Summer's warm weather and bountiful produce make it the perfect season to pack up a meal and head to the nearest park, beach or even your own backyard. Here are some quick, easy and healthy ideas to pack your cooler for an al fresco feast.
"Anything on a stick makes great food," says Estela Schnelle, a registered dietitian and board member of Parents on Produce for Produce For Kids, which encourages healthy eating among families.
Take healthy fruits or vegetable in your fridge and make fresh and delicious combinations. Almost anything can be paired.
Try this recipe for Chocolaty Fruit Skewers, which calls for fruit and pound cake, drizzled with a delicious chocolate syrup.
Schnelle also lists Guacamole Tomato Boats among her top picnic picks. Tomatoes are in season now and due to the early summer and hot weather, more flavorful than ever.
"If your picnic site is close by, then follow all cooking directions," Schnelle says. "If your picnic site is a long drive, make according to directions, but omit the baking/broiling method."
Simple and Satisfying
Rebecca Newell, Food Network's "Chopped" champion and executive chef of The Beehive in Boston, suggests skipping sandwiches on "floppy white bread."
"Bring dried sausages, salami, a few whole cuts of cheese from a local deli, a loaf of fresh baked bread like a baguette, a bottle of olive oil and a sturdy knife," Newell says. "Then, rip, tear, cut, dip, pour, taste and live! That's a picnic."
She also recommends roasting chicken legs with lemon, salt, cracked pepper and rosemary the night before a picnic, then placing them in a bowl lined with paper towels in the refrigerator to render the fat.
"Repackage in the morning and it makes a great treat," Newell says, adding, "Don't forget the wine!"
Susan Fisher, a professor of foods and nutrition at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., suggests recycling containers you may already have to make picnic food portable.
"Gazpacho is a refreshing cold vegetable soup that adds to a picnic when served in a mason jar," Fisher says, adding old mayonnaise jars are perfect for toting salads.
"Foods to avoid would be those that require last minute heating or finishing," Fisher advises. "It is always essential to keep cold foods cold (below 40F) and hot foods hot (above 140F). After four hours above 40F or below 140F, food needs to be tossed."
That's if you have any leftovers!
Other picnic ideas: