Summer is the time to start thinking of how to pack a delicious — and smart — picnic.
Eating al fresco isn’t just for Fourth of July. You can pack a basket or cooler and take in free outdoor concerts, simply go for a picnic or whatever you want. Time to start thinking of how to pack a delicious — and smart — picnic.
Dover (Del.) Post food columnist Judi Leaming is an avid traveler, so she’s no stranger to packing food to go. She said fresh fruit is one of the best items to pack. If favorite fruits aren’t in season, supplement fruit salad with frozen or canned fruit. Also pack toothpicks or plastic ware so dirty hands don’t sully the salad. Another refreshing option is fresh salsa and chips.
Fresh fruit is a great choice, agreed Dr. Carol Giesecke, nutrition, consumer economics and health specialist at Delaware State University Cooperative Extension. Be careful, though, to wash everything - even cantaloupe and watermelon rinds that have been known to occasionally transmit food-born illness.
Keep things cool
Most people know that mayonnaise- or dressing-based salads can be a bad idea when exposed to heat.
“There’s a debate about whether or not mayonnaise is or is not a problem Why take the chance,” Leaming said. Instead, Leaming said to pack a dressing and open it at the site. The preservatives should keep it fresh until then.
Giesecke suggests keeping drinks and foods in separate coolers. The worst thing that could happen to soda or water if it gets warm is that, well, it’s not as refreshing. Worse things could happen if food gets too warm, though, so it’s smarter to keep them apart.
Leaming said if taking something that absolutely cannot get warm, pack sandwich bags of ice and disperse them among the food — even sticking them throughout salads. Another trick is to freeze water bottles the night before and use them to keep things cool the next day.
Stick to sticks, just make sure dogs are cooked
Feel free to send kids searching for sticks to roast marshmallows. Eating off a stick should be a safe bet.
“The marshmallows get so hot, I wouldn’t worry with that,” Giesecke said.
Some people skip the sticks and eat hot dogs uncooked. Not a good idea, she said. Granted, they should already be fully cooked, but listeria has been discovered on them in the past, so practice caution and use the open fire to cook them yourself.
Giesecke said being careful is key. Hygiene and common sense are necessary. Just don’t panic about it.
“The bottom line is our digestive systems are really designed to get rid of most food-borne pathogens,” she said.
Pack it up
“One of the biggest problems is not so much getting the food there but in how long it sits out,” Leaming said.
So once you get food there, get it chilled down quickly, or keep it in the cooler and serve from there. Nibbling on food, which means leaving it exposed, it usually not a good idea unless it’s a dry snack like pretzels or trail mix.
Giesecke said two hours should be about the maximum time for hot food that hasn’t been kept hot, or cold food that hasn’t been kept cold.
For leftovers, make sure to get them out of hot air quickly and get them cold. Produce is pretty forgiving, so if they look good fresh salads and veggies can be kept. Giesecke suggests using them to cook with.
Visit www.usa.gov/topics/independence_day.shtml for Fourth of July factoids, recipes from famous Americans and more.
Visit www.foodsafety.gov for food safety tips.
Visit www.weather.com/activities/homeandgarden/home/picnic/picnic_tips.html for tips on picnic essentials, picnics in the great outdoors and food safety.
E-mail Sarika Jagtiani at email@example.com.