24 Tips for Cooking and Entertaining During Warm Months

I’ve had this in my “drafts” folder for MONTHS, so it’s arriving much later than planned, but it’s here and I hope you find these helpful for planning your August outdoor cooking and fun with friends!

When you’re done reading this, stop by Wholeness Haven to read about ideas for family fun. There’s nothing like a BBQ to end a day of fun!

24 Tips for Warm Weather Cooking & Entertaining

Drinks, Ice, and Herbs

  1. Avoid watered-down drinks in warm weather by making ice cubes with the same beverages you plan to serve. This tip works great with lemonade, iced tea & other non-carbonated beverages.
    • For essential oil lovers, add a drop of peppermint or lavender to your lemonade or water prior to pouring it into the trays.
    • Looking for a tasty lemonade recipe? Try this Honey-Lavender Lemonade from Young Living.
  2. Serving adult beverages? Get a perfect rim on your margarita glasses by moistening the rim of your glasses and then rolling the outer edge of the glass at a 45-degree angle around a plate with a mixture of coarse salt, sugar, or other mixture. This creates a nice looking rim, but will keep the salt or sugar from getting into the drink and affecting its taste.
  3. Create DIY ice packs by soaking new and unused kitchen sponges in water and freezing them overnight. In the morning, remove from freezer and seal in a plastic bag before placing inside your picnic coolers or lunch boxes/bags.
    • This is fun for kids too when you use them during the school year and let them help you cut them into fun shapes.
  4. Next time you make peach or other fruit cobbler, break out of the “plain-old-vanilla-ice-cream” routine. Instead try pairing your creation with ice cream flavored with the same ingredients as the recipe itself. For example, try pairing cinnamon or peach ice cream with a nice warm peach cobbler. Pair strawberry ice cream with strawberry pie.
  5. Mini sweet peppers are great for snacking on right out of the bag, but they are even better when stuffed with your favorite blend of cheeses, fresh thyme and bacon. Pop under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until nicely browned and voila! You have a perfect warm and delicious appetizer in less than 15 minutes.
  6. It’s easy to take basic lemonade to a whole new level with some quick and easy tweaks. Instead of making a basic simple syrup of 1 part water to 1 part white sugar, try adding some chopped lemongrass and fresh, peeled gingerroot into the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly before straining to remove solids. Use the cooled infused syrup to sweeten lemonade to taste. (I also enjoy using Swerve sugar alternative to sweeten items.)
  7. Many popular culinary herbs are available in citrus varieties and can be used to add an extra dimension to your recipes. Lemon balm, basil, thyme, mint, and lemongrass are popular and readily available examples. Choosing citrus varieties of herbs will allow you to add another subtle layer of flavor to your dishes. When out of actual herbs, try a drop of the Vitality version of the herb from Young Living.
  8. Since we’re talking about lemongrass, it’s very easy to grow from seed and can act as a beautiful ornamental in your garden, as well. Because it is from the tropics, it won’t survive cold winters in northern areas (Sorry New Englanders and those in the Northern US). It can reach 3-5 feet in height in a single growing season, so be sure to give it plenty of room to grow.
  9. Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in many Thai recipes. Different parts of the plant have different uses: The base of each stem has a strong lemony flavor ideal for infusing simple syrups or cooking oils, while the more tender leaves are great for making tea or soups.
  10. Want ice cream but don’t have an ice cream maker? No problem! It’s possible to make creamy, delicious ice cream at home without buying special equipment. The base for many “no-churn” ice cream recipes consists of just 2 simple ingredients: sweetened condensed milk and heavy whipping cream. We love adding a drop of lavender vitality from Young Living or fresh fruit to ours!

Hot Foods

  1. Hot foods need to be kept 140 degrees or warmer to prevent harmful bacteria growth. Cooked foods that fall below 140 degrees need to be refrigerated within 2 hours (or less on super-hot days).
  2. Foil Packet Cooking: This method is perfect for carefree summer meals because it is super simple and there is no messy clean up involved. Just layer your food items on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to fold over your ingredients. Then, seal the 3 open edges completely when you are finished.
    • Tip: Seal it tight enough that no steam escapes, but leave enough room for some expansion while cooking.
  3. Many types of fish can be tricky to cook directly on the grill because they tend to fall apart. So, cook it in a foil packet, instead. As an added bonus, there is no reason to defrost frozen fish before cooking with this method. Simply place the frozen fish in the pocket as you normally would and leave on the grill a few minutes longer than normal.
  4. Grilling: When it comes to grilling, it is important to know the difference between direct and indirect heat. Direct heat refers to when the fire or heat source is positioned directly under the food you are cooking. With indirect heat, the fire or heat source is still present, but it is not directly below the food. As a result, direct heat tends to cook foods faster than indirect heat.
  5. For best results, grill burgers over direct, high heat for 8-10 minutes. Actual cook time will depend on the thickness of your burgers and the whether you and your guests like your meat rare or well done.
    • Note: According to the USDA, the minimum safe internal temperature of ground meat, including beef and pork, is 160°F. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest portion of your burger to ensure it has reached a safe temperature before serving.
  6. For perfect grilled cheeseburgers, add softer sliced cheese to the patties about 1 minute before they are done. For harder, chunkier cheese, such as crumbled blue cheese, move your burgers to indirect heat a couple minutes before they are finished. Then add the cheese and close the lid for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has completely melted.
  7. Direct heat is ideal for smaller and faster-cooking items that won’t over-cook on the outside before they are cooked through on the inside. Burgers, fruits and vegetables are examples of foods that can be cooked over direct heat.
  8. Use indirect heat when grilling larger items, such as roasts or whole chickens, that require a longer cooking time.
    • Indirect heat can also be used to finish items that were seared over direct heat.
  9. When grilling an assortment of summer vegetables, try to cut them as uniformly thick as possible. This ensures they cook evenly and makes for a better presentation when serving.
  10. When grilling fresh vegetables, cut them so the maximum amount of surface area is exposed. The more surface area exposed to the grill grates, the better the taste will be.
  11. Plain ground beef doesn’t have a lot of flavor, so be sure to blend in plenty of seasonings before forming it into hamburger patties. Basic additions like salt and pepper make a big difference, but why stop there? Worcestershire Sauce, very finely minced onions, garlic, and fresh rosemary add wonderful flavor, as well.
    • My favorite seasoning is a blend of garlic, paprika, onion, and rosemary, which I coat on one side of the burger (the side away from the flame when I first begin cooking.)
  12. Tired of dry, boring burgers? The “secret” to juicier burgers is to select meat with a higher fat content. Regular ground beef is a great choice because it is higher in fat than ground chuck, ground round, or ground sirloin. If the package isn’t clearly labeled, ask the butcher or meat counter attendant to point you in the right direction.
    • For less “fatty” alternatives, add Worcestershire sauce and/or very finely minced onions to your ground beef. Both add moisture to your ground beef mixture, so your burgers will be juicier (and will taste better) as a result.
  1. Unlike red meats that can be seared on the outside and rare-to-medium on the inside, pork needs to be more uniformly cooked throughout. When grilling, a medium, direct heat is the best way to ensure the inside cooks evenly with the outside. Be sure to use an instant-read thermometer to confirm the meat has reached a safe internal temperature before serving.
  2. Warm goat cheese croutons are a great way to make any salad seem more like a full meal. For best results, make sure the croutons are at least ½” thick and not too wide across or they are more likely to break apart while handling. Also, be sure to get the oil hot enough before frying them, because they need to cook quickly, or the goat cheese will start seeping out of the crust.
    • Most recipes for warm goat cheese croutons call for using vegetable or canola oil for frying. However, coconut oil is a delicious, healthy alternative that does not infuse the melted cheese or breadcrumb crust with an overbearing coconut flavor.

Summer is a great time to enjoy time with friends around good food. With all that’s been going on during the past year plus, we need more laughter and peace in our lives, so party responsibly and be sure to laugh loudly and enjoy every moment!

For those of you who enjoy using Young Living products, through July 31, you can receive 10% off your order by using code July10 at checkout. If you aren’t already shopping through them, they just changed their structure so you can now receive a 24% discount on most products by either spending at least 100 PV (typically $100 USD) OR by subscribing to an item using their new Subscribe to Save option. Visit http://www.myyl.com/ShellVera and start shopping today. Enter the coupon code at checkout.

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