Sunday, March 24, 2013

All American Picnic Food

Summer in Michigan meant picnics at my Grandparent's house, at Aunt Faye's , in the back yard and during our summer vacations with relatives at Higgins Lake.

I want to do a segment here on traditional American Picnic recipes.
Summer is coming and so are the picnics.

We have a portable picnic table that we keep in the trunk of our car in the summer so we can enjoy picnics on the side of the road as we travel. We took this idea from our friends in the South of France.

The most popular Picnic dish would have to be Potato Salad.
I believe that my Grandmother made the best!

She never had a recipe for it, nor do I.
We knew it had to have Potatoes, Hard Boiled Eggs, Onion, Celery, Pickle Relish, Mustard Mayonnaise, Paprika, Salt and Pepper.
She would boil peeled potatoes, cool them completely, hold one in her hand and begin randomly cutting them with a paring knife over a large crock bowl.

One rule was that for as many boiled potatoes she made, she made an equal number of hard boiled eggs She always mixed the "dressing" separately and added it at the end. The amount of ingredients depended on how many people there were for lunch and that determined how many potatoes and eggs.

I also know that she would refrigerate the large bowl of prepared salad before she served it because it would soak up the dressing in the refrigerator and then she would have to add additional mayonnaise.

Here's my attempt to create my Best of the Best recipe for Potato Salad.

8 Potatoes that are peeled, boiled and then randomly cut with a paring knife over the bowl.
8 Hard Boiled Eggs cut with a paring knife, into the Potatoes.

The Sauce or Dressing consists of ( these amounts are approximate)
In a separate bowl, combine:
1 C of diced Celery
1 C of diced Onion
1/2 C of Pickle Relish
2 or more TBS of Yellow Mustard ( we always refer to this as Kid Mustard) , nothing fancy like Dijon
2 C of real Mayonnaise, additional as need at the end

Fold the Sauce into the bowl with the Potatoes and Eggs
Add Additional Mayonnaise as desired
Sprinkle with Paprika just before serving.

Peace in the Kitchen!

Green Bean and Tomato Salad:

2 pounds of fresh Green Beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 pints of Cherry Tomatoes, halved

Dressing recipe to follow.

Blanch the beans in a saucepan of salted boiling water
Cook only long enough to become tender and bright green, less than 5 minutes
Drain and plunge immediately into iced water

Combine the Beans and Tomatoes in a large Crock Bowl

1 good sized Onion, large dice
1/4 C Vegetable Oil plus 2 TBS for the Onions
1 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
2 TBS Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Saute the onions in 2 TBS of heated oil for about 1 minute
Reduce heat and simmer an additional 5 minutes
Set these aside 

Whisk together in a bowl:
1/4 C Oil
Add the Onions and cool to room temperature.
Set aside until serving.
Just prior to serving, add the dressing to the Beans/Tomatoes and toss .

Peace in the Kitchen!

Deviled Eggs are a definite Picnic item and I've already posted a recipe on the blog.

Vegetables with a Peppercorn Dressing:

Vegetables trimmed, left whole and placed in a bowl of iced water until ready to serve:

1 Bunch of Green Onions
1 Bunch of Radishes
1 small bag of Baby Carrots
1 small Cauliflower, cut into florets
Celery, cut into sticks
1 Cucumber, peeled and cut into sticks

Peppercorn Dressing:

1 C Mayonnaise
1 C Sour Cream
1 TBS Yellow Mustard
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Pepper
1 TBS of Crushed Black Pepper Corns
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 C Fresh Buttermilk

Combine Mayonnaise and Sour Cream in a bowl
Whisk in :
Pepper Corns
Worcestershire Sauce

Fold in the Buttermilk
Transfer to a Canning Jar, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, place the Vegetables on a serving platter or in individual containers.
Shake the Dressing and pour into a container for dipping. 
Remember, this is a picnic so Tupperware containers that are sealable are perfect for transporting.

Peace in the Kitchen!


I remember the picnic sandwich at my Grandmother's was Chicken Salad. I posted a vegetarian version earlier on the blog.
Others might include Tuna Fish, a Deli Sandwich including Cold Cuts and various Cheeses.
I don't think I need to include recipes for the sandwiches.

If you have access to a Barbecue Grill while on a picnic, the All American Hamburger would be served accompanied by, sliced Onion, Dill Pickles, Lettuce, Ketchup , Mustard and Mayonnaise.  It would be placed on a basic Hamburger Bun that's been toasted on the Grill.
Hot Dogs on the Grill are almost always served at a picnic with the same condiments as the Hamburgers.
How could I forget to mention a thick slice of Sharp Cheddar Cheese melted on the Hamburger.
For the Vegetarians there a a number of choices for a Veggie Burger.
I prefer 1/4 lb. Grillers from Morning Star

Tropical Fruit Salad:

2 Ripe Bananas, sliced, 1C
4 Kiwis, sliced, 1 C
1 Papaya, diced, 1C
Pineapple Chunks, 4C
Mango, diced, 2C
Coconut, fresh grated, 1C
Seedless Grapes, halved
2 peeled sectional Oranges

Mix the fruit together in a container and top with the following dressing:
1/4 C Coconut Milk (it comes in a can and it has the consistency of Sweetened Condensed Milk)
1 TBS Fresh Lime Juice
1TBS Fresh Lemon Juice

Here's another of my favorite Dressings for Fruit.
I've made this one for over 8 years.

1 C Water
1 TBS Cornstarch
1 C Sugar
1 tsp Grated/Zest  Lemon Peel, Lime Peel or Orange Peel.
1/4 C Fresh Lemon Juice, Lime Juice or Orange Juice ( don't use the same fruit for the Peel and the Juice ( mix the combination)

Whisk together Water and Cornstarch in a small saucepan. Whisk in Sugar, Zest and Fruit Juice.
Bring to a boil over low heat, whisking constantly and boil for 1 minute.
Chill at least 2 hours and pour over the Fruit Medley when ready to serve.

Corn on the Cob, boiled ahead of time and the placed on the Grill.
I usually create some type of Herbed or Spiced Butter to spread on the Grilled Ears of Corn.

In Texas, we love Black Eyed Peas.
It's common to serve a form of Texas Caviar at a picnic.
The recipe, if we use one, is simple.

2 TBS Vegetable Oil
Onion, 1 C, diced
Celery, 1 C , diced
Red Bell Pepper, 1-2 , diced
8 C cooked Black Eyed Peas ( canned and drained  are perfectly acceptable)
1/3 C Sugar
1/3 C Apple Cider Vinegar

Heat the Oil in a large Saute Pan, Saucepan or Dutch Oven
Saute Onion until translucent, 3- 4 minutes
Add Celery and Red Pepper, saute for an additional 3 - 4 minutes
Add Black Eyed Peas , Sugar and Vinegar ( Mix well)
Simmer until the Peas are heated, about 10 minutes
Refrigerate and chill completely until ready to serve.

Cole Slaw is another favorite American Side Dish for a Picnic.
I've posted my favorite recipe previously on the blog.

Macaroni Salad is another American Classic:
I love Potato Salad, but I could say that I love Macaroni Salad equally as well.

Here's a basic recipe for Macaroni Salad:
My original recipe was doubled, I cut it in half for this post.

2 pounds of Elbow Macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained
3 C diced Celery
2 C diced Onion
2 C Grated Cheddar Cheese
4 TBS Vinegar
4 TBS Sugar
3 - 4 C Mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together in a large serving bowl or a covered plastic container for transporting to the picnic.

Vegetarian Baked Beans:

I had to come back to this post and create a recipe for my Vegetarian Baked Beans
I've been making these Beans for years and never had a recipe, I just made them.
I soon discovered that the family was asking for these Beans at most Picnics and for Holiday meals, especially Easter.
I finally made them and created a written recipe of ingredients and quantities.

3 cans of Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans ( 28oz. cans) , drained completely in a colander.
I don't like wet and soggy Baked Beans.
1/2 C Ketchup
1/2 C Kansas City Original Barbecue Sauce, or your favorite.
1 Large White Onion, diced
1 C packed Light Brown Sugar
no salt, no pepper, nothing else!

I start by letting the Beans drain completely in a colander.
In a 4 C Pyrex measuring cup, I mix together the Ketchup, Barbecue Sauce, Brown Sugar  and diced Onion.
I let this sit for awhile so the Onion absorbs the flavor of the mixture
In a large bowl, combine the Beans and the Sauce and mix well.
I have a vintage Bean Pot that hold the exact amount of this recipe.

Bake covered at 350 degrees least 1 hour, or more. You'll begin to smell them!
Remove the lid and continue baking for 15 - 25 minutes more.

I prefer to serve them cold as we traditionally would for a Picnic when they have to be transported.

Peace in the Kitchen!

Beverages include :

Iced Tea, ( always served at my family picnics) We prefer the basic, un sweetened tea that we all refer to as "Church Tea".
In the South, a Sweet Tea is the choice for a picnic.

The most common dessert would be Strawberry Shortcake. My Grandmother made it for every picnic.
Fruit Pies, second most popular picnic dessert. ( served with Vanilla Ice Cream)
Chocolate Chip Cookies are a favorite.
Brownies would be another great choice.

I make a Brownie that includes Popcorn, Peanuts and Chocolate Chips.
Make your favorite Brownie recipe batter.
Before baking, top the batter with Popped Popcorn, Whole Peanuts and Chocolate Chips. ( as much or as little of each ingredient as you like)
Bake according to package directions and enjoy the crunchy additions to the Brownie Mix.

I think I've been nostalgic enough to remember the great family picnics that I had as a child growing up in Michigan.
The weather was usually hot, there may have been a lake close by or most of the time they were in my Grandmother's yard that included a brick barbecue grill and a Croquet game set up on the lawn !

I hope everyone takes the time to get outdoors and enjoy  family picnics this summer.

Peace on a Picnic!

These are the only pictures I have available at this time. This is part of the preparation for the Vegetarian Baked Beans.
As I get into the Summer Season and making these recipes for a picnic, I'll post additional photographs!

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