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All American Picnic Ideas

3 menus to choose from!

Highlights 4Cs

Curious, Creative, Caring, and Confident™
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Prepare and pack these tasty and portable picnic dishes—wherever you go this summer.
family going on a picnic

As kids, we threaded our bicycle wheels with red, white, and blue streamers, stuck mini American flags in our vegetable garden, and decorated our backyard picnic table with bouquets of blue hydrangeas, Queen Anne’s lace, and red roses for the Fourth of July.

My kids love carrying on these traditions, and still make sure red, white, and blue are front and center at our table. Check out the menus here and try one for your Fourth  of July celebration. Show your true colors with red, white, and blue cups, napkins, utensils, and paper plates.

1. Classic American Picnic

Standout dish: Fried chicken cutlets

Serve with: Creamy potato salad; carrots and celery with onion dip; raspberry brownies

Works because: It’s a hands-down favorite.

Prep and effort: No biggie. Cutlets are easy. Make them ahead of time. Serve cold or hot. Buy the sides. Stir ½ cup raspberry preserves into your favorite brownie batter and call it a new Fourth of July tradition. Bake as directed. Top with fresh raspberries before serving.

Fried Chicken Cutlets

Serves: 4–6

What You’ll Need:

2 eggs

¾ cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch of garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1½ pounds thin boneless, skinless chicken breast

Canola oil for frying

What to Do:

1. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. On a large plate, combine the seasoned bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

2. Dip cutlets into the beaten eggs and then into the crumb mixture.

3. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil (pour in enough so it is about ¼ inch deep). When hot, add cutlets in a single layer. Sauté for about 6 minutes. Turn once. Remove, set aside, and repeat with remaining cutlets, adding oil as needed. Refrigerate the finished cutlets. Keep cold in an insulated cooler or basket. Serve with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce, if desired.

2. Laid-Back Vegetarian Feast

Standout dish: Grilled veggie sandwiches

Serve with: Confetti couscous salad; white bean dip and raw veggies; raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry parfaits

Works because: Summer produce is at the height of the season.

Prep and effort: Seriously? Almost none. Grill veggies ahead of time and transport them in tightly covered containers. Make sandwiches when you’re ready to eat.

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

Serves: 4

What You’ll Need:

2 zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise

2 yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut lengthwise

1 small red onion, sliced

1 cup sliced red bell pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup soft goat cheese

1 diced avocado

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 long loaf of crusty French bread, halved lengthwise, or hero rolls

What to Do:

1. Brush veggies with olive oil. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes on a preheated grill rack over low heat, turning occasionally until softened and grill marks appear. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Layer grilled veggies on bread. Spread goat cheese on top. Add avocado and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and basil. Close the sandwich, slice in quarters, and serve with a bean dip and:

DIY Confetti Couscous Salad
  1. Cook up a batch of couscous. Add finely diced purple onion, red and yellow bell pepper, peeled cucumber, and zucchini.
  2. Toss with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Store in covered plastic containers in a cooler until ready to serve.  
DIY Parfaits
  1. Pack one large unopened container of vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit in a cooler.
  2. Add a scoopful of yogurt into each of 4 tall plastic glasses. Create layers of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries by alternating fruit and yogurt. Finish with granola topping.
3. New Orleans-Style Deli Spread

Standout dish: Hero-like deli sandwiches called muffulettas

Serve with: Pickles, macaroni salad, crunchy slaw, watermelon (preferably, a lot)

Prep and effort: Almost zero. Just hit the deli.


Serves: 6

What You’ll Need:

¾ cup pitted black olives, chopped

¾ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch of dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 long or round crusty sandwich rolls

6 slices each of: Genoa salami, boiled ham, Swiss cheese, deli turkey

6 large leaves of iceberg lettuce, washed and dried

2 large plum tomatoes, sliced thin

What to Do:
The Olive Salad

Combine olives, parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper.

The Heroes

Cut rolls in half. Brush them with the remaining olive oil, layer the deli meats, cheese, lettuce, and tomato slices. Spoon the olive salad on top, and close up the sandwich. Slice in half, wrap in foil, refrigerate, and keep cold when you’re on the go. Your kids can help with some of these tasks if they happen to be hanging around.