The Perfect Picnic Made Easy   
by Michael Kanehl

Picnics are delightful when well managed. The perfect picnic always puts everyone in a great mood. The idea behind picnics is that much of the food is prepared at home, then transported to an outdoor setting. Here, you have a great variety of choices. Whether it is a beach, a grassy knoll overlooking a trickling brook, or a designated picnic area, your goal is to be certain your feast has a smooth transition. Pack food in lightweight containers that are airtight to ensure they arrive at your destination safely.

Before you pack your cooler, take a stroll through your garden. There are a number of things growing there that will make your picnic a huge success. One of the first things you should pack is a few sprigs of mint. Put these in the center of your blanket or tablecloth to keep the bees away. Take a few extra sprigs to enhance the flavor of the lemonade. A tray of oregano, basil and chives allows guests to take a piece of whatever they choose to add to other greens.

For a beautiful centerpiece, scoop the center out of a head of cabbage to make a bowl. Set it in the center of a colorful tray and place carrot sticks, celery, green peppers, broccoli and cauliflower around it. Fill the "cabbage bowl" with spinach dip. This adds color and a touch of class to your picnic.

Plant pansies or petunias in mugs for each of your guests. These can be set beside each plate. When your guests leave, they can take them home, transplant the flowers and keep the mug as a memento of the great day you spent together.

If your picnic is going to take place in the evening, add a citronella candle to your box of supplies. This adds a nostalgic atmosphere and keeps pesky bugs away.

You can choose between preparing all your food beforehand or put the barbecue or grill to action once you arrive at your destination.

Be sure to add cups, plates, serving utensils, a serrated knife, cutting board, napkins, flatware, salt and pepper and trash bags to your picnic basket. You will also need a cotton tablecloth, quilt, blanket or large beach towels.

Add items to your basket for special picnics. For example, a romantic picnic is more of a hit with crystal wine glasses and fine china. On the other hand, a family picnic will be more successful if you add a pair of binoculars, a kite and a Frisbee to your basket. Suncreen and insect repellent are one of your more important items here.

Ants, clouds and bees are not the only threat to an enjoyable day. Always keep foods in the refrigerator until you are ready to pack your basket. Add a bag of ice or ice packs to keep food cool. Cold foods should be kept at a cool 40 degrees. Never pack your cooler too full. Be sure there is room for air circulation. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or above. This avoids turning your picnic into a salmonella delight.

To avoid food contamination make sure the juices are kept in an airtight container. Wash hands, surfaces and utensils before and after handling uncooked meats.

Raw and perishable foods contain bacteria or parasites. When these foods are served undercooked or are prepared, handled or refrigerated improperly, dangerous toxins develop. The result can be food poisoning which has flu like symptoms.

If salads cannot be kept cold, use vinegar-based salad dressing, not mayonnaise-based. Remember, mayonnaise needs to be kept at least at 40 degrees or cooler to be safe.

Wash all produce with cold water before cooking and eating. Cold water kills bacteria and removes toxins such as pesticide sprays.

Always marinate meats in the refrigerator. Boil marinade for a full ten minutes before pouring over cooked foods.

If you follow the tips in this article, you will have an enjoyable day in the great outdoors. Your food will be fresh and you will keep microscopic guests away.

Remember, there is no need to cook elaborate foods for a picnic. The simplest recipes are mouth-watering good when eaten under nature's canopy. Enjoy!

About the Author: You can find picnic baskets and picnic accessories at

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