Blog: Summer

The 6 Best Tips for a Summer Cookout

By MariJo Kolze

Summer Party

 There's nothing better than a summer cookout - complete with a nice day outside, friends and family, and plenty of food. Yet, it can sometimes be challenging to host many guests and organize your BBQ or cookout. As planning a cookout can be stressful, we'd like to share a few tips and ideas that will help you prepare!

1. Prepare in Advance

You can save yourself a lot of time by preparing in advance. A great place to start is knowing what to cook, how many people will attend and how you want to set up the cookout. By knowing this in advance you’ll be able to know how much time you’ll need to set up and what you’ll need to purchase well in advance...

Depending on what you decide to cook at your gathering, some meals may take longer than others since they need to marinade or be seasoned. For instance, you may want to marinade your meat the day before, or slice your veggies in advance in order to make your party preparations easier the day of. Additionally, if you wanted to prepare your own dips and sauces, this might require some preparation. We recommend inviting some family and friends to help prepare for the party as it will save you time, and gives you a chance to catch up with one another! 

Having an idea of how many people will attend your cookout will help you figure out how much food and drinks you'll need. The best way to feed a large crowd is to prepare hamburgers, which are very affordable and serve several people. Alternatively, if you are entertaining a smaller group, you can spoil them with grass-fed steak or some BBQ ribs. 

It is not necessary to set up decorations for your cookout, but it can definitely add to the fun of the event! Getting your decorations ready a couple days before is a good idea if you decide to decorate. Decorating can be something as simple as arranging flowers on the tables, or it could be fun as setting up a photo booth. By preparing everything in advance, it will make set up easier on the day and prevent last-minute runs to the store. 

2. Keep The Main Dishes Simple

Hamburgers and Hot Dogs

A summer cookout or BBQ for your guests isn't as complicated as you might think. There are plenty of easy dishes to make everyone happy. Hot dogs, burgers, and sausages are some classic BBQ foods that you can use as staples for your next party. These are all great options since they’re easy to grill and affordable. As there is no need to marinate beforehand, the preparation is very simple. You can still get a flavorful coating on the meat by adding spices and sauces during the cooking process.

 Even better, try setting up a condiment bar to complement your meals! These meat options are great and go well with many toppings and condiments. For instance, you could simply add pickles, tomatoes, and cheese to the condiment bar, while ketchup and mayo are served on the side. To make your guests even more impressed, you can grill mushrooms or vegetables and serve them with your favorite BBQ sauce as we recommend our Waterloo BBQ Sauce. We recommend these BBQ staples because they are simple and great for all ages, including kids! Ultimately, your guests just want to enjoy good food and good company.

3. Choose Tasty But Easy Side Dishes

Your meal will be just that much better when you select easy yet fun side dishes! For your cookout, there are plenty of easy but flavorful side dishes that you can prepare. We suggest preparing some type of salad such as a potato salad or even a pasta salad. Side dishes like these are great because they can be kept in the fridge and give a fresh and light taste. In addition, they make great leftovers throughout the week and are made to serve a large crowd! Even if you don't have much time, you can still prepare a nice meal by grilling some vegetables and baking a loaf of bread. This is a great way to complement the delicious meat that you grilled.

4. Have Snacks And Drinks Ready To Go!

Cookouts cannot be complete without delicious snacks and drinks to keep your guests entertained. Small snacks and beverages can be a great way to keep them happy! Easy snacks that are great and require little to no preparation are chips and a dip. You can either make your own special dip or buy a dip of your choice. Alternatively, if you wanted a healthier option, you could prepare a fruit platter or a vegetable platter with a favorite dip. You can offer your guests many tasty snacks that are suitable for all dietary needs.

Drink Cooler

During the party, you can serve your guests a wide variety of drinks to keep them refreshed. The key to keeping your drinks nice and cool is having a cooler filled with ice on hand. You can fill the cooler with many different types of drinks for both kids and adults. A pitcher of homemade punch or lemonade is a great option for kids. You can either prepare your own juice or simply buy little cans of juice at the store. As for adults, you can keep a variety of alcoholic beverages in the cooler to keep them cool and accessible. As far as everybody, make sure you have plenty of water available since summer cookouts can get hot! 

5. Add Some Festive Decorations

Make your cookout more than just food by incorporating decorations or creating a theme. Making those special memories more memorable can be done by creating a theme or simply by adding decorations. Arrange your next summer party around special occasions or holidays like Father’s Day or 4th of July. 

Father's Day is the perfect time to recognize and honor the special dads in our lives! You can decorate your cookout with Dad’s favorite colors, or even prepare some of his favorite BBQ dishes. To help you decide what to BBQ for Dad, look at these recipes

4th of July Flag

The 4th of July is also a fun holiday to decorate for as it celebrates America's independence. Add red, white, and blue decor to your cookout by decorating your tables, plates, and silverware. Check out these 4th of July Party Ideas for some great inspiration. When planning your next summer cookout, consider these great holiday ideas. Nonetheless, summer is the perfect season to throw any party!

6. Choose a Self-Serve Food Bar

Once the preparation and cooking is done, it is best to set up a self-serve food bar where your guests can feed themselves. You'll be able to display the snacks, meals and desserts you prepared throughout the day. Providing guests with this style of service is efficient because they can choose the amount and type of each dish they want to eat. We recommend this type of style of service as it allows your guests to interact with one another and creates a fun atmosphere. This way, your guests are sure not to go hungry!

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4 Ways to Lighten Up Your Next BBQ

By MariJo Kolze

 There's nothing like a backyard BBQ with friends and family to mark the beginning of summer. Summer BBQs are known for their delicious foods, refreshing drinks, and good company. But BBQ calories can add up! Don’t fret yet since there are still a wide variety of food options to choose from if you’re in search of healthier options. No matter what your eating habits are, you shouldn’t have to miss out on a fun and enjoyable BBQ! Use these tips to transform your grill into something lighter, whether you're hosting a guest or hosting a BBQ.

1. Consider different protein options

The grill still offers a variety of tasty and healthier meals even though many people prefer juicy steaks. Protein options that can be included in your meal are chicken, fish, and lean pork loin. Compared to red meat, proteins from these sources contain a greater proportion of healthy fats and less saturated fats. In addition, they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as other vitamins that contribute to a healthy diet. By choosing a lighter option like fish, you can reduce your calorie intake while keeping the same meaty taste and you’ll be able to maintain fullness for longer by choosing options such as fish and chicken. Along with these protein sources, you can grill vegetables like zucchini and asparagus, which can be seasoned to your liking.

If your barbecue wouldn't be complete without red meat, you may want to consider leaner cuts of the meat, such as sirloin or tenderloin. These cuts should all be graded choice or select rather than prime, which contains more fat. The sirloin is a better alternative because it is still incredibly flavorful while having less than 5 grams of fat. Avoid more processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages, which contain high levels of sodium and saturated fat (the sodium content of one hot dog alone can reach your daily limit). By following this method, you can lower your fat intake. 

2. Add vegetables and fruit

Lighten up your meal by including vegetables and fruits. You can easily incorporate these foods into your next meal by combining a tray or bowl of fruits and vegetables. The trays are even more enjoyable when they are paired with tasty dips and sauces. As for enhancing the flavor of grilled vegetables, you can use a variety of techniques and seasonings. With just salt, pepper, and a spoonful of olive oil, you can grill tasty, juicy vegetables. Aside from the vegetables already mentioned, you might also enjoy eggplant, corn, and cauliflower at your next cookout. Even try combining these vegetables together to make a delicious skewer!

As a healthy dessert option, fruits are also a great choice. Instead of sweetened pies, consider fresh or grilled fruit. Adding some yogurt or whip cream will spice up the fruit even more. Another refreshing and fast option is to make a fruit smoothie. With just one or two fruits in a smoothie made with milk or yogurt, you can easily lower your sugar intake. For those who are dairy-free, almond or soy milk are great alternatives to dairy milk that contain fewer calories. Additionally, you will satisfy your sweet tooth while maintaining your calorie intake.

3. Go for fresh marinades and sauces 

As a vital aspect of your BBQ, sauces and marinades enhance the flavor of foods. While cooking or grilling, marinades help keep your protein juicy and tender. As well as adding many benefits to your meal, they are the perfect complement.

A healthy BBQ starts with knowing what's in the barbecue sauce you choose. Nevertheless, it's important to read the ingredients of store-bought marinades and sauces since they often contain more sodium and sugar (find ours here). Try homemade marinades and barbecue sauces that contain light oils and vinegar. Additionally, you should use marinades that contain an acid and an enzyme in the right proportions to obtain the most benefits. Enzymes such as mango or pineapple in the marinade help break down protein fibers, as well as tenderize the meat. Managing portion sizes and marinade amounts goes hand in hand with this. While eating barbecue sauce and marinades, you can still limit your calories. Don't add as much sauce to your meat as you used to, and try to use half a cup per pound. By controlling proportions accordingly and choosing your marinades wisely, you can maintain the flavor and tenderness of your meat as well as follow a calorie-controlled diet.

4. Hydrate with healthy beverages

During the warm summer, nothing is better than a nice refreshing drink. It is, however, possible to consume too many calories by drinking sugary drinks. Sugars and other sweeteners are commonly added to summer drinks. That's why choosing homemade drinks is a healthier option. Many low-calorie drinks can be enjoyed at a summertime barbecue! To get started, you can make your own pitcher of fruit-infused soda water. Simply add fruit, soda water, and limes to a pitcher to make the perfect drink. There's no better way to serve plenty of guests than with this simple, yet effective, method. 

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