Thursday, June 27, 2013

Enjoying an Outdoor Picnic - Menu & Recipes

There’s nothing like the thrill of packing up a scrumptious meal in a picnic basket and gathering together your friends and family to enjoy an outdoor picnic on a bright and sunny summer day. That is my favorite way to spend my birthday.  We pack a picnic into our bicycle saddle bags and off we go. 
courtesy of Ravinia Festival
Another favorite activity for my hubby and I in the summer is to go hear the symphony play, either the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival and Outdoor Theater or Elmhurst Symphony on their annual Fourth of July concert on the grounds of Elmhurst College.  We also like to hear the Wheaton Municipal Band play in the band shell at Memorial Park in Wheaton on Thursday nights.

courtesy of Wheaton Municipal Band
Any of these musical events can include a picnic.  So when I was sorting recipes I pulled together this collection of picnic recipes so you can take your dinner along to any outdoor event.  All you need is a basket and a blanket with these quick to prepare herbal dishes.
Chive Dip with raw vegetables

Caraway Coleslaw
Garlic Chive Pasta Salad

Chicken Salad with a Stuffing Twist on a wheat or herb flavored bread or focaccia
Egg Salad with Salad Burnet in Pitas

Lemon Basil Fruit Salad
Rosemary Shortbread

Chive DipThis dip is a wonderful accompaniment to fresh raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes.
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh chives or garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh sage - minced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon granulated onion

In a medium sized mixing bowl mix add all ingredients and mix well. Let chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before using to allow all the flavors to meld together.
Caraway Coleslaw
2 cups green cabbage - shredded
1 cup red cabbage - shredded
1 cup carrots - peeled and shredded
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tarragon or thyme herbal vinegar or wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
Use a food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots then add them to a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl mix together the remaining ingredients until all the sugar is dissolved to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the shredded vegetables and mix together. Store the coleslaw in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 4 cups of coleslaw.
Garlic Chive Pasta Salad
2 cups dried bow tie pasta
1 cup tomatoes - chopped
1 cup yellow or green bell peppers - seeded and chopped
1/2 cup green onions – sliced
½ cup diced, peeled zucchini
1/2 cup black olives - sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh garlic chives - snipped with scissors
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
fresh grated parmesan cheese – optional

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, cover with cold water and drain again. Place the prepared pasta into a large bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, oil, vinegar, garlic chives and marjoram. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese prior to serving if desired.
Chicken Salad with a Stuffing Twist
The stuffing twist comes from the use of sage and thyme two herbs that are normally used in stuffing.  This is another terrific sandwich spread to serve on top of the whole wheat herb bread or a seasoned focaccia.

2 split chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely diced celery
2 teaspoons fresh sage - chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme – chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves - chopped fine
salt & pepper – optional

Drain the liquid from the can of chicken breast. Flake with a fork and add to a medium size bowl. Add the mayonnaise, celery hearts, sage and tarragon and mix well. Add salt and pepper if desired.
Egg Salad with Salad Burnet
To make a hearty sandwich to serve at your picnic serve this egg salad on fresh slices of whole wheat herb bread.  For an easier to manage picnic sandwich used a pita to hold the salad.  The cucumber flavor of the salad burnet will lend a unique flavor to this perfect dish.  If you like it a bit more robust, add a Tablespoon of herb flavored mustard, like tarragon.
12 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh salad burnet - chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
courtesy of Ravinia Festival
Place the eggs in a large pan, fill the pan with water and place it on the stove on high heat. When the water comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and cook the eggs for an additional 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove, drain the water and run cold water over the eggs until they have cooled down. Remove the shells from the eggs and chop them up then place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve this salad with assorted breads and crackers if desired.
Lemon Basil Fruit Salad
2 cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
2 cups fresh strawberries - hulled and sliced
2 oranges peeled and deveined and the sections left whole
One (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks - drained
2 tablespoons white grape juice
¼ cup fresh lemon basil – minced or sliced in ribbons
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Rosemary Shortbread
Walnuts and pecan can be used instead of pistachios if you don’t have them.  This is a perfect make-ahead item for the picnic as shortbread will keep for a week or two.

1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves - minced fine
additional confectioners sugar for garnish
In a large bowl cream the sugar into the softened butter using a large mixing spoon. Add the flour 3/4 cup at a time. Add the vanilla extract, pistachios and rosemary and mix until well blended. Place the dough in a greased rectangular cake pan (9” x 13”) and press down the dough until it is about ¾ of an inch thick.  Prick the top with a fork in a pattern of squares or rectangles to make it easier to break later.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes until light brown.  Cool completely before breaking into pieces and storing in an air-tight container.


  1. What a great site! I was looking for information on bee balm tea and found your site. You are in Illinois, and so am I. I found someone growing herbs in zone 5( Illinois), and you have a great blog. I grow a lot of vegetables and some herbs for tea and cooking. I 'm not that confident in using the, so your site will be a place I visit often. I use to attend concerts during the summer. Our high school graduation was at Ravinia. Don't get back there much, but have many fond memories.

    After college, we moved to the western part of the state of Illinois- on the Mississippi.

    I started filling my backyard with herbs, flowers and vegetables years ago. I will look forward to your blog for information on how to grow more useful herbs. I may ask you a lot of question,too:-)

  2. I love it when people ask questions. You should have great soil over by the river, I am guessing your harvests are great. I miss growing vegetables, but that will happen soon when we move back to a house from our apartment. I do not grow vegetables int eh herb garden, although i know companion planting is a good thing, I still am a bit of a purist!


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