cool (up to 3 days—especially if making these gluten free). Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator if storing longer.
Note: These would also be delicious filled with your favorite homemade jam, in lieu of the Nutella, or simply plain, filling-free.
9. Strawberry Shortcake
For an authentic taste of summer, strawberry shortcake embodies it all. Earlier this summer, I packed all the parts of this dish (biscuits, strawberries and cream) and assembled it on-site at a friends-of-EcoSalon picnic. I love this version, adapted from Martha Stewart, for its freshness and simplicity. Vegan, gluten-free or not, you’ll fall fast for this fresh delight.
- 1 ¾ pounds (6 cups) strawberries—rinsed, hulled and quartered (For the fullest flavor, I recommend using local and fresh strawberries.)
- 1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups gluten free flour blend
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
- 1/2 cup potato starch flour, minus 2 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons almond flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons cold (1 ½ sticks) unsalted vegan butter, cut into small pieces (I used Earth Balance coconut butter)
- 2 cups coconut cream (I used So Delicious coconut creamer, blended with approximately 3 tablespoons of dissolved agar-agar to thicken)
- 2 egg substitutes (I blended 2 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 6 tablespoons warm water)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, toss the prepared strawberries with ¾ cup sugar. (I suggest starting with ½ cup and tasting to see if more sweetness is needed.) Let sit to bring out the juices.
In a food processor, pulse together your gluten free flour blend. Add the baking powder, ½ cup sugar and the salt, and pulse until combined. Add the cold butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles course meal with some pea size bits of butter remaining (pulse approximately 10-12 times).
In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ cream (before the agar agar has been added to thicken) and the egg substitute. Pour over the flour mixture, and pulse until some large clumps begin to form (pulse approximately 20-30 times).
Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack dough into the cup, invert and tap out on to a lightly buttered or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat to form 6-8 biscuits. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Beat the remaining 1 ½ cups cream, with the prepared agar-agar mixture, 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy (Note, this will not form peaks like a traditional heavy whipping cream, however, I assure you the taste and texture will not leave you craving cream.)
Slice the biscuits horizontally with a serrated knife. Spoon the strawberries and their liquid over the bottom of each biscuit just before serving. Spoon your whipped cream over the strawberries, and top with the other biscuit half.
10. Honey Ginger Sparkling Lemonade with Rosemary
Amy DuFault, EcoSalon’s Editor-in-Chief says, “I am always the last one to leave the party because I won’t stop talking. This lemonade from our lovely Foodie Underground columnist Anna Brones is a sure cure for talker’s mouth. You can spend an entire picnic having good conversations and the ginger and honey make it so that your voice never breaks. Oh, and that you are of course refreshed. That’s important.”
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- Juice of 7 Meyer lemons
- 1/2 cup minced ginger
- 6-10 full rosemary stalks
- 1.25 liter bottle of sparkling water
- Ice cubes
- Your liquor of choice. We recommend bourbon or vodka.
To make simple syrup, place honey, water and two rosemary stalks in a saucepan and warm over medium heat while constantly stirring until honey is completely dissolved. Add in ginger. Leave on heat for a 2-3 more minutes, regularly stirring, to increase rosemary flavor. Let sit for 30-60 minutes to cool down. Note: for a stronger rosemary flavor, muddle the rosemary first and let the simple syrup sit for longer.
Strain simple syrup into a pitcher and add in lemon juice, top off with ice cubes and sparkling water.
Garnish with rosemary and serve in mason jars.
Images: Paul and Christa, Rich Anderson, Pink Mochi, Jennifer Barckley, Anna Brones, Johanna Bjork, Goop, Jennifer Barckley, Amy DuFault