It’s that time of year to break out the barbecue, picnic outdoors and wear white. That’s right, Memorial Day is cosidered the gateway to summer. That means family and friends getting together to enjoy an outdoor feast – weather permitting. I’m a big fan of the outdoor cookout, but I do think we can do it healthy, tasty and safe. So here are some basic tips, recipe ideas and swap outs, and some guidelines to keep food fresh and safe.
Organization is the key
Create a menu plan, so you can shop for ingredients more easily. Take weather into account, since some foods degrade quickly in the heat. Prepare as much as you can at home, so you can thoroughly clean produce and so you can store ingredients according to their temperature needs. Some easy menu ideas for appetizers include cutting up veggies and a preparing a bean dip, making sun tea, boiling edamame, and making home-baked pita chips. Consider grilling fruit like peach halves without the pit, watermelon and pineapple slices. The natural sugars in these fruits will caramelize during the grilling process and if you top with a dollup of Greek yogurt, you will have a refreshing and calorie-light dessert. You can also put cut up vegetables, marinated cubed meat, fish or tofu, and sturdy fruits like pineapple cubes on skewers ahead of time. In general, if you are transporting meat or fish, marinate ahead of time and keep these items separated and cooled in insulated storage containers or bags.
What else is on the menu
In addition to the starters, fruit and main dishes mentioned above, consider bringing some simple salads like vinegar-based coleslaw, which tolerates temperatures well and doesn't have the saturated fat that creamy, mayonnaise-based slaws do. A salad of spinach leaves, blueberries and walnuts with some cheese shavings (add at the picnic) and a balsamic dressing is another light, healthy option. Consider “building” another salad with a quinoa or a bean base, so you have a vegetarian, protein rich option. Small sweet potato halves will grill easily and offer a sweet, high fiber side dish. Greek yogurt, thin slices of angel food cake and berries make another simple dessert that can be assembled on site.
Storage tips, cooking tips
Make sure you have some kind of portable hand wash so hands are clean during prepping and cooking. When it comes to the food, the rule is “keep cold items, cold, and hot items, hot.” There are so many storage options available that it should be relatively easy to pull this off. Have a separate transport container for just cold items and use frozen water bottles or water containers to keep the food cool during transport. Once the water defrosts you'll have plenty of refreshing water, along with your sun tea. Any hot items should be transported in a second separate insulated container or bag. Non-perishables like bread, condiments (ketchup, mustard), silverware and dishes can be kept together in another bag. Make sure to have a shaded area for the cold item display, and portable chafing dishes with mini flames can help to maintain hot items.
Picnic safety 101
- Do make sure to cook meats to 160 degrees internal temperature.
- Make sure to keep marinating and turning meats, fish and other items cooking on the grill, to avoid charring them. Burning meats or charring them creates carcinogen-containing compounds.
- If you do serve creamy salads, dump the leftovers to avoid contamination
- Make sure to wrap any leftovers in airtight containers and make sure they are kept cool during the ride home
Need some recipe ideas? Check out:
Have a great holiday weekend!!
Amy Hendel is a Physician Assistant and Health Coach with over 20 years of experience. Noted author, journalist and lifestyle expert, she brings extensive expertise to her monthly shareposts. Her most recent book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families is available for purchase online, and you can watch her in action on her shows Food Rescue and What's for Lunch? Sign up for her daily health tweets or catch her daily news report at www.healthgal.com.
Published On: May 24, 2014