It’s only July 2nd, but I can already hear myself on September 1st:

“Wahhh. Boohoohoo. Summer is over and how many times did we go to the beach? How about that hike we promised to go on with the dog? And how come we never made it to that outdoor jazz concert with picnic basket in tow?”

Last summer, my answers would have been: 1) Zero. Unless you count once in Israel. Kind of pathetic for the fact that I live less than 90 minutes from the ocean. 2) We didn’t have a dog last summer, but still, I don’t know why we didn’t take more hikes. And 3) because we’re always so busy and don’t own a picnic basket?

This summer, I plan to change all that. Just ask me on September 1st, and I guarantee I’ll have happier answers. Why? Because life is meant to be lived. And because I refuse to let my legs stay pasty all summer.

I’m already one step closer to #3, thanks to my friend Amie, author, gluten-free chef, and hollistic health counselor behind the blog The Healthy Apple. Amie and I chatted it up for a long hour on the phone one afternoon, lamenting what a shame it was that we couldn’t get together for a cooking extravaganza (although, since she’s only a few hours away by car, maybe that will change someday!) In the meantime, we thought it would be fun to pool our brains together and create a fresh, tasty gluten-free picnic menu that you can use this week (hello, 4th of July!) and all summer long.

I’m generally easy to please, but when I started thinking about what makes perfect picnic food, I came up with a slew of criteria:

  • It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated before serving, and doesn’t require any last minute assembly or garnishes
  • Hot food need not apply; it has to be tasty chilled or room temp
  • Hand-held food is great. Food that requires a fork is fine. But a knife and fork? Count it out! You know that awkward moment where you’re trying to balance a solo cup AND slice into a piece of steak? Yeah, not happening at my picnic.
  • It should be healthy, flavorful, and you should have a big variety of colors and flavors. Oh wait, that’s my criteria all the time

When Amie declared her Asparagus Goat Cheese Pasta Salad, it took me about 2 seconds to decide what I was making. Grilled chicken drumsticks in a smokey mustard-rosemary marinade seemed like the perfect accompaniment. And the thing about chicken drumsticks is that you can grill them up a head of time, and enjoy them cold the next day. With a marinade like this one, spiked with lemon and garlic, you can guarantee they’ll stay nice and juicy too. No dry chicken at my picnic, promise!

To round out the picnic menu, I selected some goodies that Amie and I have each made in the past, that all fit the bill described above. Simple, make-ahead, healthy goodies to stuff the cooler with and tote along – we got you covered!

Grilled Zucchini and Goat Cheese Rollatini with Raisins and Pistachios

Smokey Eggplant Guacamole

Cauliflower “Hummus”

Big Green Salad with Poppy-Tahini Dressing

Potato Salad with Parsley Pesto

Chocolate-Glazed Banana Cupcakes

So – who’s coming along on our picnic and what are you bringing?

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Smokey Rosemary-Mustard Chicken Drumsticks

Yield: 1 dozen

Prep Time: 10 minutes + 6 hours to marinate

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Juicy mustard-and-rosemary infused chicken legs with a hint of smoke - perfect right off the grill or for bringing on your next picnic.

Ingredients:

12 meaty chicken drumsticks
3/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons minced rosemary
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Arrange chicken drumsticks in a 9x13" baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Pour over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from refrigerator. Spray grill grates with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat grill so that chicken can be cooked over indirect heat.*

Transfer chicken to the grill and cook for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice, until chicken is no longer pink in the thickest part of the meat. (If the chicken does not seem to be cooking through, you may need to turn the middle burners onto low heat.)

*I turn the outside burners onto medium-high, and leave the ones in the middle of the grill off.