My Beach – Johnson Beach in Gulf Shores National Seashore 

Choose a scenic spot for for your picnic excursion. Nearby parks, rooftops, beaches, zoos or farms, etc. are ideal choices. For me, it is the beach. One of my favorite things about living on the Gulf Coast is its proximity to the beach. There is nothing better than watching the waves, digging your toes into warm sand and spending the day with friends. I often pack a lunch to enjoy with my friends at the beach and I prefer to bring foods that don’t require much on-beach assembly, have a minimum of packaging or wrapping and don’t create a mess.

Classic picnic foods are, but not limited to: sandwiches, fruits, salads, chips, cookies, hot dogs, pies, vegetables, fruit punch, lemonade, soft drinks and bottled water. Finger foods are the most comfortable to eat and serve. Remember you can be creative and make your picnic memorable by opting for some nontraditional fare. Try tapas foods or breadsticks/veggies and dips or olives, salami cubes and cheese.

Cut up some fresh veggies and fruit for everyone to snack on instead of chips and candy. Watermelon slices are thirst quenching and cool, while baby carrots offer a welcome crunch. Just pack them in plastic sandwich bags in the cooler with ice and they’ll be as crisp at the beach as when you packed them.

This is a great time to try something new and refreshing on the kids– like cool, crisp sugar snap peas with hummus dip. When they’re hungry, kids are more willing to try something they otherwise might turn up their nose at.

Some beaches (like mine) and parks have covered picnic areas.

Ice chests are very handy for storing food. Tote your drinks in a cooler.Take along bottles of partially frozen water. Your water will stay cool even after sitting in the sun.

Remember to pack a picnic blanket, paper or plastic cups and plates, forks, knives and spoons, trash bags and anything else you will need. Paper napkins and towels are a must. Some people even have portable folding picnic chairs and tables. Spread your picnic on a tablecloth on the sand. It’s lighter than a blanket and much easier to wash.

Bring Your Own Shade. Use a shade umbrella or tent. Enjoy your picnic foods minus the glare. Canopies are popular in my area.

Beach Canopy

Some General Tips:

  • Be careful – that sun is very hot. Be sure to bring plenty of long sleeved cover ups.
  • Food covers may come in handy to keep bugs and pests off .
  • Make sure you are allowed to picnic in the area you have chosen. If you are able to reserve that area, it’d be a good idea to do so.
  • Don’t forget a bottle opener.
  • Don’t forget your camera!
  • Make sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • You can’t have too many hand wipes (baby wipes work too!) to help with cleanup. Rinsing hands in saltwater just leaves them sticky.
  • Don’t forget to take some games to play after the food is eaten! Beach balls, Frisbees, playing cards and Twister are good standbys.

Watch out for this big fellow. He likes your food also.

Take as much finger food as possible. Good picnic foods include:

  • Grapes, apples, berries and cubed watermelon.
  • Baby carrots and other raw veggies with hummus or eggplant dip.
  • Cheese and crackers.
  • A selection of sandwiches or wraps, cut in halves or quarters. Avoid sandwiches with mayonnaise which can go bad in the heat.
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • Keep the kids happy with beach-themed foods like goldfish crackers.
  • Brownies and cookies are good portable desserts. Avoid anything with frosting which will melt in the heat.

At your next beach picnic, pack a meal that will be just as much fun as the beach adventure itself. Below are some of my favorite picnic foods:

Baked Coconut Shrimp

Serve with pineapple cubes at the beach instead of a dipping sauce. Place servings of shrimp and pineapple in large paper drinking cups for easy eating.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Shrimp, shelled, deveined and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Salt – dash
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • 3/4 cup coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine cornstarch, pepper and salt.

In a small microwave safe dish heat honey for 30 seconds

Add the lime juice to the honey and stir. Slowly add in egg whites and continue to stir.

Place coconut in a thin layer on a pie plate or flat dish.

Take each shrimp and first dip into cornstarch mixture, then in egg white mixture and finally roll in the coconut.

Place on the prepared baking sheet and lightly spray with cooking spray.

Bake 10-15 minutes or until shrimp are pink and the coconut is lightly toasted.

Savory Focaccia Sandwiches

Ingredients:

Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Sandwich

  • 1 round focaccia bread (12 inches in diameter)
  • 30 thin slices cooked roast beef or turkey (20 ounces)
  • 6 slices (1 1/2 ounces each) mozzarella cheese
  • 12 slices tomato
  • Red onion rings, if desired
  • Fresh basil leaves, if desired

Directions:

In small bowl, cover tomatoes with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes; drain. Chop tomatoes. In a small bowl, mix all remaining spread ingredients; stir in tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Cut focaccia horizontally in half. Spread tomato spread over cut sides of focaccia. Layer roast beef or turkey, cheese and tomato slices on bottom half; top with onion rings and basil. Add top half of focaccia. Cut into 6 wedges.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

For the Grown Ups

For the Children

When I bring these sandwiches to a picnic, they are always a big hit – even for meat eaters.

You will need a dish of prepared Eggplant Parmesan, either homemade or store bought. If you would like to make a healthy version, see my post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/27/eggplant-glorious-eggplant/

Slice the prepared eggplant thinly and arrange the slices over sandwich bread of your choice. We particularly like to use oatmeal bread for this sandwich. Italian or whole wheat bread or rolls also work, however, for the beach you will want a sandwich that is easy to eat without a lot of ingredients falling out of it. I usally cut the sandwiches into quarters for ease of eating. Good additions are lettuce or basil leaves.

Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad

My friend, Nancy, brought this refreshing salad to our last beach outing. Here is a similar version. Again, I would serve this salad in large paper drinking cups.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 4 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1  Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chives, and/or tarragon

Directions:

Whisk vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper in a large shallow bowl.

Remove alternating stripes of peel from the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds. Add the cucumber slices, tomatoes and onion to the dressing; gently toss to combine.

Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Just before serving, add herbs and toss again.

Chocolate Crinkles

Who could resist a little chocolate at the end of the meal.

Makes 36 cookies

Ingredients ;

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.

Form the dough into balls (each equal to 1 level tablespoon). Roll the balls in the confectioners’ sugar and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are firm and the tops crack, 13 to 15 minutes.

 Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely

Lemonade Sweet Tea

Round out the menu with this refreshing drink.

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 6 tea bags, whatever flavor you like.
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 (12-oz.) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • Garnishes: halved orange slices,

Directions:

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan. Remove from heat, add tea bags and stir in fresh mint. Cover and steep 10 minutes.

Discard tea bags and mint. Stir in honey until dissolved. Pour tea into a 3-qt. container and stir in 4 cups cold water and lemonade concentrate. Mix well.

Serve over ice and garnish with orange slices.

 

Another view of Johnson Beach

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