Picnic Perfection

Planning a simple, delicious & nostalgic outing

I remember when I was about 10 years old and the six of us kids piled into the Volvo station wagon with our dog, Amelia. I think I was the only one who was more excited about the lunch in Dad’s backpack than the waterfall we were trekking to.

Now that I’m a mom, I’m in love with the nostalgia that picnics offer — egg salad at the zoo, crunchy apples at the lake, peanut butter and jelly bars on a hike two hours from home. Picnicking is one of life’s simple pleasures.

As the weather warms up, it’s time to think inside the box … or, shall I say, basket. My picnic basket is a thrift-store score! On a recent sunny day, I whipped up some deliciously simple fare, grabbed a blanket, and headed to Grandma’s backyard for a quick picnic — and it was perfect.


  • Choose foods that don’t need near-constant refrigeration.
  • Oil and vinegar salads, cold cuts, fruits, and hard cheeses are great choices.
  • Skip dairy and mayonnaise-laden recipes, which can spoil quickly.

Oven-Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken

You will need a large heavy-bottom skillet, baking sheet, wire cookie-cooling rack, and thermometer.

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 portions (recipe allows for up to 12 pieces if more chicken is needed)
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 cups canola oil

In a bowl, combine chicken, buttermilk, salt, and cayenne. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight or at least the day if frying for dinner.

Remove chicken from refrigerator 30 minutes before frying. In a clean bowl, place flour and seasonings. Mix well. Place oil in skillet and heat to 300 degrees over medium heat. While the oil is heating, work quickly and remove chicken from buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour; shake off excess. Place dredged chicken in hot oil for 5 to 7 minutes, allowing for a golden brown crust. Remove browned chicken and place on a paper towel to remove excess oil, then place onto cooling rack on a baking sheet. Repeat this process until all chicken is finished with the first fry. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes to finish cooking. Sprinkle with sea salt while it’s hot!

Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette Potatoes

Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette Potatoes

Mustard Shallot Vinaigrette Potatoes

Any way you slice it, this stuff is amazing!

  • 6 to 7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard
  • ¼ cup diced shallot
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

For perfectly boiled potatoes, place in a pot and cover with room temperature or cool water, not cold. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to medium and cover for 40-60 minutes. Drain. Allow enough time to cool so the skins peel right off. This yields a creamy potato every time.

Mix all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and drizzle over potatoes. Sprinkle parsley over the top, and serve at room temperature or after chilling.

Perfect Apricot & Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Perfect Apricot & Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Perfect Apricot & Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

The best cookies are easy drop cookies: warm and gooey with the right amount of chew. Stand mixers are wonderful, but I like to use a good hand mixer for these.

  • 2 sticks room-temperature butter
  • 2 cups unpacked dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2¼ cups oats
  • 1 (just shy) cup of flour
  • 1 cup dark chocolate pieces
  • ¾ cup dried apricots, diced
  • ¾ cup pecans or hazelnuts, chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slightly after each addition. Add oats, flour, chocolate, fruit, and nuts. Mix until just combined, and drop 6 to 8 spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Set timer for 12 minutes. The cookie might still be a touch glossy in the center, with golden edges. Bake for 1 additional minute if more browning is desired. Allow at least 5 to 7 minutes on the cookie sheet before placing cookies to cool on wire racks.

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