Memorial Day marks the beginning of cookout season, and while hamburgers and hot dogs may be the first menu items that come to mind, they are never the star of the show for me. I’ve got my eye on the sides, toppings and desserts. Round out your meal with nutrient-rich ingredients, including vegetables, fruits and dairy foods.
Check out these tips for a show-stopping holiday menu:
Highlight seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Late spring brings a bounty of fresh produce, including green beans, blueberries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, strawberries and zucchini. Serve a vegetable or fruit-based salad, like this crunchy Layered Broccoli Salad or refreshing Watermelon Feta Salad. Or for a satisfying appetizer, offer this Greek Yogurt Dip Trio with fresh vegetables. Try grilling vegetables for extra flavor and serve with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and a sprinkle of feta cheese.
Make it fun with fillings, toppings, and condiments.
Sure, you could serve plain burgers with bottled condiments, but why not jazz things up a bit? One bite in and your family will be raving about these Cheese Stuffed Burger Sliders with Onion Jam filled with gooey mozzarella cheese. Or whip up a batch of Southern Pimiento Cheese to serve on burger patties or grilled chicken sandwiches. If it’s steak you’re planning, blue cheese horseradish sauce takes these Kentucky Go Big Blue Steak Bites to the next level.
Don’t forget dessert!
Seasonal fruit and dairy foods can easily be incorporated into dessert. If it’s ice cream you crave, try super simple No-Churn Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream or Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream. Strawberries and Cream Mini Jar Pies are individually portioned and can be made up to two days in advance for easy entertaining. Or, for a classic favorite, enjoy Strawberry Yogurt Shortcake.
As you celebrate, prioritize food safety. Keep cold foods cold at under 40 degrees. This applies to dairy-based items, which should not sit out for longer than 2 hours. If you’ll be serving the meal outside, consider placing serving bowls in a large pan filled with ice to help keep items cold, replacing the ice frequently.
Jessica Ivey is a Registered Dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthy for a happy and delicious life. She loves spending time in the kitchen creating original recipes to help busy families eat well and enjoy more meals together. Her practical approach has helped her teach consumers to eat healthily and deliciously in the real world. Jessica lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, Nathan, her daughter, Joanna, and her dog, Joey.