Packing up a meal for this weekend's city-wide picnic? Here are some recipes you might want to try, and some tips for keeping your home-packed foods safe to eat later in the day.
Watermelon, Lime, Mint and Feta Salad
- 1 small watermelon, seedless or seeded, and diced
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- 1 tbs. white rum, optional
- 2 tbs. chopped basil, chopped
- 2 tbs. chopped mint, chopped
- pinch salt
- 6 oz. feta cheese crumbles
Place watermelon cubes on platter. Mix the lime, agave, rum and pinch salt. Drizzle over the top of the melon. Sprinkle on the herbs and feta.
- 1 medium head of cabbage (napa here), chopped
- 1 medium (or two small) heads of cauliflower, florets only
- 1 bunch radishes, sliced thin
- 3 scallions, white plus 2-inches green sliced thin
- 2 garlic scapes, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup fresh mixed herbs, (dill, basil, sorrel, mint, lemon verbena)
- 2/3 cup canola mayonnaise (non-GMO)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbs. Dijon mustard
- 3 oz. bleu cheese crumbles
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- black pepper to taste
Toss fresh veggies together. Whisk dressing ingredients and toss with vegetables. Chill and allow to marry in flavor for at least two hours before serving.
Pack it cold. Keep it cold.
Placing warm items into a lunch sack with the cold items may cause them to not stay cold enough to be safe. For example placing a warm apple in the lunch alongside the sandwich that needs to stay cold will cause the sandwich to elevate in temperature, or placing cold lunch meats in room temperature breads just before the lunch goes to school. Pack the lunch the night before, and place all items in the refrigerator overnight, even items that do not have to be refrigerated such as the bread for the sandwich.
Think about safe temperature zones.
Use a lunchbox with two compartments, one that stays cold for only cold items, and place room temperature items like a granola bar in the room temperature compartment. It will be easier to keep the cold items colder and safer.
Use the safer types of lunch boxes and multiple ice packs.
Use a well-insulated cooler-type lunch box with multiple, large ice packs, preferably lead-free with BPA-free containers.
Keep it cold longer before you pack it.
Pack the cold lunch items from the refrigerator directly into the lunch box with ice just before leaving home to minimize the time your child's lunch is exposed to unsafe temperatures.
Toss the leftovers for safety.
Discard the leftover food after eating, so you know no one eats the leftovers later when they are not safe to eat.
Consider packing less perishable items.
If you are concerned, or can't keep the lunch cold enough, pack lunch items that are less perishable. Think nut butter instead of meats or cheese. Avoid things like mayo and eggs. Try bananas or oranges, or grapes instead of cut melon.
Beth Bader is the Co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club: More Than 100 Recipes for Real Food Your Kids Will Love. She blogs and offers recipes at the Expatriate's Kitchen and Eat Local Challenge.