Summer Picnic

Seasonal herbs and colorful veggies and fruits shine in these summer picnic recipe suggestions.

Recipes by Lauren McElwain | Photographed by Joe Worthem | Props contributed by Oxford Gourmet

Lauren McElwain is a regular food blogger for Invitation Magazines. Read more of her recipes at or She is also the founder and director of Cooking as a First Language, a community organization based in Tupelo that meets monthly to enable guest chefs from many different countries to share authentic, international food and culture with others. Follow them on Instagram @cookingasafirstlanguage.

No need to travel farther than your own backyard for a leisurely picnic lunch this summer. Set your outdoor table or lay a blanket in the grass and spend an afternoon outside with people you love and seasonally inspired food you won’t be able to resist.

Asian Pasta Salad

1 package spaghetti noodles

1 red bell pepper, julienned

3-4 green onions, julienned

1 cucumber, seeded and julienned

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 cup Asian Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Prepare noodles according to the instructions on the package. Put all ingredients in a decorative bowl, and toss to blend. Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve.

Asian Vinaigrette

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon honey

Whisk ingredients together to combine.

Cilantro Pesto Shrimp Skewers

2 pounds frozen peeled raw shrimp with tails

Cilantro Pesto Marinade (recipe at right)

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Thaw and rinse shrimp. Combine shrimp and marinade in a ziplock bag; seal bag, and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Place 4 or 5 shrimp on each wooden skewer. In a grill pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add shrimp skewers to grill pan, and cook until shrimp turn pink and start to brown, about 3-5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, and serve.

Cilantro Pesto Marinade

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves (stems removed)

1 large garlic clove

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

In a food processor, process all ingredients until completely pureed.

PLT Sandwiches

1 cup mayonnaise

10-12 basil leaves, finely chopped

Olive oil spray, optional

One 12-ounce ciabatta loaf or 6 small

ciabatta rolls

6 fresh mozzarella cheese slices

10-15 large pepperoni slices

6 tomato slices

Handful of spinach leaves

In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and finely chopped basil. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray top of bread or rolls evenly with olive oil spray, if desired. Bake bread until toasted, about 10-12 minutes. Cut the bread in half through the middle to create a top and bottom. Hollow out some bread from cut side of top half to make room for sandwich ingredients.

On the bottom half of the bread, layer mozzarella, pepperoni, spinach and tomato. Spread the basil mixture on the inside of the top half, and place on the sandwich.

If using a loaf, cut sandwich into 2½-inch squares before serving.

Kale & Brussels Sprouts Slaw

1 small bunch kale, stemmed and shredded

One 14-ounce bag coleslaw mix

8-10 Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

½ cup sliced almonds

1 cup Honey-Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe below)

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients. Cover and chill for at least a few hours for flavors to meld before serving.

Honey-Sesame Vinaigrette

¾ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.

Strawberry Cookies

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

¼ cup cream cheese, softened

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped frozen strawberries, thawed and drained

1 heaping cup white chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, sugars and egg, and beat on medium-high speed until creamy, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Beat until just combined, about 1 minute.

Fold in the chopped strawberries, white chocolate chips and lemon zest. Chill dough for about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. Form dough into 1-inch balls, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove to wire racks, and let cool before serving.


Juice of 10-12 limes

Juice of 1 lemon

1 to 1¼ cups granulated sugar

4-5 cups water

In a large decorative pitcher, stir all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving over ice.

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