Kitchen Helpline

Marcella Valladolid explains how to best pack your picnic, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz

David Katz

Episode: Summer Sides

Question 1: Do you have any packing tips for keeping my food cold at the beach this summer?

Answer: Try using 2 separate coolers: 1 large hard-shell cooler for your food and 1 ziptop cooler for your drinks. Use ice packs to keep the food cold and pack your perishables on the bottom so they stay colder longer. Trying chilling your cooler first with ziptop bags of ice before adding your food to give it an extra "chill." Refrain from constantly opening your cooler; the more you open it, the more cold air you let out. We recommend using crushed ice to keep your drinks cold so the ice spreads out between the bottles and cans more evenly.

Question 2: How can I prepare a tossed salad before a party without the lettuce getting soggy?

Answer: It's all about how you layer. In a large bowl, put your firm vegetables on the bottom (carrots, peppers, etc.), then add your meat. Next, add your dressing--but don't toss! Then layer your greens and put your fragile veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) on top last. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for up to a day before your party. When you're ready to serve, all you have to do is toss!

Question 3: Do you have ideas on how to keep my side salads cold when it's hot outside?

Answer: Try using the roasting pan that you normally save for Thanksgiving! Remove the grate and fill with crushed ice. It should hold up to 3 large bowls for your side salads. All you have to do is replenish the ice as it melts. On average, mayo-based side dishes last up to 1 hour in direct, extreme heat. Keep out of direct sunlight if you can.

Question 4: Any ideas on how to jazz up my standard bean salad?

Answer: For something new, try upgrading the "Three T's"--Texture, Taste and Topping. For a new texture, try using lima beans or edamame. Lima beans are available in fresh, dried or canned forms. They are sometimes called butter beans because of their starchy, buttery texture. Edamame are most commonly found frozen in grocery stores. They have a firm texture and snap, but become silky and creamy once you bite into them. For a new taste, try using black-eyed peas. They are typically found in a bag at the grocery store (but canned also works in a bean salad recipe). They have an earthy aroma and taste, and pair well with the other ingredients of a traditional bean salad. For a (trendy) new topping, try baked chickpeas. This new snack can be found in most grocery stores. It's a versatile ingredient that can add a much-needed crunch to your bean salad. But it doesn't have to end there. You can even add baked chickpeas to trail mix, stir into pasta, crush them and use as breading for chicken or add them to stuffing!

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