The sun is shining, robins are appearing in the trees, and the flowers are poking their bright little heads out of the ground. Itís springtime! No season is greeted with more anticipation than the one that ushers in warmer temperatures, longer days, and the opportunity to spend time outside. Itís a time of renewal and rejuvenation. Itís the season that provides what everyone needs to refresh their mind, body, and spirit. And itís a great time to gather with loved ones and enjoy fun, food, and fellowship.
Many families celebrate the coming of spring with the first cookout of the year. Yum! After months of cooking inside and enjoying soups, stews, and other wintertime favorites, itís time to haul out the picnic tables and partake of light, delicious spring foods that taste good and are good for any body thatís been suffering from the winter blahs.
Getting "Grill Ready"! Spring Clean Up
Before you schedule that spring cookout, however, youíll probably need some time to spruce up the backyard. Take time to clean and inspect your grill or to shop for a new one. BBQ grills, including portable BBQ grills you can take with you, come in all shapes and sizes these days, from basic to mega large! Look for one that suits your needs and budget. Check out your BBQ tools as well and make sure theyíre in good condition. While youíre cleaning up, give your outdoor furniture a good scrubbing and replace any torn cushions. If your old stuff is in poor condition, check out the great springtime sales on new outdoor furniture. This is also an ideal time to paint or powerwash your deck. You may also want to add some outdoor planters, set up a few hammocks in the shade, and purchase some outdoor games for guests to enjoy.
What's cooking? Try These Springtime Grill Recipes!
Once all of that is complete, itís time to concentrate on the food. Planning a spring cookout takes some thought, especially if youíre trying to keep the menu healthy. Remember, spring is a good time to start developing good habits, so help your friends and family stay in shape by offering foods that include springís bounty of fruits, vegetables, and other good stuff. Cookout recipes can include much more than just burgers and hot dogs. Here are a few examples:
Maple-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients (Serves 8)
- 2 pork tenderloins, about 3 lb. total
- Ĺ c. plus 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ľ c. plus 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 lg. garlic clove, chopped
- 2 tsp minced chipotles (from can); drained but preserve 2 tsp sauce from can
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ľ tsp salt
- ľ tsp pepper
- Olive oil-based cooking spray
- Combine Ĺ c maple syrup, ľ c. vinegar, mustard, garlic and chipotles in a bag.
- Add pork to marinate. Refrigerate overnight, turning once or twice.
- Transfer pork to plate, pat dry, and brush with canola oil.
- Pour the marinade into a small pot, add remaining syrup and vinegar and bring to a boil.
- Continue boiling for about 2 minutes and set aside.
- Coat a medium hot grill with cooking spray and grill tenderloin for about 20 minutes, turning twice.
- During last 5 minutes, brush pork with remaining chipotle sauce.
- Remove, slice, and serve with marinade.
Grilled Zucchini Roll-ups
Ingredients (Serves 8-10)
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 oz. goat cheese
- Ĺ tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 2 c. baby spinach
- Cut zucchini into ľ in. lengthwise slices.(Discard outer slices with tough skin)
- Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cook on medium-hot grill until tender, about 4 minutes per side.
- Remove from grill. Combine goat cheese with lemon juice and parsley.
- Place a dollop on each slice, top with a few spinach leaves, and roll.
- Place seam side down on a platter to serve.
Grilled Banana Sundaes
Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
- 3 large bananas, firm
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 2 tsp orange juice
- Ĺ c. light caramel topping
- ľ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt
- Cut bananas lengthwise and then cut each piece crosswise.(You should have 4 pieces per banana.)
- Brush each with a mixture of the butter and 1 tsp orange juice.
- Place bananas on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.
- Combine caramel sauce and additional 1 tsp orange juice in a saucepan and heat on the grill until bubbly.
- Add cinnamon and bananas and stir gently.
- Serve over a cup of frozen yogurt.
Of course, not all spring cookouts will be held in someoneís backyard. Many cookout aficionados take the show on the road, heading to favorite local spots for their get-togethers. Along with them come the portable BBQ grills, picnic baskets, wine coolers, picnic blankets, and everything else needed for their ďdestinationĒ cookout. A good picnic location? Anywhere your guests can enjoy the abundant spring sunshine, such as a county or city park or along the shore of a local lake or other body of water.
Todayís picnic baskets make it easier than ever to take the food along. Check out handy picnic cooler sets including coolers on wheels for a simple and safe way to get food from home to the cookout site without spoilage.
Remember, this is a celebration of spring, so also bring along some fun things to do including outdoor games like horseshoes, ladder ball or Frisbee, and include a bat and ball and other equipment thatíll get both the kids and adults up and moving. Donít forget some extra portable chairs for the spectators!
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