7 Summer Recipes To Fill Your Picnic Basket

By Ann Foster Thelen

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the landscapes are bursting with colorful flowers. It’s time to bring the gingham blanket out of hibernation and take mealtime outside with a picnic! A portable feast is a great way to gather the family and enjoy some outdoor fun while soaking up nature’s beautiful season and the flavors of Iowa’s delicious homegrown foods.

We’ve picked seven recipes to make planning for a picnic a walk in the park! These recipes feature many handheld foods that will save on cleanup time and be popular among kids and adults. Plus, find some important food safety tips to ensure items stay cool – and safe to eat – during Iowa’s warm-weather months.

Grab your basket and find a shady spot in a park, the banks of a nearby creek or the comfort of your backyard. Bring along a Frisbee or yard game along with your family pup and make it an outing to remember. It’s time to enjoy this long-anticipated season!

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Turkey Club Sandwich | National Turkey Federation & Iowa Turkey Federation

Photo courtesy of the Iowa Turkey Federation.

June is National Turkey Lovers’ Month®, but that’s not the only reason to celebrate this classic, make-ahead sandwich. Turkey tenderloin and turkey bacon are layered among lettuce and tomato – which could come straight from your garden – for the ideal blend of crunch and tenderness. Pesto spreads on a flavorful punch with the tastes and aromas of basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil.

Turkey has 26 grams of protein in just 3 ounces, B vitamins and minerals. In this sandwich, it is married with avocado, another nutrient powerhouse with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals in every serving, making this sandwich a handful of goodness! Find the recipe here.

Tip: Cold sandwiches are a great way to cool down on a hot summer day. Follow food safety guidelines by keeping cold foods at 40 degrees F or colder. Always transfer cold foods directly from the refrigerator rather than using a cooler to chill warm food.

Roast Beef & Veggie Wraps | Iowa Beef Industry Council & Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner

Want to change up a roast beef sandwich? Try it as a wrap with some broccoli slaw. This sandwich provides a whopping 39 grams of protein – that’s 78% of the recommended daily value. Protein-based meals help you stay full longer and provide energy to enjoy time with the family. Wrapped with velvety cream cheese and tangy ranch dressing, the perfect blend of spices make this sandwich blue-ribbon worthy. Find the recipe here.

Tip: Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning, even in outdoor settings. When setting out the picnic feast, make sure hands and surfaces are clean. If you don’t have access to running water, use a water jug, soap and paper towels. Or, consider using moist disposable towelettes.

Ham Pinwheels | Iowa Pork Producers Association

Ham pinwheels. Photo © 2018 National Pork Board Des Moines, Iowa.

Bite-size and pop-able, these ham pinwheels are a fun twist on traditional ham sandwiches. For added color, use spinach tortillas, which are a perfect complement to being immersed in nature. Like all pork products, ham is versatile and an excellent source of protein and nutrients essential to health. One key nutrient in pork is niacin, which is important for the normal function of many enzymes in the body and involved in the metabolism of sugars and fatty acids. Serve with grapes, cherry tomatoes or a yogurt cup for a meal the kiddos will request on repeat. Find the recipe here.

Tip: When packing a cooler, it should be about 25% ice and 75% food. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor temperatures.

Hard-Boiled Egg Pops | American Egg Board & Iowa Egg Council

Photo courtesy of the Iowa Egg Council.

Before heading out for the picnic, get the kids in the kitchen with this simple fun twist on hard-boiled eggs. Dipped in ranch or dill dip and then topped with bacon bits, finely chopped carrots or finely chopped cucumbers, these eggs-on-stick are equal parts fun and delicious. Eggs have six grams in every oval, along with eight essential nutrients. They are known for their superstar nutrients of choline and lutein, which benefit eyesight and cognition. Find the recipe here.

Tip: In the shell, hard-boiled eggs can be refrigerated safely up to one week. Refrigerate in their original carton to prevent odor absorption. Once peeled, eggs should be eaten that day.

Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Dip | The Soyfoods Council

Sun-Dried Tomato Tofu Dip. Photo courtesy of The Soyfoods Council.

This delicious, fresh and creamy dip recipe is ideal for a family outing. Pair it with bright summer vegetables, such as carrots, celery, broccoli or cucumbers. Crackers or fresh bread make an excellent canvas for dipping, too. Tofu is pressed soybean curd, and it's a great source of protein, calcium, selenium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Find the recipe here.

Tip: A dip should be treated as cold perishable food and should be kept in the cooler at 40 degrees F or below until serving time. Once served, it should not sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees F. If it does, discard it.

Blueberry Corn Salsa | Iowa Corn Promotion Board

Sweet and fruity with just the right amount of heat, this show-stopping Blueberry Corn Salsa is sure to be a picnic favorite! Corn is the vegetable of Iowa summers, and pairing it with strawberries, blueberries, red onion, lime juice and cilantro is what picnic dreams are made of! The creator of this recipe made it after participating in a tour with the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. While nearly all the corn grown in the state is field corn (99% to be exact!), the state is also well known for growing its famous sweet corn. Find the recipe here.

Tip: Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before serving or incorporating into recipes. To wash cilantro, hold the bunch by the stems and agitate the leaves in a large bowl of cold water.

Lemon Yogurt Bars | Midwest Dairy & Undeniably Dairy

A picnic isn’t complete without dessert. These sassy lemon bars are made with yogurt and have tang and zing. Yogurt offers several nutrients, including calcium, which helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It's also a fantastic source of Vitamin B12, which helps with normal blood function and helps keep the nervous system healthy. Top with fresh berries for a burst of color. Find the recipe here.

Tip: When traveling to a picnic site, put coolers in the air-conditioned back seat of the car and not in the trunk, which can heat up like an oven. At the picnic, place coolers in the shade.