9 Romantic Picnics To Enjoy With Your Honey

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Along with the other attributes Durham as to offer, there are also a ton of parks, gardens, and outdoor spaces to enjoy (when it's not 100% humidity out). Matt and I do the best we can to take advantage of these gorgeous spaces, like Duke Gardens, and while hiking and kayaking have their merits, sometimes it's nice to find a quiet, shady spot and take it all in--with snacks, of course. And, if you're a foodie like me, you like to switch up the contents of your picnic basket from time to time. Ditch the egg salad sandwich and try one of these options next time.

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One of the 'nics I created with Matt

1. The Classic: Meat and Cheese Tray

Nothing is easier or more tasty than a well put together meat and cheese tray. This is one of my favorite picnic go-tos--literally walk into store, pick out a few cheeses and have the deli counter slice you a few pieces for prosciutto, and BOOM! Picnic heaven.

INGREDIENTS to a perfect meat and cheese spread:
Cheese: For two people, one or two good-sized pieces should do. I tend to like to pick one firm cheese, like Parmesan, manchego, or gouda, and one soft cheese, like goat or Brie.
Fruit: If you have a farmer's market, just grab what's fresh. My faves: grapes, sliced green apples, melon, strawberries, and peaches. Dried fruit is always fun to mix in too--try dried apricots or pitted dates.
Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, almonds. Cashews if you're feeling dangerous.
Olives and other roasted/preserved veggies: I'm a big fan of hitting up the olive bar. I'll grab some marinated olives, roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, and, my all-time favorite--pickled okra.
Meat: I like to go have these cut at the deli counter if possible, but go crazy. Try thinly sliced prosciutto, salami, mortadella, and whatever dried, cured meats they may have. If pâté is your thing, go for it.
Spreads: Whole grain mustard, honey, and a fruit jam. Do it. You won't regret it.
The base: Bread. Something big and lovely and fluffy, like Italian or a baguette.

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2. An Assortment of Cold Salads

If we don't feel like cooking, a lot of time Matt and I will stop by a local store and by an assortment of cold salads and nosh. If you want to make your own, they're super easy to put together and great on a warm day. Try one of these.

Summer Rice Salad
- 1 small shallot, minced - 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar - 1 tablespoon loosely packed lime zest - 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice - 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard - 1 teaspoon honey - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil - 4 cups cooked basmati rice, chilled - 2 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage - 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced English cucumbers - 1 cup diced red bell pepper - 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions - 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint - 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives - 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley - Salt to taste
Stir together shallot, vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, Dijon mustard, and honey in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil until blended. Add rice, cabbage, cucumbers, red bell pepper, green onions, mint, chives, and parsley; toss. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill up to 4 hours.
Full post here.

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Olives and Feta
For the dill and garlic dressing:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil - 1/4 cup red wine vinegar - 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar - 1 clove garlic, minced - 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced - 1 teaspoon dried oregano - 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder - 1/4 teaspoon salt - Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pound tomatoes (cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half, or about 3 large tomatoes, seeded & chopped) - 1 pound cucumbers (approximately 2 large or 4 small), diced - 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, drained, pitted, & chopped - 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled - 2 tablespoons fresh dill, for garnish
For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until thoroughly blended. Alternatively, you may place ingredients in a jar, tighten the lid, and shake until incorporated.
For the salad:
In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients. Toss with dressing until everything is evenly coated.
Cover salad and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, removing from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Drain off any excess dressing and garnish with dill, if desired.
Full post here.

Curried Chicken Salad with Apples and Raisins
- 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise - 1 teaspoon curry powder - 2 teaspoons water - 1 cup chopped skinless, boneless Grilled Lemon-Herb Chicken (about 4 ounces) - 3/4 cup chopped Braeburn apple (about 1 small) - 1/3 cup diced celery - 3 tablespoons raisins - 1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine mayonnaise, curry powder, and water in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add the Grilled Lemon-Herb Chicken, chopped apple, celery, raisins, and salt; stir mixture well to combine. Cover and chill.
Full post here.

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3. Cold Fried Chicken

Cold chicken is AMAAAAZING. Trust me. On a warm summer day, there are few things better than biting in to a cold, day-old friend chicken leg. You can pick up some the day before from your favorite chicken place or you can make your own.
Try this one from Serious Eats.

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4. Caprese Sandwich with Parsley Pesto

A little fresh Italian treat that isn't too heavy and super easy to make. Plus, if you can find in-season tomato from the farmer's market...oh. my. God.
- loaf French bread
- 1 medium tomato sliced
- 3 slices fresh ball mozzarella cheese, halved
- 3 tablespoons
- Slice loaf in half.
- Add mozzarella cheese slices and tomato slices along the bottom of the sandwich.
- Spread the parsley pesto on the top of the sandwich. Press the sandwich closed.
- Toast in a panini machine on medium for about 5 minutes, until crispy and cheese is melted.
- Remove, cut in half and enjoy.

Full post here.

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5. Roasted Chickpea Gyros

Super simple and fresh. Plus, hand held, which is perfect for picnic-ing.
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas, 1 ½ cup soaked chickpeas if starting from dry, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 pita flatbreads
- 1 cup tzatziki (see full post for recipe), use ⅓ recipe if you're just making it for these gyros
- ¼ red onion cut into strips
- 2 lettuce leaves roughly chopped
- 1 tomato sliced
- Pat dry chickpeas with paper towel, removing any skins that may come off.
- Gently toss chickpeas with oil, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt.
- Spread chickpeas onto a greased rimmed baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees F (200 C) for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned but not hard.
- Spread some tzatziki onto one side of the pita, then sprinkle in ¼ of the chickpeas and add veggies. Fold in half and enjoy!

Full post here.

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6. Something to Drink: Mason Jar Tea

Wine or Champagne are my go-tos, but if that's not your thing, you can brew up these yummy fruity teas in. the. SUN! Take advantage of those 90 degree days. And the varieties are endless: peach and blueberry, orange and mint, mango and ginger, strawberries and grapefruit...!

Full post here.

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7. Pimento Cheese Sandwiches with Bacon and Tomato

Parker & Otis is a place Matt and I hit up when we're being lazy and want to have an EXCELLENT sandwich. The grilled pimento cheese is one of my faves. Add bacon and tomato and ooooooooh buddy, this is a solid picnic staple.

Recipe here.

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8. Green Goddess Sandwiches

This one takes a little more prep but so worth it. Hear me out: Green Goddess mayo with basil, tarragon, chives, and lemon + pickled spring onions: avocado, mozzarella, green tomato, and cucumber. This sandwich is truly a goddess.

Recipe here.

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9. Smoked Salmon Sliders with Whipped Dill Cream Cheese

This is a great option for a brunch picnic. Pair with Bloody Mary's and your picnic may go well into the afternoon.
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- 8 ounces smoked salmon, divided into 8 even pieces
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup red onion, sliced very thin
- 8 slider rolls (if you can't them use hawaiian rolls or even cut hot dog rolls in half)
For the whipped dill cream cheese:
In a blender combine the cream cheese and dill and pulse until light and fluffy. Taste and add more dill if needed.
Toast your slider rolls if desired. Spread a small amount of the dill whipped cream cheese on each bun, then top with salmon, onion, and capers. Go get your brunch on!

Full post here.

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Go get yo' picnic on.

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