Picnics To Go

Summertime means eating outdoors. Don’t wait for the weekend, or spend those extra daylight hours over a stove. With a little planning, today’s busy families can enjoy relaxing picnic dinners even on weeknights, and get fresh air and exercise at the same time. Investigate parks and other outdoor sites around your city to save driving time and fuel. It’s a win-win situation. Deli-cious Ideas Next time you’re grocery shopping, check out the deli offerings. Besides an array of sliced meats and cheeses, you’ll find foods to please every palate, including vegetarian. From fresh produce to the sushi counter, there’s variety enough to plan picnic meals, ranging from hearty family fare to romantic alfresco dining. Choose a few of your family’s favorites, and then branch out and try marinated olives or mushrooms, bean salads, and antipastos. Pasta or potato salads with vinaigrette (instead of a mayo-based dressing) won’t spoil as quickly, and they may be lower in calories. Since foods should be chilled before being packed into coolers with ice or freezer packs, pick up your choices a day ahead and refrigerate overnight. Explore the Store Your supermarket bakery offers whole-grain breads and rolls for sandwich-making or to enjoy with salads. Also select artisan breads, just waiting for freshly chopped tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. Add fresh, seasonal fruits from the produce department. When you shop, think convenience. Smaller watermelons need only a wash before you leave the house. No cutting beforehand means no mess in the cooler. Don’t forget to pack some healthy beverages. Choose 100 percent organic juices or almond, rice, or soymilk in individual, shelf-stable packages. Other Essentials For a quick and easy getaway, prepack a picnic basket with plates and utensils, a sharp knife and cutting board, bottle opener, moist towelettes, napkins, and paper towels. Add a blanket or tablecloth, along with plenty of bottled water. Don’t forget trash bags and any pet supplies you’ll need if your four-legged friends join you. Remember to pack natural insect repellent and sunblock, and put the kids in charge of Frisbees, balls, and other outdoor equipment. Whether you head to the beach or the park, to a meadow or a mountain, celebrate summer with family, good friends, and good food.