Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day BBQ - Recipes & Cocktails for a Crowd

My husband and I were tasked with hosting a Memorial Day Weekend BBQ for my father-in-law and his extended family. We were happy to take on the duties of hosting. We love a good party, especially a BBQ. Grilling means shared cooking duties for Ross and I and keeps the house cool on warm days (no oven!). And after all..happy wife, happy life. I love to cook, but I do enjoy taking a break, handing Ross the reigns and sharing the responsibility (especially when its his family critiquing). We will be having ourselves plus 10 guests at our home, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, some of which have yet to see our new house. We are excited to show it off a little, even after a year.

12 is a hefty number of mouths to feed, but this is quite the week for BBQ sales and specials at the grocery store. The most daunting part of hosting 12 is not the menu planning, but how to fit everyone around a table together. So to the deck we are headed. We have spent the last few weekends working on our yard. We have started a garden in the back of the house, protected from the deer inside our fence, and we planted some shrubs out front. We moved in so quickly, it was tough to get the inside organized, let alone figure out what we wanted to do outside before it got too cold. With the sun out and the temperature up, we've finally had some time to make our yard more than just grass and its great to be able to hang out back there.

For snacks, I'll be making my Disappearing Salsa from our Cinco de Mayo party to serve with chips and dress. I'll be serving that with some dressed up store-bought guacamole (I love spice, so I stir in some fresh jalapeno with chopped onion and tomato to bring it to life). To keep cooking easy, we'll be serving a London Broil (much easier for a big crowd than made to order hamburgers and hot dogs), but nothing brings down the buzz of a good BBQ like lame side dishes straight from the deli section. We'll be serving my signature pasta salad, my grandma's potato salad, corn on the cob and pitchers or red and white sangria to keep our crowd happily buzzed. For the kids, we'll have a sangria style mocktail to make everyone feel like grown ups for the day. To wrap the night up with a win, we will wow everyone with my Half-Homemade Ice Cream Cake (On a Budget & a Diet). I picked this awesome recipe to beat the heat without emptying my wallet (2 custom ice cream cakes cost only $6!).

Abby's Signature Pasta Salad
(~16 servings, 110 calories per serving)

  • 1 Box Pasta, cooked (i like to use whole wheat, recommend using penne, rotini or elbow)
  • 1 Cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Container Grape Tomatoes, halved
  • 2 TBSP Onion, chopped (red onion adds a great pop of color)
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TSP Garlic
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

    Cook pasta according to directions, drain well. If time allows, pack into container and refrigerate overnight to allow pasta to dry well. Chop vegetables and set aside. In large mixing bowl, stir pasta, vegetables, olive oil and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Refrigerate until cold or overnight. Top with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

    This is a great, versatile pasta salad. I am a big of a vinegar fiend. I love adding a little balsamic vinegar with the oil to give this a nice bite.

    To make this a full meal for office lunches, I love to add some grilled chicken breast or tuna fish atop this salad. Add some salami, provolone and olives for a twist on antipasto. The possibilities are endless.

Spicy Red Sangria
(~16 servings, 90 calories per serving)

  • 1 1.5 L Bottle Red Blend Wine (we prefer Rex Goliath Free Range Red)
  • 1 Orange, sliced
  • 1 Lemon, sliced
  • 2 C Pineapple Cubes
  • 1 C Orange Juice (preferably low calorie, Trop 50)
  • 1 C Spiced Rum (Captain Morgan, Sailor Jerry's, etc)

    Slice, dice and cube all of the fruit and citrus. Place into a pitcher or large beverage dispenser. Pour liquids over fruits. Stir together. Let sit and marinade for several hours or overnight. Serve over a splash of seltzer to keep hydrated on warm days. Garnish with wine infused fruit from the pitcher.

    Bottoms up!

(~16 servings, 60 calories per serving)
  • 1 750 mL Champagne, chilled
  • 1 750 mL White Wine
  • 1 C Strawberries, sliced
  • 1 C Mango, cubed
  • 1 Lemon, sliced
  • 2 Cans Mango Nectar

    Slice, dice and cube all of the fruit and citrus. Place into a pitcher or large beverage dispenser. Pour wine (not champagne) and mango nectar over fruits. Stir together. Refrigerate for several hours to marinade or overnight.  When ready to serve, pour champagne into pitcher and give one final stir. Serve over a splash of seltzer to keep hydrated on warm days. Garnish with wine infused fruit from the pitcher.

    Bottoms up!

Kid-Friendly Sangria Mocktail
  • 1 Can Juicy Juice Fruit Punch (or similar)
  • 1 Orange, sliced
  • 2 C Pineapple Cubed
  • 1 L Seltzer, chilled

    Slice, dice and cube the pineapple and orange. Place into your kid-friendly pitcher. Pour in the Juicy Juice. Refrigerate for several hours to let the fruit infuse it's flavor into the juice. When you're ready to serve, pour in the seltzer and stir one last time. Serve over ice. Garnish with fruit from the pitcher.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out my Memorial Day Pinterest board for decorations and everything that didn't make it to the table!