It’s a Picnic!

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I mean, who doesn’t love a picnic? Right? Even ants love picnics!

Unfortunately, what stops many from enjoying a “basket and blanket banquet” isn’t the ants; it’s the idea that the whole thing is a hassle.

I understand, and I have some ideas.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t personally consider lugging coolers of burgers, chips, potato salad and soft drinks out to a local park a genuine picnic. For me anyway, the more preparation or cooking that takes place at the scene the more the event becomes a grill-out or a barbecue than a picnic.

My idea of a picnic is wonderfully prepared appetizers and snacks, cheeses, great breads and spreads, a delicious cold entrée, fruit and a simple sweet or dessert. The effort is in the basket before you leave the house. Then, the hardest part is just finding the right spot to enjoy it.

Of course, a little vino or beer never hurts (if the setting allows), but my point is that picnics should be relaxing–where you can enjoy the moments not worrying about how hot the grill is or which way the smoke is blowing.

My issue with grill-outs (while they can be fun and I certainly have enjoyed my share) is that they’re more like lighter-fluid-induced “full-contact food fests” with large coolers, barking dogs and Frisbees.

More entertaining than relaxing I’d say.

So, having set my rules out here, if a picnic sounds like something you’d really like to enjoy this summer, here are some of my favorite ideas to pull it off without much hassle.

I’ll give you two scenarios. Scenario 1 is if you’d like to prepare some special dishes on your own. Scenario 2 is if you’d prefer to purchase all of your items fully prepared for you and just chill.

All of the items will be chilled. No cooking will be involved at the picnic.

Scenario #1

Start with a couple of choices for appetizer/snacks. I have this great recipe for spiced nuts that you’d really love.

Nino’s Herbed/Spiced Nut Mix

Makes 3 cups

1 Cup Pecan Halves
1 Cup Walnut Halves
1 Cup Whole Almonds

2 TBSP Maple Syrup (Pure)
1 TBSP Brown Sugar
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 tsp Minced Fresh Rosemary
1 tsp Minced Fresh Sage
1 tsp Minced Fresh Oregano

1 tsp Nino’s Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp Salt

  1. Toss all ingredients, spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake at 350 F approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  2. Completely cool before packaging.

For another tasty snack, I’ll suggest this terrific recipe for Nino’s Cheezy Cheddar Bacon Dip. It goes great with just about any cracker.

For the principle meal, chicken is probably one of the most popular choices, but I also enjoy a pork dish on picnics, especially one that has a spicy kick to it.

For the chicken dish, I’d choose a Chilled, Barbecued Boneless Chicken Breast, sliced on the bias ½” thick and then kicked up a notch with a little hot chili sauce, some grilled and chilled onions, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice and a splash of toasted sesame oil. And for the pork? Nino’s Mongolian Pork Tenderloin would be excellent. Both dishes pair well with my recipe for Asian Slaw, and BOTH are very summer-friendly choices.

For a simple dessert, you can’t beat fresh strawberries marinated in a splash of Grand Marnier and served with my Lemon Curd Fondue sauce.

Scenario #2

If cooking isn’t your “thing,” but you’d love to make a great picnic from some of Nino’s summertime favorites, let me suggest building your perfect picnic basket from a few of these great ideas!

  • Nino’s Michigan Chicken Cherry Salad or our Lobster Dip / Krab & Spinach Dip with Crackers
  • Our Mixed Fresh Fruit Cups are a wonderful picnic favorite. You might even consider spiking your fruit with dark rum, toasted coconut and fresh mint! Yum!
  • Our Cheese Department has small three packs of cubed cheese, just perfect for Grab n’ Go picnic builds, and our Nut & Candy Department has so many assorted nuts and salty snacks you’ll be overwhelmed!
  • Love Entrée Salads? We have SEVEN GREAT ones to choose from in two sizes–all your favorites, including Chicken Caesar.
  • From our Gourmet to Go Department, our Chicken Fajitas–served chilled and wrapped in soft flour tortillas with salsa, sour cream or our NEW homemade guacamole–make fabulous picnic meals. That same department has chilled, cooked Salmon Fillets, usually in multiple flavors. They make great lunch dishes, especially when partnered with any one of our chilled, prepared salads like our Seven Grain Salad, Sicilian Pasta Salad with Feta or Bean & Vegetable Salad.
  • Finally, for dessert you can’t beat our Salvaggio’s Cookies and Brownies available in too many flavors to count.

From great foods and beverages to disposable dinnerware and ice, Nino’s has you blanketed with everything you need to enjoy a picnic this summer.

What is your idea of a great picnic? Share with me in the comments below!