Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Kicking Off Summer with a Birthday Cookout

{I hope you'll forgive the straight out of my iPhone photos.}

Yesterday was my 26th birthday.  For those who follow me on Pinterest, you probably know how obsessed I've been lately with planning food and decor ideas for summer entertaining.  I decided I wanted to celebrate my birthday by cooking and having some family over to kick off what I hope will be a full summer of cookouts and outdoor parties.  As you'll probably see from the photos, the hubby and I have a pretty modest size back yard in our little suburban starter home.  There isn't a ton of room for fancy decor and since this isn't our forever home, we don't want to invest a lot in permanent fixtures for the space.  Until this summer, we hadn't really done much for our backyard other than purchase a grill.  The hubby and I both love to entertain and I decided that this was the summer we finally give the backyard a little love and attention and really do summer right!

We recently made another (our third this year) trip up to the West Chester, Ohio IKEA and picked up an outdoor table and several very affordable (and surprisingly comfortable) chairs as well as a darling serving cart.  My birthday cookout was our first time using our new purchases and they were perfect!  Since we have a small 12'x12' deck, I set up the table and chairs on our lawn for the larger group.  I kept the table free of excess decoration since it was our first time using it and I wasn't sure how much the table could comfortably hold along with food (since we wanted to go for a more casual pass-and-serve style lunch rather than a buffet).  The result was fun and casual but still put together.

I took the opportunity to try out a few new recipes on the family and also made a few old favorites as well...

I made a pretty basic but always delicious beer can chicken (which unfortunately caught on fire while I was getting ready and not being my usual attentive self).  Fortunately it was still absolutely moist and delicious, though the skin was a little dark for my preference in places.  Every dinner party needs it's blunder, am I right?  I also made Loaded Baked Potato Salad, which has been a favorite of mine for years.  Tastes like a baked potato with all the fixings and it's great for the pickier eaters in our family.

For a second entree, hubby spiral cut some hot dogs for Hot Brown Hot Dogs.  We got the idea after having Hot Brown Hot Dogs from a little food cart at the Mayfest Arts Fair this year.  Those were okay, but they weren't amazing and hubby and I thought we could test out and perfect the idea for our big 4th of July party (so we did a trial run for my birthday).  I made a mornay sauce to top the hot dogs and then we sprinkled them with chopped bacon and tomatoes.  They were great!

For a warm, indulgent side, I tried out this Cheesy Corn Casserole.  It was basically what you'd expect if mac and cheese and creamed corn had a baby.  Corn was mixed into a basic cheese sauce and baked in the oven.  It was a lot thinner than the usual corn casserole I make for winter holiday dinners.  Honestly, it was pretty good but hubby and I didn't love it.  I did use frozen corn, which I had mistakenly(?) thawed before hand.  I do feel like this would be much better with the more firm texture of fresh corn, so I may give it a try again the future.  I'd definitely suggest scaling this recipe down though unless you're serving a huge crowd as it makes a ton and is very rich.

I also tried a little twist on the basic fruit salad that I had thought sounded intriguing.  This Secret Ingredient Fruit Salad is your standard fruit salad (I changed it up a bit and added what fruit sounded good to me/looked best at the store--I used watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and Granny Smith apples) with a couple tablespoons of vanilla pudding mix added in to create a subtle sweet "dressing."  I didn't notice the vanilla pudding mix adding a lot of flavor and it kind of made the fruit soften quicker, so I probably won't be adding it to any future fruit salads, but it certainly wasn't bad!  I just prefer my fruit salad to be crisp and bright and unadorned.

I also whipped up some vanilla lemonade with the new citrus juicer hubby got me for my birthday (I had been wanting one for ages because I love making lemonade for parties but it was always such a pain squeezing the lemons by hand).  My vanilla lemonade recipe is something I've been meaning to share here on the blog for a while.  It's just a simple lemonade with a bit of vanilla added in, but it's so lovely and I almost always get a ton of requests from company for the recipe.  I'll do a separate post sometime soon with that recipe.

The cookout came together perfectly and it was a blessing to get to spend a little time with family to celebrate my birthday.  Hopefully this is just the start of a full summer of outdoor entertaining.  I hope to have lots of party ideas and recipes to share with you as the summer goes on.  I also plan to share more photos of our yard and some of the budget-friendly updates we've been making to the space.

I'd love to know what some of your favorite ways to celebrate summer are!  Have a killer crowd-pleasing summer dish?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Barbecues are really made for outdoors, whether it's a birthday or not. It's the closest we could get to nature and to ourselves; hunter-gatherer and stuff. And it's literally right at our doorstep! We can optimize our backyard, to serve that kind of purpose and need. Really lay it out for the ultimate cook-out. For any occasion.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Share Buttons