Prepare the perfect picnic with these tasty recipes from Alisa Malavenda

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- From barbecues to picnics, summer is all about eating meals outside! Alisa Malavenda of the Art Institute of Wisconsin visited the Real Milwaukee studio with some tips on making your fresh air feast effortless.

For more information on Lights Camera Fashion show, CLICK HERE. If you'd like to purchase tickets for the event, CLICK HERE.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy perfect picnic tips.

A picnic is nothing more than a moveable feast- so organization is key- Think of where, what , who and when and you are off to a good start

Make a check list ( see below) of the essentials, depending on the location – have a non essential, but fun list too!

Don’t make it complicated- we have enough stress in our lives-

Just pick a great meeting spot like the lakefront, a park or someone’s back yard. Invite some people you like to hang out with, pack up easy delicious food and cocktails, something to sit on and off you go! The addition of music and games is always fun for 2 or more.

Make food that is picnic/portable friendly.

That could mean just the perfect mix of cheese, cured meats, olives and a chunk of bread or some small finger food. Easy to pack and easy to eat – no plates or utensils required.

Turn it into a theme-  Add Italian songs or Dean Martin on Pandora- (BTW - The only reason to use your phone at a picnic is for emergencies or music)- put it away and enjoy nature.

You can make a speaker out of a glass by simply putting your phone inside the glass for the sound waves to bounce off the side.

Put a plastic shower curtain liner under your picnic blanket so it doesn’t get the blanket our you damp from the grass. If it rains it can double as cover for you or the food.

Even back yard picnics can be hassle free if you prepare “make ahead” items like a layered salad in a mason jar or overnight antipasti baguette.

Dessert can be something as simple as watermelon or brownies. For something a  little fancier – common desserts can be streamlined like cheese cake or tiramisu in old jelly jars or even disposable cups if you don’t want to carry glass.

Important: Food safety is important. A cooler is not a refrigerator, it mainly keeps the food insulated until you reach your destination. Most food after several hours should probably be thrown out (especially if there is mayonnaise, eggs, meats, etc). When in doubt - throw it out!

How To Create Your Own “ Individual Picnic Salads” – so portable and easy to make and carry. Get creative with the salad and the container- you can even use individual  plastic martini shakers for a souvenir for guests to take home. These are perfect to make the night before so you can just grab and go the next day.

The secret to great mason jar salads lies in the layering of flavors and ingredients

    When it’s time for lunch , just give your jar a shake , unscrew the top and dig in!


    Summer Sunshine Sparkler- This cocktail reminds me of many things about summer- the smell of basil – lemons and sunshine- the sun when it hits the lake that look like diamonds on the water or bubbles from the sparkling wine.

    1 oz limoncello

    3-4 fresh basil leaves

    Prosecco or sparkling wine

    Muddle 3-4 basil leaves with chilled limoncello in a champagne glass. Top with sparkling wine.


    Limoncello Vodka Cocktail with Grilled Thyme

    2 large sprigs fresh thyme, more for garnish

    ½ oz (1 T.) fresh lime juice

    1 ½ oz vodka ( or gin )

    ½ oz homemade limoncello

    Prepare grill and grill thyme sprigs for about 15 sec or until lightly charred.

    Gently Muddle the thyme in a glass or cocktail shaker with the lime juice.

    Add vodka and limoncello and fill with crushed ice. Shake or Stir and strain into a chilled glass filled with fresh ice, garnish with more thyme and serve.


    Fresh Watermelon Margarita with Jalapeño Salt – This cocktail with some tortilla chips and avocado and tomatillo guacamole is all I need for Chillin’ on the Hill

    ½ cup Cointreau or Triple Sec

    ½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

    2 T Agave Nectar

    1 T dried jalapeno ( available at spice house or latin markets)

    1 cup kosher salt

    limes for garnish

    In a food processor pulse the jalapeno and salt until fine. Set aside

    in same food processor pulse the watermelon with the agave nectar. You may have to do this in batches.

    Strain liquid into a pitcher and press down with the back of the spoon. You can fill your mason jars half way and chill overnight. Have a baggie with limes for garnish.

    *Alternatively you can just put a slice of watermelon in each mason jar with a dash of agave nectar and muddle. Fill the jar with ice and add the tequila , triple sec and lime juice. Screw on lid and shake- open the lid and stick your straw in to enjoy.

    *For a backyard picnic, coat the rim of the margarita glass with the jalapeno salt – do the steps above in a cocktail shaker and strain into a margarita or martini glass. Garnish with lime or a little slice of watermelon.

    Southern Sweet Tea Cooler - Grab a bucket of fried chicken and biscuits, this cocktail and a blanket and you have the perfect picnic to watch fireworks or fire flies.

    5 oz of Ice Tea

    1 T sugar or  agave nectar

    1 oz peach snapps

    1 ½ oz of southern comfort

    3 fresh peach slices

    lemon slice for garnish

    Place peaches in the bottom of a mason jar with the sugar or agave nectar. Muddle. Add ice and rest of the ingredients. Add lemon slice as garnish.


    Italian Picnic with Warm Olives

      Warm Olives Cont.

      With the side of a knife, bruise (smash) the garlic to release the flavor, but leave whole.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Place mixture in the middle of a large piece of foil and gather edges to seal and form a package with the foil. Bake or grill for 10 minutes , just until the olives are warm and fragrant. Open package and eat right out of foil or pour mixture over feta or goat cheese. Great served with a crispy baguette.

      BLT in a jar

      4 pieces brioche or country bread , buttered

      Maple bacon bourbon Jam ( recipe below) OR buy Carmella’s Bacon Jam in a Jar

      Slow Roasted Tomatoes ( recipe below) or buy sun dried tomatoes in a jar

      Romaine Aioli

      1/2 cup  mayonnaise

      5 garlic cloves, pressed and pureed

      juice of 1/2 lemon

      1 tsp sugar

      1 tsp Tabasco

      Whisk together the above ingredients and toss with  1 cup chopped romaine lettuce

        Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam

        1 pound thick-cut bacon, sliced

        1 large onion, chopped

        4 cloves garlic, chopped

        1/4 cup cider vinegar

        3/4 cup brewed black coffee

        1/4 cup brown sugar

        1/4 cup maple syrup

        1/4 cup bourbon

        1/2 teaspoon cumin

        black pepper to taste

        . Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large saucepan. When it's crispy, remove and place on paper towels to cool. Save one tablespoon of grease in the pan.

        Add onions and sauté until translucent.

        Add garlic. Sauté until you can smell it (about one minute).

        Add the vinegar to deglaze the pan.

        Add the coffee, brown sugar, syrup, bourbon,  cumin, and pepper. Crumble the bacon and add it in. Reduce heat slightly and simmer until about half the liquid has cooked off. (It took us 30 minutes.)

        Transfer jam to a food processor. Pulse until it's smoother, but not totally smooth (you want to see/taste the bacon chunks). Makes about a pint of jam.

        Slow Roasted Tomatoes

        1 pt cherry tomatoes

        1 Tbsp  oil

        Salt and pepper to taste

        Cut the tomatoes in half and separate on sheet pan. Lightly season with oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 200 degree oven for 2-1/2 hours.

        Antipasti Baguette

          about 1/4 cup olive paste of muffuletta spread

            7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

            14-ounce can marinated artichoke hearts artichoke drained,  patted dry, and chopped

            Cut top third off each baguette horizontally with a serrated knife and remove the inside breading from tops and bottoms of bread

            Spread about 1 tablespoon olive paste  on inside of each bottom shell and top with cheese and fold meat in half over cheese in each shell. Place kale or arugula  on meat layer and top with a layer of roasted peppers. Divide artichoke hearts between bottom shells and spread inside of top shells with remaining olive paste.

            Close the bread to reform loaves. Wrap each baguette tightly in foil and chill overnight.

            Cut each baguette diagonally into slices with a serrated knife and secure with a wooden pick at picnic site or cut in quarters and wrap in parchment paper.

            Roasted Vegetable Torte

            2 zucchini or yellow squash , cut into 1/4 inch slices

            1 red onions, cut in half lengthwise and sliced

            1 garlic clove , minced

            olive oil

            kosher salt and pepper

            2 red bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded

            2 yellow bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded

            1 eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1/4 -inch slices (1 1/2 pounds)

            1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan  or mozzarella cheese

              Mini Berry Tiramisu

              1 qt Strawberries

              1 T Chambord ( optional)

              1 ½ C Heavy Cream

                Reserve about 6 strawberries and a ¼ C each of other berries for top of tiramisu

                  CHECK LIST ESSENTIALS

                                              NONESSENTIALS  ( REALLY NICE TO HAVE)