When you think summer food, you can almost smell the burgers on the barbecue and taste the refreshing tang of ice cold lemonade. But, after a family picnic or two, the same old nibbles start to get boring and repetitive. This summer, put a twist on the classics or create new favourites.
You can’t go to a BBQ and not see burgers on the grill. Often at large gatherings, the toppings are limited: ketchup, mustard, and, if you’re lucky, relish. Take the next step and go crazy with toppings. Top your burger with a mango or tomato salsa, purchase various cheeses, like Swiss or blue cheese, or maybe fry up some mushrooms and onions. Naan bread or pitas can be a great substitute for buns.
If burgers aren’t your thing, a BBQ peameal bacon sandwich always hits the spot. Or, test the waters and see if you can bring home the catch of the day. Fish is a lighter option and also tastes great grilled. Just prepare your fish, add some sliced lemon, wrap it in tinfoil and throw it on the barbecue.
Grilled meat and veggie kabobs taste great, but have you considered fruit and dessert kabobs? Pineapple, with a little cinnamon, is delicious when grilled. Add some apples to the skewer and you have a yummy dessert or just a snack. On cool evenings, serve them hot off the grill. On hot afternoons, slice over ice cream.
Corn on the Cob
Grilled or boiled corn on the cob is a staple of every family barbecue. It is hard to improve on such a simple classic, but it is possible. Get creative and come up with some buttery concoctions for dipping. Garlic, sweet chili, or chipotle butter will give your corn a little kick. Instead of salt, combine your favourite spices and shake on for some bold flavor.
Garden, potato and macaroni salads are the norm, but people tire of them. The summer is a good time to experiment with less heavy, more refreshing ingredients. Fresh fruit salad can be a welcome change, or try simply adding fruit to a garden salad. Watermelon, feta and lettuce (with a sweet vinaigrette) is a simple recipe, but will win over picnic guests.
Couscous is another option. Couscous is a granular grain that can be combined with dressing, tomato, cucumber and feta to make a light, tasty salad.
Lemonade and Iced Tea
There’s nothing better than sitting back in a Muskoka chair on your porch with a tall glass of lemonade (okay, beer is a close second). To give your lemonade a little flair, especially if you have guests, freeze raspberries or strawberries and drop them into the glass. You can also freeze the berries into ice cubes for a decorative touch. With iced tea, slice some lemons and put them in the freezer for a couple hours. They can serve as ice cubes and they look pretty.
Pasta doesn’t really fall into the ‘summertime favourite’ category, but it is a must-have on most grocery lists. Instead of making a hot, heavy dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, try a cold pasta dish. Make your spaghetti, but let it chill. Add some fresh tomatoes, feta, basil, and some oil, and you have a cold pasta dish.
Ice cream is always a favourite in the summer, but you can really pack on the pounds if you indulge too often. Instead, do some berry picking at a local farm and make smoothies. Strawberry, raspberry or blueberry (or all a combination of all three) can be a tasty treat during the hot summer months. Feel free to add a little ice cream or yogurt to make them sweeter and creamier. Try freezing the berries first if you are in the mood for an icy sorbet.
You can’t have a campfire without smores (melted marshmallows and chocolate between two graham crackers). Go for something new and add peanut butter, rice cereal, or bananas to your smores. If you are on a group camping trip, create a smore buffet with all kinds of ingredients. Experiment to come up with the best combination.
Instead of bowls of potato chips for a snack, make your own trail mix. Combine cereals, dried fruit, granola, or even chocolate chips to make a grab-and-go-treat. Packing a container of trail mix for a picnic is easier than cramming two bags of potato chips into your picnic basket. Plus, it's healthier.
A beer is usually the go-to alcoholic beverage of choice and summertime is the perfect opportunity to do some taste-testing. Look for sales on brands or flavours you don’t regularly purchase. Instead of the heavy Guinness, opt for a lighter, fruit-infused beer. Don’t forget to take some of your fresh berries and incorporate them into homemade margaritas and daiquiris.