The perfect park picnic

By mredd2222
Published July 2, 2015

The perfect park picnic

Freedom Park in Charlotte, North Carolina, has always been a special place for my family. I spent many afternoons of my childhood there—playing youth lacrosse, riding bikes around the duck pond, and climbing on the giant steam engine. Now, as an adult, I go there with my wife to walk the dog and socialize with friends. It’s even better when we pack a picnic!

If you’ve never tried it before, the full-on park picnic—blanket, hamper, and all—definitely belongs on your summer bucket list. Need some inspiration? Here are a few great recipes to get you started. 

Feta Greek Yogurt Dip

This tangy dip is a refreshing mixture of feta cheese and Greek yogurt. Flavored with hints of lemon, capers, garlic and parsley, it’s also versatile: you can pair it with an assortment of cut vegetables and crackers or use it as a sandwich spread. Thin this dip with a milk and you have a delicious dressing!

Feta Greek Yogurt Dip
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

  • 1 1/4 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Add all the ingredients to the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse on/off until they are combined to dip consistency. Empty the dip into a serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for one hour before serving. Dip can be made and refrigerated for up to three days.

BLT Pesto Sliders

These zesty BLT sliders feature bacon, arugula, ripe tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Bound together by a creamy pesto dressing, these sandwiches are the perfect grab –and-go picnic food. Equally delicious without the bacon, they can be adapted as a vegetarian sandwich option for your guests.

BLT Pesto Sliders
Makes 24 sliders

  • 2 12-roll packages of savory butter rolls (or sheets of soft dinner rolls)
  • 1 pound thick-cut bacon, cooked and drained on paper towels
  • 3/4 cup basil arugula walnut pesto (see recipe below, or use store-bought pesto)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced into 24 pieces
  • 3 cups washed baby arugula
  • 24 slices of ripe tomatoes (red and yellow)
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse-ground black pepper
  1. Remove the rolls from the package (do not separate rolls). Use a long, serrated knife to cut the sheet of rolls in half (as if you were dividing a layer cake to fill it). Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the pesto and the mayonnaise. Spread on the cut side of each of sheet of rolls.
  3. Place the bottom side of the rolls on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Divide the cheese slices and layer over the pesto spread.
  4. Crumble the bacon and distribute evenly over the cheese layers.
  5. Cover each of the bacon layers with slices of tomato. Season the tomato layer with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover each tomato layer with an even layer of arugula.
  7. Place the top half of the sandwich roll sheets over each of the filled bottom layers. Gently press all over the top of the filled roll layers so that the sliders layers stick together.
  8. Cut each of the assembled sheets of sliders into individual rolls. Serve the sliders or wrap in plastic film and chill overnight.

Basil Arugula Walnut Pesto

  • 4 cups washed basil leaves
  • 3 cups packed washed baby arugula leaves
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  1. Place the basil, arugula, walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and Tabasco into the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped.
  2. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture until the pesto comes together.
  3. Remove the pesto from the processor and chill until needed. Leftover pesto can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Butterscotch Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

Sweet and satisfying, these cookies are a delicious change of pace from the familiar chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin option. The cookies can be made in advance and frozen. They’re great on their own, or you can crumble them with fruit and yogurt for a picnic parfait!

Butterscotch Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Makes about 48 large cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups uncooked oatmeal (old-fashioned)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup butterscotch morsels
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits (we used Heath)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to blend. Set aside.
  3. In the work bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer) add the butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed until the butter and sugar mixture is well blended and creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat the mixture on medium speed until blended.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture gradually and mix until just blended.
  6. Add the oatmeal, coconut, butterscotch and toffee bits. With the mixer on low, mix the cookie batter until the ingredients are just blended.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop the batter in 1 1/2-tablespoon-sized pieces. Gently flatten the cookies with the back of a spoon. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Guest bloggers Sally James Mathis and Taylor Mathis are the mother-son duo behind Taylor Takes a Taste. Give their recipes a try and let us know how your park picnic turns out!

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