Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Incorporate Fresh Sides for Your Next Outdoor Get-Together

Warm weather came a bit early in my neck of the woods. These temperature are making me think of late spring and early summer. Thought of family reunions, backyard cookouts, poolside grilling, or simply having a potluck dinner on the deck/porch with friends will abound this summer. Some of these will feature good food and drink while others may have the bare essentials of grilled meats, mayo-based salads, sodas, bottled water, and beer. While I can understand the need for the bare essentials when it's a large event like a family reunion, I expect the menu to be a little more exciting for smaller gatherings.

Focus on Sides with Fresh Ingredients

Even when it is a smaller gathering, I am not always keen on the way people prepare their meat. Sometimes, there is an abundance of certain types of meat that lead you towards the side dishes – an abundance of pork does that for me. I don't know about you, I get tired of seeing the mayo-based salads, spaghetti salad, and other arrays of pasta salads. That is why I prefer to serve or bring salads with fresh ingredients that can also hold up well outside of the fridge.

I also find it is good to have a couple of trays filled with fruits and vegetables. They are good little hand treats to nosh on while the meats cook. They also serve as garnish for drinks and flavoring for water.

Upgrading Your Chilled Beverages

Outdoor get-togethers have a mix of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages on hand. This is needed because you will have your drinkers, non-drinkers, minors, and those who have health-specific needs where beverages are concerned in attendance. One essential is to have bottled water on hand. I feel it is better to have more of this than any other beverage not just for non-drinkers and those with health concerns but to prevent dehydration.

I find an ideal drink set up will have ginger ale, beer, wine coolers, and a mini bar set up with fruit juice(s), rum, gin, vodka, grenadine or simple syrup, red wine, white wine, and rose. With this mix, you can have straightforward drinks or make a mixed drink (spritzer, fizz, and cocktails that are alcoholic or nonalcoholic).

Have Snacks and Wine for Indoors

Not everyone is going to want to be outside for the entire time. I for one will eventually go indoors when at an outdoor get together because I cannot sit in the heat for too long, especially if drinking. Moreover, I don't like consuming sweet beverages outdoors because bees like to follow my drink.

Indoors you can have small array of food like a small fruit or vegetable platter, chips, crackers, cheeses, dips, and/or spreads. Wine is a great choice for indoors. I recommend white or rose just in case someone spills their drink. You might not want to bring your fine wine glasses but you can bring out wine glasses that have a touch of elegance and beauty that can be seen when filled with rose or white.

I had the opportunity to try a set of hand-painted wine glasses from Valentina Paris. The hand-painted glasses are delicate but can withstand hand washing. They hold a lot of wine. In fact, 12 ounces will fill the glass about a third of the way up. So no filling these glasses to the brim unless you are trying to get your guests falling down drunk. You can purchase these on Amazon.com.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad

This is a refreshing salad recipe from Whole Foods that I modified a little. The recipe makes six to eight servings and can be made the day before your dinner.


6 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup crumpled feta cheese
6 Tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe below)
5 cups of baby arugula
Cracked black pepper (optional)


In a large bowl, combine watermelon, onion, almonds, and feta. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add arugula, drizzle additional 5 tablespoons of vinaigrette, and toss. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Tangy Balsamic Vinaigrette


3 Tbsp. Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (for other brands, use 1/4 cup)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper


In a small bowl, combine the Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and add the oil slowly as you whisk together.

Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately. Whisk or shake to combine ingredients again prior to serving.

About Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a high quality balsamic vinegar. It is sweeter and thicker than many balsamic vinegars you will find on store shelves. I used to add honey or brown sugar to my balsamic vinaigrette to add sweetness. However, with Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, I have no need for added sweetness in my recipe. You can also use this balsamic vinegar in au jus for meats, dipping sauces, and my favorite as a basting glaze for larger meats that are oven roasted. For the serious home cook, I highly recommend Gourmet Living Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

Source: BlogsRelease
Image credits: Whole Foods and Amazon.com 

Disclosure: I received a sample(s) of the product(s) to keep for consideration in preparing this content.