Whether you’re packing a lunch and heading for the country or only going as far as your own backyard, you can make outdoor dining a real adventure. Look around and put to good use things you might find around the house like the wheelbarrow, the ironing board, or the frisbees.

With a few new ideas, you can involve your guests in the preparation of dinner. It’s a good way to keep a party interesting and prepare the food as well. Or if the weather starts to turn cool, you can try some quick, hot portable meals. Just because you’ve chosen to eat outdoors doesn’t mean your picnic has to be ordinary.

Quick, Hot Outdoor Meals

These warm meals are ideal for fall hikes or pre-football game picnics.

Thermos chili dogs. Tie a length of string or dental floss to a couple of frankfurters, and heat in a pan with chili. Lower the desired number of hot dogs into a thermos and fill with chili. Keep the ends of the string or floss outside the thermos and pack the thermos along with hot dog buns, drinks, and dessert. To serve, use the string or floss to pull the frankfurters from the chili. Place one on the bun, pull the string off, and cover with chili.

Instant taco. Pour your favorite hot taco meat mixture or chili into a thermos and pack individual packages of corn chips in sealable plastic bags along with grated cheese. To serve, open the top of the corn chip bag and spoon in meat mixture. Mix and eat your tasty treat right from the bag.

Picnic Tricks

Try these tricks to make summer picnics easier and more fun.

Frisbee servers. Save yourself the problem of soggy, wobbly paper plates. Nest each paper plate in a frisbee before you dish out the food.

Insect-proofing. Keep insects off your food with nothing more complicated than plastic wrap and an embroidery hoop. Secure the wrap on the hoop as though it were a piece of cloth to be embroidered. Place the hoop with its plastic wrap over food in a serving bowl of corresponding size. The hoop makes the plastic wrap covering easy to handle. The wrap keeps insects off the food, yet allows you to see what each bowl contains.

Another way to keep flying insects away from your food in the backyard is to set food in front of a fan and turn it on high. The fan will keep the flies away while it keeps you cool.

Backyard Party Picnic

Warm-weather backyard picnics can help celebrate any occasion. You’ll enjoy these inexpensive, easy, outdoor party tips.

Creative Serving

For serving space, try one of the following:

Ironing board buffet. An ironing board placed on a level surface can serve as an extra table for food or barbecuing equipment. Make the ironing board more stable by placing bricks or other weights on the leg supports. Cover the ironing board with a plastic tablecloth or oilcloth to protect it. It provides a useful way to hold your plates, silverware, and cups.

Wheelbarrow salad and pop server. Line a wheelbarrow or child’s wagon with plastic; then fill it with crushed ice. Nest pop cans around the sides and salad bowls in the middle of the wheelbarrow. This makes a perfect salad bar.

Party Food

Wheelbarrow grill. Try using the wheelbarrow as a portable grill. Fill the wheelbarrow with six inches of gravel, sand, or dirt; then place heavy-duty aluminum foil over it. Next, place briquets on the foil and light them. Arrange bricks on both sides of the wheelbarrow; then use them to support an oven rack about 3 to 4 inches above the coals for barbecuing hamburgers, steaks, etc.

(When choosing a rack, avoid refrigerator racks, which may be coated with a harmful substance.) You can use the grill to barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, or your favorite meat dish. You may even want to invite guests to assemble their own kabobs.

Waikiki Kabobs

3 chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes

8 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes

1 16-ounce can chunk pineapple

2 green peppers, cut in 1- to 2-inch chunks

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce

8 to 10 cherry tomatoes

Thread chicken and ham chunks alternately with pineapple chunks and green pepper pieces on skewer. Mix soy sauce with juice from pineapple chunks and brush on kabobs. Cook over coals 20 to 30 minutes or until chicken is done. Baste and turn three to four times. Garnish with cherry tomatoes. Makes 8 to 10 kabobs.

Skewered Hot Dog Kabobs

10 frankfurters, cut in 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks

1 package bologna or salami, cut in 1-inch wide strips and rolled up

3 to 4 large dill pickles, cut in 1- to 1 1/2-inch chunks

20 cherry tomatoes

Alternate meat chunks with pickles and cherry tomatoes. Warm over cooking coals (4 to 6 minutes). Makes 10 kabobs.

After-Dinner Treats

Apples on a Stick. After everyone has eaten, you may want to remove the rack and bricks from the wheelbarrow with heavy gloves. Roll the wheelbarrow where everyone can sit around it and toast an apple on a stick. First, place the apple on the end of a roasting stick; warm it over the coals. Peel back skin from the apple; then roll apple into a sugar-and-cinnamon mixture. Hold it above the coals and slowly rotate it so the sugar can melt. As the apple begins to drip, remove it from the coals, slice off the outside layer, and eat. You’ll have apple pie on a stick while you sit around the wheelbarrow and enjoy building special friendships with your guests.

Pudding Fruit Salad

1 16-ounce can pineapple chunks (with juice)

3 bananas, sliced

1 cup shredded coconut

1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

1 16-ounce can fruit cocktail (with juice)

1 3 3/4-ounce package instant lemon pudding

Mix fruit and coconut together. Sprinkle pudding mix over fruit as you stir slowly. Let the mixture stand 5 minutes, or until pudding sets. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Fruit Pizza


1 16-ounce can pineapple chunks (with juice)

3 bananas, sliced

1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

2 cups sliced, fresh strawberries

1 maraschino cherry

1 recipe sugar cookie dough (or 1 package sugar cookie mix)

1 8-ounce container whipped topping

Drain juice from pineapple into a small bowl. Slice the bananas into the juice and set aside. Prepare the cookie dough according to directions. Press dough into a lightly greased 12-inch pizza pan. (Dough should be about one-eighth-inch thick.) Bake at 375 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool.

Spread whipped topping over the cooled crust. Drain juice from bananas. Place fruits in circles on topping, working from outside in to the center. (Place a maraschino cherry in center.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.

“Canned” Ice Cream

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Nuts or flavoring as desired

2 large cans: no. 10 can or larger with tight-fitting lid and a 1-pound can with tight-fitting lid

Ice (crushed)

Rock salt

Place all the ice cream ingredients into the one-pound can with a tight-fitting lid. Next put the filled can into the larger (no. 10) can and pack ice and at least 3/4 cup rock salt all the way around in the space between the two cans. Place a lid on the larger can. Roll the can back and forth for 10 minutes. Open, take the smaller can out, and wipe off lid and sides of smaller can. Open the smaller can and scrape down sides so mixture mixes in with ice cream that has not frozen. If mixture needs additional freezing, put it back into the large can after draining the water off. Repack and roll for five minutes. You’ll find ice cream has never been so fun to make!

Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw and Mel Owen