A Tuesday Seaside Picnic For Three

As written for Your Smart Kitchen.
Seaside Picnic, Just Your Not So Average Wednesday

Seaside Picnic, Just Your Not So Average Tuesday

In this economy you often hear people talking about having to cut back. Most of us have cut back in one or more ways. But what my husband and I are finding is that cutting back on expenses does not have to mean cutting back on fun. There are plenty of terrific ways to stretch your dollar, and to get out and enjoy ourselves. This week we transformed what started out as an average Tuesday, into a romantic seaside escape.

chickensandwich_250It is easy to come home from work at the end of the day, watch TV, and slip into our same old routine. But today we packed our dinner into our picnic basket, and enjoyed the California sunset that was within a few minutes of our home. The weather report had called for clouds, and possibly rain this morning, so when I stepped outside at 2:00pm and saw a clear sky, and felt the warmth of the sun, I decided a picnic would be the perfect way to spend our Tuesday evening.

Picnics can be a great way to not only try new recipes, but also to use up leftovers. We decided to make good use of our chicken leftovers to create a gourmet chicken sandwich with roasted red bell peppers and arugula for our picnic. Not only were we able to make use of our grilled chicken leftovers from earlier in the week, we also saved ourselves time when preparing for the picnic by already having cooked the poultry. Picnics also are a great time to enjoy all of your favorite finger foods, like nuts and watermelon slices.

berrydessert_250Our total preparation time for the picnic was about 30 minutes, maybe a little more if you count the fact that we had to pack toys and snacks for our dog too. So I guess it was technically a picnic for three. Our dog, Hayley, also found the picnic a great activity, she was able to roll around in the grass and watch squirrels; while we dined on gourmet sandwiches, risotto with peas and prosciutto, watermelon and a tasty Red, White and Blueberry dessert, which we assembled at the picnic site quite easily. We also enjoyed a fun summertime refreshment, Arnold Palmer beverages. Which are a mix of equal parts lemonade and iced tea.

risotto_250A little side note on the menu for our picnic. We were not worried about the risotto staying warm while we journeyed to the picnic site. Risotto is actually a fun grain to work with. It can be eaten hot or cold. It can actually be substituted for sushi rice in a pinch when making your own sushi rolls. The key to planning for a easy and enjoyable picnic, is picking items for the menu that are easily served at the picnic site with little effort. You often may not have the space, or frankly the desire, to be cutting and preparing food once you are there.

sunset_250I think our favorite part was after dinner, as we enjoyed the amazing sunset and relaxed there together in the warmth of the evening sun. As the sea spray touched our faces, we each took a deep breath and enjoyed the fresh air. And we didn’t miss the old routine, not even for a second. There is something about dining outdoors that is not only relaxing, but gives you an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the beauty of the nature that we live with.

yum_250Whatever the occasion for a picnic, and no matter the place, once you are there you will be glad you took the time to plan it. Click more for Picnic Tips and Recipes:

Picnic Planning

The Menu –

  • Chicken and Arugula Sandwiches, (see recipe) wrapped in parchment paper and tied with twine.
  • Risotto with Peas and Prosciutto, made ahead of time and stored in a reusable bowl, covered with aluminum foil. Tip: simply make the risotto according to the package’s instructions and simply stir in cooked peas and chopped prosciutto at the final step.
  • Watermelon, sliced ahead of time and stored in a Ziploc bag.
  • Red, White and Blueberry Dessert: homemade whipped cream atop a section of 3 lady fingers, topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries (the berries are washed and cut ahead of time, and stored in a small Ziploc bag) Tip: assemble at the picnic site. Pack the cream in a small reusable plastic container and keep cool in your cooler or insulated bag until serving time.
  • Arnold Palmer non-alcoholic cocktails: equal parts lemonade and ice tea mixture (placed in a reusable plastic pitcher with sealing lid). Tip: Place ice cubes in a reusable water bottle with a lid; adding ice when serving the beverages is a nice touch.

watermelon_250Creating the scene – When planning your picnic menu, strive to serve foods that can be held in hand or only require a fork. It isn’t always easy to cut food at the picnic site. Choose appetizers, main dishes, salads and desserts that will travel well and can be made ahead of time and can be served at room temperature. Think bite size snacks like nuts, carrot sticks and snap peas. They also serve as healthy alternatives to potato chips! Instead of lettuce-based salads, find recipes for pasta and rice alternatives for your salads. Lettuce can get soggy, and you also want to avoid packing bottles of salad dressing.

Preparation – Try to have everything assembled before you leave for the picnic, the less you have to do at the picnic site the better. If you plan a menu such as the one above, you won’t have to do a lot of work at the picnic site. Fill a wicker basket or a canvas bag with your room-temperature foods and tableware. Fill another canvas bag, preferable an insulated one, with the cold items such as the beverages and dessert. Toss in some frozen ice packs to keep your cold items cool while at the picnic site.

picnicpeople_250Be “Green” – Use parchment paper or wax paper instead of plastic wrap or throw away containers for the sandwiches. Paper is a more environmentally friendly option. Try to pack reusable plastic plates and glasses. A lot of local grocery stores and drug stores have these items on display for the summertime season, and often at great sale prices. Avoid using and throwing away paper plates and plastic utensils when possible, it is not that hard to do and the earth will thank you for it! Bring along some empty plastic grocery sacks to toss your dirty dishes into at the end of the picnic, that way you can carry them home to be washed, and not dirty your canvas bags.

Must Have Extras – Don’t forget to pack a large blanket or sheet to sit on, and a tablecloth for your dining area. Pack pillows or beach chairs for seating. And don’t forget napkins or paper towels for your guests, and a hand towel from the kitchen (in case you have any spills, and as extra padding when packing items). Last but not least, bring your camera!

Gourmet Chicken Sandwiches

Gourmet Chicken Sandwiches

Gourmet Chicken Sandwiches

Yields 6 sandwiches (reduce by half for 3 sandwiches)


3 tablespoons of plain Greek style yogurt
4 teaspoons of honey Dijon mustard
½ cup arugula, chopped
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
1 16oz jar of roasted red bell peppers
4 small boneless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced diagonally into strips
6 (5 inch)baguettes of French bread, cut lengthwise into halves
2 large bunches of arugula

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and mustard and add the chopped arugula and fresh ground pepper. Set aside. The yogurt mixture can be made up to 1 day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

Spread 2 teaspoons (or more to taste) of the yogurt mixture on the sides of each bread half. Begin layering the arugula, chicken and then bell peppers on the bottom halves. Top with the remaining bread halves. Wrap tightly in wax paper. Sandwiches can be chilled for up to 4 hours before being transported to the picnic, they will come to room temperature while you make your way to the picnic site.

Variation: Try substituting steak instead of the chicken and adding 1-2 teaspoons of horseradish to the yogurt mixture. This is a great way to make use of leftover chicken or steak. You can also try substituting grilled portobello mushrooms for your vegetarian guests.

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  • megan says:

    Wow, Terry never got any beautiful pictures of a seaside picnic from me! I’m inspired and you’ve made me miss La Jolla again!

  • Mom B says:

    The two of you are so lucky to live in an area that is like heaven on earth. Glad to see you are taking advantage of the beauty in La Jolla while making memories. You are blest to have each other and Hayley is lucky to have both of you. Simple food can make the best of dinners! Your photos are wonderful as always.


  • Ray H says:

    Hey guys,

    Nice write up and photos. It looks like this should be in a magazine, as it has all the elements of being creative, being green, the pleasures of simplicity, flavor, mouth watering pictures, life, fun and so on.

    The other day, I was just thinking about doing a picnic for a date.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Picnics could be very exciting and recreational. Though we are experiencing a great economic crisis, we should not forget to have leisure time with our kids and family. Picnic is one good way of doing it. Not that expensive but full of fun and excitement.

  • Make sure you people equip yourselves with a reliable picnic basket for your picnics! To be sure, get one with thermal insulation to prevent your food and wine from spoiling too quickly! Enjoy the many picnics to come 🙂

  • […] Allison Cafe » A Tuesday Seaside Picnic For Three 30 Jun 2009. We decided to make good use of our chicken leftovers to create a gourmet chicken. It isn't always easy to cut food at the picnic site. Choose appetizers, main dishes, salads and desserts that will travel well and can be made. The other day, I was just thinking about doing a picnic for a date. Allison Cafe » A Tuesday Seaside Picnic For Three […]

  • A romantic weekend with your family picnic, take with your picnic baskets and enjoy the natural beauty, how exciting!

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