The lazy, hazy days of summer are just around the corner! Since many of us have a staycation in mind for this year, let’s get ready to bask in bright sunny days and revel in hot summer nights. The time is right to unwind with family, to entertain friends and to build lasting memories.
One way to do all that? Go big with barbecue season! With the right preparation, decoration and menu—and a “living large” attitude!—you can whip up memorable meals for the whole famiglia and create a warm, lasting vacation vibe all in your backyard.
Here are five tips (and family dinner ideas) so that you’re always ready for an easy barbecue gathering that is big on flavour and fun.
1. Get ready!
The best way to start the BBQ season right is to have the yard, the barbecue, tools and everything else you’ll need ready and on hand, so you can get grilling and gather the gang for a casual dinner or party at a moment’s notice. Here are some tips to get you there.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the indoors! Tidy up your yard by raking leaves, pruning bushes, picking up sticks, and cutting the lawn. Make sure any lighting you have is working, too, and that there are no potholes in the lawn or other tripping hazards.
Get your outdoor furniture ready for summer duty. Give your patio chairs and tables a thorough scrubbing and make sure any patio umbrellas are clean and ready to use.
Clean your barbecue and make sure it is grill-ready. If you have a gas grill, make sure you have an ample supply of propane, and if you have a charcoal grill, ensure you have extra charcoal bricks. You don’t want to run out mid-barbecue!
Think about what you will need and how you can store it outside or close to the outdoors for easy access. Keep some citronella candles and bug spray handy, and clear a space to keep patio cushions if you need to bring them in at night. If the evenings get cool, keep some blankets or jackets close by in case guests get chilly.
Keep outdoor dishes and utensils in one easy-to-access spot near the back door. If you have space, add a storage table. A rustic, outdoor-friendly storage table will provide extra space for drinks and plates during the party, but will also offer space for storing blankets for chilly evenings.
2. Get set!
Your backyard, is now tidy, you have the barbecue ready and your supplies on hand, so now it is time to create some atmosphere and add some friendly touches! Display your favourite flowers and succulents in hanging pots or planters on the deck. If you plan to dine al fresco in the evenings, have some string lights on hand to set a romantic mood by hanging them around the table area or from some trees or bushes. You can also get some lanterns on stakes to place around the yard for a romantic vibe.
Consider getting a fire pit to keep the night going when it gets chilly and to create an intimate camp fire atmosphere. You can gather round to make toasted marshmallows or s’mores, and hand out sparklers for Canada Day—or any other day you simply want to celebrate summer. There’s nothing like a cozy bonfire to bring family and friends together for some good times and some good storytellilng. You can build your own fire pit or buy a propane fire pit from a hardware store or online (s’mores and good stories not included!).
3. Go big with Mains
While no one’s dissing a classic burger or hot dog, on some occasions, go for the unexpected! Change it up with this easy-to-make Halibut Fish Po’boy, featuring D’Italiano® Sausage Buns and sriracha mayo, or Salmon Spiedini with Lemon-Caper Cream. You may want to make a few extra ’cause these are sure to fly off the table.
There are many delicious choices for the grill, so use your imagination! For a hearty veggie-filled option, try Grilled Portobello Sandwich on a Crustini with Orange Chili Mayonnaise.
Want to stick to barbecue classics? Even if you are offering up a not-so-classic BBQ main, it’s a good idea to have hamburgers or hotdogs on hand for kids or less adventurous eaters.
Go big on flavour with Diana’s BLT Burger, or try a D’italiano Loaded Baja Chorizo Sausage. You can also load up your D’Italiano® Original Sausage buns with sausages, passata and peppers for an easy and delicious meal.
Or serve your Italian sausages plain on a bun and allow party guests to dress theme up with an assortment of toppings.
Meanwhile, this D’Italiano Grilled Beet Arugula & Goat Cheese Sandwich is the perfect grilled lunch or dinner while enjoying drinks in the backyard.
Amp up the flavour with Sides
Don’t sideline the sides! Be sure to serve up a couple of comforting side dishes at your barbecue, whether you go for classics, like family favourite potato salad or coleslaw, or something special like grilled vegetables from your garden. Sides not only round out the flavours for your feast but often add summery bursts of colour to your table. Plus, salads can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge so you can enjoy more time outside.
As an alternative, try a refreshing watermelon salad, cut up vegetables for dipping or grill some asparagus, sweet peppers or corn.
For an Italian-inspired family meal, serve up colourful pasta salad and Barbequed Garlic Bread on the side. It’s a treat the whole family will want to indulge in!
Serve your sides with a twist: For a party, put your sides in individual glass jars with a clamp lid: Guests will love their individual serving and the jars will look cute and solve the problem of bugs circling salad bowls.
5. Make it special with Drinks & Dessert
Whether it’s just a family affair or you’re having relatives or neighbours over, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks for kids and guests who don’t drink. The most important drink, especially if it’s a hot day, is water. Be sure to have plenty in stock so everyone can stay hydrated. Other perfect-for-summer drinks include pitchers of lemonade or iced tea.
Fruit punches are also delicious for a summer cookout. Try sparkling cranberry punch: Mix cranberry juice, thawed pink lemonade concentrate, sparkling water and slices of fruit for a refreshing and beautiful beverage. (Grownup version: Add a shot of vodka.)
If you are entertaining regularly and mixing up cocktails (think Aperol Spritzes or mojitos!) why not get a bar cart that you can stock up inside, move around and bring outside for gatherings. Use colourful buckets or a cooler with ice for beer, ciders, white wine or soft drinks (just remember to serve them up responsibly!)
You can also read up on pairing barbecued foods with wine—it’s a thing, really! When in doubt, go for inexpensive red wines to go with meat dishes, and light-tasting white wine like Pinot Grigio when serving vegetables or seafood.
And let’s not forget about dessert! Though the grill may get all the attention, your cookout desserts top off the party deliciously. To keep it simple and to give everyone a treat, pass out a selection of high-quality ice cream bars after dinner. In addition, set out a platter of serve-yourself berries and cut fruit.
For daytime/early evening barbecues, keep the party going for family and friends, with some games on hand like bocce ball, croquet, frisbee or badminton. Games are perfect for early arrivals, a post-lunch slump and kids and adults of all ages.
And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Need more barbecue inspiration? These recipes are sure to give the griller inside many family meal ideas!