Ready for a summer picnic? With a picnic basket or tote that’s already packed with basics such as plates, cups, utensils and napkins, and with your cooler or ice chest on hand for the cold packs in the freezer, you’re well prepared for a simple, food safe and delicious picnic with family or friends.
Simply Good: Organize Ahead
A great picnic doesn’t need to be an elaborate affair. A quick deli stop, with finger food veggies and fruit, or re-created leftovers from your fridge, or make-ahead salads and sandwiches are enough, especially when shared in the great outdoors! A few tips to organize and keep it easy and fun:
- Keep a picnic checklist … with the equipment, listing what you typically need.
- Plan your menu carefully … the right amount of food to avoid leftovers to carry home, light weight enough to easily carry to the picnic site and simple to assemble or grill with limited equipment.
- Pre-prep at home … ingredients already sliced and chopped, burgers shaped for the grill and salads already made
- Pack carefully … delicate fruit, tomatoes, desserts or chips in hard containers with lids, or pack on top so they won’t get crushed.
- Remember drinks … juice or water, perhaps frozen ahead to keep cold as they thaw in the cooler.
- Bring non-food essentials … a clean tablecloth, paper towels, plastic bag for dirty utensils and serving pieces, plastic bags for rubbish, reliable bug spray and sun block, sunglasses, hand wipes or sanitizer, matches and charcoal if grilling, first aid kit, equipment for fun (ball, Frisbee, etc.).
Picnic Safe: Cook, Separate, Clean, Chill
Keep your picnic safe to the plate! Warm weather plus outdoor eating can lead to an uptick in foodborne illness. The reasons: when temperatures are warm, bacteria that cause foodborne illness multiply faster; also grilling and picnicking often happen away from soap and water, refrigerators and meat thermometers.
- Cook … pack a food thermometer so you can check the internal temperature of grilled burgers, steaks, chicken, pork chops and more. You can’t count on timing or appearance to know if they’re done. Remember these safe internal temperatures: 160ºF for all ground meat, 165ºF for all poultry (including ground chicken and turkey) and 145ºF plus 3 minutes of rest time for whole cuts of meat.
- Separate … pack uncooked meat, poultry or fish in well-sealed containers, at the bottom of the cooler so juices won’t leak onto other foods. Transfer cooked food from the grill with clean utensils, onto a clean plate, so any bacteria from meat or its juices don’t contaminate cooked food.
- Clean … bring soap and bottled water for washing hands and cooking surfaces, and perhaps hand sanitizer, too. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables under cold, running water, including those with firm skins and rinds you won’t eat; bacteria from the soil can contaminate watermelon or cantaloupe.
- Chill … keep your cooler (with frozen cold packs) in a cool, shaded place, not in a hot car or in the sun. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or one hour if the outdoors is 90ºF or warmer). What’s perishable? Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy foods, cooked vegetables, peeled or cut fruits and vegetables, mayonnaise … and dishes made with these foods, such as pasta salads, deviled eggs and dips for chips.
Summer Fresh Flavor: Picnic Perfect Recipes
What’s on your picnic menu? Seasonal produce, paired with kitchen staples, can create the perfect meals to pack and take to your local park, neighborhood picnic or weekend outing. On the side or as main dishes, these five summer picnic salads from Dreamfields make great picnic foods. They combine fresh garden veggies and fruits with ingredients you already have on hand:
Southwest Pasta Salad: Enjoy hot, spicy Southwest flavors by combining Dreamfields elbows or penne rigate* with cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, avocado, cilantro and jalapenos with a salsa-mayo dressing. Tip: top this salad with chicken fingers cooked on the grill.
Ginger Noodle Salad: Make this Asian side dish with cooked Dreamfields spaghetti or angel hair pasta,* tossed in sauce made with soy sauce, chili paste, lime juice, sesame oil and a non-calorie sweetener. Serve it over fresh garden greens. Tip: for a main dish salad, add chopped cucumber and green onion, and cooked shrimp.
BLT Salad: Turn the popular BLT sandwich into an easy-to-carry salad. Toss cooked Dreamfields rotini* with crisp, crumbled bacon, sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh garden herbs, shredded cheese and mustard vinaigrette; serve over a bed of fresh lettuce.
Blackberry Ginger Pasta Salad: Celebrate summer blackberry season with this flavorful side salad. Combine cooked Dreamfields rotini,* fresh cucumber and green pepper, blackberries and mozzarella with a homemade blackberry vinaigrette. Tip: this salad is a great side dish for salmon cooked on the grill.
Steakhouse Pasta Salad: Cook extra meat today for tomorrow’s hearty picnic salad. Cut leftover grilled beef steak into thin strips, toss with Dreamfields penne rigate,* blue cheese and cherry tomatoes, and serve over fresh arugula.
* Let pasta cool before adding to other salad ingredients.
Enjoy great summer picnics!