Week 4, Day 5: Picnicking

Students on PEEC’s Weekend Horseback Outdoor Adventure program prepare peppers for fajitas. (Photo by Beth Cortright)

Get outside and have a picnic this weekend! A picnic with your family is a great way to celebrate spring and spend some time outdoors while maintaining a distance from others. Bring a frisbee or ball, books, some lawn games, or just yourselves on this outing!

Blog Post:

We asked PEEC’s staff members to share their favorite recipes for a picnic or camping. See what we came up with in today’s blog post!

We’d love to know your favorite foods to take picnicking and camping! Tell us your favorite recipes. If we get enough ideas, we might put together a mini cookbook from our community!

Whether you’re making them over a campfire or in a solar oven, we can agree that s’mores are delicious! (Photo by Sue Barns)


Make a solar oven to bring along with you on your picnic and experiment with cooking different foods. Make s’mores for dessert or experiment with melting cheese!

Find solar oven instructions here.

Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

Eat alfresco! It can be super-simple: just a snack in your backyard or on the trail, or you can go all out, with favorite dishes, a picnic blanket, some fresh-cut blossoms, the whole shebang. Share with us your favorite recipe, or a picture of your picnic set-up!

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

Add a sprinkle of nature to your meal. While there isn’t as much variety as in the fall fruit season, there are several edible plants in Northern New Mexico in spring. As always, never eat anything in nature that you’re not sure of, make sure to collect them from areas that haven’t had chemicals applied, and wash them thoroughly. Some things to look for in spring:

  • Chimaja
  • Dandelion
  • Mustard greens
  • Sour dock leaves
  • Elm leaves
  • Mallow leaves

Tender greens are usually sweeter than older plants, and you can sprinkle them on a salad or braise them and add them to other dishes, like eggs and pasta sauces.

Other Resources:

  • Fresh Off the Grid has some great recipes specifically for camping and backpacking. They focus on healthy, easy-to-make meals that can be prepared and enjoyed outdoors!
  • Be sure to keep your picnic earth-friendly! Pack reusable water bottles and eating utensils and ensure that all waste gets thrown away, composted, or properly recycled. Check out a few tips for having a sustainable picnic here.

Share Your Experience:

Tell us how you like to enjoy nature! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

That’s a wrap for outdoor adventure week! Join us on Monday to learn all about water.

The PEEC Staff’s Favorite Picnic Recipes

By PEEC Staff

There are so many ways to get outside, from taking a hike, to gardening, to fishing, to mountaineering. And sometimes, all of these active endeavors are, if you strip your motives bare, really just excuses to have a picnic.

We all need to eat, and food can connect us to our families and communities, our traditions, cultures, and philosophies, and to the land and the seasons.

The PEEC staff has prepared some of our favorite recipes and stories to help inspire you to get outside and eat!

Christa Tyson: Cast-Iron Skillet Biscuits

Christa’s partner, Michael, grew up in a family of sheep and cattle ranchers based in Abiquiú. When Michael’s father and grandfather would go on long cattle drives, they would bring a cast iron pan along with cured meat and potatoes and whatever else would keep for the journey. They’d make biscuits and cornbread on the cast iron. Michael remembers that even after his dad left the ranching lifestyle behind, they would still bring the same kinds of provisions on family camping trips. His dad also loved radishes and jalapeños, something with a little bite. When Michael and Christa go camping with their children, they still uphold a lot of these food traditions. Try these cast-iron skillet biscuits. Eat them hot with beans!

Siobhan Niklasson: Egg Salad

Siobhan grew up near the coast of Maine, and on a sunny summer day, the family would pack into the car and head to the beach. Beach picnics are tricky because you have to keep the sand out of your food. Even without the beach, she still likes a tasty egg salad sandwich. You can add potato chips for crunch — they’re much better than sand!

Elizabeth Watts: Homemade Hummus

Elizabeth has a very picky eater in her household, so she has experimented a lot with recipes that everyone will eat! She likes this hummus recipe that, according to her daughter, even makes carrots taste good. Though the recipe calls for cumin, Elizabeth favors the taste of smoked paprika.

Katie Bruell: Black Bean and Corn Salad

Katie first brought this black bean and corn salad to a PEEC potluck. It got devoured right away. The PEEC staff are strongly into chips and salsa, and at some point, it was discovered that this salad went really well with Fritos, so the combination has been a PEEC tradition since then.

Ashleigh Lusher: Cucumber Salad

When Ashleigh’s grandmother came to their house, she always brought food for everybody. The cucumber salad was something everybody loved. Ashleigh and her sister learned to make it themselves, and it’s something that they can keep in the fridge and everybody can snack on throughout the day. In fact, Ashleigh has a bowl of it in her fridge right now!

Try this cucumber salad. You can add and substitute ingredients to suit your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand. In Ashleigh’s family, they sometimes add artichoke hearts and black or kalamata olives, and throw in some ice cubes to keep it cool and water down the dressing!

Beth Cortright: Brownies

Beth spends a lot of time camping and eating in nature, both as part of her job and in her personal time, and she finds that simple is best. She remembers that during the first family backpacking outing that she led for PEEC, one of the kids said, “This is the best day ever! We get to eat macaroni and cheese out of a bag!” Also, if you’re trying to cut down on your packing, you can eat just about anything outside with a sharp knife and a spoon. Beth is partial to brownies from the box, but if you don’t have brownie mix at home, you can also try this recipe.

Jonathan Creel: New Zealand Meat Pies

Jonathan is an avid birder, and for early-morning birding trips, his friend from New Zealand made him traditional New Zealand meat pies. They’re absolutely delicious and are great for hiking because they can be made ahead and eaten cold, and keep you energized when you’re out in the field all day. You can mix it up by adding eggs, varying the meat filling (bacon is a favorite!), and adding peas.

Rachel Landman: Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Growing up, Rachel’s mom would make this black bean and couscous salad recipe for summertime meals and barbecues. Now, Rachel likes to take it on picnics or make it while camping! Rachel and her partner, Jon, are both vegans, so they use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make this dish. They like to double the dressing to make it extra flavorful and include chopped radishes to add more spice. Use a can of corn instead of frozen corn to make it more camping-friendly.

Denise Matthews: Caprese Skewers

Denise loves to garden, and grows loads of basil and tomatoes in the summer. Both of those grow really well in her home garden in White Rock. She also appreciates that gardening is a great way to get kids to eat vegetables, because they get so excited about going outside and picking them! Even though it’s not tomato season yet, she still loves these caprese skewers for a picnic.

Mariana Rivera Freeman: Tuscan Bean Salad

Mariana doesn’t like to cook herself, but her mother-in-law is passionate about cooking for family and friends, and it’s something that the family appreciates, too. Mariana loves her mother-in-law’s tuscan bean salad. It’s to die for on a hot day, and it’s vegetarian!