The school year is drawing to a close and summer is so close we can almost TASTE it! Add children to the mix and it all becomes simultaneously more fun and more hectic. Whether you are hosting a shindig here in the midlands or traveling elsewhere, easy picnic and barbecue recipes are high on the list of needed items. No one wants to be stuck in the kitchen all day or fighting the lines at the supermarket and elbowing out an old lady for the last bucket of potato salad. You want to be where it matters; with those you love.
So soak in some sun and be sure to reflect on the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. Play with cousins and giggle with neighbors. Laugh, swim, roast a hotdog or two and toast a s’more. And if you need something more for your menu, the list below will be able to help. Lots of ideas so that you can finish up your planning and maximize your time to chill. Just in time for summer.
Honey-Lemon Grilled Chicken
White meat is more versatile but boneless, skinless chicken thighs are equally awesome in this recipe. Don’t skimp on the black pepper; it adds a subtle heat that is part of what makes this chicken so addictive. Replacing the lemon with orange is just as stellar.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c honey, preferably local
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2-3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 c extra-virgin olive or grapeseed oil
Combine all ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag or large bowl. Squish and turn to mix and coat the chicken. Let marinade for at least 4 hours, or up to 8, turning occasionally if you can. Grill chicken over medium, direct heat, letting the extra marinade drain off before placing it in the grill. Grill about 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until chicken is just done, but not dry. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!
Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Chicken Salad
Make this the night before and pile it on sandwiches just before you head out the door! YUM!
2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato spread
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches
It’s easy to get slow roasted flavor by using the slow cooker to make this pulled pork recipe. An overnight dry rub adds tons of flavor without a lot of work.
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 2-3 pound pork shoulder roast, extra fat trimmed off
Potato buns, coleslaw and barbecue sauce for serving
Combine the brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl. Rub the mixture liberally over the pork shoulder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Cook pork shoulder in slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours or low for 6-8 hours. At the end of cooking time, take two forks and shred the pork. Serve on potato buns topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw, if desired.
Lemon Broccoli Salad
A quick and healthy side that goes with just about anything!
24 oz. broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Juice from a lemon, or bottled lemon juice about 1/4 cup
Put broccoli in a large, microwave safe bowl with a splash of water and cover. Steam broccoli in the microwave for 5-8 minutes or until it’s crisp but has lost the “raw” texture. Chill until cold. A couple hours in the fridge should do it. When broccoli is cold, toss with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder. Add lemon juice and toss again. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Strawberry & Avocado Salad W/ Honey Lime Vinaigrette
I usually serve this salad as a side to … well … just about everything. But with plain grilled chicken sliced over top it becomes a great lunch or light supper. With a wedge of whole grain bread on the side you have a meal that is healthy and just about perfect.
1 pint strawberries, rinsed, hulled and cut into quarters
2 avocados, cubed
1 bag of romaine lettuce (or spinach or iceberg or spring mix-whatever you like!)
1 T honey
1 T fresh lime juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1/3 c olive oil
Whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in the bottom of the bowl you are going to serve the salad in. This saves you from having to dirty another bowl but of course, you can whisk it in whatever you want! Just before serving add in the lettuce, fruit, and avocado. Gently toss together and serve immediately.
Sesame Soba Noodles
This is such a nice alternative to a traditional pasta salad!
1 package soba noodles (usually 9.5 ounces)
4 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
½ cup minced fresh cilantro
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Cook soba noodles according to directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain and rinse under cold water. Add the noodles to a large mixing bowl, plus the green onions, sesame seeds, and cilantro. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, tahini and salt. Pour dressing over noodle mixture, and toss to coat. The noodles may seem liquidy at first, but they will absorb the dressing as they rest. Serve immediately, or let chill for a half hour before serving for best flavor.
Homemade Granola Bars
Feel free to mix and match whatever kind of fruit and nuts you like. These are the ultimate picnic fare!
Fruit & Nut
2 c rolled oats (not quick cooking)
3/4 c sliced almonds
3/4 c shredded coconut
1/2 c wheat germ
Place the above ingredients on a dry sheet pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beware! The coconut has a tendency to burn so watch it! When it is done, carefully pour into a large mixing bowl and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
1 c shelled pistachios
3/4 c dried cranberries
1/2 c chopped dried apricots
Toss all dry ingredients together.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt together:
4 T butter
3/4 c honey
1/3 c brown sugar
Once it is melted, bring to a slow boil and cook and stir it for about a minute.
Add 1 tsp vanilla and pour over the contents of the bowl. Stir carefully-its HOT!-until everything is coated and even. Pour into a greased 9X13 pan and with wet hands, pat mixture down to lightly flatten evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool completely before cutting. Twelve or sixteen bars seems to be the perfect size. Granola bars can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen in a gallon freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Chocolate Cherry Almond
Make the bars the same as above but increase the almonds and coconut to 1 c each. Add 2 c of dried sour cherries to the mix instead of the cranberries, apricots and pistachios. Proceed with the recipe just as above and when the bars come out of the oven, sprinkle the top evenly with dark chocolate chips. I used about a cup or so, but it is up to you as to how thick you want the chocolate. Wait a minute for them to melt and then spread evenly over the top. Cool completely before cutting.
Strawberry Cream Pie
One store-bought crust
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
roughly 3 cups whole strawberries, stems removed
1/2 cup blueberries, optional
1 cup pureed strawberries (from about 1 cup strawberries)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla
Bake pie crust in a 9 inch pie pan according to package. Set aside to cool. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Stir in whipped cream. Pour filling into pie crust. Add 1/3 cup water to pureed strawberries. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in strawberry puree. Cook over medium heat, stir constantly until mixture thickens and come to a boil, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. While glaze cools, place blueberries (if using) and whole, de-stemmed strawberries on top of the cream. Pour slightly cooked glaze over top of strawberries and blueberries. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
1 large tart/sour apple, cored and diced, such as granny smith
1 box (3-4 oz) instant vanilla pudding (you could also use french vanilla or cheesecake flavors)
1 1/2 c cold milk
1-8oz container whipped topping
2 regular sized classic Snickers candy bars or 6 fun sized from your kids Halloween bag, chilled
2 c mini marshmallows
Vigorously whisk together the instant pudding and milk in a large bowl until well combined, smooth, and starting to thicken. Chill for half an hour. Pudding should be extra thick! Meanwhile, cut the cold candy bars lengthwise down the middle, and then across into small, bit sized pieces. You should get 8 pieces out of a fun sized Snickers bar. They cut much easier when they are cold and they don’t stick together when you mix them in! Add the container of cool whip to the pudding and fold gently together. It is ok to leave some streaks in there since you are going to mix it more anyway. Add the apples, marshmallows, and candy and gently fold until combined. Chill or serve immediately.
Chewy M&M Cookie Bars
2¼ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp table salt
½ tsp baking soda
12 TB salted butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 large egg yolk, room temp
1 TB pure vanilla extract
1½ cups M&M’s (holiday colors are great)
Preheat oven to 325F with rack on lower middle position. Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil, with enough overhang on either side to make a sling (for ease of removal after baking.) Grease foil and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl, stir together the melted butter and both sugars. Stir in the egg and extra egg yolk. Stir in vanilla extract. Using a rubber spatula, fold together the dry mixture into the wet mixture, just until incorporated. Do no overmix. Fold in 1 cup of the M&M’s. Reserve the rest for pressing on top. Using slightly wet fingers, press dough into an even layer in the greased and foiled pan, making sure to get an even thickness throughout. Press remaining M&M’s on top of dough.Bake 25-28 minutes or just until it’s puffy and golden brown. It may seem a bit underbaked, but go ahead and take it out. It will set nicely upon cooling. Let cool completely at room temp before removing with the foil sling. Remove entire dessert with the foil sling and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares. Leftovers will keep for days at room temp in an airtight container.