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5 Best Beach Picnic Foods

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One of my favorite things about living in Houston is proximity to the beach. There is nothing better than relaxing in the sun, digging your toes into warm sand, and spending the day with friends. I've got some friends coming in from Minnesota this weekend, and they are itching for some beach time, so I've been planning our Galveston picnic.

I don't have many rules when it comes to beach picnics; basically I prefer to bring foods that don't require much on-beach assembly, have a minimum of packaging or wrapping, and aren't so ooey-gooey as to create an insect-attracting mess. Here is a list of my top-five favorite beach picnic foods:

5. Crudité with hummus & crusty bread: All the prep for this is done at home, so you don't need to chop, cut or mix anything at the beach. If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might make the hummus myself, otherwise I pick up my favorite brand, Sabra, at H-E-B. A loaf of crusty French bread is easy to tear up with your hands -- no knives required.

4. Fruits and cheeses: I like fruit that I can eat out-of-hand, like grapes, apples, pears and peaches. For a beach picnic, I like to bring cheese that isn't too melty --cheddar, Swiss and Gouda, for example. I particularly like an apple and Gouda sandwich on French bread.

3. Sandwiches: Pre-made sandwiches and wraps are a beach picnicker's best friend. When I'm at the beach I like to stick with lighter fare -- bloat and bikinis don't mix -- but the sky is the limit. My favorite works as a sandwich or a wrap: pesto, lettuce, thinly-sliced mozzarella or provolone, tomatoes, pepperoncini and olives.

2. Pasta salad: I don't think you're allowed to call any meal eaten outdoors that doesn't include pasta salad a picnic. For the beach, any cold salad will do -- couscous, tabbouleh, sweet broccoli salad -- but I like to skip the mayonnaise dressings and opt for a vinaigrette.

1. Cookies, brownies, pound cake or muffins: For dessert, anything that can be eaten out of hand is a great picnic option. Pre-portioned is always the way to go.

What are your beach picnic favorites?

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