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One of my favorite things about living near the Gulf is that the beach is so close to us. There is nothing better than relaxing in the sun, digging your toes into warm sand and spending the day with friends. Beach trips require an adjustment in thinking about what foods to pack for a lunch, however. That means you don’t want snacks that will wilt in a cooler on a hot day or use food containers that will let sand inside. And you don’t want to have to deal with a lot of utensils or dishes.

Hands-down the most obvious beach must-have is bottled water. Without adequate hydration, you run the risk of heat stroke. Do not forget the sunblock, either. I have seen too many people turn lobster red before the end of the day.

By bringing snacks like nuts and dried fruits, which are packed with protein and carbohydrates, you’ll have delicious and easy snacks that will give you energy all day long. Pita, pretzels and chips are all delicious with dips like hummus or salsa, but dips are not the best idea for a snack at the beach. One gust of wind and you may get more sand in the container than you want. The less exposed your food is to the elements, the better.

Mayonnaise does not hold up once it leaves the refrigerator. Instead, opt for a vinaigrette or use sandwich condiments, like pesto, to add flavor. Dairy products are best left at home, as they are highly unstable if not kept at the right temperature.

Think of healthy, but filling food to take to the beach.

Choose pita bread or wraps for sandwiches instead of bread slices that may get soggy.

Keep all condiments separated from other food. Use small Tupperware containers for sauces or dressing.

Pack light and non-salty snacks for kids in individual ziplock sandwich bags. Prepare chopped fresh vegetables, like carrot slices, red, yellow and green pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, celery, crackers and raisins that can be enjoyed as a small snack.

Go with light meats, such as turkey slices or grilled chicken. They are excellent choices to place in a sandwich wrap.

Try to create snacks that are based upon finger foods. Fruit that can be eaten out-of-hand, like grapes, apples, pears and peaches along with cheese that isn’t too melty — cheddar, Swiss and Gouda, for example, are best for the beach. Cookies and brownies are best for dessert.

How to pack the cooler.

Start with a great insulated cooler. Make sure it’s size appropriate for your entire family. It gets pretty tiring lugging lots of bags from the car to the sand.

Food and drinks that are going to be used last should go on the bottom of the cooler. You don’t want to be digging through the ice or other items just to get one thing.

Place the heaviest and biggest items on the bottom, while the lightest and smallest items should be placed on the top.

Always add ice cubes or ice packs to the cooler after the items have been added to act as a buffer between the food and the heat.

Bring cleaning supplies.

Baby wipes are recommended to take with you to the beach. Unlike napkins, baby wipes help to moisturize the skin and they remove sand more efficiently than dry cloths or paper napkins.

Take extra plastic bags with you. To minimize trash blowing away and litter in general, you can easily place your trash in the plastic bag. Toss the entire bag in a nearby trash barrel on your way out.

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Sunset Beach BBQ

Be sure you wrap up raw meats and pack them with individual ice packs. Make sure your cooler can keep any raw ingredients cool enough, long enough.

Marinate meat the night before, since the marinade will help preserve the meat.

Bring vegetables, like bell peppers and corn on the cob, to give you some variety on the grill. This will satisfy any vegetarians in your group and it will also free up space in the cooler since veggies don’t need to be kept cold.

Frozen fruits serve double duty. As an alternative to ice cubes, freeze grapes or berries, then add them to your cooler when you head to the beach. Not only are frozen fruits refreshing, but they will also help keep the temperature down in a cooler.

Beach Friendly Food

Gullible: those who believe they can have a picnic at the beach.

 

Crunch Mix

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cinnamon-flavored oat square cereal
  • 2/3 cup dried baked apple pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled lightly salted pistachio nuts or coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

Directions

In medium bowl combine cereal, apple pieces, nuts and raisins. Divide evenly into 6 sandwich bags.

Chicken and Hummus Pitas

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (8 to 12 ounces)
  • 2 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved
  • 1 cup homemade of store-bought hummus
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

Directions

In a small bowl combine oil, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper.

Place chicken on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Brush both sides of chicken with the oil mixture. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 7 minutes. Turn chicken; broil 5 to 8 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink. Cool slightly; cut into strips.

Carefully open pita halves and spread each with a ¼ cup of hummus; add sliced chicken, tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt.

Wrap each sandwich well in aluminium foil. The foil will help hold the sandwich together while you eat it.

Cucumber and Apricot Sandwiches

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4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 8 slices firm-textured whole wheat bread
  • 2 large apricots or 1 nectarine, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup arugula leaves

Directions

Peel cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Thinly slice cucumber; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the cream cheese, basil and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Spread about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on one side of each bread slice.

Top four bread slices with cucumber, apricot and arugula.

Top with remaining bread slices, cream cheese side down.

Cut each sandwich in half diagonally. Wrap well in foil.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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40 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine peanut butter and butter; beat with the electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add sugar, egg, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined.

Add flour; beat until smooth. Stir in oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate chips into the oat mixture.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Pack into sandwich bags for individual servings at the beach.

Don't forget the frozen grapes.

Don’t forget the frozen grapes.

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