It’s that time of year when the days are longer, the sun is bright, and we are ready to step outside and enjoy all the beautiful days of summer! I don’t know about you, but for me when the weather is nice I want to be out of the office as soon and as often as possible.  This is when I get to talk about taking our food and entertaining outside- it’s Picnic Time!

Whether your picnic is just out the backdoor, lakeside, ball-game or Ravinia style I want to talk about the simple tricks that will make your summer fun easier and more enjoyable for the hostess in all of us.  First, let’s start with some simple menu tips.

Keep it simple by planning your picnic in advance- I like to make my menu a few days ahead of time and then I break it down into 15 min tasks. I also like to keep things fun and easy by planning one feature focus- for example- my Farro with pesto & mozzarella salad gets placed in small jelly jars for a simple presentation of a side salad. Hint: If you soak your Farro overnight- it only takes 15 mins to cook the next morning- You can finish up the salad after your day at work and place in the jars and you are set to go outside. Another 15 mins task- pack your basket with clean linens, silverware, melamine plates and salt and pepper. I take a few minutes, gather my portable table & chairs, and set everything in one area.

For the balance of my menu, I like to cook extra chicken or other meat with the dinner before, that allows me to throw together a fast and easy “sandwich” the day or night of the picnic- I like to use alternative bread options for my dinners or sometimes I will just skip them altogether. The best picnics also have easy, grab and go items- but nothing processed or packaged in my house- so I will cut up cheese and some meats for snacking, along with nuts and fruit- another 15 min project.  Keep dessert simple by presenting a deconstructed s’more treat. It’s easy and yummy- no fireplace required. Who doesn’t love to nibble on marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers!

Wherever your picnic basket takes you this summer, just remember- these dog days don’t last long so enjoy each one of them with someone special.