Summer’s just about here and with it comes great weather. After all the rain and snow the previous seasons brought us, it’s perfectly normal to want to take advantage of it. But how do you take full advantage of the sun at the end of a busy workday or an activity-packed one? Be spontaneous, there’s nothing better than a picnic to spend time outside!
If you think organizing a picnic is an arduous task, you’re mistaken – nothing could be easier! You don’t have to wrack your brains over it. Just a quick stop at home or at the grocery store and soon you’ll be sitting pretty with good food and good company. To help you take full advantage of summer, we’ve prepared a guide for a successful, impromptu picnic.
Where to have a picnic
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Of course, the place for a picnic is pretty important to ensure an enchanting atmosphere, but you have to remember that an event like this is really about spending time outside with family and friends. Anyway, every spot has something special about it! Don’t forget – be spontaneous. Here are a few ideas that can help you decide.
Parks, beaches and other classics
Everyone’s had a picnic in a park or has seen someone else having one there. It’s the place par excellence for everyday outdoor activities. Some parks are even known for being a good place to nosh, but any neighbourhood park will do! As well as having a good time in a familiar setting, your local park is close to home and allows you to hang out a little longer before heading home.
As for beaches, they give you the full outdoor summer experience. Not only are they relaxing and gorgeous to look at, they provide the perfect moment to freshen up before sitting down to eat. You can even squeeze in a game of volleyball! The beach is a classic that’s worth the little extra time it takes to get there!
Quebec is bursting with superb sites for picnics, but it’s up to you to discover the rare hidden gems scattered around the province. Share your favourite picnic places in the comments section!
Reimagine the backyard
Sometimes we forget, but the backyard is the perfect place for an impromptu picnic! One of the biggest advantages, of course, is access to all the necessary tools at your disposal! Bring the bare necessities outside and in just a few shakes, you’re ready to eat!
Start by choosing how and where you want to eat. On a blanket on the ground, at a picnic table, around the fire, under a tree, in the garden… your backyard is bursting with possibilities. If you enjoy eating, set it up however you want. And you can do it without spending a fortune.
Go on an adventure: unplanned places
If you’re in the mood for a little adventure, having a picnic is the best excuse to go on a trip with your peeps. If you have a car, you can bring the necessary equipment so you can eat anywhere! Going on foot – even in the city – can also be exhilarating! Wander through neighbouring neighbourhoods and stop at the local market or grocery store. Discover new products and even pick up a few things that you might be missing.
You’ll be surprised at the amazing scenery you can uncover right around the corner from you!
What to eat?
Although the place itself adds a little magic to the picnic, it’s incomplete without the food. If you don’t have much time and your stomach is already growling, what do you get? How do you organize the meal? Don’t panic. Here’s a list of ideas and tricks to help you decide.
Bread: more possibilities than you think
When you think of bread, you generally think of one kind, right? But bread is an incredible choice that comes in many shapes and tastes! Some are perfect for meats and cheese. Others are great for trying new combos of flavours in a sandwich. And some bread – especially when they’re warm – are to die for on their own!
It’s up to you: what shapes, textures and tastes are you in the mood for? A BLT on a firm ciabatta, egg salad in a pita or a simple country loaf still warm from the oven with a few kinds of cheese? We also recommend trying fruit, nuts and spices with bread to complement the new flavours in your dishes. Settling for regular sliced white bread for such an occasion would be too easy!
A platter of your fave finger food
Not only are they practical, but finger food gives people the chance to have some of everything! Put out a spread with lots of food and trimmings. It’s the time to choose your fave flavours and even try new things – all in a few minutes at most.
Cheese, meat and pâté
This kind of finger food is ideal to mix up the flavours at your next picnic! On one hand, there are more and more different flavours of pâté with every year. And vegetarians now have veggie pâté which is excellent. Just spread a bit on bread or crackers!
On the other hand, cold cuts can provide an interesting contrast to spreads. Don’t be tempted by the ones you know! Go to the nearest butcher and open yourself up to new ideas. Choose several smaller portions to be able to vary your new discoveries at mealtime.
Don’t forget that Quebec is a gold mine for cheese lovers. In fact, you can find hundreds of different cheeses made in the province for all tastes and any occasion! The Fromages d’ici site (French only) has lots of platter ideas to guide you in your cheesy new finds.
Veggies and dips
It’s time to add a touch of healthy to your finger food platter! Raw veggies are the best because they had freshness and crunch to the meal! First, choose a dip while making veggie-based ones a priority: (spinach, avocado, peppers or eggplant), legumes (hummus) or yoghurt (tzatziki), then bring on the fresh veggies that go best, like carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and cauliflower.
By continuing the principles of offering several flavours, it’d be interesting to choose saltier and more bitter vegetables like pickles, olives and pickled beets that can add variety to your platter.
Fruits and nuts
You’ll come full circle with these flavours. Fruit provide a touch of sweet to end a good meal. Opt for fruit that you can eat with your hands that don’t have to prepared, like berries, apples, grapes, bananas, etc., but don’t limit yourself to fresh fruit! Dried fruit are also really practical to eat with your hands and help round out the flavours!
Now you’re ready to go out and get everything you need to create your own platter! You should be ready to eat in 15 minutes tops! For a successful platter, Recettes du Québec has 10 tricks you should read about (in French only).
Source : Pixabay
Natural, fruit-flavoured water
Sure, it’s easy to buy juice and pop, but it’s just as easy to make your own fruit-flavoured drinks that won’t break the bank. All you need is a few fruit – strawberries, a lemon and some mint – and a bottle of carbonated water. With the summer sun and temperatures rising, bring a little bag of ice to put in your basket and keep your food fresh until you get to the picnic site. Once you’re set up, add the fruit and ice to the carbonated water, then set aside for a few minutes. Your water with be completely natural and fruity!
Tips for wine
Another picnic classic is to bring your own wine to enjoy with everything, but it’s not always easy to keep it fresh, especially if you don’t have a cooler. If you can’t find shade or ice, you can always keep the bottle cold, meaning chill it. Just wrap the bottle in a wet dishcloth or paper towels and let it stand in the sun! The water that evaporates from the dishcloth will slowly cool the bottle.
An impromptu picnic means not many tools, so no corkscrew. Here’s an easy trick to open a bottle of wine with a shoe.
Tricks for quick and delicious meals
Apart from finger food, there are other ways to put together a quick picnic. Here are a few tricks and recipes to help you be efficient in the food department.
Ready-to-go: fresh and easy
The whole idea of a picnic is to eat outside, not to do everything yourself – which makes it perfectly acceptable to buy ready-to-eat or already-made food at the market or grocery store especially if you don’t have much time! Chicken, for example, is versatile and can be part of several excellent smaller meals – and it’s readily available at major grocery chains. Here are a few new meal possibilities!
Make your dishes on the spot
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Do you like to cook and put a little more love and time into your meals? Perfect, because there’s an easy way to get more out of your picnic recipes without spending much time in the kitchen. Just choose your fave foods and make your dishes on the spot!
There are tons of recipes that don’t require cooking, so are fast to prepare. For salads, bring a big bowl (or even a Tupperware container), your favourite veggies, a dressing and toss when you get there! You’ll have a fresh dish that’s easy to share and personalized with your flavours.
Now’s also the time to get out of the old egg salad sandwich rut. Incorporate ingredients you wouldn’t normally use, but that you like, into your recipes. Sandwiches are especially good for easily combining flavours you like. Here are a few ideas:
You can also keep your favourite sandwich ingredients and enjoy them without the bread. Just put them together and roll them up in rice paper or a lettuce leaf! In fact, spring rolls are a great way to enjoy your favourite food fresh. It’s easy to incorporate the flavours you want, like in these chicken, peach and chili sauce spring rolls.
In the end, you already know the basic principles of the best picnic recipes. The only missing ingredient to ensure your happiness is your creativity!
The most versatile ingredients in the city!
As we mentioned earlier, chicken is a really versatile food, but it isn’t the only one! In fact, with only a handful of ingredients, you can make a whole bunch of simple recipes. Here are just a few examples:
Breathe new life into leftovers
A picnic with a let’s-empty-the-fridge theme pairs perfectly with practical and pleasant. It’s the time to use up leftovers and create original, fresh dishes for your picnics!
Pasta and salad
Many salads require some cooking time for things like rice, orzo and quinoa, but using leftover pasta and grains is faster! Just add a few veggies and sauce to create your favourite salads.
Have leftover meat like chicken or roast beef? Why not shred them and add them to your dish? Same goes for veggies or canned legumes. You can whip up a colourful and tasty salad in no time flat!
Again, forget traditional recipes or dishes and focus on being spontaneous and creative. For leftover inspiration, check out this article, The art of cooking leftovers like a chef, by Valérie Dupuis.
Tools: how to survive a picnic
Even if you don’t have much time, it’s always practical to bring a few items to keeps things comfy and clean for picnic goers. But you don’t want to be bogged down with never-ending coolers and dishes, so choose your equipment wisely.
Bring the minimum
Of course, what you need at one location is different from what you need at another, so you have to not only think about the picnic you’re organizing, but where you’re having it.
A huge, honking cooler just isn’t necessary! A knapsack or resealable bag with ice in it can do the trick so you don’t have to lug your food around too long. Then, think about the meal and how you’d like to eat. If you have food you can eat with your hands, then a simple tray will suffice. If, on the other hand, you have meals to be prepared and shared on the spot, opt for dishes like bowls and plastic containers. They’re solid and easy to transport.
On foot, you try to bring the minimum. For example, if you’ll be at a place that doesn’t have garbage cans or picnic tables, you should probably bring a garbage bag and a blanket to be comfortable. If you’re going to the beach, resealable containers can save a pasta salad from the sand. You know that every picnic is different and you can bring a lot of equipment to each one. On the other hand, some items are essential for any picnic!
4 essential items for a picnic
Don’t have much time to think about what equipment to bring? Here are four things you have to have for a successful picnic regardless of the situation.
To conclude, we invite you to share your tips with us in the comments, and we share with you a few of our recommendations for your future picnics!