As I prepped for our family BBQ, the kitchen was filled with a calm energy. The appetizer was complete before I finished my second cup of coffee, the potato salad came together beautifully, even the ranch-like dressing was a success. Calico beans simmered quietly in the oven, and after I determined that one cobbler was insufficient, I threw together a mixed berry cobbler sans recipe and, more important, sans stress. How did I remain calm through this marathon of cooking? Outsourcing. I love to cook, but outdoor grilling is strictly reserved for the husband. With hamburgers on our menu, I had successfully delegated the entree. How’s that for a holiday?
Hours later guests arrived with bottles of wine and three year olds, and munched on caramelized onion dip as we caught up on events from the past six months. It was amazing how much better this onion dip was compared to the sweet onion dip from party #18. I think the secret lies is two techniques; not cutting the onions too small as they will become bitter, and keeping the temperature consistent to fully enable the caramelization. This dip had a smooth and creamy texture and none of the B.O.-like onion pungency.
Nearly an hour into our cocktail time, as the three year olds took to outdoor artistic creations, we greeted more friends and attempted to continue the relaxed atmosphere; this was temporarily interrupted by a bottle of acrylic paint. Yes, our well-dressed artists found the one bottle of oil based paint and sent moms flying to the sink, clothes to the washer, and dads to the garden hose as we attempted to remove the new art work. The good news is that all outfits were saved with a little spray and wash. The back porch, well, I think of the new colors as a sentimental piece.
Regardless of my diligent prep, cocktail hour still ran a bit too long. The time lag gave the group just enough time to justify a red wine run, and the children enough time to demand McDonalds. Much to my horror, the children were served Mcnuggets and french fries. But, I had to admit, they did look happy munching on their partially hydrogenated oils under the umbrella of their little tike picnic table.
As the little ones finished their treats, and the adults finally settled in for their own meal, there was something in the summer air besides a biblical amount of flies. One by one this summer spirit encouraged our slip and slide beauties to remove their bathing suits and take in the evening events in the buff. With four naked bottoms roaming the backyard, guests enjoyed the party’s star cobbler and, as the Memorial Day sun began to set, decided to re-clothe their children and call it a night.
As my husband and I surveyed the disastrous backyard, and the dish-littered kitchen we not only declared the party a success, but one of our all time favorites. The family-friendly aspect of this afternoon BBQ was more than a party theme, but a celebration of life’s new season. Just like the seasons before, this one has its beauty and its burdens.
Berry Cobbler: These are so easy, and with the reasonable price of summer berries, ending dinner with anything but seems borderline extravagant. The recipe I emulated was from the food network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cooking-live/blueberry-cobbler-recipe/index.html
Potato Salad: Tired of the mayonnaise and egg combo? This dish was popular and oh so fresh. The vermouth added to the boiling water gives the potatoes an unbelievable flavor. Add it to your next BBQ; it’s a garden salad and potato salad all in one. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/spring-garden-potato-salad-recipe/index.html
The Party in Numbers:
Parties Completed: 39
Weeks before Deadline: 14
Bottles Consumed: 7
Justified Purchases: Zero! We were even able to get another use out of a slip and slide from 3 years ago.