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Summer is the season for picnics and camping. Eating in the great outdoors is fun, but always poses problems when it comes to getting organized.
For example, when packing up food, you should be able to pack for large appetites without making your cooler weigh 100 pounds! Also, be sure to pack food that will last the duration of your trip. Want to make sure you are getting the best use out of your cooler? Follow our simple tips!
When it comes to packing a picnic lunch or dinner, lots of fresh products can be used to ensure that you have a well-balanced meal that is full of variety, and of course – tasty!
The only things that you should not be packing are dairy products. They start to spoil after about 4 hours when above 4°C.
However, there is an exception: hard cheeses. They won’t start to melt even if they get warm.
Examples of dishes that you can bring on a picnic:
Quiches, “frittata”, hard-boiled eggs, sausages (dried), cans of tuna or sardines, Oven-Baked “Fried” Drumsticks, Swedish Meatballs, Veal Cutlets Milanese, Hummus or Baba Ghanoush with veggies for dipping.
For salads, take your pick! Vegetable, rice, bean and pasta salads, as well as Tabbouleh, are all good choices since they don’t go soggy if you put the dressing on beforehand – unlike lettuce-based salads. You can serve these with a nice bread.
For dessert, I recommend fresh fruit salads, melon balls (served with port for the gourmets), accompanied by banana, carrot or zucchini bread – yum!
Just remember: don’t bring anything with that uses cream.
To cut down on spills and damage while in transit (whether it be in the car or on your bike, etc), make sure that all of your food is in a tightly sealed container with a good lid.
In order to keep your food as cool as possible, place ice packs in your cooler. Ice packs are great since they are compact and last twice as long compared to just filling the cooler with ice. Bonus: you won’t have to “fish” your items out of the cooler as the packs become warm.
Be sure to place the ice packs on top of the food, despite the instinct to put them at the bottom. The reason? Cold air falls and warm air rises – therefore, you will be using your ice packs more effectively.
To simplify both your trip and your meals, you should try and bring exact portions. To do this, pack your food into individual plastic bags with a reinforced lock (like Ziploc) – this will eliminate unnecessary packaging.
Also, be sure to plan meals that won’t require the use of several pots or dishes.
For Breakfast: fresh fruit, fruit juice, granola, powdered chocolate milk, muffins, bagels, English muffins, peanut butter, tea, coffee, etc.
Dried fruit and nuts are a hiker’s best friends, since they are high-energy providing foods. However, if you find yourself camping with a die-hard breakfast lover, you can make pancakes on the portable grill.
For Lunch: Prepare quick snacks that can be enjoyed “on the go” – whether you are canoeing, biking or hiking. You can make pita sandwiches with veggie pâté, pork pâté, hard cheese, mayonnaise and mustard.
Most vegetables won’t go bad if tossed in a backpack. It should be sufficient enough to put them in a paper bag and then placed in a plastic bag so that they will stay as firm and fresh as possible. My favourite hiking snack: prosciutto and Parmesan cheese – the perfect combination of gourmet and energy food!
For Dinner: This is the time to show off your culinary skills! You’ll need a few base ingredients: garlic and onions. These will help add flavour to your dishes. Throw in some spices (pre-measured at home), stock cubes and some dry ingredients like lentils, couscous or pasta and you’re on your way to making dinner!
Sample recipes to make while you are camping: vegetarian couscous with chickpeas and almonds; vegetarian chili with red kidney beans and corn; Spicy Red Lentil Soup; cheese fondue (made from a ready-made package) with small potatoes and vegetables; Spaghetti with Clams and Tomatoes (made with canned clams and tomatoes).