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have food, will travel how to have a picnic by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
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For a little more effort and a more substantial meal, make up some maki sushi rolls (avoid the raw stuff to be food-safe), a frittata (cut it into bit-size pieces for easy nibbling), or tart/quiche (ditto). Pasta salad or other pasta dishes that keep well at room temperature also make a good choice -- one of my favorite picnic eats is bowties tossed with garlicky olive oil (sauté minced garlic in the oil), chopped sundried tomatoes, basil and feta. Or go with another grain-based salad, like couscous with grilled vegetables, fresh herbs and a little oil and lemon, a big batch of tabouleh perhaps. Bean salads are also tasty and filling; try canned black beans mixed with corn, chopped jalapenos, bell peppers and red onions, dressed with fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar and oil, finished with a smattering of cilantro and/or scallions.

Of course, no meal is complete without a little something sweet for the palate. Summery fruits make an excellent light and luscious, no-prep choice, whether it's firm ripe cherries, crisp grapes, sweet blueberries, or juicy cut-up watermelon. Keep it simple with a single fruit, or mix it all up into a fruit salad. And if the baking urge happens to hit you just before your picnic, think bite-size, think portable, think non-delicate -- chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies, dense and chewy brownies, fluffy cupcakes or muffins perhaps. Now is not the time to be fussing with fancy desserts that fall apart if you just glance at them the wrong way. Remember, simple is good.

and something to drink…
First things first: many public parks have official no alcohol policies, require a special permit, or limit it to designated picnic areas, so if you're going to be all rule-abiding and everything, it's not a bad idea to call the parks department and find out what the deal is in advance. If your potential picnic spot doesn't allow liquor at all, you have a few options: skip the alcohol, transfer the alcohol to less-obvious containers (and refrain from making a drunken public spectacle of yourselves while imbibing -- generally a good idea anyway), or find somewhere else to do your outdoor dining fete.

There are, of course, all manner of delicious beverages you can pack that are totally alcohol-free. Make up a jug of homemade lemonade or iced tea; pack some fruit nectars and sparkling water to make spritzers. Even a jug of plain old water (always good to have on hand) can be dressed up with lemon or lime slices (to up the fancy even more, try adding sweet sliced strawberries and refreshing cucumber rounds).

If, on the other hand, you're going with something with a little kick, don't think you have to limit yourself to wine and beer. Mix up the ingredients to make a big batch of your favorite cocktail -- minus anything carbonated, like soda or champagne -- in a container with a good seal (I find my Nalgene bottles work fabulously for this purpose). When you're ready to serve, just shake it all up, pour into cups, top off with the bubbly stuff if the drink calls for it, and enjoy. Pimm's Cups are a particular picnic favorite with me and my friends of late, but bring whatever you like -- a jug of mojitos, margaritas, whatever. Sangria also makes a delectable picnic sipper.

To keep your cold drinks cold, you can either pour your chilled beverages into thermos' for transport, keep them in a cooler with ice packs, or with a little advance planning, freeze beverages the night before, then let them thaw on their way to the picnic. Reusable plastic ice cubes are a handy and mess-free way to ensure drinks stay cool once they're poured.

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