Last minute ideas to save your Fourth of July cookout

Easy recipes to make your cookout memorable

CLEVELAND - You remember the old line about the best laid plans, right?

You had planned on a nice quiet Fourth of July at home, then Aunt Jennie or your old school pal, or even your mother-in-law calls, and suddenly you have a house full of people coming over expecting a cookout.  While you can’t say no, you also have no need to panic.

Here are some quick cookout and entertaining ideas that you can pull off at the last minute that’ll have them thinking you’ve been planning this for days. 

Sure, you can go with burgers or hotdogs, the kids will love that, so will a lot of the adults, but for those who want something more substantial, you might want to try our quick marinade to ensure grilled chicken success.

Grilled Chicken with Quick Orange Marinade

1 chicken cut into 8 pieces

1 cup orange juice

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup soy sauce

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a large baking dish or a one gallon plastic bag.  Add the chicken pieces and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, though longer is better.   About 15 minutes before grilling, remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel.   Discard the marinade.  Grill the chicken as you normally would.   Allow the grilled chicken to rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

So, you need something to serve with that chicken.  You could always just pick up some cole slaw or potato salad at the local grocery store, and that’s a perfectly acceptable option.   Or you could go with something a little different and memorable.  If you’ve never had fried corn before, you’ll want to add it to your repertoire.  While you can cut it directly off the cob, save a step and use canned or frozen corn.  Best of all, leave yourself a little space on the grill and you can cook it right next to the chicken.  All you’ll need is a frying pan.

Skillet Fried Corn

2 cups of canned or frozen corn

4 strips of bacon, chopped

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup red or green bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon of butter

Place the skillet on the grill grate.  Add the bacon and cook until brown and crispy.  Add the butter, onion, and pepper, and cook until soft.  Add the corn and mix well.  Cook until the corn is cooked through and even beginning to brown.

Of course, you might decide to go with the traditional holiday classic, the grilled hamburger.  Who could blame you?  Here's a spice mixture you'll want to sprinkle on your burgers before putting them on the grill.

Grilling Seasoning Mix

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and sprinkle liberally over hamburgers before grilling.  This is great on steaks and chops, too!

What’s a cookout without macaroni salad?  Enough said.

Easy Macaroni Salad with a Twist

1 pound macaroni, cooked

½ cup ranch dressing

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup half and half or milk

½ cup green onion, chopped

1/8 cup pickle relish

1 boiled egg, chopped

salt & pepper

Combine the ranch dressing, sour cream, and half & half.  Mix well.  Pour over macaroni in a large bowl.  Fold in the green onion, relish, and boiled egg.  Combine well and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dessert doesn’t have to be difficult.  At this time of year there’s plenty of fresh fruit available.  Try this dessert option that’s easy to put together, and quite tasty.  While it may seem counterintuitive, the balsamic vinegar, basil, and black pepper accentuate the natural sweetness of the fruit.

Flavor Soaked Fruit with Whipped Cream

1 pint strawberries, sliced

2 peaches, peeled and sliced

1 basil leaf, chopped

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon black pepper

whipped cream

In a large bowl combine the fruit, balsamic vinegar, basil, and black pepper.  Combine well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, though longer is better.  Serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream.

We all could use something cold and refreshing on a warm summer day.  This lemonade idea will keep your guests cool during the cookout.  And if you want to make it an “adult” drink, it’s easy to add a shot of your favorite…well, you know.

Frozen Berry Lemonade

1 cup frozen mixed berries

1 6 oz container frozen lemonade concentrate

1 cup water

1 cup ice cubes

Place the ice cubes, frozen lemonade concentrate, and water in a blender.  Puree until the ice is well blended.  Add the berries and puree until well incorporated.  Serve.

So, if that phone rings on the morning of the Fourth of July, don’t panic, throw a party!  You’ll be ready.

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