Summer is full of fun outdoor events. Free concerts, theatrical performances and movie nights under the stars are just some of the awesome experiences available this time of year. The trick is figuring out what to eat, especially when you’re trying to take advantage of low-cost and free events. Concession stands, food trucks and catered picnics can provide delicious food, but they can also be expensive depending on what you get. If I’m going on a picnic, chances are, I’m packing my own basket. That doesn’t mean I want to be in the kitchen all day or rushing to get things ready just before I need to be out the door. With just a bit of effort, you can have homemade goodies that are inspired and inexpensive. The following recipes will provide you with methods to create dishes that suit a variety of tastes. Even better, you can prep these goodies ahead of time, so they’ll be waiting for you when it’s time to go.
A picnic without a snack is not a picnic worth having. Of course, you have your usual suspects like chips, but why not add get creative with your snack stash? A can of chickpeas and some spice go a long way. Try the Fried Chickpeas recipe from Bon Appétit and play with seasoning if you wish. Salt, pepper and garlic powder have never done me wrong, but feel free to experiment with spices. This recipe is super easy to halve if you’re not feeding a crowd.
Seeking a sweet alternative? Take some of your crispy fried chickpeas and season them à la Epicurious’s Crunchy Cinnamon Garbanzo Beans recipe. There are some great tips for how to store your beans at Epicurious as well.
Sandwiches are the perfect picnic food. They’re portable, filling and can be customized. I love big hero sandwiches, but they can be messy and difficult to eat. Seriously, you do not want half your sandwich or dressing ending up on your lap. Pressed sandwiches are great for picnics because the fillings don’t slip and slide all over the place and the bread gets tons of flavor from the dressing, so they’re easier to manage and super tasty. This Eggplant, Prosciutto and Pesto Pressed Picnic Sandwiches recipe from Host the Toast is a great starting point. Vegetarians can omit the prosciutto and those on a tight budget can substitute sliced ham. Likewise with the cheeses you choose. Use what you can find in your local grocery store. I went with provolone and feta for my sandwiches because that’s what I could find that best emulated the flavors of the recipe, and they were on sale.
Eggplant is yummy, but you can also use other veggies. Inspired by this Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches recipe from Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times’ recipe for Mediterranean Pressed Picnic Sandwiches, I added some grilled zucchini to my sandwiches. If pesto is not your style, try oil and vinegar. I also used jarred pesto and roasted red peppers as directed by Vegetarian Times because that’s what I had on hand, and they’re great alternatives when you’re pressed for time. You can also make your own with the recipes from Host the Toast. Try adding marinated artichoke hearts for some extra tang. Whatever you use to fill your sandwiches, make sure you give them plenty of time to come together in the fridge.
Serve your sandwiches with a potato salad that is big on flavor but ditches the mayonnaise. You don’t have to commit to just one type of salad, either. Make one big batch of potatoes and dress them however you want. The Olive and Parsley Potato Salad recipe from The Kitchn is a wonderful take on the typical potato salad. It’s delicious, creamy and has a nice, salty bite from the olives. Everyday Food’s tangy Dijon Potato Salad recipe is so quick and easy to throw together. I made both of these salads with russet potatoes, cutting them to a reasonable size, and boiled my potatoes as outlined in The Kitchn’s recipe, dressing them accordingly. Trust me, you will not miss the mayonnaise.
Try these recipes and bring variety to your picnic on the cheap, and don’t forget to check out HellaWella’s tips for creating a perfect picnic, too!