Sorry, Colonel, but a tub of fried chicken just isn't my idea of picnic food.
When I think about summer picnics, I picture cool, lighter fare -- salads and sandwiches that are easy to eat whether you're perched on a wobbly wooden table in a forest preserve or balancing a plate on your lap at an outdoor concert.
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I made the mistake last summer of bringing sandwich fixings (a selection of sliced deli cheeses, meats and spreads) to our picnic site. Seriously, what was I thinking?
For food safety and insect reasons, you don't want to leave meat and cheese sitting out of refrigeration so people can put together their own sandwiches. (Keep in mind that the two-hour window for keeping perishable foods out of the fridge shrinks considerably when temps reach above 80 degrees. Plus, when people have limited access to soap and water, the fewer people touching food and serving utensils, the better.)
I should have assembled some sandwiches at home, wrapped and labeled them. Or, I should have made an Overnight Pressed Picnic Sandwich that recipe developer Alison Ladman created for The Associated Press (see sidebar).
When it comes to picnic salads I'm all about combinations that can be eaten easily with a fork. Leafy lettuces should be chopped, vegetables sliced and any meats shredded or sliced into truly bite-sized pieces so diners don't have to wrestle with a knife. Even those cute little grape tomatoes should be halved for easier eating.
Some other picnic tips: When heading off to your picnic, keep the cooler in the passenger compartment where it's cool, not in the hot trunk. On site, keep coolers closed tightly to maintain icy temps and keep them in the shade.
Portion salads into smaller (quart-sized) containers versus large (gallon-sized) tubs and put only one out at a time.
Pack more forks and serving utensils than you think you'll need to replace ones that might get dropped.