Backyard Picnic Inspiration

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Leave the car in the driveway and the picnic basket in the pantry. With just a few steps out your back door, you can host an awesome outdoor social that’s accessible for everyone on your guest list. Julie Albert, Lisa Gnat and Jane Apor of give you the tips, tricks and recipes to make it picnic perfect.

Setting the Scene
Before you take it outside, survey the state of your outdoor space. If your lawn is looking more lifeless than lush, water it, but be sure to do so no less than two days in advance – you don’t want soggy bottoms! As well, keep your eyes peeled for weeds, loose stones and other possible safety hazards such as beehives.

If you have a table you can set up in the backyard, that’s ideal for all ages. Cover it with craft paper and supply crayons for a creative tablecloth.

If not, pull some blankets and throw pillows outdoors – overtop an outdoorrug to avoid grass stains if the lawn is your stage.

Add great atmosphere to your backyard bonanza – pipe a Picnic Playlist from portable speakers, string paper lanterns from trees for daytime festivities and light up twinkle lights and candles for a magical evening.

Create a picnic menu that allows you to do as much as you can in advance – the day before, cut up fruit and veggies for snacking and pre-chill beverages to ensure you have cool sips.

With a backyard picnic, you have the benefit of a casual meal combined with modern conveniences such as refrigeration. Use it – there’s nothing fun about food spoilage. If it’s a hot day, set up an indoor buffet – it will not only keep the food at safe temperatures but also insect-free.

Remember the elements – sunscreen and bug spray or a citronella candle to keep sunburn and insects at bay. As well, determine in advance if youhave shade in your backyard – if not, consider awnings or umbrellas as cooler options.

Let the games begin – Frisbee, croquet, face painting, kites, bubbles and balls all lead to some major merrymaking. If it gets very warm, crank up the sprinkler for the perfect kid cool-down.

Keep in mind who’s coming. Kids? Load up on kid-friendly food(mini peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese wraps, granola bars, fresh fruit thread on wooden skewers, snack mix and
muffins) and activities. Guests who might not be comfortable sitting on the ground? Make sure you have folding chairs handy.

The Menu
Lemon Dill Grilled Chicken
Watermelon & Arugula Salad
Raspberry Meringue Nests
Snake in the Grass

Lemon Dill Grilled Chicken Citrus Dijon Marinade
2    shallots, cut in half
¾ cup    cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp    lemon zest
¼ cup     Dijon mustard
¼ cup     olive oil
1 tsp     dried oregano
1 tsp     kosher salt
1 tsp     freshly ground black             pepper
10 sprigs     fresh dill, washed and uncut

6    boneless skinless
chicken breast halves
2    lemons or limes

Citrus Dijon Marinade In large bowl, whisk shallots, lemon juice, zest, mustard, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour into a glass 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Place chicken between two sheets of waxed paper and pound to even thickness, about ½ inch thick. Add to marinade, scattering dill sprigs on top. Refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours, turning once.
Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush and oil the grate. Discard marinade and dill, grilling chicken breasts for 5 to 6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice over the cooked chicken and serve with a wedge of lemon or lime.
Serves 6

Honey Roasted Walnuts
1 cup    walnut halves
1 tbsp    honey
3 tbsp    sugar
½ tsp    kosher salt
¼ tsp    chili powder

Citrus Dressing
4 tbsp    olive oil
¼ cup    fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp    fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp    fresh lime juice
2 tsp    honey
½ tsp    kosher salt
½ tsp    freshly ground
black pepper

Watermelon Salad
3 cups    watermelon, cut in
¾ inch cubes
¼ cup    fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
5 cups    baby arugula
1 cup    crumbled goat cheese

Honey Roasted Walnuts In a medium bowl, combine walnuts and honey, tossing well to coat. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and chili powder. Sprinkle over walnuts and mix well. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in 350 F oven for 8 minutes. Stir nuts and bake for 6 to 8 minutes longer or until lightly toasted. Remove from oven and let cool.
Citrus Dressing In a blender, combine oil, mint, lemon juice, lime juice, honey, salt and pepper. Process until smooth.
Watermelon Salad In large serving bowl, toss watermelon cubes, mint, arugula and honey-roasted walnuts with Citrus Dressing. Gently toss in goat cheese. Serve immediately.
Serves 4

Meringue Nests
4     egg whites
Pinch    kosher salt
1 cup    sugar, divided
1 tsp    cornstarch
1 tsp    white vinegar

Raspberry Filling
3 cups    frozen raspberries
1 cup    sugar, divided
¾ cup    water
2    egg yolks
½ cup    sugar
¼ cup    cornstarch
Pinch    kosher salt
2 tbsp    butter
Whipped dessert
topping (regular or
low-fat) for garnish
Seedless raspberry
jam for garnish

Meringue Nests

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace six 3-inch circles on the parchment sheets. Flip the parchment over so your meringue won’t touch the ink.
Place egg whites and salt in clean dry bowl of electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add ¾ cup of the sugar, mixing until stiff peaks form.
In small bowl, combine remaining ¼ cup sugar with cornstarch. Lightly fold cornstarch mixture and vinegar into egg whites. Using piping bag fitted with small round nozzle, pipe and fill in over pre-drawn circles, continuing to pipe 3 or 4 rings on top of each other around the rim to form a nest. Bake in 250 F oven for 30 minutes, turn off oven and
let cool for 2 hours in closed oven.

Raspberry Filling

In medium saucepan, combine raspberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar and ¼ cup of the water. Heat on medium-high, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until mixture is lightly boiling and berries are breaking down.
In separate bowl, whisk eggs yolks, remaining ½ cup of the sugar, remaining ½ cup of the water, cornstarch and salt. Temper egg
yolk mixture by quickly whisking in a few tablespoons of the hot raspberry mixture. While continually whisking, transfer warmed egg mixture to saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.
Press raspberry mixture through a fine mesh strainer and discard any solids. Return raspberry filling back to saucepan over low heat.
Add butter, whisking for 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to use, cooling completely.

When ready to serve, fill meringue nests with raspberry filling, top with a heaping spoon of whipped dessert topping and drizzle raspberry jam to finish.
Serves 6

Snake in the grass

2 oz    vodka
1 oz    crème de
1 tsp    fresh lime juice
Lemonade to             top up glass
Fresh mint,
for garnish

Fill tall glass halfway with ice. Add vodka, crème de menthe and lime juice.
Stir to combine and top up with lemonade.
Garnish with fresh mint.
Serves 1

All Ages Proof For the kids, teetotallers or designated drivers, skip the vodka and crème de menthe to make a lemonade mocktail.