'Tis the Season for Cookouts

Cookout season officially begins on Memorial Day and lasts through Labor Day, so by my calculations, we are approximately half-way through the season.  Most recently, on the 4th of July, Doug grilled and I baked, putting together way too much food, which made for left overs that are still in the refrigerator, days later! While Doug was outside, mastering the grill, I was putting the final touches on the food inside.  Our menu for the day included (all homemade, of course!):

  • Guacamole
  • Star-shaped rosemary shortbread crackers
  • Lemonade
  • Grilled meats
  • A large green salad
  • Cherry hand-pies (in the shape of stars)
  • Hand-dipped strawberries in white chocolate with blue sugar

I want to share with you some photos and the recipes I used for the festivities, so you can use them these final weeks of the summer.  I know, I know.  I'm jumping the gun and it feels like I'm pushing summer out the door, in which it was just welcomed in through.  But, for some reason, winter seems to lasts forever, and summer seems to end in the blink of an eye, doesn't it?

Star-shaped rosemary shortbread crackers: 

I was the receiver of some deliciously odoriferous rosemary and wanted to make something other than the boule I've made in the past. I combed through my favorite recipe sites, and found one for these shortbread crackers.  After rolling them out, cutting them into stars was the only option, as we were having them on July 4th.  The recipe (found here) called for cutting them into circles, but I suggest allow the season or the holiday to dictate which shape you select.

We noshed on them plain, as well as with a sliver of Parmigiano Reggiano, which we shaved from a block of the cheese using a vegetable peeler.  Using the peeler provided us a thin piece, which gave it the right amount of bite and nicely complimented the savory flavor of the rosemary.

Homemade Lemonade

There is nothing as refreshing as a cold glass of homemade lemonade on a hot day.  And yes, it does taste different from something made from a mix or a jar.  While I don't make this everyday, I do make it often in the summer, as it's a nice treat!

  • 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup (made from 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water, brought to a boil on the stove until the sugar had dissolved)
  • 1/2 water

Literally, as easy as 1-2-3! If this is too sweet for your liking, simply add more water.  Prefer yours with a little bit of a sour bite? Squeeze in some more lemon juice.  Serve it in a tall glass with big ice cubes.

Cherry Handpies

William-Sonoma has these great individual pie molds available in different shapes.  I have two: one in the shape of a heart and another in the shape of a star.  Unfortunately, the star shape is unavailable, but has been replaced by an apple-shaped mold.  (I used the heart-shaped one here).

Cherry pie seemed more "Americana" than blueberry pie, so I went with it.  I was thrilled to have my cherry pitter, as it made the process run much more smoothly, than if I had to slice and pit each one sans the helpful kitchen tool.

Doug walked into the kitchen and was pleasantly surprised when he saw the cherry filling (recipe here) cooking down on the stove, as he assumed that I was going to use one out of a can.  "When was the last time I used the can opener?" I asked.  He nodded in agreement and we both smiled.  I enjoy making as many food items as possible from scratch, as I like knowing from where my food comes.

Ok, onto the crust.  I've struggled to find a flavorful crust that doesn't use Crisco... until now! I followed this recipe, but added some melted butter and brown sugar to the top before baking.  Two-thumbs up.  I'll be sticking with this pie-crust recipe from here on out.

Strawberries dipped in White Chocolate and Blue Sugar (as seen above)

I came across this idea on-line and knew it was perfect for the 4th.  I didn't have any blue sugar on hand, so I grabbed my food dye and colored my own at home.  I melted the chocolate and after hand-picking the prettiest strawberries and giving them a good wash, I dipped them right into the white chocolate, and immediately into the blue sugar. Ta-da! Dessert. I suppose any color sugar could be used, but I liked the red-white-blue theme for Independence Day!

Bon Appetit!