Family cookouts offer an opportunity to gather family and friends for a full day of fun and companionship. Make side dishes ahead, so the cook and grill master has time to join in the party. Center all of the cooking around the grill to keep the party in one place. Make sure you follow food safety rules for uncooked and pre-cooked foods.
Meats and Main Dishes
Meats for the grill can be as simple as a steak, fish, chicken, burgers, hot dogs and sausages, or as elegant as shrimp or lobster. Choose your main dish ingredients first and build the remainder of the menu to complement the main dish. Veggie burgers are a good option if your family includes vegetarians. Choose one main dish, or offer a selection if your family is large. Keep all meats cold until time to cook.
Vegetables for a family cookout usually take two forms. They are often found in the salads offered on the side; they are also offered fresh or grilled for variety. Survey your local farmers market for a selection of fresh vegetables and fruits. String a few chunks of vegetables together on a skewer, and grill them for an easy vegetable kebab to complement your main dish. Grill corn on the cob for a quick and healthy side vegetable. Set out a platter of fresh vegetables, and provide creamy dips to tempt your kids to eat their veggies.
If you are offering burgers or hot dogs, buns are a must. You can offer them cold, but why not warm them on the grill? Other family favorites are always welcome. Make breads ahead so that you have time to enjoy a relaxing day with the family.
Side salads such as potato salad, macaroni salads, tossed salad and fruit salad complement the main dish and add variety to the meal. Choose simple, healthy salads you can make ahead. For the tossed salads, provide a selection of dressings to cater to all your guests' tastes. Store vegetables, fruits and side salads separately from uncooked meats. Keep all cold salads cold until you're ready to serve them.
A simple dessert is usually appreciated after a large meal. A few grilled fruits garnished with some whipped cream or a flavored syrup make a healthy ending for a family cookout. A family favorite fruit salad or a sweet gelatin salad also makes good dessert choices. A simple slice of watermelon may be all that you desire after a large meal. Keep the dessert choices light and healthy.
An outdoor picnic or cookout calls for plenty of beverages. Keep a separate cooler filled with ice, bottled water, milk and juices. Offer limited soda and alcoholic beverages, if you choose, to keep the party healthy and fun for everyone.
Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and Web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.
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