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GOING OUT TO EAT HAS NEVER BEEN NICER

For many people, picnics are an art form, but you don’t have to be a pro to prepare like one. Enjoying fresh food in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and the people you love, makes everything taste better – and it can be as easy or involved as you want it to be. Check out some of our favorite tips for taking your picnicking skills to the next level, along with a few simple, make-in-minutes recipes L.L.Bean employees love to bring along.

1. Make It in a Mason Jar

Cut down on the clutter in your cooler or insulated tote by trading all those food containers for all-in-one mason jars. They’re super easy to pack and perfect for serving snacks and apps where the ingredients are already combined. Try easy single-serve salads or fill the jars with an inch or two of dressing or hummus, pack in julienned veggies (like carrots, celery or zucchini sticks), and munch away on the coolest crudité you’ve ever seen!

2. Drink In Some Natural Flavor

Water is essential for any outdoor activity, but a picnic calls for something special. Grab a few ice trays, add a single blueberry, strawberry slice or a sprig of mint to each section, then fill with water and freeze. You can also wrap a thin slice of lemon or lime around the ice cube, then put it back in the freezer to hold it in place. As the ice melts, the flavors will release into your water to add some fresh, natural flavor. As a bonus, they also look absolutely beautiful!

Make It in Minutes:

L.L.Bean Production Specialist Vickie C.’s sweet and savory fruit-and-cheese kabobs: on 12 wooden skewers, alternately thread strawberries, grapes and cheese cubes. Make a dip by mixing 1-cup vanilla yogurt, ½-cup sour cream, 2-Tbsp. honey and 1/2-tsp. ground cinnamon.

3. Picnic for Dinner (or Date Night)

Picnics are often considered a daytime activity, but starting at sunset will give your outdoor meal a whole different vibe (and hopefully a view to remember). Setting the right mood is key: string battery-powered fairy lights in a nearby tree, light a lantern, arrange a few flowers in a water bottle, lay out your blanket and enjoy some amazing outdoor ambiance – no waiting for a table or reservations required.

4. Let Your Pup Enjoy the Dog Days

Pups are part of the family, so of course you should include them in your picnic plans. But all that delicious human food can be so, so tempting. Here’s what to do: bring along your best bud’s water bowl, favorite toy and a cozy blanket to snuggle into. Want the ultimate distraction? Make this three-ingredient doggie ice cream treat: simply blend yogurt, banana and peanut butter until creamy, then freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray or small plastic container.

Make It in Minutes:

L.L.Bean Senior Producer Jennifer H.’s best-ever dill pickle deviled eggs: Peel six completely cooled hard-boiled eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in bowl. Add ¼-cup mayo, ½-tsp. Dijon mustard, and 1-Tbsp. dill pickle juice. Mash until smooth. Stir in 2-tsp. minced fresh dill and 3-Tbsp. finely chopped dill pickle. Salt and pepper to taste. Place filling in piping bag or freezer bag and pipe into egg whites. Garnish with dill pickle slices and paprika.

5. Turn the Picnic into Playtime

Everyone knows that once the eating’s over, kids can get a little antsy. So before you head out, make sure you have a bunch of fun games ready to go. Classic lawn games like bocce and horseshoes, and more whimsical ones like flashlight tag and scavenger hunts, will help unglue younger picnickers from their devices and get them playing together. Show your support by lining up a few comfortable camp chairs to create a cheering section for grown-up spectators.

6. Have Your Ice Do Double Duty

Everything prepared and ready to go? Great – it's time to pack up! Instead of dealing with space-eating bags of ice, try this trick: fill a few reusable plastic bottles (like Nalgene) with water, leaving some space at the top for expansion. Freeze them, then load them in your cooler. They’ll keep your food and drinks nice and cold for hours, and as the water melts, it becomes your drinking water for the day. No plastic. No waste. That’s a win-win!

Make It in Minutes:

L.L.Bean Senior Copywriter Jake C.'s office-famous peanut butter cookie recipe: mix one cup peanut butter, one cup sugar and one egg until creamy. Roll into one-inch balls and push down with a fork. Bake in a 350° oven for 10 minutes. Makes about 24 cookies.

At the end of the day, it’s not how you picnic, but who you picnic with. With the perfect spot and the right people by your side, you really can’t go wrong. Good luck and eat up!

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