Summer is upon us and the light at the end of the COVID tunnel seems to have nearly arrived, which means it’s time to plan the perfect summer cookout. I know it might be overwhelming after having avoided people for over a year, but the joy a gathering will bring to your heart and your home will be a great reminder of all that is good in this world.
Ladies and gentleman, start your grills! It’s time to get grilling, and I don’t just mean the classics like hot dogs, brats, and burgers – I’m talking about trying some new things this year, like grilling some of your favorite summer fruits. Think pineapple and watermelon. Growing beets in your garden? Apparently they taste really good grilled, but don’t quote me on that because I hate beets and haven’t tried it yet. For your protein options, you can stick to the regularly grilled food groups I mentioned (hot dogs, brats, burgers) or you can smoke a chicken, ribs, or pork. There are so many options!
Also, you gotta have sides. I actually feel like sides make the meal fun. You can have the standard items there like chips, but please consider adding some homemade components like macaroni and cheese and/or potato salad. For those guests who are always talking about their latest kale endeavor, please be kind and add a tasty summer salad. Oh! And I can’t talk about hosting a party without talking dessert, you ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE DESSERT. You can make dessert interactive with s’mores and a bonfire or you maybe dig up a tasty strawberry shortcake recipe. In fact, if you want to wow your friends with a simple yet tasty strawberry shortcake recipe try this one:
- 1 box strawberry cake mix (I prefer Pilsbury’s option)
- 1 container fresh strawberries
- 1 container cool whip OR make your own whipped cream
Cook the cake according to the box instructions in a 9×13 pan. Once the cake is out of the oven and has cooled, top with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Layer the strawberries all over the top of the cake.
And… you’re done!
When my guests arrive for our cookout, I want to be able to enjoy the company and not worry about the food and drinks. I lay it all out on the counter complete with paper plates, plastic utensils, and plastic cups. There is an easy flow and guests can graze when they like and visit in the house or in the yard/garage. Make sure all of the serving utensils are placed in or next to each item and consider labeling each item to avoid any confusion OR if you have guests with allergies it could help them decipher if they can’t have it without having to hunt you down to ask the question.
Another important element: drinks. Everyone tends to BYOB around here, but we always have a few options for people on hand. I love when people hosting have a specialty drink available, it’s fun and usually gets people to try something new. My current favorite is from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s called the People’s Margarita. My other favorite summer drink is a Paloma. Finally, there is just something about watermelon that I love, so one final margarita recipe from Mr. Johnson I would recommend is the Watermelon Manarita. You can also never go wrong with a nice fresh lemonade for the kids…and probably the adults too. I always like to have some soda and water available as options too.
Lastly, if it’s summer and there’s food on the grill then it means you absolutely must have games. Better yet, get the water balloons out because every time a water balloon fight starts it brings the kid out in everyone and fills the neighborhood with laughter…and almost always the hose gets involved and things get slippery. Get the Super Soakers out while you are out it, channel that inner child in you. It will leave your friends asking when your next summer cookout is scheduled. Some dryer options include yard Jenga, corn hole, ladder toss, and giant connect four are great additions to your summer backyard shenanigans. If you have kids coming think about breaking out the kiddie pool and a bounce house (these seem to have been a popular COVID purchase last summer), and send them home tired!
I also like to make sure I have sunscreen and towels to dry off available. I make sure my bathrooms are clean and stocked with hand soap as well as toilet paper, because just like food allergies or sensitivities I want to limit how often people have to ask where things are…like toilet paper. And the good news is there isn’t a shortage anymore!
I hope you all get out and enjoy your backyards this summer with a margarita in one hand and a water balloon in the other. Happy cookout season friends.