How to Make Great Picnic


picnic_cBy definition, picnics are a social entertainment, at which each person contributes food to a common table -- an excursion, or an outing in the open, a time free of ordinary cares and responsibilities -- and, a sink full of dirty dishes. This article will mention places where to make picnic, dishes to eat there, and not-to-be-missed list of essentials for the well-packed picnic basket. And, of course, some tips about picnics.

by Laurie Burrows Grad

When I think of picnics, I think of evenings under the stars and lazy afternoons by the lake. I've even had picnics in my living room. Picnics signify getting away from it all, forgetting your cares, sitting on the grass or the floor, and eating wonderful food. Kids love picnics. Not having to sit up straight at the dining room table is probably the best part, not to mention watching a parade of chicken legs. When I was a child, unfortunately, the word "picnic" conjured up an inedible image, full of smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips fractured into fine crumbs, and a piece of warm, bruised fruit, consumed at a beach where sand mysteriously ended up in every bite. But maybe that's just me.

By definition, picnics are a social entertainment, at which each person contributes food to a common table -- an excursion, or an outing in the open, a time free of ordinary cares and responsibilities -- and, a sink full of dirty dishes, which has never been my favorite finish to a warm relaxing meal.The best thing about picnicking indoors, by the way, is that there are no ants. are very close to a sink. Which reminds me to remind you ...when you do pack up this wonderful picnic food in either of the menus below -- remember to bring along wet napkins. Do people ever discuss wet napkins before you go on a trip in the car, or on a picnic? No, they tell you after you've come home painted in barbecue sauce. So, I have compiled a not-to-be-missed list of essentials for the well-packed picnic basket.

Essentials For The Well-Packed Picnic Basket

  • Plastic or paper plates
  • Reusable, heavy-duty forks, knives, and spoons (can be plastic)
  • Reusable, heavy-duty serving pieces (can be plastic)
  • Reusable, heavy-duty plastic glasses
  • Paper or cloth napkins
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Garbage Bag
  • Small cutting board, for cutting breads or meats
  • Bread knife or sharp knife
  • Can opener and corkscrew
  • Sturdy tablecloth that doubles as a picnic basket liner
  • Salt and pepper
  • Matches
  • Thermos for drinks or soups - and mugs if soup is on the menu
  • Small flashlight
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Wet napkins

Another key issue to keep in mind when packing a picnic is safety. You are notpacking a first aid kit with the hope of using it! First make sure that you had cleanhands and clean surfaces when preparing the food. Store the readied foods in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator until the food is thoroughly chilled prior to the picnic. If foods are to be served hot, keep them hot in a thermos. If foods are to be grilled at the picnic, you might carry the poultry or meat frozen in a cooler. Remember to pack the foods and drinks you know you are going to want immediately right on top. Place frozen cold packs in the picnic cooler -- if nothing else when your husband's back goes out carrying the picnic basket, he'll find some relief.

Now that we are in the 90's, planning a picnic involves selecting lighter foods -- foods that allow you to enjoy the hot day without feeling like you ingested a bowling ball! Plan to serve foods that allow you to look fit and slip into that tiny bikini, well, at least slip into a bathing suit that doesn't look like it was made by Omar the Tentmaker.

Light Summer Supper

  • Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Fresh Herbs
  • Cold Salmon Baked In Foil With Light Watercress Sauce
  • Crusty French Bread
  • Cloud Brownies
  • Iced Fruited Tea

This Chilled Summer Squash Soup should be served from a thermos into mugs. It is prepared with low-fat buttermilk which gives the feeling of richness without added fats.

The soup utilizes both the yellow and zucchini squash that are so abundant in the summer months. Remember to taste the soup after it has been chilled because the cold diminishes the flavor of the soup. I like to tote along a sealed baggie of fresh herbs to add at the last minute for color and flavor. And take along a loaf of crusty French or Italian bread -- and don't forget your little bread cutting board and bread knife. For those who really want an easy picnic, substitute rolls for the bread.

The salmon is cooked easily without a poacher by actually sealing in foilpackets and baking at high temperature. The packets can be chilled and carried to the picnic and then served. The sauce can be toted to the picnic in a small plastic container with an accompanying serving spoon. An interesting historical note about salmon is that the early Native Americans held the salmon in very high regard, and their superstitions prevented certain tribe members from handling or eating the fish -- they did not want to anger its spirit and have it disappear from their waters. Perhaps the Chief was just a little squeamish baiting the hook, but I could be wrong.

I happen to love brownies -- but they are very high in fat. I have made some big concessions with these Cloud Brownies by substituting a fruit puree for the fat, but the results are still quite moist and flavorful. The brownies will make you good and thirsty on a hot summer's eve so I have added some Fruited Iced Tea. Simply steep a bunch of herbal teas -- cranberry, raspberry, orange, lemon -- together and chill. When chilled, add some sliced oranges and lemons and frozen strawberries, pack in a thermos, and take to the picnic.

Light and Easy Picnic Lunch

  • Cucumber Yogurt Soup With Fresh Mint
  • Buttermilk Baked Chicken
  • Sourdough Rolls
  • Mixed Fresh Berries with Fresh Berry Sauce
  • Lemonade

This second picnic has something for everyone in the family. The Cucumber Yogurt Soup is a wonderful recipe I learned from a friend in the South of France. The soup is creamy without being rich and the additional chopped vegetables and eggs made the soup like a white gazpacho. Tote the soup in a thermos to keep it chilled and carry along the garnishes in sealed baggies to add when serving the soup in mugs or plastic bowls.

The Buttermilk Baked Chicken is one of my favorite recipes. It is a perfect picnic chicken, light and crispy but without the added fat of frying. I used to send my son to school with several pieces of this delicious chicken and he actually ate it without the usual "barter for Twinkies routine." Remember to bring plenty of wet napkins because this is great finger food. The berry dessert is a feast of berries. It utilizes the fresh berries of summer and tops them with a puree of berries. If you like, purchase one of the low-fat or non-fat pound cakes, slice them in advance, place a piece of cake on a plate, top with fresh berries, and spoon over the Fresh Berry Sauce. A few mint sprigs make a nice presentation even in the great outdoors so tote them along in a sealed baggie.

And...finally, I want to leave you with a few practical picnic suggestions. Number one -- do not set your picnic basket on top of a sprinkler head. Number two -- don't wear a bee-hive hairdo. And, number three -- don't pack so much that you need a pack of mules to get you there and back!

Eating outdoors should be great fun -- whether you are picnicking by the ocean, at a city park, or in your own backyard. You can have a picnic that is elegant, healthy, and fun.

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