It’s hot, the kids are restless. Don’t set the table. Pack a picnic. It doesn’t have to be fancy. With just a few tips and precautions you can turn an otherwise ho-hum meal into a mini-vacation.
Food safety. Transporting food in warm weather deserves particular care. When allowed to sit out unrefrigerated for long periods of time, some foods become a cozy incubator and breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. But there is no need to get paranoid. A good cooler with plenty of ice plus your common sense will go a long way to insure your outdoor dining experiences are pleasant and trouble-free.
In defense of mayonnaise.
In defense of mayonnaise.Ask just about anyone who packs lunches and other portable fare about mayonnaise and you’re likely to get a resounding: Don’t do it! Mayonnaise has gained what most food experts agree is an undeserved reputation as the most dangerous food or ingredient to take on a picnic. But let’s set the record straight. Mayonnaise does not turn into a science-fair-project-in-a-jar within a couple of hours away from the refrigerator.
It is true that homemade mayonnaise, which contains raw eggs, should never travel far from the refrigerator. Store-bought or commercial mayonnaise, however, contains pasteurized eggs and enough salt and lemon juice or vinegar that it actually inhibits bacterial growth to give you a decent level of security. Low-acid foods in picnic dishes such as potatoes, chicken, and ham are much more susceptible to bacterial growth than the mayonnaise itself. As long as you are keeping your sandwiches, dips and potato salads cool, you will experience no problems with mayonnaise.
Packets ready-to-go. You can wrap just about anything in a sealed packet of aluminum foil at home, then place it on a covered grill when you arrive at the picnic site. In just a few minutes you will have delicious home-cooked food. But here’s the best part: No clean-up. Just toss the foil in the trash.
To make a packet you need a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, 12 x 18-inches for each packet. Spray the center lightly with a non-stick cooking spray. Center the food on the foil sheet with the dull side toward the food. For each foil packet, bring up the two short sides and double fold with about 1-inch wide folds. You want to leave room for heat circulation inside the packet as the food cooks. Double fold each end to form the tightly sealed foil packet.
To cook, simply place packets directly on the grill and, if available, close the cover.
Eating from a packet requires caution. First, be careful when removing packets from the grill. A lot of heat builds up inside so always use a potholder or oven mitt. Carefully open both ends of the foil packet first to allow the hot steam to escape. Then open the top of the foil packet. Remove the food from the packet to a plate or eat directly from the packet.
Grilled corn in a packet. You’ll need a larger sheet of heavy duty foil, about 18 x 24-inches. Remove the husks from four ears of corn. Center them on the sheet of foil. Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter or margarine on the corn. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place two ice cubes on the corn. Bring up the foil sides and fold over twice. Do the same for the ends to make one large sealed packet that allows room for heat circulation inside. Place packet on grill, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, turning packet over once. Serves 4.
Self-chilling beverages. Make a self-chilling water bottle for each family member or friend. Fill a tall plastic container half full with water, and then place on its side in the freezer overnight. In the morning, pour fresh water or other beverage into the unfrozen side.
Soft, fresh cookies. Here’s a great way to make sure the cookies you pack for the picnic will arrive soft and fresh when you dig into them—even if you packed them a day or two ahead of time. Place the cookies and a piece of bread in a zip-type bag. Zip it up and you are good to go.
Whip it. Topping desserts with freshly whipped cream while on a picnic is not impossible. Pour one cup of cold whipping cream into a 2-cup capacity plastic food storage container. Apply the lid tightly. Shake vigorously until the cream is whipped, about 3 minutes. Sweeten to taste. Yum.
Are you planning on enjoying a lovely picnic this summer? Tell me about it below.
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