Happy National Picnic Month from all of us here at Mountain House! Youdidknow July is National Picnic Month, right? --> scroll down or click here to enter to win a 3 Day Food Supply!
Well, all right, so Picnic Month may not be the highest-profile designated month, but it certainly is a universally appealing one. Who doesn’t like a meal shared outdoors on a sunny afternoon? (There’s probably an anti-picnic faction out there, but hey: National Picnic Month isn’t a mandatory celebration. And plus we reckon most of our outdoorsy, food-focused Mountain House community can get behind the whole picnic deal.)
As purveyors of toothsome, long-lasting, lightweight, and packablefreeze-dried delicacies that are as perfect for the county park as they are for the deep backcountry, we’re celebrating National Picnic Month full-bore over here at Mountain House. Here are some easy picnic food ideas and random picnicking tips to help you get out there and mark the occasion.
Finding the Right Place to Celebrate National Picnic Month (Hopefully More Than Once)
Ah, where to celebrate National Picnic Month? As any hardcore, lifelong picnicker will tell you, you can turn nearly any site into a top-grade picnic zone. City, county, and state parks are stone-cold classics, of course, as are designated picnic areas in national parks, national forests, and other public lands. (We say “designated” because picnicking in a vacant campsite is typically a no-no, however tempting the picnic table looks.)
But as long as you follow the rules and meticulously clean up after yourself, you can execute an awesome picnic just about anywhere. Sure, picnic tables, grills, and trash/recycling bins are big pluses, but you don’t need them. Maybe you’re tooling around on a Forest Service backroad and chance upon an anonymous but downright spectacular vista, or a charming little forest-edged meadow. Well, heck, crack out the picnic blanket and set up shop in the grass!
Just remember to pack out all your food scraps, garbage, and recyclables for these rough-and-ready side-of-the-road picnics. Treat washwater the same as you do at the campsite. Remember, a sloppily left picnic site impacts habitat, detracts from other visitors’ wildland experiences, and can habituate scavenging critters to associate roadsides, vehicles, and people with food.
The camping crowd, which accounts for many of our loyal Mountain House users, already surely has basically all picnic gear on hand: dishware, utensils, reusable napkins, etc. You can use any old blanket or sheet for a picnic spread; even a tarp or rainfly will do in a pinch.
A tablecloth is a good thing to keep stowed away in your go-to picnic pack as well: Picnic tables tend to accrue their share of bird poop, sap, and unidentifiable grime, after all.
You’ll likely have water on hand at a developed picnic area, but otherwise you’ll want to bring some in a large jug (five-gallon canisters are all-around great for car camping).
For many, it’s not a picnic without some grilling involved. In that case you’ll want charcoal along as well as your go-to grilling gear, from charcoal chimneys to tongs to mitts.
Picnic items aren’t just about the outdoor kitchen itself. Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bug spray, and haul along some fun-and-games options: Frisbees, footballs, waterguns, what have you.
Easy Picnic Food Ideas
A picnic can be a simple, small spread of snacks or a multicourse, hours-long smorgasbord. As far as the menu’s concerned, after all, picnics don’t come with rules.
If you’re bringing a stove along and thus can boil water, you’ll have a whole galaxy of easy, quick-to-cook picnic options thanks to the Mountain House larder. Our meals make hassle-freeentrée options, while our array of sides and desserts can integrate seamlessly into other picnic fodder. For instance, our long-lasting, freeze-driedPilot Crackers make the perfect vehicle for snacking on soft cheese, while you can toss ourDiced Chicken into salads, cold pasta, tacos—you name it! And you can’t beat a Mountain House dessert—fromNew York Style Cheesecake Bites toice cream sandwich —for wrapping up a picnic right.
Besides cheeses, dips and spreads are a natural for crowd-pleasing picnic fare. ThisCucumber Yogurt Dip from the “Let’s Move!” campaign makes a delicious accompaniment for carrots, cherry tomatoes, or other veggies: With grated cucumber mixed with two cups of plain, low-fat yogurt; a half-cup of non-fat sour cream; a tablespoon each of lemon juice and fresh dill; and a minced garlic clove, the dip’s easy as can be to prepare.
Or how about thisBlack Olive Tapenade w/Figs and Mint fromFood & Wine? Before the picnic, use a food processor to turn ¾ of a cup each of pitted black and kalamata olives; six coarsely chopped dried figs; two tablespoons of rinsed capers; two small, crushed garlic cloves; a quarter-cup of packed mint leaves; four anchovy fillets; and a quarter-cup of extra-virgin olive oil into a thick tapenade, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Whip this baby out of the cooler and serve alongside chips, crackers, or bread, and you’ll be cranking the picnic up to 11. (Food & Wine has a whole roundup of other easy picnic recipesright here.)
Of course, sandwiches of any description make premier picnic food, as do pasta salads, fruit salads, and potato salads. For the meat-eaters among us, burgers, brats, or hot dogs establish both a classic flavor and classic aroma for picnic idylls.
And then there’s the sensual pleasure of fresh watermelon, sturdy and succulent enough to anchor an entire picnic on its own.
Keeping Picnic Grub Safe
The hot summer weather of prime picnicking season presents some challenges in terms of keeping your nibbles safe to eat. Limit exposure of perishable ingredients to direct sunlight and high temperatures. AsNorth Dakota State University notes, you shouldn’t keep a perishable food item outside without ice in 90-degree weather for more than an hour.
It’s easy to forget the cooler during your picnic except when you’re reaching for another cold drink. But be savvy about where you stage it: Keep it out of direct sunlight and out of a hot parked car. Park the cooler in the shade of a picnic table or tree, maybe with a blanket or something else insulating draped over it.
How and where will you celebrate National Picnic Month? Share some easy picnic recipes, some favorite picnic locales, and any other picnic-related tidbits in the “Comments” section. And let the picnicking goodness commence!
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