The iconic picture of a family-picnic basket sitting on a blanket in a wooded glade can quickly turn into a nightmare if you pack the wrong foods and don't keep them at the correct temperature. Many foods will begin to harbor food-borne bacteria long before they approach room temperature. If you are planning a picnic or other outing and don't have adequate cooler space for all of your food, plan some dishes that can be left sitting out on the picnic table all afternoon.
Fruits and Vegetables
Produce is perfectly safe when kept at room temperature all day. Take advantage of this fact by creating a variety of salads for your picnic. Try a green salad with an Italian dressing; a tray of assorted chopped vegetables with hummus or salsa for dipping; and a tasty fruit salad for dessert.
Meat and Cheese
Cut hard cheeses, like cheddar, into cubes, along with dry-cured meats, like country ham and salami. These foods have a low-enough moisture content to make them safe for room-temperature storage. Add an assortment of attractive crackers, along with some grapes or apple slices for a nibbling tray you can enjoy all afternoon.
Nuts provide a good bit of protein, while being completely safe to store at room temperature. Mix a batch of old-fashioned gorp for snacking throughout the day. This classic mixture of nuts, raisins and chocolate candies can be altered in a variety of ways. Add dried cranberries or other berries, mix in sesame sticks or goldfish crackers, and finish with sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
Get some more nutty goodness with peanut butter and other nut butters. Whether you make your own or purchase them fresh, nut butters are quick and tasty on crackers, bread, celery stalks or apple slices. Add dried fruits or seeds for some extra flavor punch.
Make up the ingredients ahead of time for an Italian classic that's perfectly safe outside. Slice loaves of Italian bread on the diagonal to get thick slices. Spread the slices with olive oil and sprinkle them with garlic powder. Toast these slices in the oven and set them aside. Chop tomatoes and parsley, and mix them with a small amount of olive oil and red-wine vinegar. When it's mealtime, pile scoops of chopped tomato salad on top of the crusty bread slices.