International Picnic Day falls in June, a month that can be sizzling or soaking. In most places in Arkansas, June has been more than soaking — it’s been downright drenching. So as the sun is once again on the horizon, it’s a perfect time to bring out Grandma’s old flip-top basket or that brand-new bucket to pack with delicious food to enjoy with family and friends while carrying on a time-honored tradition — the picnic.
Traditional picnic fare varies, but it often includes sandwiches, cold fried chicken or fresh in-season fruits such as strawberries, peaches and watermelon. Pasta salads, green salads, fruit salads or slaws can round out a meal, while cookies or even homemade ice cream can satisfy any sweet tooth.
But moving the meal outside means being aware of food safety. Below are some guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Prepare your menu keeping safe food handling in mind Allow adequate time for foods to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator before transferring them to a cooler. Food should be kept at 40 degrees.
Don’t put the cooler in the car trunk. Carry it inside an air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade, and keep the lid closed.
Separating drinks from food will keep the cooler containing the food from constantly being opened and closed.
Pack raw meats, poultry or seafood on the bottom of the cooler. This will reduce the risk of them dripping on other foods. Pack coolers until
they are full. A full cooler will stay cold longer than one that is partially full.
Two-hour rule: Don’t leave perishable food unrefrigerated for more than two hours. Put perishable foods back into the cooler or refrigerator as soon as everyone finishes eating. Don’t leave food out while picnickers go for a swim or a hike, and don’t leave the food out all afternoon for nibbling.
Chances are that when the picnic is over, leftovers have been sitting out for more than an hour or two. Don’t take a chance — discard these leftovers. Cold foods that were kept in a cooler that still has ice may be safe. If the ice has melted, the food should be discarded.
BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO SANDWICH
4 teaspoons homemade or prepared mayonnaise
2 slices toasted bread
1 large tomato
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked
2 lettuce leaves
Spread 2 teaspoons mayonnaise on one side of each bread slice. Slice tomatoes at least 1/4 inch thick, and layer on one of the pieces of bread. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place bacon and lettuce leaves over tomatoes. Top with remaining piece of bread, and cut sandwich in half.
ORZO PASTA SALAD WITH TOMATOES, BASIL AND FETA
8 ounces orzo pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup green onions, finely chopped
2/3 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 medium lemon, zested and fruit reserved for juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons pine nuts or shelled sunflower seeds
Prepare pasta according to package directions; set aside. Prepare the dressing by whisking together oil, lemon zest, green onions, salt and black pepper. Pour dressing over slightly cooled pasta, and toss to coat. Gently stir in tomatoes, basil and feta cheese. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of nuts (if using) before serving.
Variation: Substitute fresh spinach and blue cheese for the basil and feta, and add 4 strips of cooked and crumbled bacon.
HOMEMADE PINK LEMONADE
1/2 cup sugar
5 1/2 cups water, divided
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 10-12 lemons)
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, lemon-peel segments and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Simmer until sugar is dissolved; then remove from heat.
In a large pitcher, combine remaining water, lemon juice, cranberry juice and salt.
Remove lemon-peel segments from the simple syrup. Add to lemonade. Stir to combine.
Pour lemonade through a fine mesh sieve to remove any pulp, if desired.
FROSTED CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
1 cup plus 3 teaspoons butter
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 teaspoons butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat. Stir in cocoa, and cool.
While cooling, beat eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the egg mixture. Stir in the vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture, and mix well.
Spread into a greased 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For frosting, in a mixing bowl, cream the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla.
Add milk a little at a time until the frosting achieves spreading consistency. Frost cooled brownies, and cut.