July is here! It’s the month of fireworks, heat waves bouncing off pavement, and thunderstorms. It is also when America commemorates Independence Day. Many people celebrate the holiday by throwing a cookout. For military families, the fourth of July falls during PCS season and can provide the perfect opportunity to meet new neighbors and create the kinds of memories that lead to lasting friendships.
So if you are planning your summer cookout and looking for inspiration, we’re here to share some of our favorite party tips and recipes to help you kick off the season in high gear!
One challenge with large cookouts is lack of seating – too many guests and not enough chairs. If you are celebrating in your backyard, ask guests to bring lawn chairs. Our family ran into this issue several times, so we bought “TV dinner” trays that let us turn our couch and loveseat into extra seating for eating. Your local park and recreation areas also provide a spacious venue (if need be, reserve the area well in advance) and typically have plenty of seating. You may want to check with your base MWR office to see if they have any suggestions where to rent a picnic space or venue on or near base.
Feeling festive? Use Americana themed cups, plates, napkins, and utensils. If you can’t find this theme, keep it simple with the colors red, white, and blue. Disposable tablecloths may also come in handy, as they help protect against spills and messes. The on-base exchange or commissary typically stocks up on festive decorations this time of year.
Have some activities and games planned to keep guests occupied, especially while the host may be busy preparing the meal. Inexpensive ideas include water guns, kiddie pools, and plastic t-ball sets. For adults, maybe a small volleyball set or bean-bag toss game. Also, make sure you have a way to crank up some tunes. A cookout just isn’t a cookout without music!
To cut down on stress and save time, have all trimmings ready and marinate foods the night before. Quick side dishes such as vegetable and pasta salads are also good ideas. A chip and dip platter or a bowl of chopped up fruit will suffice for those who like to graze before meals. No-bake pies, fruit cobblers, and ice cream are always dessert favorites. And, always be sure to keep plenty of beverages on hand – including plenty of water. Be advised that perishable foods should not remain unrefrigerated for very long, so make sure you have some place to store these items (cooler or refrigerator) once everyone has finished eating.
Your Hottest Summer Playlist
We asked for your favorite summer hits in order to create the ultimate barbecue music set.
10. Summertime, Will Smith
9. Bounce, Calvin Harris feat. Kellis
8. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem, Kenny Chesney
7. Bottoms Up, Brantley Gilbert
6. All Summer Long, Kid Rock
5. Beachin’, Jake Owen
4. Cruise, Florida Georgia Line
3. Drink To That All Night, Jerrod Neimann
2. This Is How We Roll, Florida Georgia Line
1. Pontoon, Little Big Town
I have shared some of our family’s favorite summer recipes below. Between the tips above and these recipes, you are guaranteed to have the hottest cookout on the block! Have fun!
Jerm’s Honey Jalapeno Burgers
(makes 8 burgers)
2 lbs. hamburger meat
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 green onion stalks, chopped
6 tbsp. canned jalapenos peppers, finely diced
1 tbsp. dried parsley
6 tbsp. of honey
1 package (8 count) of hamburger buns
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until well mixed.
- Form into 8 patties. Tip: To get your burgers evenly sized, form 8 balls of meat initially, then add the remaining meat to each ball to make them the same size. Then, just make them into patties.
- Grill until done. Tip: To prevent grill flareups, open up the vents on your grills and close your grill’s lid – this also helps cook food more evenly and helps avoid turning your burgers to charcoal (which can overwhelm the patty flavors).
- Garnish with your favorite burger toppings.
Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad
2 cups of rotini pasta, uncooked
2 cups of fresh broccoli florets
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup Italian Dressing
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1. In large saucepan, cook pasta according to package.
2. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add in the broccoli florets. When finished, drain noodles and broccoli.
3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
4. Stir until well blended and mixed. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Sunshine Pineapple Coconut Smoothie
3 cups cubed frozen pineapple chunks
1/4 cup honey
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh pineapple juice
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
Note: Turn this into a summer cocktail by adding ¼ cup of coconut rum to every serving.
(makes one – inch pie)
1 package of Kool-Aid (sweetened or unsweetened…and any flavor)
1 pre-made 9-inch graham cracker crust
8 oz. tub of Cool Whip
14 oz. can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
Whipped cream, cherries, or strawberries (optional)
1. Place the Kool-Aid, Cool Whip, and Sweetened Condensed Milk in a large bowl.
2. Mix until very well blended.
3. Place creamy filling inside the graham cracker crust.
4. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until nice and set.
5. Garnish with whipped cream and fruit of choice