This weekend, Americans will celebrate Independence Day, which means millions of people will head to beaches, friend and family barbecues and picnics in the park. And, of course, there are the road-trippers. This year, AAA expects 34.9 million travelers to sojourn at least 50 miles away from home.
The Fourth of July is an on-the-go holiday, and that requires festive food that can keep up.
When you’re planning what to bring along, consider how well a food travels and its heat endurance, says Maria Liberati, the author of “The Basic Art of Italian Cooking.” Left un-refrigerated too long, mayo-, cheese- and meat-heavy dishes won’t taste great — and may become risks for food poisoning. “Worrying about that is a headache during what should be a relaxing event,” she says.
Here are six well-traveled recipes you can work into your 4th of July picnic repertoire:
Summer pasta salad
Mix your choice of cooked, cold pasta with chopped summer veggies from the garden or farmer’s market. Sub in extra virgin olive oil instead of mayo, and chunks of Parmesan instead of mozzarella, Liberati says — both can better stand the summer heat, and so are more refreshing. Add in chopped fresh basil, parsley or oregano. Mix in canned tuna if desired. (The pantry staple is one of the safer meats to leave out for short periods, according to Liberati.)
Frugal Foodie combines two ounces of honey, the juice of three limes and a handful of crushed mint leaves with boiling water for a refreshing lemonade alternative. Cool, and serve over ice. Play with the proportions depending on whether you want a sweeter or more tart drink.
Cold pressed sandwich
Making sandwiches for a picnic is expected, but this compressed version — from Susan Palmquist, the blogger behind The Budget Smart Girl’s Guide to the Universe — should be made the day before to meld the flavors. Slice a loaf of bread (preferably foccacia) horizontally, and spread olive oil or pesto on both halves. Layer one half with your choice of toppings. (Palmquist likes a combination of roasted red peppers, artichokes and olives.) Place the other bread half on top, and wrap the whole thing tightly in cling wrap. Put the sandwich on a plate in the refrigerator, and place something heavy, like a large can of tomatoes or a gallon jug of milk, on top. Leave overnight.
Yes really — there’s no grill required for perfect hot dogs at the beach, park or on the road. Susan DiMezza of Erdenheim, Penn., uses the neat trick of filling a thermos with pre-boiled hot dogs and more hot water. “That way there was a hot dog whenever someone was hungry and the hotdogs stayed fresh and hot,” she says. Don’t forget to pack rolls, chips and mustard and relish packets, as well as a fork to fish out the steaming dogs.
Cheese crackle gorp
Trail mix (aka gorp) isn’t limited to basic mixes of dried fruit and nuts. The ideal road-trip food can include practically anything and doesn’t need refrigerating, says Janet Groene of Create a Gorp. “It’s simply eating out of a snack bag, with or instead of a picnic lunch,” she says.
For this cheesy version, set oven to 375 degrees. Using a fork and a light touch, mix one stick of softened butter, an 8-ounce package of grated Cheddar cheese, one and a half cups each of flour and crispy rice cereal, a cup chopped nuts, one quarter cup canola oil and two to three teaspoons ice water. Combine until everything sticks together. Scoop up small blobs and use another teaspoon to push dough onto a lightly sprayed cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely, then package in snack bags.
Italian-style pound cake
Served with fresh fruit, this light cake is a great option for parties or picnics, Liberati says. Her recipe: Work together three-quarters of a cup of sugar and three eggs. Blend in two cups sifted all-purposed flour and a half-cup melted butter. Work until the blended dough is smooth, and then add in a teaspoon baking powder, a quarter-teaspoon salt and the peel of one lemon. Butter and flour a cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Whatever fruit you pick, slice it at your destination instead of at home for a fresher taste.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.