The great outdoors puts an entertaining twist on a meal with the family. Picnics fit in at a park after a day of exploring or in the backyard for a change of scenery from the usual dining table. While chips, soda and other junk foods are easy to pack, they offer little nutritional value for your family. Pack a variety of healthy dishes that hold up well during transport for your next picnic.
The best options for a picnic main dishes are those you can eat cold without sacrificing flavor. Fried chicken is a common sight at a family picnic. Instead of deli meat sandwiches, make a different sandwich filling such as tuna salad, chicken salad, ham salad or shredded beef. Wait until you arrive at your picnic destination to assemble the sandwiches to avoid sogginess. Green salads are also an option for a picnic meal. Grab a salad kit for a quick main course. Serve sliced vegetables, shredded cheese, croutons, and your family's other favorite salad options to create your own picnic salad bar, and include ranch dressing for topping salads and for a vegetable dip.
Let each family member pick a side dish to add to the picnic menu to make the outing more interactive. A variety of salads are common for picnics, including potato, pasta and green salads. For variety, try making an orzo, barley or quinoa salad. You can use similar ingredients with any of these salad bases, and use a cool and creamy dressing to bind them together. A fresh fruit salad travels well, making it an ideal candidate for a picnic. Put together a cheese tray with pickles and olives as a side and for snacking later in the day. Homemade salsa, hummus or guacamole works well with baked tortilla chips.
If you don't have the time to make all of your sides, use boxed kits or containers of salads from the deli. In only a few minutes you can add your own special touches to these pasta or potato salads. Stir in additional vegetables, and use a dressing and dip mix or bottled ranch dressing for extra flavor. Soy sauce, mustard and creamy balsamic dressing are other ways to add zip to deli salads. A precooked rotisserie chicken is also a time saver for picnics. Carry the whole chicken with you to the picnic, or pick off the meat and use it in another picnic favorite, such as sandwiches or chicken salad.
The temperature of the food is a key consideration, especially if you don't plan to eat the picnic right away. Warmer outdoor temperatures make foods spoil quickly. One option is to skip the picnic basket in favor of a cooler. Ice packs and an insulating cooler will keep your cold dishes safe and will help prevent food poisoning. Return uneaten portions to the cooler right away so they don't sit out in the heat. Set up your picnic in the shade to keep direct sunlight and heat off your food.
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