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Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip

Turn a Picnic Into a Work of Art

You can go a lot farther than hamburgers, hot dogs, and potato salad in your picnics this summer. It's easy to make or buy inexpensive special meals, serve them elegantly, and make them memorable - even outdoors.

First of all, think about * how * you'll serve. It's really not a lot of extra effort to pack a bag with simple but attractive reusable plates (made of unbreakable plastic), a couple of small candlesticks with some nice tapers to go in them, perhaps a frosty cold bottle of something wonderful., with glasses to match - and, of course, a tablecloth.

Next, the menu: It's easy to take a few cents worth of something a bit out of the ordinary and use it to make a mundane dish into something exotic and wonderful. A few easy possibilities:

* Broil or grill a handful of gourmet mushrooms, some garlic, and a chunk of sweet red pepper. Cut it all into thin strips and serve over pasta.
* Mix up a sauce with peanut butter, soy sauce, Chinese sesame oil, and fresh ginger. Marinate fresh vegetables and some extra-firm tofu overnight. Serve in flour tortillas for Oriental fajitas, or in pita sandwiches accompanied by store-bought stuffed grape leaves for a Greek twist.
* Buy a perfectly ripe avocado. Spread it over a hearty rye bread and top with gouda or brie cheese.
* Bring a jar of curry paste along. Mix it into a rice pilaf, or spread it on cold-cut sandwiches instead of mustard.

Just a word of warning: when your friends and neighbors find out how good your picnics are, you may get awfully popular!

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