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Have An Eco Friendly PicnicPosted 04/29/09 • Last updated 09/26/11 • 7379 views • 2 comments
Spring is the season for spring cleaning...getting ready for bathing suit season...and getting outside for a picnic! While you're dining al fresco, make sure you not only enjoy your natural environment but make sure you take care of it too. There are lots of things you can do to green your picnic and your picnic basket.
Green Picnic Basket Supplies
- Reusable plates, cups, utensils: One huge source of waste at most picnics are the disposable plates and utensils. Green your picnic by going with reusable plates, cups, and, utensils. It's much more eco-friendly to take stuff home to be washed than throwing everything in the trash can. And if you want dedicated utensil sets, check out To-Go Ware.
- Tupperware or better yet, Pyrex containers (and maybe some Ziploc bags): It's always important to plan your food quantities when you're going on a picnic, but it's also good to hedge your bets and take some take away containers in case you do have leftovers. No need to waste good food!
- Blanket: If you already have a blanket you can use when you're a-picnicking, that's great! No need to get another. If you don't have one that will work for the great out of doors, look into getting a blanket made from recycled materials like Blue Lotus's Recycled Outdoor Blankets made from post consumer recycled plastic bottles!
- Cloth napkins: Skip the paper towel/napkin waste and go with cloth napkins. You can even reuse the ones you had at dinner last night!
- Cooler/insulated bag/basket: As long as you've got something reusable, keep using it! But if you're in the market, there are various options for eco picnic baskets like this one from Uncommon Goods made from natural willow or a fair trade one from Ten Thousand Villages.
- Cloth tablecloth (optional): If you're more of a picnic table goer, throw a cloth tablecloth in your bag instead of one that will end up in the landfill.
- Biodegradable plates, cups, and utensils (optional): So sometimes it's not always possible to go reusable. If you can't, go for biodegradable plates, cups, and utensils like World Centric Biocompostables. But remember, unless you compost them, they're really no better than disposable plates getting tossed in the trash.
- Biodegradable plastic bags: Just in case all of your guests aren't part of the Clean Plate Club, take along some biodegradable plastic bags like Biobag to collect your compostable waste.
Organic Picnic Food
Of course, you can picnic with whatever your favorite foods are, whether it be Indian food or sandwiches. But there are some picnic foods that are a classic and others that are just easier to deal with when you're far from a full kitchen. Here are a few recommendations and recipes for organic picnic nibbles.
Simple Food and Drink
You can always keep it simple with any of the following:
- A beautiful baguette from your local bakery
- Your favorite organic cheese
- A bottle of organic wine (maybe something from Frey, True Earth, or Frog's Leap) or a six pack of organic beer for the grownups and organic juice for the kids (or non-drinkers, as it were)
- Organic snacks and sweets
Organic Cucumber Sandwiches
- 4 ounces of cream cheese (Organic Valley, Horizon, and Nancy's all make organic cream cheese)
- 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter
- finely chopped dill (to taste or roughly 1/4 cup) - for a different variation, you could use 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2-3 organic cucumbers
- 1 loaf of your favorite bread (these sandwiches work best with a light bread, like white or a honey-wheat)
- salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese and dill/mint until it is mixed together well. Spread half of the bread slices with the cream cheese mixture. Layer on thinly sliced pieces or cucumber to taste. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Top your sandwiches with the other bread slices. Cut off (and eat or compost) the crusts. Cut each sandwich diagonally into triangles (if you like).
For a fish eater's variation, top the cucumber with thin slices of smoked salmon or lox (but keep in mind, you'll definitely want a cooler to store these at your picnic).
Oven Fried (Organic) Chicken
This recipe comes from Organic Valley.
- 1 1/2 cups Organic Valley Lowfat Buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 Organic Prairie Whole Young Chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup flour
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
The night before: Mix buttermilk with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Marinate chicken in the buttermilk mixture overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day: Combine the bread crumbs, flour, cornmeal, chili powder, paprika, and remaining salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Remove chicken from the marinade and roll in the breadcrumb mixture. If it’s very wet, place chicken on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet and allow to dry in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours. (Note: If you allow the bread crumb coating to dry in the refrigerator be careful that it doesn't get overly dry. If it does, just spray with water before putting it in the oven.) Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken directly on a cookie sheet and bake 30 to 45 minutes, to an internal temperature of 165 degrees (check a few pieces with an instant-read thermometer).
Organic Fingerling Potato Salad Recipe
This recipe comes from George Atkinson, author of West Coast Cooking. It is an adaptation of Helen Brown's potato salad recipe. This one is great for picnics as it leaves out the mayonnaise!
- 3 pounds (about 48) small organic fingerling potatoes, red or white
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat-leaf
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan with the salt and just enough water to cover them (about 6 cups). Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet until they are cool enough to handle. Cut each potato in half lengthwise. In a smaller saucepan, boil the white wine for 1 minute to cook off most of the alcohol. Whisk in the wine vinegar and olive oil to make a simple dressing. Pour the warm dressing over the cooked and cooled potatoes and allow them to soak up the dressing. The salad can be finished and served at once or refrigerated for several hours before serving. Transfer the dressed potatoes to a large (preferably wooden) salad bowl and toss with the green onions, parsley, and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Go with food that is "less perishable" - this is especially important if you don't have a cooler or an insulated picnic basket. If you plan to be out and about for a bit or if it will take you a little while to get to your picnic spot, highly perishable foods are risky health wise.
- Visit your local farmers market - the farmers market is a great place to pick up local and organic treats, whether it be whatever fruit is in season (maybe even organic strawberries).
- Prep your food before you go - get rid of any extra packaging that came with your picnic food. It'll help you cut down on the stuff you have to trash while on your picnic (or carry out).
- Plan your quantities - along the lines of less perishable food, you definitely want to avoid having food go back so plan your quantities so that you eat what you bring. Also, this way your picnic basket is only heavy when you're going and not when you're coming back!
The Art of Green Picnicking
- Respect the rules of your picnicking place: make sure to pick a location (national park, city park, backyard, etc) that allows picnicking. If they don't allow grilling, don't do it.
- Pack out your trash and recycling if there's no place to dispose of it there: even if it's just an apple core, take all your leftovers and trash home. No one likes a litterbug! Plus...you probably don't want to feed the animals.
- Be careful with cross-contamination and food safety: wasting food is bad, but getting sick is worse.
- Green Cooking Tips How To Store Your Food
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