The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

June 5, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Picnic without all the bugs and bacteria

JOPLIN, Mo. — Now is the perfect time of year for picnics or eating on the deck. You may be dodging raindrops, but at least it isn't miserably hot.

While looking on kitchen, I came across an article about picnic food that attracts ants and other bugs. Cut fruit, especially overripe fruit that undergoes mild fermentation, drives bugs wild and attracts them in droves. That same fermentation in pickles is also a bug favorite. A wasp can't pass up meat, so your hot dogs and hamburgers are his target, and the strong smell of fish will attract bugs, too. And those sugary drinks? Beware, especially if drinking from a can. Many a picnicker has ended up with a bee in his mouth because a little rascal got into the can on its quest for a drink.

Sweet desserts are a favorite bug visiting site, as is garbage. Keeping food tightly covered will help you use less bug spray. Any smells that might act as bug repellents? While we may find the aromas enticing, bugs don't like garlic and onions.

For that picnic or outdoor meal, reminds us to keep the food simple and easy to transport, avoiding anything too heavy. You don't have to fix everything from scratch. Shop at the deli, then make a few homemade goodies. Food packed in square or rectangle containers takes up less room in a basket than round containers. Before sealing the containers, add a layer of plastic wrap to minimize leakage. Need to take a sharp knife? Wrap it up in a heavy dish towel for safety. Put trash bags, baby wipes and wet washcloths in plastic bags. A roll of paper towels will surely come in handy, and be sure to bring a first-aid kit, just in case.

It's important to keep cold foods cold and to not leave food out for over an hour on a hot day. Freeze juice boxes or water bottles and place them around the dishes in the cooler, then enjoy the refreshing drinks when you get to your destination. They should be just right to drink and will save you from lugging a heavy bag of ice, especially if you have to walk far to your picnic spot.

Melons, unlike other fruits, are non-acidic and can support the growth of harmful bacteria, so keep them cold once they're cut. If packing a cooler with ice, take two coolers: one for drinks and one for food. Much like your refrigerator door, constant opening and closing of the cooler affects the temperature inside. Drinks are sought after more often than the food, so let the drink cooler experience the fanning. There's nothing wrong with packing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, a fruit cup and a package of store-bought cookies, all of which travel well and don't require a lot of fuss. I hope these tips help make your picnic fun, easy and safe.

My favorite sandwich combo to eat at home or take with me? Bacon, lettuce and tomato. Crumble the bacon, chop the lettuce and tomatoes, then mix them together with some Miracle Whip. It all stays on the sandwich, and you get a bit of every of ingredient with each bite. It's easy to make ahead and is delicious on plain or toasted bread or tucked into a pita. If taking it on a picnic, be sure to keep it chilled and don't leave it out over an hour. If you are like me, it will be gone well before that hour is up.

I found today's first two recipe in Cooking Light. They're perfect picnic fare. The potato salad is mayonnaise free and tossed together just before eating. For easy transport, mix the vinaigrette together and put it in a zip-close plastic bag. The chicken is made ahead of time and is perfect when chilled. From Taste of Home we get today's dessert. Whether traveling or staying home, these bars are sure to please. I hope you have a wonderful week and happy eating!


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