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Summer picnics

Picnic Grilled Brats and Kraut Salad Deluxe are just two items you can pack along for a Memorial Day picnic.

In my book, yesterday’s celebration of Memorial Day is the start of a picnic season that lasts all the way through football tailgating. If you’re eating outdoors on a table in the park or from an open tailgate with all the embellishments, you need to take food safety very seriously. Nobody wants a fun day to turn into miserable hours of not feeling well.

During this time of year, I like to use foods that I consider to be a bit more forgiving in picnic conditions. That means I use vinegar-based salad dressings and precooked meats when we head to our favorite picnic spot.

Let me be perfectly clear – the recipes I’m about to share with you don’t mean that you can skip all of the advice that food experts share to keep your picnics healthy and happy. Rachel Sinley, one of Hy-Vee’s dietitians, shares those important instructions in today’s Local Voices column. Be sure to follow them religiously.

I have a suggestion of my own that helps. I like to carry an extra cooler filled with extra ice and nothing else. If the ice in your food cooler has melted off and you are worried if the temperature is safe in some of Nebraska’s hottest summer weather, you will have plenty of additional ice to lower the temperature to a safe range. Extra ice is inexpensive compared to the cost of dealing with a food borne illness.

I suspect some of you are saying to yourselves right now, “Does that mean I shouldn’t take potato salad to a picnic?” It all depends on your recipe. If you use a mayonnaise-based dressing served over potatoes and hard-cooked eggs, I would suggest you save that treat for a time when you have a refrigerator handy and you aren’t going to be serving food outdoors. While commercially made mayonnaise is certainly safer than the homemade mayonnaise of years gone by, the eggs in the dish still make it a challenge to keep it cold enough in hot picnic weather to stay safe.

If you have a recipe that is vinegar-based and doesn’t contain eggs, you are good to go as long as you still follow safe chilling procedures. The following recipe is a wonderful substitute for traditional mayonnaise-based salad with egg. It is flavorful and easily made.

Garlic Potato Salad

6 cups of cubed potatoes

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup green onions, chopped finely

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

^pBoil potatoes in salted water until tender. (This can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on the type of potato you use and how big your cubes are.) Combine garlic, onions, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss with potatoes. Chill about 3 hours before serving. Recipe note: If you don’t have fresh rosemary, feel free to use 1 teaspoon or so of dried. For those of you who don’t like rosemary, feel free to substitute your favorite herb. Thyme and tarragon are both good choices.

While I love a good grilled hamburger, I do worry about safely transferring raw meat in a cooler and then getting the burger cooked to a safe temperature. I feel much safer taking precooked bratwurst and then reheating them over charcoal for delicious flavor and killer grill marks.

Here’s how we do it.

Picnic Grilled Brats

1 pound bratwurst

2 cans (12 ounces each) beer

1 onion, sliced

^pPlace brats in a large skillet and cover with the beer. Add onion and simmer until brats are done. I use a thermometer and make sure they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cool them in the refrigerator thoroughly. Transport them to your picnic or tailgate site in your cooler filled with ice. Heat your grill and simply warm the already cooked brats until they are good and hot.

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The following salad is a wonderful accompaniment to your brats. It is good on top of the brat with mustard or served on the side.

Kraut Salad Deluxe

1 can (16-ounce) sauerkraut, well-drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup vinegar

One-fourth cup salad oil

One-half cup sugar

^pDrain kraut well. Chop onion, celery and green pepper and mix with sauerkraut. For dressing: combine vinegar, oil and sugar. Bring to a boil and pour over sauerkraut mixture. Marinate overnight.

Quote of the Week

If you have a place where you can go and have a picnic with your family, life is good. — Anonymous

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Ellen Lund

of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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