With holidays from Memorial Day to July 4th to Labor Day, summer is a great time for picnics.


Chef George Duran joined a great group of eager picnickers in The Motherhood for the fourth and final class of the 2012 Cooking Connections series, brought to us by ConAgra Foods and ReadySetEat.com, to discuss new picnic flavors and great recipe ideas for this summer.




George started off his video demonstration with a recipe for Greek Pasta Salad from ReadySetEat.com.  “LOVE pasta salads in the summer!” said Kim of At Home with Kim.


“Can’t wait to make it,” agreed Kim of My Cup of Creativi-Tea. “I love any kind of Greek salad! The cheese and olives are my favorite.”


“Gluten Free pastas like Tinkyada work really well too,” suggested Kristy of Mommy Hates Cooking.


For picky eaters especially, “pasta is also perfect for kids,” pointed out Amanda of Parenting by Dummies. “I have 1 that is picky & he loves pastas!”


The second recipe George demonstrated, Caesar salad spring rolls of his own invention, was a big crowd pleaser. “Such an easy dressing! LOVE IT!” raved Wendy of Around My Family Table, and Devaki of Weave a Thousand Flavors suggested adding cherry tomato halves for an extra pop of flavor.


George suggested making the wraps just 3-4 hours in advance so they don’t dry out in the fridge overnight.


“Raise your hand if you are hungry!” said Jodi of Mom’s Favorite Stuff.


Agreed Angie of My Four Monkeys, “I now have all these ideas of things I could wrap in rice paper to make it an on-the-go meal!”



Picnic Tips from George Duran


Rinse pasta in cold water to stop the cooking after you’ve drained it for your pasta salad.


To save calories in preventing sticky pasta while you’re preparing your other pasta salad ingredients, spray a little PAM Olive Oil nonstick spray in your pasta and mix it around. “Yes- I always have a problem with sticking! Great idea!” approved Yoli of Sassy Mama in LA.


To create a non-slip surface for your cutting board, put a damp paper towel underneath it.


To eat salad with your fingers, turn it into a spring roll.  Make your salad and roll it in rice wrappers. “Just dip the wrapper in the water long enough to coat it. Then set it on plate and wait 10 seconds. Perfect moisten spring roll wrapper. I’ve been making spring rolls since I was 7,” said Kim of My Cup of Creativi-Tea.


To make your own croutons to save money and eat healthier, cut up bread, put it in a sheet pan and spray it with PAM Olive Oil, then toast and season it.  Freezes well.


Kid-friendly picnic foods are usually finger foods like small sandwiches, cubes of cheese, watermelon wedges and other items that allow kids to keep moving while they’re eating.


To keep foods fresh over a long period of time, stick with cold foods that don’t contain milk products, and use ice packs while transporting.


Fancy picnic drinks like sangria should stick with white wines for a light drink option. “Fancy Sangria sounds really good!” said Piera of Jolly Mom.  George cautioned to take it easy with alcohol during hot picnic weather, when it’s easy to get dehydrated.


At a picnic, bring giant cutting boards for serving.  If a table isn’t available, they will help create a flat surface for pitchers, plates and other items.


For an alternative to sandwiches, try bringing wraps.  Kids will love these peanut butter apple wraps from ReadySetEat.


Remember to pre-cut food so people can easily eat with one hand or eat standing up at the picnic location.  Grilled vegetables are a great picnic option, especially for vegetarians and vegans.


To make sure you’re getting a sweet watermelon, buy a pre-cut watermelon so you can see the color inside.  Make sure it’s bright red.


Consider creating a toppings bar if you have guests over for a picnic.  Grill hot dogs and hamburgers and let them choose their own toppings.


For more great picnic ideas, check out the New York Times piece on 101 Picnic Dishes that Angie of My Four Monkeys shared. Here’s another post that has lots of great ideas – 101 Picnic Dishes.