Three good beach picnic ideas

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Need to get out of your workaday rut? Make the short drive west to the Gulf of Mexico and let a dramatic sunset wash away whatever worries have cropped up.

Now that the days are longer, an evening picnic is a lovely way to remind yourself you live in a pretty fabulous place. Sure, the summers are stickier than an airport Cinnabon, but look at the picnic basket as half full, rather than half empty. Rejoice in April and May, the last low-humidity months until, well, maybe December.

Food-wise, the biggest concern with packing a picnic is keeping eats safe. Picnic food often sits for long periods without conventional refrigeration, so it is imperative to devise a menu that can withstand the elements. Ice chests and other thermal containers help, but some foods, like those with mayonnaise, are breeding grounds for bacteria.

Beware of aggressive seabirds that love to swoop down on unattended food. Cover food if you get up to swim, hunt shells or throw the Frisbee. Do not feed the birds; that only makes it worse for you and the next group that comes along.

Make a list of nonfood essentials: blanket or towels; plates and napkins; utensils for eating and serving; cups for drinks; paper towels or wipes for sticky hands; garbage bags and bug repellent. Nonessentials but nice might include a flashlight if you plan to stay after dark, beach toys for the kids, shell or bird identification guides and a Swiss Army knife.

Here are three sunset picnic menus.

No-cook finger food

Chilled red grapes

Olives and pickled veggies

Gouda and white cheddar

Hard salami

Baguette

Biscotti

Iced tea

Take-out picnic

Rotisserie chicken

Cut-up fruit

Pasta salad

Corn muffins

Assorted cookies

Cranberry juice and seltzer spritzers

For kids of all ages

Watermelon wedges

Mexican Calzones with salsa

Carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

Lemonade

Information from Times files was used in this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8586.

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