Herb chicken

Labor Day feast: We offer a trio of easy-to-prepare, easy-to-tote flavorful foods that make good use of the season's best. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Bringing eats and libations to a picnic or cookout often requires some planning — unless you're asked to bring a few bags of chips.

You'll want to consider what others are bringing (Hint: Don't assume. Check with organizers.), how many people are expected and whether a dish needs to be kept safely chilled.

Make sure a few classics will be on the table (mom's baked beans? Your niece's famous potato salad?), then change things up a bit.

We have a few suggestions, including a trio of easy-to-prepare, easy-to-tote flavorful foods that make good use of the season's best. A bonus: The oven-baked chicken and hand pies can be prepared a day ahead. And we've paired them with an assortment of beers to complete the meal.

Baked herb chicken

Legs and thighs work well; if using breasts, cut them crosswise into serving-size pieces.

Prep: Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a pie pan, mix 2 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes, 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons each dried basil and dried thyme, 3/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Pour 2/3 cup canned evaporated milk into a second pie pan.

Coat and bake: Rinse and pat dry 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces. Roll chicken pieces in milk then in cornflake mixture. Place, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with remaining milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake until juices run clear, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve immediately. Or cool, cover and refrigerate until serving.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Pea, watermelon and farro salad

Note: Adapted from Cooking Light's "Pick Fresh Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, $21.95). If you're taking this salad to a picnic or cookout, pack the watermelon, parsley and cheese separately; add to the farro-peas mixture to serve.

Simmer: Place 1 cup uncooked farro or wheat berries in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 23 minutes or until desired degree of chewy doneness. Add 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen; cook until crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

Toss: Gently toss farro and peas in a large bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups cubed, seeded watermelon and 1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley; toss to combine. Top with 1/3 cup shaved pecorino Romano cheese. Drizzle with 2 or more tablespoons of olive oil, if you prefer a more moist salad.

Makes: 4 servings

The beers

German pilsner: Crisp and dry with more bite than conventional American-style pilsners, German-style pilsners are ideal picnic beers for their clean, refreshing nature. But they also pair brilliantly with many foods, especially the light meatiness of baked herb chicken.

Two to try:

Prima Pils from Victory Brewing, which may be the finest pilsner in American craft brewing, and the always dependable Trumer Pils.

Saison: Widely considered the ultimate beer style in food pairing for its unique ability to be complexly zesty without being flashy. Rather than simply refresh like a German pilsner, a saison will add another layer of flavor to your meal.

Two to try:

Saison Dupont, a longtime genre classic that cuts masterfully through the creaminess of the peas-and-farro salad, and the lightly tart Sofie, from Goose Island, which refreshes and elevates any meal, but especially a warm-weather picnic.

Fruit lambic: And for dessert, the cherry notes of Lindemans Kriek beautifully mimic the dessert's sweet-tart dynamic while also cutting through and balancing the flaky, buttery crust.

Peach hand pies

Note: Adapted from "Handheld Pies" (Chronicle Books, $19.95) by Sarah Billingsley and Rachel Wharton. This free-form approach lets you choose shapes and sizes for the mini-pies; you may have filling or crust leftover.

Roll: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Take dough for 1 double-crust pie (homemade or packaged). Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one portion of the dough into a 12- to 14-inch square. Cut into 4- to 5-inch squares or circles. Gather up and reroll scraps only once or dough will become tough. Repeat with second portion of dough.

Fill: Combine 6 cups peaches (in 1/4-inch dice), 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a bowl; mix gently. Place about a tablespoon or so filling in center of each square or round. Fold dough over filling so edges meet. Moisten edges of dough. Press edges together to seal; or use tines of fork to crimp. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) before baking.

Bake: Arrange pies on rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush lightly with 1 beaten egg; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until crust is golden, 15-20 minutes. Carefully move pies to a baking rack; cool at least 15 minutes. Store cooled pies in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days.

Makes: About 24 four-inch pies