Chow Town

Packing A Perfect Picnic

It’s picnic time!

A chance to enjoy a fantastic, relaxed meal outside on a gorgeous day, surrounded by family and friends.

In other words, it is fun.

Yet, to some, a picnic is a hassle and how to pack it overshadows the joy. Don’t miss out on the fun for the ideal picnic equipment can be as simple as a cooler and a bag.

Pick fun-to-serve food, but be sure to keep the food safe, keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

To make my picnics simple, I steer clear of hot dishes and instead choose a variety of foods that taste great cold. This means about every picnic begins with a cooler.

Coolers come in all sizes and shapes — some, thankfully, on wheels and others are backpacks or insulated totes. Chill every dish before packing, so avoid the last-minute rush, prepare the foods the night before, cover and refrigerate them. Just before leaving, pack them in the cooler with plenty of frozen gel packs or ice.

Repack the cooler with any leftovers shortly after eating. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reminds us that any food left at room temperature for 2 hours is no longer safe to eat, so don’t tempt it for the temperature danger zone climbs quickly on a warm summer day.

Make the packing and serving easy with these tips:

• Canning jars have tight fitting lids and make great individual containers for drinks, dips, salads, and cupcakes or other desserts.

• Inexpensive plastic refrigerator containers come in all sizes and shapes and many stack compactly. Check that the containers fit inside your cooler before filling them.

• Remember a corkscrew, can opener, bottle opener and serving spoons. Include a sharp knife—but pack it safely in a protective sleeve.

• While paper plates, cups and silverware are easy, reusable plastic ware is fun, readily available, inexpensive, and eco-friendly.

• A colorful vinyl tablecloth makes the table festive, or if you pack a blanket, choose a picnic one that has a waterproof side.

• Remember the napkins. Moist wipes and paper towels are handy — and a trash bag insures easy clean up. An extra plastic bag makes it tidy to gather and transport the dirty dishes home.

Collect your supplies in a “grab-and-go” basket or bag. That beautiful picnic basket is oh so fun, yet a canvas bag, reusable grocery bag, or extra backpack will work. Keep it packed and you are ready to go when a pretty day calls you outside.

With the equipment ready, you are free to dream up your next fun, stress-free picnic. Fill that basket and cooler with easy, favorite foods — either those you make and bake or those you purchase. Marinated salads, sliced meats, fresh fruit, cheese, bread and sweets make a great start. Add a jar of lemonade or a bottle of wine and you are set.

Now, come join me outside. Whether you choose the hill at Celebration at the Station, May 26, or the serenity of Loose Park, your picnic will be perfect.

Kathy Moore is one of two individuals that make up The Electrified Cooks. She is the author of 4 cookbooks on the Babycakes treat line of cupcakes and cake pops, and her most recent book is Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining. A professional home economist, she develops the recipes for the “Eating for Life” column for The Kansas City Star, and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.