Summer Picnics Menus

When I think back over the years, I have many fond memories of picnics. For the most part, picnics differ from barbecues in that the food is usually served cold. They can be large or small events with the food varying from a simple sandwich or pot luck to an elegant gourmet feast. In any case, it’s a fact that dining ‘al fresco’ makes food taste so much better.

Having been raised in rural Alberta, Canada a community summer picnic was always a special event. It would be held at a one of the ‘country schools’ in our farming community. The men would play a game called ‘horseshoe’ while they visited. This game involved throwing metal horseshoes a set distance to land over a metal peg that had been pounded in the ground. Each family would bring a contribution to the picnic food. The women would set up this wonderful feast on picnic tables at lunch time. The kids ‘mingled’, chased around, drank  kool-aid  and loved every minute of it. The variety of pot luck meals the women would bring made it so special.

Later on in my life, I recall a few other picnic memories that are precious to me. One occasion when Brion and I were staying in Carmel, California, USA. Just outside Carmel is the Point Lobos State Reserve. It runs adjacent to the beautiful Pacific ocean. Numerous times we would pick up a sandwich with a juice/pop and spend the afternoon walking the beach and enjoy our ‘picnic’ lunch there. Another time we were staying further down the California coast and decided to take a wine country tour. The tour was with a company called Wine Affair. You were picked up at your hotel and it lasted about 5 1/2 hours. It was very personal with only one other couple, ourselves, and the driver/guide. He took us on a scenic drive through the Paso Robles  wine country. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the countryside with it’s beautiful vineyards as well as wine tasting at six different wineries. At lunch time we arrived at a estate winery called Summerwood (which I have show cased in my blog photos). Here our guide took us to a lovely patio setting overlooking the estate vineyards. He then laid out an amazing gourmet ‘picnic’ lunch  for the four of us to enjoy. What’s not to love about picnics! 

Over the next few blogs, I thought it would be fun to create four picnic menus that maybe would inspire some summer picnic ideas. Some of the recipes I have featured in earlier blogs and a few new ones I’ve added.

The first one includes Easy Pork Short Ribs, Picnic Oven Fried Chicken (from the April 11/16 blog), Potato Salad (from June 9/16 blog) Oriental Rice Salad, and Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas.

 

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Summer Picnics - Part One
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Instructions
Easy Pork Short Ribs
  1. Remove any fat & cut ribs into serving size pieces; place in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Seal bag & turn to coat; Refrigerate for several hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a large piece of foil paper on a baking tray. Make 'temporary' sides on sheet of foil paper. Lay ribs in the center & pour marinade over them. Bring up two edges over center & fold down twice. Fold in side edges, allowing a each to have a small 'air vent'. Bake for 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender. Remove ribs to a platter to cool. Ribs will be a great served cold with the rest of your picnic menu.
Oriental Rice Salad
  1. To cold, cooked rice add peas, celery, onion & water chestnuts. Combine with salad dressing & refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Toss with chow mein noodles shortly before serving time.
Easy Individual Fruit Pizzas
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & orange zest until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup strawberries until well blended. Spread 2 Tbsp on one side of each rice cake. Arrange prepared fresh fruit on top of strawberry cream cheese in patterns of your choice.
Recipe Notes
  • This recipe for Oriental Rice Salad I had been given by a friend in 1988. She had made it with a dressing which contained curry. I  have never enjoyed the flavor of curry so I have been using other dressing ideas. Being such a simple salad it will lend itself easily to other choices.

Taco Salad in Edible Tortilla Bowls

Summer time is salad time! Taco Salad  is the full meal deal, infinitely customizable, inviting experimentation and creativity. Being so versatile, it can be enjoyed in almost any setting.

This Texas-Mexican inspired salad was very popular in the late 1960’s. It’s name comes from the Texas-Mexican Railway. Pioneers brought Anglo influences to Texas, where the Texas-born Mexicans lived. As a result, the ingredients from their different cultures blended together.           Tex-Mex combines elements of Anglo, Spanish and Mexican.

The taco salad is unique in that it can be served in an edible tortilla bowl. I recall in the food industry, this meal had huge visual appeal for the customer. How could you resist ordering one after seeing it’s impressive presentation? The ingredients in a taco salad can vary according to preference and can be made to fit into any type of cuisine with different seasonings and modifications.

Typically the taco salad includes lettuce, beans, tomatoes, green onion, meat, cheese and sour cream. Other condiments might include guacamole, salsa, garlic and cumin.

The salad featured in today’s blog picture is the beef version but I have included similar recipes for chicken and vegetarian ideas as well. Tortilla bowls are easily made by baking them in the oven. No need to add those calories by deep frying them. I love the full meal salad idea — be it a Chef’s salad, Cobb, Taco you name it! I hope you will enjoy one to this summer.

 

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Taco Salad
Taco Salad doesn't have to be 'old school' and boring --- customizing it to your personal tastes makes a huge difference.
Instructions
Tortilla Bowls
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Warm tortillas slightly until pliable. Spray or butter both sides of tortilla lightly, then drape over oven proof bowls, pinching sides to form bowl shape. Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully as not to burn. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.
Beef Taco Meat
  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion & cook until softened, about 5 minutes.Stir in chili powder & garlic & cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef & cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until almost cooked through but still slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, vinegar & sugar; simmer until slightly thickened but still saucy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat & season with salt & pepper.
Chicken Taco Meat
  1. Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & pound to flatten to uniform thickness, about 1/2-inch. In a small dish, combine spices. Sprinkle over chicken breasts. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts to pan & cook until juices run clear & the center is no longer pink. Remove from pan & allow to rest 5 minutes. Slice into bite size strips.
Salad Dressing
  1. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients.
  2. To assemble salads: In a large bowl, combine romaine, beans, green onions, cilantro, olives, jalapeno peppers. Toss with salad dressing. Place tortilla bowls on serving plates. Divide salad among bowls. Top with taco meat choice; sprinkle with tomatoes & cheese. Top with avocado slices if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Sour cream & salsa are also nice as extra condiments or in place of the salad dressing.
  • If you prefer a Vegetarian Taco Salad, just eliminate the meat part, equally as good.
  • Be adventurous, customize to your preference so you get the most enjoyment out of 'your' salad.

Stuffed Salmon Burgers with Fresh Cucumber-Dill Sauce

In the quest for a real good fish burger I turned my thoughts to using ground ‘fresh’ salmon. Living in the ‘prairie’ Province of Alberta, here in Canada, the most economical way to buy fish is either canned, frozen or smoked. The fresh fish we buy in our grocery stores here has to travel somewhat before it gets to us. Definitely, it goes without saying that the flavor is not going to be what people living on the coast experience.  Nevertheless, with a little ingenuity we make it work. Brion and I both enjoy to have fish or seafood at least a couple of times a week.

To complete my ‘stuffed burger series’, I’ve made a a serious attempt to come up with a Mushroom-Cheese Stuffed Salmon Burger. I like the idea of putting a filling in between the salmon meat patties. So often fish burgers are deep-fried and overcooked, resembling the taste of what I imagine cardboard would taste like. Using fresh mushrooms and cheese certainly makes for a nice moist burger. Then just to make it a little more ‘gourmet’, top it off with a dollop of Fresh Cucumber-Dill Sauce.

Hopefully, out of the seven options, you were able to find at least one that will become a favorite at your house. By using some of these strategies to save you time, effort and money you will be able to get the most out of those wonderful days of summer ahead.

Print Recipe
Stuffed Salmon Burgers with Fresh Cucumber-Dill Sauce
A flavorful moist stuffing compliments the fresh salmon in this burger which is equally as good served with rice instead of a bun. The cucumber-dill sauce works as a good condiment in either case.
Votes: 1
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Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Cucumber-Dill sauce
  1. In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Mushroom-Cheese Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter & saute mushrooms with onions until golden. Add the garlic & saute for one more minute. Season with thyme, salt & pepper. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquids from sauteed mushrooms; chop the cooked mushrooms into small pieces. Add bread & cheese to mixture. Set aside.
Salmon Patties
  1. In a bowl, combine all salmon patty ingredients; mix well. Shape into 12 patties. Divide filling among half of the patties. Top with remaining 6 patties & press gently to seal edges enclosing all the filling.
  2. Preheat barbecue grill to a medium heat. Place salmon burgers on a sheet of greased aluminum foil or in a foil baking dish. Set pan on barbecue & cook for 6-8 minutes on each side or until burger is cooked through. Serve on lightly grilled Ciabatta buns with Cucumber-Dill sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • Like in the case of some of the other burger choices, I made up a double recipe of the salmon patties ahead of time. Scoop them into an air-tight plastic container; cover them well with plastic wrap & freeze. When you want to serve, make the stuffing & sauce for however many your cooking, thaw some salmon 'scoops' & flatten into patties. Fill & cook as directed. Fast & easy, works for me!