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Whether you’re bringing a wicker basket and a bottle of wine for a relaxing day with your partner; or you’re driving a carload of kids, the dog, Frisbees® and lawn chairs, it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors. No matter what’s on TV, nothing beats laying out a spread for friends and family on the grass or at the beach. And we guarantee you, the food tastes better too! Even if it’s just hamburgers and hotdogs.
The best picnic foods are easy to transport, delicious at room temperature, and don’t require fancy cutlery to dig in. Our grillin’ recipes this month offer that smoky flavor that you can take with you wherever you go this summer.
Grilled vegetables are so good on their own, but even better when served with a grilled baguette for an open faced sandwich. This is an “assemble your own” lunch that works well at picnics and outdoor potlucks.
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Grilled octopus has a flavor and texture that might surprise you—it’s unique, and well worth giving this underappreciated seafood a try. It’s been called the new Pork Belly, and its popularity is definitely growing among foodies everywhere.
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Who would have thought you could use your takoyaki hot plate to bake cake pops? Well, you can, and it’s easy! This recipe makes 2 kinds, matcha cherry and chocolate chip cake pops. Need we say more?
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What comes to your mind when you think about a picnic? Chances are, the image in your mind is probably different from the red checkered blanket, wicker baskets, sandwiches and fried chicken that you might see in a Norman Rockwell illustration. We come from all kinds of backgrounds today, and we have all kinds of ways to picnic with friends when the weather is perfect and calling us outdoors. What are some ways people picnic around the world?
The English are big on picnics, and have been for centuries, when the royals would have lunches outdoors during their hunting parties. The U.K. celebrates National Picnic Week each June, when they break out the wicker hampers and cook a British picnic traditional favorite, the Scotch Egg. This iconic dish is an egg wrapped in sausage, coated with bread crumbs, and baked or deep fried. It’s an ideal picnic food because it’s filling enough, easy to pack and can be served at room temperature.  
We all know about Japan’s famous picnic tradition, the annual April flower viewing craze known as Hanami. Thousands of Japanese gather under the cherry blossom (Sakura) trees in public parks, to enjoy food and drink with friends, family and co-workers. Since the blooming season is so short, people turn out in droves to catch the beautiful sight before the flowers expire. Nighttime picnics are common too, as many Sakura fans set up electric lights just to be able to party into the night.  
There’s another great picnic tradition for families in October—the incomparable undokai, or field day for school age children. This is a kind of fun kids’ Olympics, with relay races, tug-of-wars, ball tossing games, and more; where the real point is not so much to win, but to participate, have fun and play fair. Usually held at the school track, the best part is all the home cooked food that circulates among the picnicking families, everyone sharing in each other’s bento lunches. Make no mistake, the Moms are in competition for the best dishes too!  
In Greece, when Spring coincides with the start of Lent for Orthodox Christians, picnic feasts of shellfish, shrimp, octopus and mussels make up the strict dietary restrictions of the Lent fasting. Consumption of meat, eggs and dairy products is forbidden during this religious time, but the atmosphere is still festive, with colorful handmade kites flying the skies. Kites also have a symbolic meaning for the Greeks, a kind of spiritual elevation that brings you closer to the Heavens as your kite flies high in the sky.  
Christmas time in Argentina is picnic time, as they enjoy their summer because the country is in the Southern Hemisphere. So while we huddle up to a fireplace on Christmas Eve, Argentinians are celebrating with fireworks, live music and getting ready for traditional outdoor barbecues. Many restaurants are open on Christmas Day, offering special menus like turkey, roast pork or goat. A popular dessert is pan dulce, a sweet bread stuffed with nuts, raisins and dried fruit.  
Australia is lucky enough to have a national holiday for picnics, called Picnic Day, on the first Monday of August—mild springtime weather for Australia. The day is a recognized public holiday in the Northern Territory, where people make it an annual event by picnicking at Harts Range, with a full day of rodeo contests like bull riding and whip cracking, truck races and children’s events. Aussies also go to the town of Adelaide River for a grand traditional picnic; to participate in sack races, tug-of-war pulls and spoon & egg relay games.  
Mexico celebrates their Day of the Dead holiday, known as Dia de los Muertos, by honoring their ancestors and their loved ones with festivities and not with mourning. Cemetery headstones are lovingly cleaned up and decorated so the living relatives can picnic or even camp overnight. There is dancing and feasting with traditional favorites like tamales, tortillas and sugary desserts in the shape of brightly colored skulls. What may seem macabre to other cultures is treated as a deep respect for death in Mexico.  
Do you have the urge to go on a picnic now? It may not be at a cemetery, but with so many ways to have fun this summer, you need to get out there before the days start getting shorter!
Make sure your temperature control plug is inserted correctly. Our plugs are designed with safety in mind, so the unit will not operate unless it is completely seated into its receptacle. Make sure the white marks are fully visible on either side of the plug.
Give the unit a chance to fully preheat. Waiting until it preheats completely before starting your cooking will help to cook food more evenly.
Wipe off the hot plate while it’s still warm with a paper towel or cloth. For stubborn, scorched on food; or if the plate has already cooled, carefully pour enough hot water onto the plate to cover it. Turn on the grill to boil the water, and while hot, use a non-abrasive tool like a silicone spatula or wooden tool to scrape off the scorched food.
Cool off the plate completely, dump the water and finish off the cleaning with a mild detergent and a sponge. Rinse and wipe dry with a soft cloth.
Did you know that you can cook in your Food Jar? Next month we’ll show you how it’s done!