Hosting a summer barbecue

Kelsey shares her recipe for a slightly less dull barbecue, including an unusual salad and a raspberry beer cocktail.

In the summertime when the weather is high … it’s the perfect time to head outside for a barbecue! 

Dining and drink al fresco is one of my absolute favorite things about the summer. I’m really more of a winter person – I love curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee (or a glass of bold red wine), a blanket, and my dog and watching TV for hours on end. But when the weather is gorgeous and it seems a shame to while away the hours indoors, I’d much rather invite my friends and neighbors over for an afternoon grilling and giggling.

To me, of course, the most important aspect of a barbecue is the food. Too many people settle for plain old burgers and hot dogs, maybe throwing in some grilled chicken for good measure. If you’re going to go that route, at least make it interesting.

For example, set out a topping bars for the burgers and hot dogs. This would include standards such as lettuce, tomato, and onions, but also a selection of cheeses (I love a good blue cheese on top of my burger), a variety of veggies such as avocado and spinach, and special condiments such as barbecue sauce and ranch dressing. Here’s an idea I love: Make a big pot of chili in the slow cooker and plug it in outside, so guests can ladle a scoop on their chili burger or chili cheese dog. 

In many cases, though, it’s really the side dishes that make all the difference. If you make the world’s best potato salad, I would never want to deprive you or your family the chance to indulge. However, I get a little tired of the standard potato and macaroni salads served at each and every barbecue I go to (particularly if they’re store-bought!) When I go to a friend’s house for grilling, I like to bring along a Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad. Everyone loves the flavors of this pasta salad, and it’s very simple to make. Just combine 16 ounces (450g) of cooked chilled pasta with two cups of cooked, diced chicken in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix a cup of buffalo wing marinade – the sauce that comes in a salad dressing bottle, not hot sauce such as Frank’s Red Hot – with three-fouths of a cup of ranch dressing. Taste it to determine ratios. If it’s too spicy, add more ranch dressing. Toss it with the pasta and chicken. Finally, sprinkle sliced celery and carrots over the salad. Put it in the fridge to chill overnight, as the flavors are really much better after they’ve had the change to mix and mingle.

Finally, let’s talk beverages. Soda, ice water, and beer are standards, but place them in a metal bucket filled with ice instead of the standard cooler, which can be a bit of hassle to fish a brewskie out of when someone is sitting on it. For those who prefer a cocktail, mix up a big batch of this Raspberry-Beer Cocktail, which is light and refreshing – perfect for outdoor day drinking. 

Raspberry Beer Cocktail

  • 2 cans raspberry or pink lemonade concentrate
  • 12 bottles Corona
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 package frozen raspberries
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large beverage dispenser or punch bowl.

  2. Mix well!

  3. Garnish with lemon, lime, and orange slices.

I’ve found this drink is best served in a mason jar with a fun straw.

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