Cookout Essentials
By Lisa Turner
Seven steps for easy outdoor entertaining

Long summer evenings are the perfect time to gather friends for an outdoor meal. The only hard part is getting started. If you’re overwhelmed at the prospect of cooking for a crowd, make it easy, with healthy ready-to-eat foods. Follow these simple steps to an artful meal.

Lite Poppy Seed Dressing

1. Start with salad. A colorful, beautiful salad adds volumes of nutrition and color to any cookout. Combine several different varieties of lettuce: Mix the tangy bite of dandelion with mild baby spinach; the bitter crunch of Belgian endive with sweet and mild Bibb; or tender baby oak leaf with peppery arugula. Add handfuls of coarsely chopped fresh basil or cilantro, then layer on interesting ingredients, such as shaved fennel or asparagus, raw corn or peas, artichoke hearts, chunks of pineapple or mango, dried figs, and yellow pear tomatoes. Top with nuts for a crouton-free crunch, then toss with pre-made organic salad dressings.

Try this: Combine baby spinach and baby arugula leaves with a generous portion of chopped basil; add candied nuts, avocado cubes, and dried cherries, then toss with Annie’s Naturals Lite Poppy Seed Dressing.

OrganicVille Seasme Teriyake

2. Focus on the main event. For most outdoor parties, that means the grill. Choose a selection of quality meats, including organic, grass-fed beef, chicken, and turkey burgers and dogs. Even easier, buy them frozen for simple prep. Salmon burgers also make a nice alternative. And don't forget to offer some vegetarian and soy-free options. Some ideas: Amy's Sonoma Veggie Burgers, Hilary's Eat Well The World's Best Veggie Burger, or Organic Sunshine Southwest Burgers.

Try this: Marinate cubes of Light Life Organic Tempeh in Organicville Sesame Teriyaki marinade (which is gluten-free), then thread on a skewer, alternating with chunks of peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Grill until tempeh is golden and vegetables are tender.

La Tortilla

3. Make the bread count. Skip the white buns, and choose whole-grain and organic versions instead. Make sure to buy a variety of gluten-free offerings such as Udi’s Classic Hamburger Buns or Ener-G Tapioca Hot Dog Buns. For a more creative approach (and fewer carbs), serve burgers or dogs with pitas, flat breads, or tortillas such as La Tortilla Factory Low-Carb Tortillas or Food for Life Gluten-Free Tortillas.

Try this: Brush La Tortilla Soft Wraps Mini White Whole Wheat tortillas (which are new) with garlic and olive oil, wrap in foil, and heat on the grill until warm, then serve with salmon burgers.

Nayonaise

4. Get creative with condiments. Offer the standard trio of ketchup, mayo, and mustard, and then branch out; add Stonewall Kitchen Spicy Honey Mustard, Sweet Zing Fine Mustard, Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise with Olive Oil, Wholemato Spicy Organic Agave Ketchup, and a creative variety of hot sauces, relishes, and other uncommon condiments. And be sure to include vegan and gluten-free alternatives, such as Naysoya Nayonaise Original, and Organicville Ketchup.

Try this: Combine organic or vegan mayonnaise with finely minced basil and garlic, or whirl in a blender with half of a chipotle pepper, for a fresh, creative twist on mayo.

Accents Sprouted Quinoa

5. Keep sides and starters simple. Use pre-made items you can arrange on a platter, pour in a bowl, or whip up in a jiffy. Here’s your grocery list: organic grapes; baby carrots and Tribe Organic Hummus; Organic Divina Greek Olive Mix; Marcona almonds; Laurie’s Buffalo Gourmet Chips and Salsas; organic melon; a variety of cheeses; and Mary’s Gone Crackers Black Pepper Crackers. Arrange grapes, crackers, and cheese on plates; pour nuts and olives in bowl; slice melon and arrange on a plate; and scatter bowls of chips, salsa, and hummus around the dining area. Make your life even easier, and assign some selections for guests to bring.

Try this: Make fast-cooking TruRoots Accents Sprouted Quinoa and TruRoots Accents Sprouted Lentils; combine in a bowl, toss with chopped parsley, scallions, and cherry tomatoes, then drizzle with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and minced garlic.

Zevia

6. Bring on the beverages. The easiest choice for alcoholic beverages is BYOB, but be sure to have lots of non-alcoholic options on hand. Offer a variety of juices, spritzers, seltzers, and natural sodas, and plenty of ice. Try Reed’sGinger Brew, Santa Cruz Organic Spritzers, Virgil’s Root Beer, or iced GuayakíYerba Maté. Zevia stevia-sweetened sodas are a delicious, no-calorie alternative to sugary sodas. Or brew a pot of Choice Green Moroccan Mint Tea, then chill and serve iced with crushed fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.

Try this: Combine fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a large pitcher with Lakewood Organic Pure Pomegranate Juice and sparkling water. Mix gently to blend, then add slices of lemon and pomegranate seeds for garnish.

Mary's Gone Crackers

7. Leave the sweets to others. Potlucks are tricky; you’ll inevitably end up with 10 bags of chips and countless jars of salsa. Instead, invite guests to bring healthy desserts, and give them guidelines to take the pressure off. Some suggestions: Mary’s Gone Crackers Love Cookies, organic frozen pies with whipped cream, Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Dairy-Free Ice Cream, Alden’s Organic Ice Creams, a selection of organic chocolates, and Bear Naked Granola for a crunchy topping.

Try this: Make a build-your-own sundae bar. Have guests bring a variety of ice cream and toppings, then arrange them on a table, set out bowls and spoons, and let the fun begin.




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