By Kim Beavers

Good wholesome and safe food, I hope! Food safety is important, and it is particularly important during the hot summer months. The general rule is that food should be left out no more than two hours. However, when temperatures rise above 90 that duration drops to one hour since food-borne bacteria grow most rapidly between 90 and 110 degrees.

Packing the cooler:
When cooking meats, vegetables, pasta salads, etc., ahead of time, be sure to chill them before packing in the cooler. Also, remember to divide or cut food portions in your kitchen before adding them to the cooler. It is more convenient to serve small portions at the picnic site. Place foods to be eaten last at the bottom of your cooler and layer up to the foods you plan to eat first.

Remember, not all foods need to be kept cool. Save the cooler space for the items that need to remain chilled.

No chilling required:

  • Whole fruit, dried fruit, juice boxes, canned fruit
  • Wheat tortillas, bagels, crackers, bread, pretzels, other packaged snacks
  • Nuts, peanut butter, unopened canned meat

Required chilling:

  • Cooked and uncooked chicken, fish, meat (be sure to separate cooked food from uncooked food to prevent cross-contamination— any uncooked meat should be on the bottom to avoid dripping into the uncooked foods.  When possible take a separate cooler for uncooked meat).
  • Cheese, yogurt, milk, pudding
  • Salads that contain diced meat, cheese, vegetables and fruits

With the necessary food safety precautions, it is easy to enjoy great meals in the outdoors.

Here is a perfect recipe for a picnic, boat ride, or backyard barbeque.

Picnic Strawberry and Feta Salad
This is picnic worthy because the dressing is easily packed in a mason jar and can be mixed at the picnic site. It is perfect with either freshly grilled or cold leftover chicken. It also is a great side to go with a basic sandwich.

2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 cup gourmet salad greens
1 cup sliced strawberries
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a ½-pint mason jar and shake to combine. Combine greens, strawberries, and cheese in a large container with a lid and pack in your cooler. Dress the salad once you get to the picnic to keep the greens from getting soggy.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size 1 ½ cups)
Nutrient Breakdown: Calories 70, Fat 5g (1.5g saturated fat), Cholesterol 6mg, Sodium 87mg, Carbohydrate 7g, Fiber 3g, Protein 3g.
Diabetes Plate Plan: 1 Vegetable, 1 Fat

Photo by Nils Stahl on Unsplash