Fill up the baskets, fold up the blankets, and grab a bottle of wine to go because today is International Picnic Day! The Oxford English dictionary defines a picnic as "an occasion when a packed meal is eaten outdoors." So that pretty much means anything goes today...plan a classic picnic on the grass or grab a take out lunch and go sit on the patio at work! 

After all, a picnic does not have to be complicated. There are a number of easy to create dishes for picnics that are tasty and quick to put together. We love these simple and delicious ideas from Whole Foods. 

Club Sandwich Kabobs

4 thick slices whole grain bread, toasted and cut into (1-inch) cubes
4 slices deli ham
4 slices deli turkey
16 cherry tomatoes
4 leaves butter or romaine lettuce
1/4 pound cheddar, cut into cubes
1/4 pound provolone or mozzarella, cut into cubes
2 kosher dill or sweet pickles, thickly sliced

Alternating ingredients, thread bread, ham, turkey, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and pickles onto skewers and serve. Serve these with mustard, mayonnaise or ranch dressing on the side for dipping

Southwestern Couscous Salad

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup lime juice
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 (15 ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears corn)

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes; fluff with a fork. Toss couscous with remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Date and Olive Oil Wine Crackers

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 eggs, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pulse 1 cup flour and dates in a food processor until very finely chopped; transfer to a large bowl. Stir in remaining flour, zest, salt, baking powder and pepper. Pour oil and 2 beaten eggs into a well in the center and stir until combined; knead briefly in the bowl until the dough comes together. Press dough into a log and wrap snugly in parchment paper, squeezing tightly and twisting the ends in opposite directions like a candy wrapper to form a tight 9-inch-long log; chill until firm, 2 to 3 hours. Trim off the ends, and then cut into 24 slices. Brush tops with remaining 1 beaten egg, arrange on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to let cool. Can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Crispy Cashew Rice Treats

1/2 cup rice syrup
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
3/4 cup cashews, toasted and chopped (or your favorite nut)
2 cups brown rice crisp cereal
Oil for baking dish

Bring rice syrup to boil in a medium saucepan. Lower heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add peanut butter and turn heat to low. Mix thoroughly, about 3 minutes. Combine cashews with rice crisp cereal in a mixing bowl. Add peanut butter mixture to rice crisp cereal mixture and combine. Press into an oiled baking dish and let cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Perfect Your Picnic Prowess

If you're anticipating a summer of picnics and roadside dining—and we hope you are—here are some suggestions to make the whole process easier and a heck of a lot more fun:

  1. Invest in a good quality cooler for perishables. Look for air-tight gasket seals around the lid and, on larger coolers, a leak-proof spigot for draining melted ice. (Consider the size: coolers filled with food and ice can be heavy, so you may want to buy two coolers of manageable size rather than one large one you can't lift easily.)
  2. Look for watertight containers for storing foods. Is there anything more disappointing on a picnic than discovering that your sandwiches are water logged from melted ice? Heavy-duty, reusable ones are best. Mason jars are a great solution for salads, chilled soups and cut fruit or veggies – they’re reusable, resealable, and come in a wide range of sizes.
  3. Keep a small wooden cutting board and sharp paring or pocketknife on hand for last-minute food preparation. Be sure to wash the board with extra hot and soapy water after cutting meats and before packing it back up to avoid bacterial growth.
  4. During the summer, keep a light, over-sized blanket or sheet in the back of your car for impromptu dining on the ground. A plastic ground sheet is also a good idea to protect the blanket — and your backside, for that matter — from ground moisture.
  5. Don’t be bugged! Thwart hungry ants by drawing circles around your plate with chalk. Talcum powder works equally well if dining on the ground. Ants can't stand the smell and texture of either. Deter bees with sprigs of fresh mint, and choose a spot with a light breeze to help keep mosquitos away.
  6. Garbage bags take up very little space and are essential. Be a responsible picnicker!

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