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need help with ideas for summer picnic themed party

So i am having a party next weekend and need help coming up with some creative ideas. I am thinking like a picnic, farmstand type theme. So far I have a tomato mozzeralla and basil salad planned, perhaps some grilled chicken kebabbos, a fresh corn salad, and of course cupcakes (its my birthday!). Does any one have any other good ideas? I can always round it out with a cheese board but was trying to be creative and had a brain freeze. really anything goes as long as its summery and can be made in advance. The themed drink is Sweet Tea vodka and lemonade - yum. thanks

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  1. What about the watermelon/olive/feta salad? (

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      Nice idea, watermelon with mint, feta is my favorite, but very close. Same idea. Love the cold melon salads.

    2. If you want to do the tomato/mozzarella/basil thing as an appetizer, I just served these caprese on a stick at my July 4th party. I used marinated mozzarella balls, fresh basil and marinated sun-dried tomatoes. Needless to say, you don't need the flag toothpicks!


      5 Replies
      1. re: valerie

        Caprese on bamboo sticks always looks nice and MMRuth's watermelon salad drips of summer. I might also have something zippy in the beginning like shrimp remoulade or a fresh salsa.

        With tart drinks I think you could have some lightly fried foods, too: catfish tenders with remoulade, crabcakes or perhaps summer squash pancakes with mint and yogurt.

        1. re: JungMann

          I feel like a broken record with this but regarding the salsa, this mango salsa is so delicious, easy and can be made a day or two ahead. And it is very summery.


          1. re: JungMann

            oh i love the idea on sticks! I am trying to keep things easy to eat so thats perfect

          2. re: valerie

            I do grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls and fresh basil leaves. I poke a tooth pick through the tomato and then marinade both in balsamic. Skewer all together and serve. You can grill too if you want but just fresh is great.

            1. re: kchurchill5

              Grape tomato, half a cumber round and a piece of feta for greek salad on a skewer. Serve with italian dressing (creamy or vinegrette) with some oregano in itl

          3. What about homemade popsicles with fresh fruit in them? It will be a nice simple frozen dessert outside of the birthday cupcakes.

            1. If you need a hot side dish check this out:

              The tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad sounds awesome and perfect for a nice light picnic!

              1. I've been having so much fun with slaws this summer. I love making them ahead of time to marinade and then pulling them out when I need them. My current favorite is a derivation of one one Smitten Kitchen, a broccoli slaw that I make with celery, almonds, currants and red onions, with a shallot, poppyseed and buttermilk dressing.

                1. I think a great summer picnic starter with a farmstand theme would be a gazpacho. What could be better than fresh farm ingredients to make a tasty gazpacho. Also in the same vein would be a vichysoisse. Either the gazpacho or vichy would show off farmstand products and be cool and refreshing for a summer gig.

                  1. I love sweet tea volka...Firefly rocks.

                    Instead with the tomatoes ...what about tomato pie...so good and people rave about them!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: LaLa

                      I've only had it once when a friend brought it up from VA. Any idea where you can get it in MA?

                      1. re: CreativeFoodie42

                        I havent a clue but I do hear it is showing up more in the North.

                      2. re: LaLa

                        tomato tartins have been a big hit for me this summer.

                        maybe i'm jaded from too many years of working in restaurants and functions, but the caprese is ready to retire from party-going. the watermelon and feta is just great, and no need for 2 cheesy apps.

                        another nice combo is smoked salmon, mint and cantaloupe.

                        flatbread pizzas with farm veggies and fresh goat cheese work warm or room temp.

                        i think fried chicken more than kebobs for picnics and i love that cold.

                        potato salad with an olive oil/parsley dressing instead of mayo.

                        pickled carrots with dill or cilantro

                        truffled egg salad or deviled eggs

                        crab or shrimp salad

                        beef tenderloin, rare, sliced thin, with garlic aioli

                        pork loin with cherry or pear/ginger chutney

                        berry or fruit tarts/cobblers/pies with vanilla or ginger ice cream for dessert. brownies, blondies and giant chocolate chip cookies.

                      3. I just made cupcakes for my son's birthday and tried a Giada icing (actually more of a glaze) that was delicious: Frozen strawberries thawed and pureed in the blender, then mixed into confectioners sugar. Poor boy had pink cupcakes, but they were delicious (and he is only one, and not yet offended by such girlishness!).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                          Rather than cupcakes I love to use mini muffins stuffed with a herseys kiss and then baked. Topped with a dollop of cream and a strawberry. They are bite size and easy. I make them well in advance and a quick topping and it is a wonderful quick desert.

                          I guess I call them mini cupcakes.

                          1. re: kchurchill5

                            A yummy chocolatey center would make me very happy.

                            1. re: Foodie in Friedberg

                              They are fun, use regular your favorite cupcake mix. Use the small pan or even regular pan works, Add a herseys kiss or piece of caramel and bake. A little chocolate drizzle or caramel drizzle and perfections, Maybe some nuts too. I like the small ones ... less messy, easier and one bite wonders. And of course the whipped cream and strawberries too, lol

                        2. Happy Birthday! I second gazpacho...in little glasses or cups, it's wonderfully summery and is actually better made in advance. You could do both white and red gazpachos if you feel like going over the top (though red would probably be more in line with using farm fresh produce, unless you have someone growing grapes nearby....)

                          1. Want more sticks? We have done tricoloured cheese tortellini (cook al dente), toss in a bowl with favourite vinaigrette and marinate. Put on longer frilled toothpicks or skewers with fresh mini bocconcini and mini tomatoes.
                            Serve cold or at room temp.

                            For drinks: Sangria with sliced fruit. Use a ladel in a big container to pour out.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: itryalot

                              Oops! Forgot:
                              For apps or side dish: Frittata. Use fresh asparagus or zucchini (both with or without potato). I usually make a honking one in my largest pan and flip it onto a platter to slide it back on the stove to get the nice crust on both sides. Italians would never dream of using an oven. Two serving options: Slice into wedges and eat at room temp; slice into smaller pces and serve on top of crusty bread. The key is to slowly wilt the vegetables with chopped onions in EVOO to bring out the deep flavour. This can be made in the morning and covered with foil on a plate at room temp.

                            2. I get peppers and cut them in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and stuff with a great fresh corn salad. These also can be grilled or chilled grilled. I like red peppers for this. I like to add black beans, cilantro, onions, a little jalapeno, garlic, a simple lime vinaigrette, but very light and small dices of pepperjack cheese. Mix ahead and stuff the peppers. Tomatoes or scallions can also be added to this easy dish. I like to lightly grill mine but then they can be cooled and served much later. Not necessary to be hot.

                              1. Another favorite is my beef marinated in a bloody mary mix and then served with a blue cheese dip. You can even omit the vodka it you want, but just a premade mix and marinade all day, then skewer and then served with blue cheese dip.

                                Secondly, A simple, lime and citrus marinade with sage and garlic and then marinated chicken pieces along with slices of peaches and small pearl onions. Easy and quick. They can still be served hot or room temp.

                                1. My pizza portabellos.
                                  I take a large portabello and stuff with goat cheese and sauteed chopped tomato, olives, a little bread crumbs, onion, and spinach and then toped with some parm. Baked for 20 minutes and then cut in wedges like pizza. It is great and fun. It is a wonderful side dish with all fresh summer ingredients.

                                  1. Grill pork tenderloin, be glad to send you the recipe. Tender, and flavorful with soy, brown sugar, garlic and cilantro and then thin sliced. Serve this with a great fresh spinach and chick pea salad

                                    Cucumber salad for me, fresh mint red peppers, cucumbers, onions and a little sour cream.

                                    One other but I know some people don't like chicken breasts ... However I make a flavorful pecan chicken fingers. Yes I did a brine for these, then coated in a honey mustard sauce and tossed with bread crumbs and pecans and fresh sage and baked. These can easily be prepared ahead and just baked for a few minutes and then serve. A maple dijon sauce was great with it. Not average chicken fingers but also good with a BBQ sauce as well

                                    1. I love your menu.
                                      I'd add either a (cold) sandwich ring or sandwich loaf with cold cuts, or a muffaletta, or ham sandwiches. Not a pre-made deli one though and definitely not a pre made deli "tray"

                                      1. Ideas
                                        Eggplant Parmasan but chilled use real thing for the cheese and don't forget to peel the egg plants
                                        Grapejuice pink lemonade buy a three pounds of seedless grapes and crush them through a sieve mix the juice with canned pink.
                                        carrot cake cupcakes with marscapone and cream cheese frosting
                                        shrimp on a stick with a fresh bing cherry salsa.......goes so good with the shrimp
                                        If you do a cold type of soup serving them in shot glasses is fun
                                        Just a thought........cold fresh basil lemmon grass soup maybe with a little coconut milk as a base out of the shot glass ummmm
                                        summer squash lightly breaded with panko and fried or just grill them and serve with a drizzle of olive oil

                                          1. Did you see that post about someone's sister making a muffelata dip? I'm thinking of throwing a party just to make that dip...

                                            1. If you want to cook a lot of your meal in advance, I can't help but want to suggest one of my old time faves, fried chicken. Go all out with a big carprese salad, and then perhaps a fruited salad. Strawberry and arugula with avocado, orange and red onion, and pass a cream balsamic dressing. A German potato salad, with sausages.
                                              Then either fried peach pies, or blueberry. Or a strawberry meringue dessert. You can make the meringues ahead of time and then have your strawberry topping all ready to serve at the picnic.

                                              1. thank you so much for everyone's suggetions. its this saturday and i am def incorperating some of them. also added to the menu - pulled pork sliders made in my new crock pot and chocolate bourbon popsicles from the new Fine Cooking. happy birthday to me!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: anunez

                                                  I'm a little late in recommending anything, and it looks like everyone has covered it, but I noticed there isn't a potato or macaroni/pasta salad type dish that is usually served at picnics. I'm making a cold pasta salad tonight with fusilli and arugula, dressed with a lemon cream sauce. And there are tons of versions of potato salad, my current fave is a grilled red potato, blue cheese and bacon salad (Thanks, Bayoucook!)

                                                  Also, you may want to combine the fresh corn & tomato salads into one - my summer picnic fave is corn off the cob, tomatoes, avocado and lime juice, s&p. That's it and very fresh tasting and easy. Have a great birthday!