College kitchen: The best picnic recipes and spots for a social distancing get-together

A&E’s guide to picnicking near campus.

A picnic plate of fruit kebabs and shrimp spring rolls in Nicollet Island Pavilion on Tuesday, June 9. (Audrey Rauth / Minnesota Daily)

A picnic plate of fruit kebabs and shrimp spring rolls in Nicollet Island Pavilion on Tuesday, June 9. (Audrey Rauth / Minnesota Daily)

by Norah Kleven

In the age of social distancing, there aren’t many options for social interaction more appealing than having a picnic. 

Here is a painless picnic spread and some appealing picnic spots worth visiting with your crew. 

Shrimp Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are an easily transportable and satisfying yet light lunch for those heavy summer days.


  • 12 ounces shrimp, precooked
  • 4 rice paper wraps
  • 1 cup bean curd vermicelli 
  • 1/4 package firm tofu
  • Lettuce
  • Thai basil
  • Mint leaves
  • Cilantro


  • Boil water. Once the water is boiling, add vermicelli noodles. Boil noodles until they are clear, which takes about 15 minutes. Remove vermicelli from heat and place in a bowl with a bit of cold water. Set noodles aside until other ingredients are prepared.
  • Cut tofu into rectangular slices. Add olive oil to a pan and fry tofu until crispy and golden brown. Flip and fry the other side the same way. 
  • Make sure the shrimp are completely thawed and set aside.
  • Chop up lettuce, mint, basil and cilantro, and set them up to start rolling. 
  • Fill a pot with water, and dip the rice paper into the water. Make sure all areas of the paper are sticky and wet — but avoid getting it too wet, otherwise it’ll be difficult to fold. 
  • Lay the rice paper flat on a plate. Start by placing shrimp. Then add a strip or two of lettuce. Next, add vermicelli noodles followed by a slice of fried tofu. Sprinkle cilantro, basil and mint throughout the roll. 
  • Fold one side of the rice paper over the ingredients, then tuck in the sides. Pull the bottom part of the rice paper tight over the ingredients, folding on itself if it is too long. 

Peanut Dipping Sauce

The picnic wouldn’t be complete without a spring roll dipping sauce. 


  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1/4 cup water


Stir peanut butter, hoisin, water and garlic in a bowl. Add to a saucepan and heat over medium until the peanut butter is melted and the mixture is homogeneous. 

Where to enjoy: Nicollet Island

Nicollet Island is full of picnic spots and is a great place to take in the natural beauty of the river and the Minneapolis skyline at the same time. Several picnic tables can be found by the river, and there is green space galore to put down a picnic blanket. 

Fruit Kebabs

Choose your favorite fruits and put them on a skewer — or chopstick for added sustainability. 


  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi


Clean and cut the fruit. Then stick it on a chopstick or skewer and pack in a container for easy transportation of an easy, delicious snack. 

Where to enjoy: Northrop Mall

For students missing campus, the green space in front of Coffman Union is another great place to take in the city views. The spot allows full sun exposure and plenty of green space.