Picnics are back.
With our current need to stay physically distanced from one another, al fresco dining is a great option. Old fashioned picnics can be a fun way to bring a small group together in the fresh air, and still enjoy each other’s company while distancing and staying healthy.
Socializing is part of our overall health. A lack of social contact can interfere with our mindset, and even have a physiologic impact on our bodies. A bring-your-own-picnic party is one solution!
Check your local area’s pandemic guidelines for holding social gatherings (be sure the group size is reasonable for your area). As host, you can invite a few friends over and enjoy a casual meal outdoors in your backyard, on the patio or porch. You can also meet at a park or a beach, if they’re open.
Always keep food safety in mind too. Check out this resource and follow these basic food safety tips:
- Keep everything clean! Clean hands, clean surfaces, clean utensils, clean cutting boards.
- Keep cold foods cold (40°F), and hot foods hot (140°F). You can use separate coolers for hot and cold foods. A cooler will hold hot temp too.
- Separate, don’t cross contaminate! Use clean cutting boards and surfaces. One for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
How-Tos For a Bring-Your-Own-Picnic Gathering
- Invite a few people over, limiting guests to a total of 10.
- Use blankets for each family or set up chairs with individual small tables in the yard or on the patio.
- Ask everyone to bring their own side dishes, unbreakable glassware, and eating utensils.
- The host will provide beverages, napkins, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizing gel.
- The host can also provide an entree – Grilled meats or a main dish salad. Baked and breaded chicken can be made ahead and served cold for a picnic. In lieu of that, each guest can provide their own wrapped sandwich, or hey, you can also just do healthy take-out food.
- Be sure there are serving utensils for everyone, so that serving utensils aren’t shared.
- Of course be sure to include fruits and veggies. My Very Veggie Pasta Salad packs up well for a picnic. Sliced watermelon wedges can be easily picked up and eaten without cross-contamination. Snip grapes into easy to grab small clusters so nobody touches others’ portion. Place fresh cherries into small cups for everyone to grab. Or just place out a bowl of fresh nectarines.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Very Veggie Pasta Salad
- 6 oz spring pasta You can use regular, whole wheat, tri-color, or a combination.
- 1 jar marinated artichokes drained
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced bell peppers assorted colors
- 1 small can sliced black olives drained
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 1 cup sliced cucumber halved
- 1 small can chick peas drained
- 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt-free Italian herb blend
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cool
- Place artichokes through chick peas into a large serving bowl and toss. Add cooled, cooked pasta and mix to combine.
- To make the dressing, mix olive oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl or glass jar. Stir to combine.
- Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss well. Gently fold in the sunflower seeds and feta cheese. Add more freshly ground black pepper if you like.
- Chill for at least one hour, or up to overnight. Serve.