Eating Al Fresco


June / July 2013
Article, photos, and cover

Spring is upon us, which means now is the time to get out and enjoy the outdoors before summer heat and mosquitos drive us back inside.  One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is a picnic.  Picnics can come in every form and fashion, from a romantic date for two, a fun-filled outing with the kids, or a time to catch up the relatives at a family get together.

To ensure a successful picnic, keep things simple.  Bring foods that can be eaten with your fingers and can tolerate warmer temperatures.  Remember, everything you bring to the picnic area you have to bring back with you, so opt for disposable items that can be thrown away afterwards.  After a hectic work week, combining delicious food with fresh air and sunshine is the perfect way to unwind.

Looking for a prime spot to picnic?  Mississippi has many to choose from.  In fact, Reserve America included several of Mississippi’s state parks in its “Top 100 Campground Awards.”

The listing below is just few of our peaceful and serene parks.  Each one has something different to offer and we invite you to explore all of them.

High White State Park
Grenada, MS

Located halfway between Memphis and Jackson, Hugh White State Park is home to Grenada Lake – Mississippi largest body of water.  The park’s 135 picnic sites are strategically located in various areas around the lake and each offers its own recreational amenities that are sure to please every outdoorsman.

The obvious attraction is Grenada Lake itself and there is no shortage of picnic tables and pavilions providing scenic views of the lake and its six beaches.  But if you’re looking for a way to work up an appetite, there are also four playgrounds located in three day-use areas in addition to tennis courts, ball fields, and a fitness trail.  Grenada Lake’s nature trail and four hiking paths are the perfect setting for doing a little bird watching.  The lake is also known for its crappie fishing as well as bass, bream and catfish.

Paul B. Johnson State Park
Hattiesburg, MS

Paul B. Johnson State Park is located on Geiger Lake in Mississippi’s Pine Belt Region.  The park is surrounded by long-leaf and loblolly pines, dogwoods, and ancient oak trees, creating the perfect setting for a family picnic.

Fifty picnic areas dot the shores of Geiger Lake along with six large picnic pavilions available by reservation for large groups.  Outdoor amenities include playground equipment, a 27 basket disc golf course, and a 5,000 square-foot splash pad where kids, and even their parents, can cool off on a hot summer day.  Fishermen can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, crappie, and channel catfish

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park
Jackson, MS

In the middle of the hustle and bustle of Jackson lies the serene LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.  The 305 acres that make up the park are located on the banks of the Pearl River.  An abundance of amenities means there is plenty to do before and after a picnic.

In addition to five nature trails that lead hikers through wooded bluffs and river bottoms and beside lakes scenic swamplands, the park also features a nine-hole golf course, driving range, and children’s playground.  Fishing in Mayes Lake offers bass, bream, catfish and crappie.  The Mississippi Museum of Natural Science is also located on the outskirts of the park.

Legion State Park
Louisville MS

History abounds in Legion State Park, which was originally inhabited by the Choctaw Indians.  It is one of four original state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  In fact, the park’s visitor’s center, also known as Legion Lodge, is an impressive hand-hewn log structure that has remained unchanged since its construction in the 1930s.

The park’s 440 acres features a 1.6 mile nature trail around Lake Toppasha in addition to two miles of trails through the Red Hills Archery Range.  A children’s playground, swimming beach, and fishing are also available.  Legion State Park’s picnic area features tables, grills and picnic shelters as well as a large picnic pavilion, for large groups.

Holmes County State Park
Durant, MS

If you are making a road trip this summer on I-55, Holmes County State Park is conveniently located for a quick pit stop to stretch your legs and enjoy a bite to eat in the shade.  The 88-acre park is built around two bodies of water – English Lake and Odom Lake and has a variety of recreational amenities.

The park features three picnic areas equipped with tables and grills along with relaxing views of the water.  It also has three large picnic pavilions available for reservation for large groups.  Four miles of nature trails are good for working up an appetite or taking a relaxing stroll through the woods.  Along with playing fields, boat launch, fishing, and disc golf course, one of the park’s most unique features is a roller skating rink.

Sample recipe included with the article.  Other recipes included homemade cherry limeade, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and butterscotch pudding.

Spinach and Penne Pasta Salad

  • 1 package (16 ounces) uncooked penne pasta

 For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

 For the salad:

  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced blacked olives
  • 1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and rinse in cold water.  Set aside.

While pasta is cooking, combine the vinaigrette ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, onions, olives, and spinach.  Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and toss until coated evenly.  Serve immediately.

Leftover can be store in an airtight container in the refridgerator for up to two days.

Serves 10