We have been advised by the Irish Met Office that our little Island is due a heatwave from this weekend. As this is such a rare occurrence in Ireland, the first thing that springs to everybody’s mind is a beach picnic. We thought it would be a good idea to ask our Head Chef, Richie Trappe to give us some suggestions and tips in relation to dining on the beach. This is his response:
“With the sun shining, the exams over and no school, many families will decide that a beach picnic would be a great idea. Obviously, I have a great interest in all things food but, like many Wexford families, I also have great memories of family picnics on Curracloe beach in the sunny south-east of Ireland. In fact, I wonder if that had an influence on my chosen career?
Anyway, we can probably all agree that packing for a picnic in the woods/park/concert can be relatively easy. But when packing for a beach picnic there are a few extra things to bear in mind when filling your cooler box.
First and foremost, there’s the sand! Yep, it ends up everywhere especially in the middle of your sandwich. Secondly, and particularly in Ireland, there’s the wind. Just a little breeze results in sand clinging to everything that’s sticky or wet. Now you could just pack snacks (crisps, nuts and dried fruit) but I believe that it’s good to have something more substantial as you will be on the beach for most of the day.
In this post, I want to offer some easy food suggestions and some healthy snacks. Also, I will briefly highlight food safety and finish with a checklist for picnic planning.
Food for the Beach Picnic
In a lot of people’s minds, buttering a loaf of Brennan’s bread filled with whatever is in the fridge is the extent of picnic food preparation. Throw in a few cans of beer (and fizzies for the kids) and your good to go! Allow me to suggest a few food alternatives:
- Wraps: Why not opt for a wrap rather than a sliced pan? For one it’s a change to roll things up in a tortilla but more importantly, the ingredients are hidden from the sand and you can eat it with one hand.
- Fried Chicken: If you’re like me, I love leftover cold chicken from a BBQ or lunch from the previous day. Fried chicken holds up really well in a cooler box and is pretty easy to eat without a mouthful of sand.
- Skewers: Whether its fruit, veggies or meat kababs eating them is always more fun. Also, you can use your hands (no utensils required) and have a relatively little clean up afterward.
- Fruit: If you’re not going to put fruit on skewers, I recommend leaving them whole. If chopped up and put in a container, those little sandy hands can add a little too much grit. Any fruit at all, apples, grapes, peaches, bananas etc. will do.
- Pasta/Salad: If you want to be a little more adventurous couscous or pasta salads hold up well in the heat. Here’s a tip for you – wrap up some chopped vegetables in big leaves of iceberg lettuce and wrap in tinfoil to munch on during the day.
- Cold meats: I’m just a little weary of salamis etc. if you’re going to be out in the sun all day but we do a selection in Green Acres that are kept chilled and can be sealed in a container for your cooler box. If eaten relatively early in the day, they are great because they are tasty and don’t require utensils.
- Dessert: there are not many desserts that will survive the beach picnic heat, especially those with chocolate/cream. But do bring some homemade cookies with you. They are bigger than your regular biscuits and come in quite a variety nowadays. We bake them ourselves daily, here in Green Acres
Of course, I am not anti the kids having a treat but it is worth remembering that many beaches have food stands that have no other options except burgers, ice cream, chips, fizzy drinks etc. In addition to being highly processed, most of the foods served at these stands are high in calories, sugar, and fat.
Dining at one of these stands might leave you feeling tired from the effects of all the refined carbohydrates and excess fats. So, as an alternative consider packing healthy beach snacks, lunches, and beverages to keep everyone satisfied and energised for a fun-filled day.
Healthy Snacks for the Beach Picnic
When deciding snacks, try to pair together a few different nutrients such as protein, carbohydrate, and fat to make a complex snack that will keep you full longer. A high-fibre snack is good for digestion and the heart – here are some good examples:
- Whole wheat crackers (with no added sugar) with low-fat cheese cubes
- Nuts and fruit – almonds, dried cranberries, cashews and chunks of pineapple and mango in a container. Add frozen peach slices, strawberries, and blueberries to help keep it cool. These frozen fruits can also be used to chill your rosé or white wine (see Paula’s suggestions for chilling wine).
- Veggie skewers and hummus
- Yogurt and granola
- Sandwich*: choose whole-wheat bread & add lean meat and veggies
- Ricotta cheese on whole-wheat bread or crackers
- Veggie sticks with Greek yogurt dip
- Grapes and a string cheese
- Granola bar – look for a brand that contains a decent amount of fibre and protein
- Whole grain tortilla chips with black bean dip and/or salsa
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Popcorn: is a natural whole-grain food that’s high in fibre and low in fat. Don’t add butter.
*If you must bring a sand(less)wich keep the fillings simple. Pack tomato slices and pickles separately and add just before eating (to avoid soggy bread). If you don’t have a cooler box, avoid mayo which will spoil in the heat. Mustard on ham is fine. Remember – just keep it simple.
Prepping for the Beach Picnic
Heading off to the beach is one of the great joys of summer. But before you settle into the Green Acres’ deli delights, wine, and healthy snacks it is advisable to put in some preparation.
When you dig out last year’s picnic gear, check that it is still OK for use. Of course, it will need a washout and ensure that the cooler box is not leaky. Check that the containers you are going to use still seal properly and get fresh re-sealable bags. Reusable cups or bottles are great instead of plastic and paper straws for the little ones are a ‘sustainable’ option.
If you don’t have plastic wine glasses (for the grown-ups) think about bringing a lightweight tray (cutting board) to stand them on so they don’t warm up in the sand (oh and don’t forget the corkscrew).
In relation to food safety, remember that cooler boxes /ice packs are really essential to maintain that fridge-like effect. As alluded to above it is probably better not to delay eating once you’ve settled on the beach. Ice packs et al won’t last all day.
Also, it’s better to eat from the box only when you need it i.e. keep the lid on. It might look appealing to lay out everything on your rug but it will only spoil quicker in the sun. If you have food like quiche – cut them into wedges before-hand and serve straight from the cooler box.
Finally, don’t forget to bring hand wipes so the family can ‘clean-up’ before ‘chowing down’.
For beach picnics, cooler boxes /ice packs are really essential for food safety #discover #picnicfood
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Thirst-quenching Tipples for the Beach Picnic
Water is always the number one choice for hydration. Bring bottles of water or fill your own re-usable containers with water from home. If water is a little too boring, jazz it up by adding orange slices, lemon slices, berries, or cucumber slices to a jug of water the day before. The water will take on the flavour of what you add to it and will taste very refreshing.
If you want to bring some tipples for the adults, I can wholly recommend that you chat with our team here in Green Acres and get their suggestions on what wines to bring to the beach.
If I could be so bold as to make some of my own suggestions – I would favour any (or all) of the following:
1) Homemade Lemonade can be enjoyed by all the family (see our recipe below)
2) Green Acres Irish Gin with Poachers Tonic or
3) Rosé or any sparkling white wine. If you are not a wine person then I would recommend a Pimms with ice for that real summer taste.
By the way, if you’re making homemade iced tea – cold-brewed (in the fridge) tea is milder in flavour than tea made with hot water. It has more aroma and less mouth-drying effect. Brewing tea from the fridge is safer than hot-brewed tea which when left in the sun is ideal for bacterial growth.
Picnic Packing Checklist
Whatever type of picnic you are planning this summer it is always useful to have a checklist. This should ensure that you don’t forget something essential to the enjoyment of your outdoor adventure. Here is our checklist to make sure you’ve thought of everything.” – cheers Richie.
Sound advice indeed Richie – We hope his tips above will help you have a wonderful, fun-filled beach adventure. Feel free to drop-in to us here in Green Acres and we’ll help you plan your beach picnic be it drinks, food from the deli, the shop or treats from our bakery. Also, if you’d like to receive future blog posts from us, directly to your email, just ‘click’ here.
We look forward to engaging with you again soon – Thank You, James.