Backyard cookouts are a time-honored tradition throughout NEPA. On any given weekend, you can walk outside and smell the aroma of food being grilled and hear the laughter of friends and family gathered around the barbecue.
Summer cookouts are a great way for friends and family to relax and enjoy delicious food made with fresh, local ingredients. If you’re considering pulling out the old barbecue for a summertime shindig, here are some tips to help you host the perfect summer cookout.
1. Choose fresh, local ingredients. Fresh fruits and veggies are plentiful during summer months. Plan your menu around the ingredients you find at local farmer’s markets or from your own garden. Not only will your recipes taste better but you will also be supporting our local farmers.
2. Keep your food fresh. Food can easily spoil in warm weather. Plan to have enough ice on hand to keep your food at the proper temperature. An easy way to keep mayonnaise-based salads and other food fresh is to fill a large bowl halfway with ice and then nestle a smaller bowl with the salad inside of the larger bowl.
3. Grill outside of the box. Grills aren’t just for burgers and hot dogs. Try grilling up pizzas, wings or even fruit for a fun twist.
4. Set up drink stations. Prevent backlogs at the food table by setting up a separate drink station. Choose a shady spot away from your food. Have plenty of beverages, ice and cups on hand to keep your guests hydrated. If possible, keep ice and beverages separate so you don’t water down the drinks.
5. Use the good stuff. Don’t skimp on cheap plates and plastic flatware. Cookout food, like chicken or steak can be tough to cut with flimsy flatware. And, saucy dishes like baked beans can leak through thin paper plates. Be sure to use the sturdy variety.
6. Have plenty of seating. Make sure you have plenty of seating for your guests. Pull out all of your extra chairs, including indoor folding chairs. Or, if your cookout is more casual, have blankets on hand so guests can eat their meal picnic style.
7. Get your game on. Have some fun yard games on hand to keep your guests entertained. Find some of my favorites at itisakeeper.com/NepaFamilyTimes.
8. Play some tunes. Create a fun playlist for your party. Use a wireless Bluetooth speaker to easily control
9. Keep it clean. Keep plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes on hand for quick clean ups. Parents of small children will especially appreciate this.
10. Keep bugs at bay. Keep your guests comfortable by having plenty of citronella candles or other bug-repelling products on hand.
Whether you’re grilling up burgers and hot dogs or ribs and chicken, cookouts are all about great food. You can find all of my favorite summer recipes, including my burger seasoning blend, garlicky grilled potato salad and easy grilled s’mores at
Here is one of my favorite recipes that I make for our family cookouts. It’s my take on my mom’s incredible macaroni salad. It’s the perfect combination of flavor and texture with the creaminess of the mayo and bite from the vinegar. But my favorite part is the unmistakable flavor of the celery seed. It’s a family favorite.
CLASSIC MACARONI SALAD
1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons prepared
2 teaspoons house seasoning blend*
1 large onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 teaspoon celery seed
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Add the macaroni and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Rinse under cold water and drain.
In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard and house seasoning blend.
Stir in the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, celery seed and macaroni.
Gently fold in chopped eggs.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours
before serving, but preferably overnight.
*Get the recipe for my house seasoning
blend at itisakeeper.com/NepaFamilyTimes.