The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and that gingham blanket that’s been sitting in the back of the closet all winter is ready to make its much-anticipated return. That means it’s time for a picnic!

A picnic can be as simple or sophisticated as any other meal. Before you plan the menu and make your lists, think about who’s coming, and what vibe you’re going for. No matter what kind of picnic you’re creating, unless you are in your backyard you’ll need to be as prepared as a Boy Scout, with a full-on checklist. Napkins and wine openers don’t grow on trees, after all!

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

Plan the Menu

Choose dishes that travel well, can be made mostly in advance, are served at room temperature, and don’t involve lots of sauces or other ingredients that will make the fare soggy. Avoid foods that require cutting; opt for those that need only a fork — or better yet, can be held in hand.

Keep it Simple

Indoors or out, there is never anything wrong with a great cheese board, with sliced bread or crackers and maybe some olives, fruit jams, nuts, and dried fruit. Dips and an assortment of cut-up vegetables for dunking are also an easy way to kick off a picnic spread.

While a picnic basket is always a great idea, don’t forget a cooler!

Even if you have an adorable picnic basket, it’s a good idea to have one container (or more if needed) that will keep things consistently chilled, preferably insulated, with the addition of some frozen ice packs.

The Perfect Spot!

Try to find a spot in the shade, at least enough shade to keep the cooler in so the items inside stay colder longer.

Bring a tablecloth or picnic blanket

Even if picnic tables are around, it’s a good idea to have a tablecloth in case the table is too worn or dirty, or lay the cloth out and have a picnic on the ground.

Dinnerware and Cups

For a smaller group, consider reusables, which are more earth-friendly. For a big crowd, disposable is probably the way to go.

Don’t forget the drinks!

The easiest way to go is with an assortment of drinks, alcoholic or non, in cans or bottles. You could also do a thermos or two of prepared drinks: iced tea, lemonade, a sangria with or without alcohol. Put in plenty of ice to keep it chilled.

If you are thinking of wine, you might want to think boxed or canned wine — if you haven’t tried them in a while, you’ll be very happy to know there are some excellent options on the market these days.

Make a Checklist

Don’t forget to make a checklist a few days in advance — it’s the best way to guarantee you won’t forget anything. What could be worse than preparing and packing a delicious meal, only to realize once you get to your destination that you forgot the plates or forks?

Get a jump start on your menu planning with these simple and delicious recipes made with The Sugarman of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup! These are sure to please any size group. Picnic foods can range from a turkey sandwich to a nutritious salad and then delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Honey Maple Lime Berry Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, rinsed and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries, rinsed
  • 1 kiwi, skin removed, cut into pieces
  • zest of one lime
  • 2-3 tsp The Sugarman of Vermont Honey Maple Glaze (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Toss the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi together.
  2. Sprinkle with lime zest and drizzle with the Honey Maple Glaze, and toss to distribute evenly.

Tip: This salad tastes even better if it’s refrigerated for 30 minutes or so before serving to allow the flavors to meld, but it’s delicious either way!

Maple Chicken Salad

Recipe adapted from Food.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breasts
  • 1 cup cubed cooked chicken thigh pieces
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onions
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • red leaf lettuce, leaves
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp The Sugarman of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup
  • 2 tsp honey dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder

Instructions:

  1. Add the cooked cubed chicken, celery, onion, dried cranberries, parsley, and walnuts in a large mixing bowl; stir to combine.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  3. Pour the dressing mixture over the chicken salad; toss to thoroughly coat.
  4. Cover and refrigerate a few hours before serving (may refrigerate up to 24 hours before serving).
  5. Spoon chicken salad onto the lettuce leaves and serve.

Chickpea Pasta Salad

Recipe adapted from She Likes Food

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

  • 8 oz dry spiral pasta
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

For the Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp The Sugarman of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water. Then, add 1 tsp of salt to the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir and let cook for 10-12 minutes until tender. Follow the instructions on the box and when finished, strain and return the pasta to the pot. Add 2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil to it and stir well. Allow the pasta to cool.
  2. Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl and mix them together. Then, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper to the bowl.
  3. Add the pasta to the bowl and mix that in as well.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, add the dressing ingredients. This consists of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, maple syrup, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  5. Whisk these ingredients well and then add the vinaigrette to the bowl with the pasta and vegetables in it. Mix everything together well.

Maple Sweetened Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe adapted from Healthy Happy Life

Ingredients:
Wet:

Dry:

  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon, optional
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Fold in:

  • 1/3 cup rolled or quick oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to bake at 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add the wet ingredients to a large mixing bowl and beat until combined. It’s ok if the mixture is not perfectly smooth at this point.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet bowl. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Fold in the oats and chips.
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Edges should be very light golden brown.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Serve after at least a few minutes of cooling.

Maple Lemonade

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Combine the ingredients, add ice, stir and enjoy!