Weeknight Entertaining - Perfect Picnics|
by Linda Larsen
Looking for a simple picnic plan that is easy to prepare on a busy weeknight? Let Linda Larsen guide you with practical tips and yummy, easy recipes in this useful article.
A picnic is the perfect way to entertain on a weeknight. Summer just shouldn't pass by without at least one meal eaten outdoors. Sitting on a thick quilt, eating a meal with friends as it slowly grows dark, listening to the crickets and watching fireflies appear is just wonderful. Why not make your picnic a party?
There are so many places to hold picnics. Your backyard or porch may be the perfect spot. But why not make it even easier on yourself and pick a spot away from home? Parks, creekside, out on a boat, at a playground, or near a lake are all wonderful locations. Choose the spot with your comfort and your guest's in mind. Make sure there are tables if the people you're inviting aren't comfortable sitting on the ground. And always have a contingency plan just in case the weather is stormy on your picnic night.
My favorite spot is on our local college grounds. The campus is deserted during the summer, and there's one special place high on a hill where we can sit under huge trees and look over the whole town. We sit on a big quilt, munching on sandwiches and enjoying the view and conversation. Think about it, and you will come up with your own personal favorite spot.
There are logistics to consider when you are packing a moveable feast. Food safety is number one. Anything left out of refrigeration should be thrown away after two hours (one hour if it's really warm), or placed back in the refrigerator. Don't count on your cooler to keep food safe after you've eaten, even if you still have plenty of unmelted ice. The cooler isn't mean to rechill food, only to keep it cold after it's been chilled.
So you don't forget anything, make a master list several days before your picnic. Check it over again in the next few days. You will probably think of things to add to it. Pack your picnic basket carefully, remembering to cross things off your list as you add them. Lots of big napkins, salt and pepper and other condiments, serving and eating utensils, moist towelettes for cleaning hands before eating, paper or plastic plates and cups (or use china and glassware if you really want to be fancy), and a big bag for garbage are the bare minimum. I learned about a great tip for cleaning up after a picnic - cleaning people, not dishes! Rinse some big, thick face cloths in hot water, squeeze to drain and wrap in foil, then place in a heavy duty plastic zipper bag. You'll have warm, damp towels to pass around after everyone has eaten. That's a real luxury!
Pack your cooler carefully, and wrap food very well. The most perishable foods should be on the bottom, where it's coldest. Make sure you have plenty of ice in heavy-duty plastic zipper bags, and layer them throughout the cooler. Or freeze those freezer packs and use lots of them. One great idea is to freeze water in plastic bottles, leaving some headspace for expansion. Then put the bottles in your cooler. The ice will gradually melt, and you'll have ice water to drink as a bonus!
All the foods here are prepared ahead of time. As always, substitute, add or subtract ingredients to your taste. Follow the directions carefully, be sure to bring a huge thick tablecloth or quilt to sit on or to cover the picnic table, and enjoy your weeknight getaway.
The MenuThe Best LemonadePressed SandwichesHoney Lime Fruit SaladMini Fruit Cheesecakes Lots of potato and tortilla chips!
Next week...More summer salads
Linda Larsen is a freelance Home Economist with a degree in Food Science from the University of Minnesota and a degree from St. Olaf College. She has been on the Pillsbury Bake-Off staff since 1987, and was in charge of Internet Recipe Search in 2000. Linda has developed recipes for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal, presented food to taste panels, held cooking seminars, and owned her own catering business "The Perfect Occasion". She loves to cook and entertain, write about food, talk about it, plan parties, read cookbooks and develop recipes. She has a cookbook collection of at least 1000 books and reads them as though they were novels.
Linda's first meal was a Mother's Day dinner from the Betty Crocker Children's cookbook, prepared when she was 11. Since then she has hosted wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, business dinners and cocktail parties, and wonderful simple meals for friends. Join her and learn simple and elegant ways to entertain your family and friends during the week.
Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.