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Let’s Toast Fall with a Picnic

Betty blogger Megan DeKok toasts autumn’s arrival with a cozy picnic for friends, featuring unfussy fare, a fresh-from-the-orchard cider cocktail and an easy make-ahead dessert.

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Betty Blogger

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Don’t tell summer, but to me, fall is where it’s at. From fashion to food, autumn gives us to chance to get cozy in every aspect of life. So, in celebration of the season, let’s sit together, bundled in sweaters staying toasty by eating soup served in thermoses! Let’s help ourselves to sandwiches disguised as presents, and butternut squash kabobs served with a spicy citrus dip worth dreaming about. And for dessert, let’s snack on some apple goodness made with local fruit. It’s time to hang-out and live our lives, fall-style. Lets-Toast-Fall-Picnic_02
The day before picnicking, I baked up some Gold Medal Classic Focaccia. Instead of baking the dough into rounds, I divided it between two 9-inch square baking dishes so that I could make rectangular sandwiches. (You could totally buy focaccia if you wanted to speed things along. No judgment here. Both routes are tasty.) 

I also made the dessert the day before. I wanted to use some apples from a cider mill field trip I had recently taken, so I baked up a batch of Easy Caramel Apple Bars and sliced them the next morning. I love making bars for picnics because they transport so well and keep it cool while sitting out. A platter full of these heavenly squares outfitted with a washi tape bunting was as festive it was tasty! And, I’m so glad I took the extra two minutes to make the bunting! Just tie twine between two skewers, fold washi tape rectangles over the twine about ¼-inch apart and then snip the tape into flags. Done and done.

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The morning of the picnic I started by assembling the Layered Italian Sandwiches so the flavors could blend and do their magic in the fridge. I packaged the sandwiches up with parchment paper rectangles and twine, which made them easy to stack on a platter and wrap up tight for safe traveling, not to mention fun to look at. To round out the menu, I roasted some squash for Butternut Squash Kabobs and stirred together the spicy lemon dip while the Lentil Vegetable Soup simmered away. 

At the last second, I mixed together all the boozy goodness going into the Sparkling Ginger Hard Apple Cider. I used Michigan-made maple syrup and hard cider to keep it local and man, this cocktail stole the show! Served over ice in mismatched cups, it was the perfect refreshment to sip on while sitting on a blanket in the park while my friends and I chatted the afternoon away.

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Looking to throw your own fall picnic? Start by planning your menu around the season. For cooler temperatures, I like to serve warm soup, easy icebox sandwiches, a seasonal vegetable-heavy side and an easy to transport dessert made with local apples. 

Here’s a handy checklist to make packing your picnic easy. Bring:

  • At least two blankets for a group of six people. Feel free to overlap them to create one large dining area.
  • A large thermos for soup. You want it to be nice and toasty, and thermoses ensure it will travel well (no spills)!
  • A picnic basket plus a couple additional tote bags for serving ware and extras.
  • Fun dishes of the unbreakable variety. Ideally you can toss them all in the basket or tote and travel worry-free. I never stress about serving stuff being mismatched—it adds character! 
  • A tray or two to set drinks on—one can’t count on grassy knolls to be flat-surfaced.
  • A cooler stocked with ice to keep drinks and sandwiches cool while you travel plus one bag of ice for serving in drinks.
  • Cold carafes of water keep the party classy. Be sure to bring cups enough for serving the cocktails and water. I think mason jars are perfect for sipping!
  • Add little details that will make your gathering memorable for your guests. Pack straws and stir sticks for the drinks and pack a small bag with garnishes. Wrap up your sandwiches like little gifts! Top your dessert with a mini bunting.
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