It’s a good thing I consider Memorial Day to be a weekend event and not a one-day-only event, or we’d be in trouble. At this moment, it’s pouring down rain, with thunder and lightning so loud it woke me the Wee One up from her nap, so at least for right now, there will be no outside cooking. Thankfully on summer holidays at my house, we start picnic-fooding on Saturday, so we’ve had two days of pretty excellent weather with food to go alongside.
I firmly believe parties should always have some sort of theme. I don’t mean picking a color scheme and painstakingly fashioning tulle poofs for the occasion, although that happens around here. What I mean extends far beyond complementary colors and decor: your theme can be anything, but your gathering – however small – needs something to give it a flow. I didn’t decorate for this weekend; I’m deep in the midst of planning the Wee One’s third birthday (which should explain the tulle poof reference), and I’m saving myself for that. My theme this weekend was about the food: every recipe stayed true to the idea of a classic picnic by being simple to make, yet polished enough for a special occasion.
Casual food is at its best when it’s kept to a few outstanding ingredients, prepared and seasoned simply. You don’t want to fuss about over them; fancy savouries and labor-intensive desserts look out of place at backyard barbeques anyway, so why do it? I didn’t pore over cookbooks for my recipes this year; I hit up Pinterest, because it can be a valuable brainstorming tool when you’re pulling a party together and you don’t want to spend a ton of time overthinking it.
Some of my favorite Pinterest resources for parties big and small are:
The TomKat Studio for party ideas and some really cute DIY favors and themes
Martha Stewart for food inspiration
Elsie Larson | A Beautiful Mess for general inspiration, both with food and with decor
Southern Living for recipes, and because southern food is everything, but really shines during the summer months
Jordan Ferney | Oh Happy Day for the way I want to live my life, but also for some adorable party and DIY ideas.
I follow all of these wonderfully-curated boards on my own Pinterest, and you will see them pop up quite a bit on my own boards, especially when I’m gearing up for an event.
After some feverish board-scouring, a few notes, and a trip to the grocery store, here’s what we made:
A perennial favorite (although this one is slightly simpler than ones I’ve done in the past), the corn, tomato, + avocado salad. there’s something truly irresistible about throwing this all together and squeezing a lime over top. Which is basically all this is, and it is fabulous.
This cucumber + dill salad also exists in several forms at my house; this creamy version is my favorite, because a little sauce goes a long way and doesn’t cover up the brightness of the cucumbers.
I’ve never made slow-cooker baked beans before, and it was a great first attempt. I have exactly zero experience with dried beans, and I feel like perhaps I didn’t do something correctly. The flavors in the sauce were exceptional, but the texture was off; I’m going to work on the recipe and get back to you on this one, because I want it to be perfect and the beans are the only thing getting in the way.
The show-stopper of the party, these asian-inspired cilantro lime + peanut grilled shrimp were incredible, and take no time at all to prepare. You chop a few things, prepare a wee sauce, and then it’s a matter of throwing shrimp on the barbeque for a few minutes and subsequently plunging them into flavor. Eat, repeat.
Because I am quite the sucker for a pie, but don’t always want to mess with a pie or pie-slicing, I made individual galettes: fresh peach and fresh strawberry. I think they’re actually more picnic-friendly than pies because they’re completely portable and self-contained, and they require almost nothing to make. I made a double-batch of this crust in the food processor, sliced some fruit, added some sugar and a little cornstarch, and into the oven they went.
They were perfection, but I doubt I needed to tell you that, because you can see that with your eyes. Each whole dough makes four individual galettes, which makes for a very generous single serving or two servings, if you really want to part with half of it. Your favorite vanilla bean ice cream only adds to their glory.
We also made turkey burgers (teriyaki + grilled pineapple, goat cheese + honey lemon mustard), which are difficult to take photos of, as they are created, grilled, and get eaten…fast. I only let my annoying food blogger photo tendencies get in the way to a point, so no photos of those.
This time, I kept track of how I made each of these dishes, which was simple enough as the dishes themselves are very free-form and easy to remember; you could make them in your sleep. So I’ll give you the recipes for everything you see above (except for the beans, because they are a work in progress) tomorrow in a Memorial Day: The Recipes post.
Hope all of you are celebrating where you are today. If it’s raining where you are like it is here, I hope you’re not letting that deter you from great food and a relaxing day. See you tomorrow with recipes.