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Because alfresco trumps the kitchen table. Even in winter.

Does the thought of winter camping makes your toes curl in anticipation of turning blue? Hankering to get outside and shake off the cabin fever? Pack up your sled with well-stocked picnic basket (or insulated backpack) and head outside! There’s a freedom and excitement in eating outdoors, no matter what the weather is. Here’s what to pack to turn your winter picnic into a party:

THE NECESSITIES

Before we get started on the fun stuff, there are a few basic items you should have on hand. Blankets are optional if you’re wearing snow or slush pants, but  spreading a blanket out really means a picnic. Don’t forget to bring lots of napkins for runny noses and a garbage bag for any waste. If it’s a sunny day, you may want to apply some sunscreen on the face before heading out.

A TABLE SETTING

If you want to have a picnic in your backyard, make a “table setting” the day before you want to picnic. Tightly pack some wet snow into a garbage bin and leave it overnight to harden. Set the frozen bin inside the garage for about half an hour to let it come out easier, then turn over into the snow. Now you have a table! You can do this with smaller tubs (Rubbermaid tubs or plastic wastebaskets) to make stools. Depending on how big your family is or how much snow you have, you may need to make a few tables. If you want to trek out to the park, find a picnic table, or get comfortable on the ground.

THERMOSES ARE KEY

Trying to tackle an entire hot meal on your first winter picnic is trickier than it sounds. Instead, one hot component makes a good picnic main. A thick lentil stew or squash soup can be kept in a big thermos and poured into bowls. Or, wrap grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas in tin foil to keep hot. The rest of your picnic provisions can be cold – crusty buns, cookies and fruit.

A HEAT SOURCE

A heat source is a nice bonus for a winter picnic. If you happen to have a portable gas stove, you can make pita pizza pockets by filling pitas with tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni and /or veggies, wrap them up in tin foil and toss them on to heat. Pita and tortilla are great breads for winter picnics because you don’t have to worry about crushing them. Or, make a nacho platter by wrapping up chips scattered with grated cheese. If you don’t have a portable stove but like the idea of cooking something outside, a few companies make multi-wick survival candles in huge tubs that come with a grill you can put overtop to heat a mug of water for hot chocolate or tea. Or, if you’re feeling especially crafty, make your own from a tuna can and old scraps of candle wax.

THE SWEET STUFF

For dessert: DIY snowcones! If you’ve got lots of good clean snow, form some snowballs and place in a mug or bowl, and drizzle over four ounces of flavoured drink mix powder mixed with ¾ hot water. You can also make the syrup before you leave home and bring it in a water bottle.

OUTDOOR CRAFT

You won’t be lolling around reading books in the grass and cloud-watching on this picnic. After mowing down, make an art attack style snow angel! Have a family member (preferably the biggest member) make a snow angel in the snow, and have everyone add different colours and types of birdseed to fill in the angels “clothes”. Add leaves and pine needles for variation. Stand back and watch birds go nuts.

Photos by etolane, statelyenglishmanorvisitfingerlakes, sean dreilingerwels.net via Flickr

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