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What to Pack in a Picnic Basket

Planning a picnic can be a nice diversion for your family from the normal routine. It's an opportunity to spend some time in nature. The children will probably burn a lot of energy and you have your choice, mom, if you want to join in or relax.

The best thing about picnics is that you don't have to go far. Even a trip out into the yard with a blanket under the tree will delight your young ones. You could picnic in a friend's yard or even at grandma's house. If you aren't too scared of the mess, a picnic in the car is a fun rainy day activity.

Packing food for a picnic is an art. It needs to be portable, not too messy, durable (it can't be something that melts, for instance), and, perhaps most important - delicious. Ideally, picnic food should be healthy, too, especially if you are going to be expending energy playing games or hiking. Here are some recipes and tips on what to pack for your next picnic outing with the family.


1. Pita Bread Sandwiches

Pita bread is ideal for a picnic. It's easy to pick up and tends to be less messy than bread. You can stuff pitas with all kinds of fillings. Some ideas are:

* Hummus, lettuce, cheese, and alfalfa sprouts
* Deli meats such as salami, turkey, roast beef, or pepperoni
* Raw or sauteed vegetables tossed in the dressing of your choice

2. Finger Foods

Bring along several dips, like hummus, salsa, peanut butter, cream cheese, bleu cheese and/or ranch, and take along foods to dip, such as:

* Vegetable crudites (bell peppers, carrots, celery, cauliflower, etc.)
* Pita wedges
* Sesame sticks
* Corn chips
* Crackers
* French bread

Bring along sweet or dill pickles and olives for the side.

3. Tomato Salad

This is a good recipe for taking along - the flavor improves as the salad sits. You can also stuff pita pockets with this mixture. Keep it cool en route.


* 2 large tomatoes, chopped
* 4 ounces diced mozzarella cheese (half of an 8-ounce package)
* 2 tablespoons minced, fresh basil
* 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine. Serves 4.

4. Whole Fruit, Nuts, and Cheese

Take along a loaf of crusty bread, and this is all you need. Pack fruits that are not easily damaged, such as:

* Apples
* Pears
* Bananas
* Melons
* Oranges/Tangerines

Choose a variety of cheeses, such as sliced cheddar, Brie, Swiss, Colby, spicy Monterey Jack, and so forth. Bring along mixed nuts of your choice, raw or roasted.  

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5. Other Picnic Tips

* Keep things simple for ease of packing and preparation.

* Try a theme to help you decide what foods to bring. Some possible picnic themes are: Fruit and Cheese, Sandwiches and Salad, Finger Foods, Dips and Spreads, and Pasta Salads.

* Use containers with secure lids, and use insulated containers whenever you can.

* Pack crumpled newspaper around food and containers to keep them from sliding around. The newspaper also helps insulate the food to keep it cold or warm.

* Bring plenty of chilled drinks - you'll almost always need more drinks more than you think. Try bringing a big cooler with a spout.

* Cut meat, fruits, cheese, vegetables and bread before arriving at your destination so you won't have to pack cutting boards and knives.

* If sandwich fillings are juicy, pack them in a separate container and assemble the sandwiches at the picnic site.

What are your picnic plans this summer?


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