Taking kids on a picnic is not just about the food. Most likely, they will want to spend a good deal of their time playing. To stay out of their way, prepare lots of finger foods that the children can eat as they get hungry, and without too much assistance. This will ensure that you get to relax, too.
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Sandwiches are easy to make ahead of time, and they pack well. You can freeze them the night before to prevent them from getting hot and mushy, but you'll have to leave out any vegetables (you can always pack these separately). To encourage all-day nibbling, cut sandwiches into mini triangles or use a cookie cutter to create fun-shaped sandwich bites. Sandwich fillings that work well for picnics include meat slices, cheese, cream cheese, hummus, peanut butter and hard vegetables such as onion, lettuce, carrots, and peppers.
Many people believe that mayonnaise is not a safe picnic food. The Association for Dressings and Sauces, however, has declared this a myth based on 50 years of research. (The real culprit lending itself to this oft-repeated warning is probably the raw egg used to make homemade mayonnaise, a common practice a few generations ago.) But just because mayonnaise has been declared safe for picnics is no reason to limit yourself. Try alternatives such as avocado mayonnaise or a fruit-based chutney. Mango or pineapple chutney, for example, go really well with ham or turkey, and its sweet taste might appeal to the sweet tooth in nearly every child. Other ideas include mustard, salsa and Italian dressing.
You can go ahead and bring the traditional mayonnaise-laden potato or pasta salad, but do you really want to do that? Other ideas for side dishes include sweet potato or German potato salad, Mediterranean pasta salad, fresh corn salad and applesauce. To make salads more appealing to children, consider using fun-shaped pasta or sweet dressings.
Fried chicken packs really well for a picnic. Purchase chicken hot shortly before your outing. Pack it tightly together in one bundle, wrap it with aluminium foil and place it in a warm cooler, bucket or bag. Chicken will stay warm for several hours. Complement the chicken with a side dish, watermelon or other fruit.
Help enforce a positive connection between a fun picnic outing and natural foods by leaving behind the junk. Children love sweet fruits, which are easy to pack and require no fuss to serve. Try strawberries or other berries, cherries, grapes, baby watermelon, citrus fruits, papaya or kiwi. Leave the bananas behind since they do not pack well. But don't rule out vegetables; children love finger foods, even vegetables. If children are thirsty from running around in the sun all day, they may be particularly drawn by the water content of refreshing, raw vegetables. Try sliced cucumbers, sweet bell pepper strips, baby carrots and celery sticks. For something more substantial, smear vegetables with soft cheese, peanut butter or hummus. You could also load skewers with fruits, vegetables, cheese, cubed ham or marinated tofu.
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