Helping Hands in the Kitchen: Picnic Sides

May 17, 2022

This week, I will share some recipes for SIDE DISHES that are easy to prepare and eat at picnics or barbecues for Memorial Day or any occasion. When I think about picnics, barbecues, and outside entertaining, I think of something easy to prepare and something we can enjoy eating with our hands.

When planning for a Memorial Day event or Fourth of July, Birthdays, Graduations, or just any event where food is a “main event” of the day, think about who you will serve – children, adults, senior adults, or all of the above? Each often eats differently. So, I’ll give you recipes and suggestions to make it more simple to prepare and varied for different ages.

Example of a charcuterie board


Charcuterie Boards are often made with meats, cheeses, bread, crackers, vegetables, and condiments.


  • ¼ pound thinly sliced salami or other spicy meat
  • ¼ pound sliced smoked ham
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • Crackers, bread sticks
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Any other favorites – olives, fresh vegetables, with or without a dip/spreadable cheese


  1. Arrange ingredients on a nice plate (or plates) or basket for the bread, jars of jams or spreads, and small forks and utensils to put on their plates.
Example of cucumber slices with the inside part removed with a melon baller


Do not peel the cucumbers.  Cut the ends off. Then slice in about 2” slices – 3”. Take a melon baller (or small spoon) and remove the insides. Be careful not to go clear through the cucumber. Leave the edges and just remove the center where the seeds are.

Then decide what you want to fill it with.  Options I like are Ricotta Cheese with Cream Cheese and herbs or cold cooked rice made into balls to fit in the cucumber bowl. Maybe add some shredded carrots, and/or diced fine tomatoes, seasonings like herbs you enjoy.   Get creative. 


English Cucumbers are nice for this one. Take a potato peeler and slice the entire length of the cucumber. You’ll use it to roll around something, so make sure it’s substantial enough but not too thick for rolling.

I like to use cream cheese as a filling. Maybe try the whipped cream cheese with flavorings right off the grocery shelf (refrigerated), or use plain cream cheese and add your herbs, bacon bits, or small diced radishes. Again, use your imagination.

Example of pickled cucumber and onion



  • However many cucumbers you’d like (peeled and sliced thinly). Remember, they keep once pickled!
  • Small onions (sliced thinly) or larger onions and cut in half or thirds.
  • The amount of pickling liquid depends on the amount of vegetables you have. You want the pickling liquid to cover the cucumbers and onions.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water


  1. Start with 1 cup sugar, maybe ¼ cup vinegar, salt, and pepper, and start with 2 cups water.
  2. Combine until the sugar is dissolved and taste with a clean spoon. Adjust for your taste. If it’s too strong, add water. If it’s too sour, add sugar. If it’s too sweet, add vinegar. Keep adjusting until it tastes “just right.”
  3. Make sure it covers the cucumbers and onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight if possible.
Example of marinated tomatoes



  • 2 pounds of mixed tomatoes (cut into slices, chunks, quarters, or halves)


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
  • 2 teaspoons slivered fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, diced finely
  • 2 green onions, sliced for garnish


  1. Mix all except the green onions in a large bowl.
  2. Put the cut tomatoes into the dressing and marinate for 3-4 hours at least, or overnight.
  3. To serve, place in a bowl with a spoon, or lay some butter lettuce on a platter and place the marinated tomatoes on the lettuce. Top with basil leaves, if you have them.

These are all DELICIOUS! Easy to make, can be made ahead, and easy to eat. Different textures on a hot day are always welcome!

A hollowed-out cabbage is used as a bowl for dip.
Example of vegetable platter


Use any vegetables you like. Arrange the vegetables on any plates or in any containers that you can use. You could even use a vegetable for the dip. A hollowed out cabbage head makes a fabulous dip bowl!



  • 1 pound multicolored carrots
  • 1 pound parsnips, turnips, or hearty squash
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme minced, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or table salt
  • ½ teaspoon fine ground black pepper


  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (or dried)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives (or dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • Zest of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 deg F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Slice the vegetables into 2-3” pieces or longer. Just make sure all the pieces look about equal so they will roast evenly.
  3. Pour the combined olive oil, honey, spices/herbs, and toss to coat vegetables.
  4. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Roast the vegetables in the oven, shaking the pan a few times while roasting until they are golden around the edges and tender in the centers. About 40-45 minutes, but test.
  6. For the DIP: Place ingredients in blender or food processor and process until smooth and green! Transfer to serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Example of dill pickle popcorn



  • 4 cups prepared popcorn
  • Nonstick olive oil spray, for the popcorn
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • OPTION: 1 ½ cups crushed sour cream and onion potato chips


  1. Add the popcorn to a baking sheet and spray with the nonstick spray.
  2. Transfer popcorn to a large mixing bowl, add the dill and garlic powder, and toss.
  3. Add the potato chips if you are using them and toss to combine. Serve!
Example of corn salsa



  • 15 ounce can yellow corn, drained
  • 15 ounce can white corn, drained
  • 4 ounce can chopped green chilis, drained
  • Can sliced black olives, drained
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 3 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)


  1. Mix everything in a medium bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour. Taste, and adjust flavors if needed.
Example of melting potatoes



  • 4 russet potatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 10 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or dry)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or granulated)
  • Flakey salt to garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice off the ends.  Cut into 1-inch slices. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.  (I often leave the skin on the potatoes if possible – if it needs to be removed, then peel)
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy duty ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and 4 T. butter.
  4. Sear the potatoes on one side until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
  5. Flip the potatoes and add the broth, rosemary and garlic.
  6. Cut the remaining 6 T. butter into cubes and scatter on top of the potatoes.
  7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
  8. Garnish with flakey salt if desired and spoon the rest of the sauce over the potatoes.

Bon Appétit!
With Love,

Granni K

Download these recipes here.