Memorial Day has become a day about cookouts, yard games, drinking, and a four day weekend. However, it is meant to be a day to remember the brave men and women who lost their lives while fighting for our freedoms here in the U.S. Like many holidays, we celebrate it with food and fellowship, but it is so important to never forgot the real reason we observe the holiday. So have fun, celebrate with your friends and family, share good food, laugh, but don’t forget to take a moment and honor those who gave it all so you can celebrate in such a way.
Anyway, let’s get to the cooking.
I am totally unable to cook for a small number of people. Even when I cook for just Alex and myself, there are enough leftovers to feed a small village. That’s why I love cookouts. Typically, there are a lot of people in attendance, and it’s easier to send home leftovers with a large group of people. But enough yapping, this is going to be a long blog, so let’s get cooking!
We’ll start with the salads and sides. They’re quick and simple.
-Fruit salad kebabs
-Chips & salsa & dips
For a garden salad, I like to use a mix of Romaine lettuce and spinach or kale. Then add julienned carrots, sliced radish, sliced cucumber, and chopped tomatoes. Have a variety of dressing on hand, and just serve the salad dry so people can add their own dressing. When it comes to the fruit kebabs, there are seemingly endless ways to make them. I like to use a mix of melons, grapes, and berries. Chop your melon or use a melon baller and you can cut the berries in half if you think they’re a little big. Then alternate the fruit on the skewer and serve them on a platter. It’s that easy…and a great way to get the kiddos in the kitchen. Just be sure they are not handling any sharp knives.
Now let’s talk about the main dishes that will need to go on the grill.
-Regular and veggie burgers
I’m sure the hot dogs and beef burgers are all fairly self explanatory. Season the ground beef with your favorite flavors, and get ’em on the fire. The veggie burgers are a little more involved, so let’s get a quick recipe going.
You Will Need:
2 (14.5 oz.) cans of black beans, drained
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup onion, grated (this is a great way to add awesome flavor without big chunks)
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Buns of your choice
Drain your black beans, and give them a quick rinse. Plop those in a bowl and mash them with a fork. You want there to still be some larger pieces of bean in the mash because this will give the burger a “meaty” texture. Once the beans are mashed, add everything else and mix thoroughly. A quick thing to know when forming these patties is that they will not shrink while cooking. That means, if you’re anything like me and you make hamburger patties a little bigger to accommodate for patty shrinkage, DON’T. Make the raw patty the size you want for the bun you use (I like a nice Kaiser roll or Ciabatta). I’ve never cooked these on the grill, but if you’re careful, I don’t think you’d have any problems with bits falling through the grate. Over a medium heat, cook each side for about 5 minutes so the middle cooks through and you don’t just burn the outside. I like to melt a nice piece of Provolone cheese over top the burger and then assemble it like this: bottom bun, burger (with or without cheese), spinach, green pepper, top bun. If you wanted, you could whip up a quick chipotle mayo and slather that all across the top bun. Yum!
Now for everyone’s favorite part…dessert!
Seeing as I’m no baker, I would probably just do store bought cookies and pies. You’re making so many other things from start to finish, give yourself a break and just buy the pies. For the sundaes, I would have things like chocolate and caramel syrup, whipped cream, nuts, sprinkles, fruit, and crushed Oreos sitting nearby so your guests can make their sundaes however they want.
The recipe is super easy. I make it all the time, and it’s a crowd favorite.
You will need:
2 large boxes INSTANT vanilla pudding
2 tubs Cool Whip
2 pkgs. Oreos
Large mixing bowl
In your mixing bowl, make the pudding per box instructions. When your pudding is done, you can add more milk if you’d like, but you should be fine. Next, fold in the Cool Whip one tub at a time. Folding in the Cool Whip creates the super fluffy texture we want in this dessert. Once you’ve got all that folded in, crush up the Oreos and fold them in as well. Crushing the Oreos works better than chopping them, and it’s more fun. You can crush them up with your hands, or put them in a plastic bag and crush them to avoid a mess…or try to anyway.
And of course, no cookout is complete until there are an assortment of drinks to choose from. You’ve got the tried and true staples: beer, water, juice, lemonade…but what about a drunken watermelon?
To make this boozy treat, you have to pick a nice big watermelon and some vodka. Now, you don’t have to get top shelf because the watermelon flavor will cover-up some of the impurities of a mid-quality vodka. I would avoid the bottom shelf stuff though unless you’re going for a Sophomore year of college flashback. I’m lookin’ at you Hawkeye Vodka.
Once you’ve gotten these things home, put a towel down on your work surface to catch any little spills. Next, trace a circle a little bigger than the neck of the bottle on the watermelon, and then cut around it. You want to be sure to cut deeply so you can get through the rind and a little bit of the meat. Then scoop out a little bit more. You should now have a nice hole dug out for the neck of the vodka bottle. Next, remove the cap from the bottle and very quickly get it in the hole and upright. There might be some spills because of air bubbles in the bottle, but that’s what the towel is for. Let your watermelon get nice and sauced for anywhere from 4-12 hours, depending on the size of the melon.
When you go to take the bottle out of the melon, put a towel down again because there may be more spills. Once the bottle is out, it’s time to cut the melon into 1 1/4″ wedges. I would leave the towel under your cutting board while you do this, because this is where things are definitely going to get messy. Set them aside for your 21 and over guests to have a refreshing and surprising treat.
I know there weren’t many actual recipes in this blog, but we’ll be getting into the grilling series here soon! I’m very excited to have my husband Alex helping me with it, and can’t wait to share the recipes I’ve been working on with all of you. As always, thank you for the continued support. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for updates, cooking tips, and other fun stuff. I’m still working on getting a YouTube channel up, and an Instagram as well.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend and happy cooking!