Cooking and eating outdoors is one of the true joys of summer, and certain foods just taste better when they're grilled. Buy your ingredients from a farmer's market or other local merchants so they're as fresh as possible. The fresher the ingredients are, the less work you'll have to do to make each dish taste delicious. Special foods are part of the fun family times that make your cookouts memorable.
Corn on the cob is one of the must-haves at any cookout, and grilled corn is much more flavorful than boiled corn. Pull back the husks and grill the corn, turning the cobs every minute or two so they grill evenly. To add smoky flavor to potato salad, place chunks of cooked potatoes in a basket or on a piece of foil placed on the grill. Add cooked bacon and onions and creamy salad dressing to the finished potatoes. To make a light potato salad, mix the grilled potatoes with grilled vegetables and your favorite creamy fat-free dressing.
Flank steaks are an affordable cut of meat to toss on the grill. Rub the steaks with dry spicy ranch dressing and seasoning mix and let them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. After grilling, serve the finished steaks with smoky barbecue sauce. For a lighter entree idea that's also more affordable, make skewers of meat and vegetables. Marinate chunks of chicken, bell peppers and zucchini in creamy balsamic dressing. Push the chunks onto skewers that have been soaked in water and grill the skewers on all sides until the chicken is cooked through.
Once the grill is fired up, keep it going and use it to make dessert. Clean it thoroughly before grilling any sweets. For a fresh, summery dessert idea, grill some fruit. The sugars in the fruit will caramelize so it will be sweet and smoky at the same time. Brush peeled bananas and halved peaches with melted butter and grill them on both sides until they have grill marks. Fresh pineapple is especially grill-worthy. Even berries can be placed on the grill if you place them inside a foil packet first. When the fruit is soft, serve it over sweet biscuits or use it as a topping for vanilla ice cream.
Make homemade lemonade using real lemons or brew your own iced tea for the cookout. Green tea can be blended with other fruity teas or ginger tea, and you can custom-brew some delicious blends. Simple fruit punch made with fruit juice and club soda is a healthy and fizzy alternative to soft drinks. Have extra ice on hand to keep the beverages cold.
Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.