Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pack Your Picnic

The grass is growing, the trees are budding, flowers are blooming and the sun has been shining!  Spring has come and we are so very thankful. My kids and I have had the same reaction:  "Let’s have a picnic!", or as my 3 year old says, a “Pic-a-nic!”  Yes, lets! What a fun event (especially before the bugs are out in full force).  I am a picnicker.  Though, I must admit that picnics are at times, a pain to pack (especially the 90th one I pack at the end of summer, when headed to another day ((or evening)) at the pool), but they are a great way to make a meal from home feel like an event.

When I was a kid I remember picnicking under the dining room table when the weather outside didn’t allow.  It took us a lot of time to get it all prepared and packed up, only to step 6 steps into the adjacent dining room to eat the picnic.  But the memories are fresh in my mind, so I guess they were worth the effort.

I don’t know what menu you imagine for picnics, but I really prefer a picnic to be a collection of yummy foods, laid out on a blanket or picnic table, and then plated right then and there, rather than individually packed meals.  Maybe one reason is because I’m usually not in the mood to pack 4 or 5 meals to please 4 or 5 opinionated eaters.  Another reason is because, you never know when another friend might join the festivities, and it is far easier to share when serving from a common buffet. Not to mention, it simply feels like a picnic feast, which I love.

Two of my favorite picnic treats are homemade pimento cheese with crackers and barley salad.

Now when I say pimento cheese,  I’m not talking about that gummy, processed cheese product with red chunks in it, which grosses some people out.  I am talking about fresh, grated, sharp cheddar cheese, light mayo, pimentos and some kick added.  It is yum-my! (not gum-my).

And the barley salad is what Dave calls “a very pleasant surprise”.  It is pretty and fresh and flavorful and healthy.  It makes a great side dish for dinner and is perfect for a lunch on the go. I used to make this as rice salad, but last year when I discovered the high fiber content in Barley, I made the switch.  Barley is inexpensive, easy to prepare and is a lot like brown rice.

My kids often request turkey or peanut butter at a picnic, so I usually pack up some bread, crackers, fruit, turkey slices from the deli, and can put the meal together on location.

Here are the 2 recipes:

Pimento Cheese                                                     
4 cups grated, sharp cheddar cheese                  

1/2 cup light mayo, or more (to your taste)          

1 (2oz.) jar diced pimentos, drained

salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and hot sauce to taste

Stir the cheese and mayo together with a fork until well coated.  Add pimentos and combine well.  Add spices little at a time to get the desired flavor. Keep refrigerated. 

2 cups pearled barley
1 cup dried cranberries (or currants)
1 yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds,  toasted
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup lemon juice (the juice of one large lemon)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare barley as directed on the package.
While it is cooking:

Chop and prepare the pepper, onion, spinach, and almonds.
In a jar, or measuring cup, mix the honey, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil together.  
When barley is cooked, add cranberries, peppers, onion, spinach, almonds and feta (and whatever else you want!)  Pour dressing over, a little bit at a time.  You should not need all of the dressing.  Use what you need and stick the rest in your fridge to dress the next salad you make.  Combine all of the ingredients well.  Add Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature or cold.  Keep leftovers in the fridge.


  1. oh my goodness, i can't wait to try the pimento cheese . . . but i already know how DELICIOUS the barley salad is. In fact, the ingredients are all on our grocery list now! YUM. Thanks for sharing these recipes - let's pic-a-nic soon!!

  2. I love to pic-a-nic with you- let's make a plan! We always like the same foods which makes it extra fun!

  3. My pimento cheese recipe (from Kathy Payne) is similar, but calls for 3 kinds of cheese - cheddar, colby, and mozzarella, I think. I guess that just means that you could alter it without any trouble! Also, it stresses the importance of freshly grated cheese over using a bag of grated cheese from the store. I'm getting hungry just talking about it!

  4. ok that barley salad sounds grand . . . by the way, will you be picnic-ing with the SB on April 10 (Teresa's email)? We need you there!

  5. Yum, Jennifer, I think those cheeses sound great! That does prove the point that you can get creative and choose the cheeses you like and you really can't go wrong! And Elaine, Yes, I will be there on April 10! Maybe I should bring the grand barley salad.

  6. Where do I get the barley? I want to make that barley salad soon.

  7. Rhondi, how fun to hear from you! I buy "pearled barley" in a bag in the rice section of Kroger. Let me know how it goes!