This time of year getting together with friends and family is easy and relaxed. Barbecues and eating outdoors make the atmosphere fun and the menu, casual. You can make it easy, make it ahead for summer do’s and have a pleasant surprise. Being prepared will leave so much more time for socializing and enjoying your company. This fact alone makes these tips invaluable.
Plan the setting
Decide how you’re going to present the meal to discern what you need to buy. Perhaps you want new, colourful napkins, placemats, plastic knives and forks, table lanterns with citronella candles, or flowers for the table, etc. This way you can purchase everything you need in advance and keep it all together in an easy to access spot.
Another step you can do to make it easy and make it ahead for the setting is to be sure any salt and pepper shakers you are going to use are full and ready to go. You can also wrap your napkins around a knife and fork set and find an attractive or clever stand-up cup or container to put them in. Or you may want to wrap each knife and fork package with ribbon, twine or string.
Plan the menu
The idea is to buy, clean, cut and prepare everything you possibly can as much ahead as possible and not jeopardize the freshness. Any meat can be frozen right up until a day or two before. But did you realize that if you’re planning meat that needs to be cut and or marinated you can have that all done and ready in the fridge as much as two days ahead?
For instance, you can cut chicken breast, beef, or pork meat for shish kebabs, skewer them, marinate them and leave them in the plastic container for a minimum of two days before the big day.
Not only that, if you really want to get that chore out of the way, you can cut up the meat a week or two ahead, skewer them and then freeze them and even marinate them and freeze them. This way you can simply take them out of the freezer a day ahead and they’re ready to marinate or if you’ve pre-marinated them and put them in the freezer, they’re ready to barbecue! This gives you the extra time to do something a little more special like shish kebabs for the occasion.
However, if you’re simply doing steak, sausages, plain chicken breasts, or chops- take them out of the freezer and defrost them two days ahead add any marinade and put in a plastic container. Or, if you simply plan to just season them before you barbecue the meat- you can just have them ready in a plastic container.
This eliminates the step of taking all the meat out of the packaging and washing and drying each piece. Everything is ready to go!
You’ll be surprised how prepared you feel and how much time you’ll save just with this step.
Vegetables and fruit
Grilled Veggies & Stir-fries
The big benefit of planning on veggies for a stir-fry or the grill is that you can pretty much slice up everything as long as about a day and a half before, except mushrooms. Wash, dry and slice your onion, celery, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, for grilled veggies and store in a baggie with a little piece of paper towel to catch any left over water drops and to keep them crisp and dry. Mushrooms should be cleaned and dried early the day-of and put in a brown paper bag to keep them fresh.
Marinating your veggies for the grill? Then prepare and slice them and toss them in a large storage bag and pour the marinade right in the bag, shake a bit and you’re all set to go with gorgeous, marinated grilled veggies.
If you’re planning on making a salad, there’s really not too much you can do the day before as you want it to be as fresh as possible after cutting. Generally most salad veggies can’t be cut ahead unless you have a unique situation planned, like adding sliced zucchini, fresh peas, lima beans, green onions, regular onions, or celery. If you are adding these particular veggies, those that qualify can all be sliced the day before and if peas are fresh and in their pods, they can be removed from their pods and put in a little baggie. But, if you intend to add frozen lima beans, corn or peas to your salad you can defrost the amount you want to use, remove the excess liquid and store in a baggie with a little piece of a paper towel to keep them fresh. Then you can simply toss them in the salad when it’s ready.
Fruit for Dessert
If you’re cutting up your own fruit to add to ice cream or have alone you should really wait until the day of to ensure the fruit doesn’t start juicing itself. You may get away with late the day before and certainly early the day-of, but no more than that. Even buying the fruit should not be more than a day and a half away. This shouldn’t really be a problem though, because you’ve saved so much time in so many other areas.
Make it easy, make it ahead for your summer do’s simply means doing every single thing remotely possible ahead of time. This will make your hosting so much more relaxed and fun and give you time to do the little extra things that make a world of difference.
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