It’s only the end of June, but if I have to put down one more hockey puck hamburger patty, or shriveled hot dog, I’m gonna lose it. Cook out, picnic and barbecue season is officially in full swing. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for pedestrian picnic faire. I’ve got a effortless, excellent menu here, that’ll work for just about anybody’s taste and talent level.
“I never feel bad dropping what I’m doing to get outside and reconnect with friends. But what I don’t want to reconnect with is the same burgers, brats and dogs at EVERY single party,” says Rachel.
My dear friend, and fellow blogger, Rachel of Roaring Acres, (https://roaringacres.wordpress.com/) has an impeccable eye for style. And she happens to love EVERYTHING I make for her. It’s one of the many reasons I love her. So we’re at it again, prepping an easy summer menu that will work from Independence Day through Labor Day. Make it for a family outing for four, a holiday celebration, or even a crowd at a graduation party.
For an appetizer or side, use a melon baller, or cut cantaloupe and watermelon into one inch cubes. Layer the melon pieces and fresh mint leaves on to a skewer, like a kebob. Finish with a generous drizzle of balsamic glaze (reduced balsamic vinegar with sugar) or a flavored balsamic vinegar. You could even do this with toothpicks.
The main course on this menu is about as casual as it gets. Walking. Tacos. Say what?! We’ve got a kids and an adult version here. Step one: Pick up one of those bulk bags of snack sized Doritos, Fritos, etc. that you already buy on the reg, or are regularly tempted to buy. For the kids, crush the “nacho cheese” variety in the bag, add in ground turkey browned with taco seasoning and salsa. Top with shredded cheese and sour cream. Kids will shovel it in. Exhibit A: my enthusiastic taste testers.
“As a mom of three small kiddos, I’m already down a set of arms. Giving them something they can easily hold to feed themselves is absolute heaven,” adds Rachel.
The adults can enjoy a more sophisticated version. Let’s call it Walking. Ceviche. Take the “Cool Ranch” chips from that same variety pack and crush them in the bag. Then add a spoonful of super convenient pre-cooked salad shrimp. (They come frozen. Just defrost them in cold water and add a little lime juice once defrosted and drained.) Top it with my tart and sweet pineapple salsa (recipe follows) and garnish with sliced jalapenos and diced avocado.
“Setting up a spread outside takes minimal effort. The key is choosing a spot with a cool view. Our deck overlooks our pond, so we used nesting baskets and simple wood bowls to complement, not distract from the view.” -Rachel
Corn is a plenty about now. This time of year it’s flavorful, cheap, and a blank canvas. No excuses for just boiling it and serving it plain. Make this one your own. For me, I decided to use the lobster butter I made a while back and froze for future use. Add mayo to your butter for extra creaminess. Or sprinkle it with some fresh herbs. I chose chives, since I thought it paired well with the lobster flavor. Hard to imagine a better bite than fresh Ohio sweet corn. But this really is!
“Less is more when you are entertaining outdoors. You want to encourage a casual, pull-up-a-chair kind of vibe. Too much structure like linens or matching glassware can make it feel formal, so I try to pick one. If I’m using paper and plastic, then I roll out a tablecloth and add fresh floral in mason jars.” -Rachel
For dessert, I went patriotic and classic summer with home made bomb pops. Truth be told, they turned out less “red, white and blue” and more “purple, white and pink” due to the fresh ingredients I used. No food coloring in this version! I used a combination of blueberries and blackberries with a splash of orange juice for the blue layer. I combined lemon ice and coconut milk (but you could sub with almond milk or yogurt) for the white layer. And for the red, I combined strawberries and raspberries.
To make them, I first blended each layer separately. I used Dixie cup sized containers for the kids (although if you’ve got popsicle trays, by all means, use them) and wooden spoons I found at Michaels for the sticks.
To achieve the layered effect, I marked the cups on the outside (into thirds) so the layers were even. I poured the first layer in, inserted the spoon, and held it into place using tape. Freeze the first layer for at least 20 minutes before added the second layer. Then repeat.
Now, no summer gathering would be complete with lemonade. We went two routes here too. For the kids, fresh squeezed strawberry mint lemonade. I started with sliced strawberries, a couple of sprigs of fresh mint, torn, and a couple teaspoons of simple syrup. I muddled those at the bottom of the glass. Then, I added equal parts fresh squeezed lemon juice (equal to the syrup), filled mason jars with ice then added water to the brim. Screw on the top of the jar and give it a good shake. The portions of lemon juice-to-sugar will depend on both your taste and the size of your jars!
For the adult version, and this ain’t rocket science, add some vodka. Rachel and I would never dream of posting without taste testing all of above mentioned items beforehand…
Also, you could skip the berries and mint, make the lemonade and add sweet tea vodka for a spiked Arnold Palmer. I also make a berry boozy one that’s pretty tasty, click here for that recipe.
The prep time and clean up is minimal. The food is all portable.
Show us your spread! One of the best parts of a casual picnic is experiencing a peron’s true colors. I always love seeing how a host welcome others into his/her home.
1 cup finely diced pineapple
1 cup finely diced red pepper
1 cup finely diced orange pepper
2 T. diced jalapeños (seeds removed)
2 T. chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime.
Combine all ingredients and chill