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Picnic Fare

It's picnic season again. Time to clean out the cooler, find a family-size blanket and pack up portable favorites. Whether you're planning the company picnic, a day at the beach or an night of symphony under the stars, the sites below will help you pack an impressive basket.

Keep it Simple

Portability is key. Stick with simple favorites like:

  • Your favorite cheeses and crackers. Better Homes and Gardens' Encyclopedia of Cheese will help you select the right fromage.

  • Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Check with the Epicurious guide to Summer Ingredients for prime picks.

  • Sandwiches on sturdy focaccia bread. Pack a selection of deli meats, cheeses, vegetables and spreads in the ice chest and construct the meal on site. For an elegant and flavorful touch, drizzle sandwiches with a light vinaigrette and chopped fresh herbs before serving.

  • Cookies, hard candy and fresh fruit for dessert. Beware of chocolate chip cookies, which can make a melted mess.




For more creative fare, try these picnic-friendly recipes: Keep it Cool

Remember to pack lots of liquids. A bottle of wine can set the mood, but water and juice are musts for rehydration. To beat the heat, Epicurious has rounded up a collection of summer-friendly beverages. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic selections include Tropical Sparkling Sangria, a Minted Grapefruit Cooler and Ginger Iced Tea. Freeze a jug of water ahead of time for an ice pack that's drinkable late in the day. Having water on hand can also be helpful for cleanup.

Keep it Safe

Food poisoning is no picnic. Here are a few guidelines to keeping foods safe:
  • Opt for recipes with vinegar and oil over egg- or mayonnaise-based items.

  • Be sure that cold foods are completely chilled before packing. (Let potato salad chill overnight).

  • A full cooler retains cold longer than a partially empty one, so fill empty spaces with extra ice or cold packs.

  • If you plan to eat take-out, consume food within 2 hours of pick-up or buy ahead and chill thoroughly.

  • Try not to stow the cooler in the trunk. Carry it inside the car, where it's cooler. At the picnic site, set it in the shade when possible.

  • Bring a separate cooler for beverages. This way, the cooler with perishable foods isn't frequently opened and closed.

  • The Iowa State University Extension offers a variety of picnic safety guidelines, including special tips on meat handling.

Keep it Fun

Consult our picnic checklist before you go, but don't spend too much time planning. Some of the best picnics are impromptu. For an easy, anytime picnic, Family Fun Magazine recommends keeping a pre-packed picnic kit on hand. Watch out for the ants!




   --- L.Z.

 
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