The FoodHappy Guide to Picnicking (With a Recipe for Spicy Roasted Almonds!)

With summer quickly coming to a close, we need to talk about picnics! Not the basket-and-brie sort of affairs, mind you, where one lazes about in artfully rolled chinos on a gingham blanket, spearing chilled shrimp with teeny forks while debating the ideal temperature for a crust-less cucumber sandwich. Who, I ask, has time (or the artful chinos)?

No, friends. I’m talking about easy, nutritious picnics that can be tossed in your backpack in the morning and enjoyed al fresco in the afternoon, giant cooler and full set of cutlery not needed. The sort of picnics that you’ll be able to enjoy every day until it snows. [Insert preferred Edmonton weather joke here.] 

trio.jpgAs unromantic as this approach to eating may sound, it can be done well with just a bit of planning and the right kind of recipes. So today, I’m passing along a few favourites – old and new – that carried me through a summer of backpack picnics bracketed by hours of activity in the sun, whether I was hiking the hills of the Amalfi coast or stage-hopping at the Edmonton folk music festival. It’s been a rough summer, guys.

I’ve also got for you a speedy – 15-minute! – recipe for spicy roasted almonds which, if you don’t mind licking your fingers, make for a perfect salty picnic pick-me-up when you’re short on energy. The recipe comes to me by way of my sister, an expert on both salty snacks and quick recipes, so it’s guaranteed to deliver on tastiness and speed.

So now, without further ado, here we have it: FoodHappy recipes and tips for simple picnics that’ll keep you feasting until summer’s long gone!



As is the case with everything you bring, pack mains that will taste good – and won’t go bad! – at room temperature. Opt for hearty starch-based salads and assemble-on-site sandwiches that are meat- and dairy- and soggy-free. Tasty options include:

Salads! Try a veggie-packed Nicoise salad, leaving the eggs and cheese at home. Fresh farro and quinoa salads – again, cheese-free – also make for nutritious and delicious mains. If you’re worried about the greens going soggy, pack your dressing in a separate container from the salad until it’s time to dig in! All of these salads keep well, so make big batches and enjoy them over a few days.

Sandwiches! Pack a few slabs of no-knead bread and a container of marinated eggplant, fresh tomatoes and basil, or white beans with tomato and rosemary. Alternatively, keep it simple with a few no-knead baguettes that have tasty things like garlic, tomatoes and olives baked straight into the dough! 



Bags of trail mix reign supreme! Try the almonds below, or the sweet-and-salty Spanish-style trail mix made with dates, apricots and almonds. If you’re going to consume it early in the day, don’t skip the Manchego cheese! In a pinch, though, a store-bought mix will do just fine. Avoid the varieties with chocolate pieces though, as the chocolate is bound to melt and make a mess.

Firm veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, and radishes hold up well in a backpack in a light, reusable plastic bag.  _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 



When packing baked goods, choose treats that hold up well to being thrown in a backpack. If you can manage it, freeze your treats in portion-sized packages in advance to act as edible ice packs 

If you’re looking for something energy-rich, go for cosmic cookies, which are made with oats, nuts and dried fruit. For more indulgent cookies, try the perfect chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal peanut butter cookies, both of which stay soft days after being baked. For treats with a bit more nutritional value, opt for banana bread or ginger muffins made with 50% whole wheat flour. 

When it comes to fruit, opt for sturdy things that don’t require a container – you’ll appreciate the lightening of your bag as the day goes! Apples and oranges work particularly well. 

As for your drinks, if you have the good fortune of being outside of North America, you can probably pack yourself a nice little bottle of wine (remember a cork screw!). Here on more puritan grounds, stick with juice boxes and bottles of water. Throw your drinks in the freezer the night before and they’ll be nicely chilled when it comes time for lunch. 

Finally, don’t forget some napkins (pre-moistened hand wipes are great when you know water is going to be scarce) and bugspray.

Now, onto those almonds!


Spicy Roasted Almonds
Makes 1 cup of tasty almonds (and scales up easily!)


1 cup of raw almonds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick mat.

In a medium bowl, mix together oil and spices (chili, pepper, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt) until you’ve made a smooth paste. Dump in your almonds and stir to coat. Pour almonds on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant and golden, stirring twice through baking. Let cool a bit before munching away. 


Happy picnicking, friends!

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