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The Perfect Summer Picnic

July's Cooking Through the Seasons column is all about picnic food.
July’s Cooking Through the Seasons column is all about picnic food.

Celebrate National Picnic Month with everything from a grab-and-go meal to mouth-watering buttermilk oven-fried chicken!

July is National Picnic Month! I love packing a picnic and visiting my favorite spot by the water to relax and connect with the outdoors for a bit. But what to eat? In this month’s Cooking Through the Seasons column, I’m going to share a few ideas: A meal you can whip up in a jiffy and a classic picnic food that will take a little more prep time, but is so worth it!

Before we get to the recipes, let’s first talk about food storage. I love using glass mason jars for meals on the go. They are easy to transport and keep cold, and you can eat right out of the jars. Find more safe food packing tips here.

OK, let’s get to some picnic meal planning. For my first (quicker) picnic idea, fill a mason jar with fresh fruit (I like organic apricots) and fill another with store-bought or homemade (recommended) chicken salad. Throw in a sleeve of your favorite crackers and voilà!

Pack your jars, utensils, plus your beverage of choice (lemonade, or a zesty white or aromatic red wine would pair nicely) into an insulated cooler and fill with ice. Head out to your favorite place to picnic or check out our recommended local spots here. Our story also includes a picnic check list.

For my second idea, I’m sharing my homemade buttermilk oven-fried chicken recipe. Add a potato salad and lemon cake for the ultimate old-fashioned summer picnic! Note: My chicken recipe is oven-baked versus deep-fried. It’s just as tasty if you ask me – and you can justify that extra piece!

Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken


  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 4  bone-in chicken breast halves
  • 4 chicken leg and thigh quarters
  • 2/3 cup seasoned flour
  • 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Cooking spray



  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine flour and panko crumbs in a shallow dish. Pour buttermilk into a separate shallow dish.
  3. Coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  4. Rinse chicken pieces in cold water. See safe poultry handling tips here.
  5. Add chicken to the buttermilk dish, turning to coat.
  6. Transfer chicken from buttermilk to a work surface. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken and flour mixture.
  7. Arrange chicken onto the cookie sheet.
  8. Melt butter and drizzle over the chicken. Bake for 75 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees in the center of the largest piece.


The recommended way to transport the chicken is to let it cool and then loosely pack in foil or a paper bag.

If you make this recipe, be sure to share your photos with us via Facebook!


Chef Debi Stuckwisch, of Johnsburg, learned to cook from her mother and grandmother – using fresh ingredients from farm to table. Her company, Meals Like Mom, offers meal services and catering. Reach her at 847.778.9351, and via Facebook.

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