5 Things to Do with Food Before the End of Summer

We love summer for so many reasons. It’s the time when prairie flowers reach full bloom, the crops are high, evening storms water the yard and hogs lay all day in the shade to beat the sun’s heat. Families and friends gather on the weekend to play lawn games or talk about their warm weather plans. Grills sizzle with burgers and brats as ice slowly melts in the beverage cooler. Even the hottest days are welcomed with cold treats and long dips in the pool or local lake.

But like harvest season, all good things come to an end. Kids head back to school this month, which marks the beginning of our sun setting earlier and earlier. Soon the wind will turn chilly as birds migrate south making way for fallen leaves and eventual snowflakes.

Before you say good-bye to summer, be sure to gather your favorite people and try one of these five activities centered on food! Sure, you could do some of these in fall – but why wait?

Build your own Cornhole set

Cornhole set
Photo credit In Honor of Design

While it does require a few heavier tools to make, building your own Cornhole set is a lot of fun. This is a great project for roommates, a couple or someone who simply loves lawn games. It’s also less expensive than buying quality wood sets online. We especially enjoy this activity because food is a main ingredient.

We used whole kernel dried corn in our bags. Some people use dried beans, others use resin pellets. It’s really up to you!

Check out Cornhole-how-to, In Honor of Design, or this video for instructions on how to make this summertime staple.

Go to the park and have a picnic

Photo credit Dirty Gourmet
Photo credit Dirty Gourmet

A picnic is more than just about good weather. To make your picnic great, invite fun guests, plan a menu that’s simple and be sure to only bring exactly what you need to dine. You also want to make sure the recipes can hold up to sitting out for extended periods of time. Stay away from foods that need to be reheated or foods that were heated before leaving. This will ensure you don’t let the delivery fall flat.

When packing, keep in mind how many dirty utensils you’ll be bringing back. Save on space and serve food right out of the tupperware you bring them in. There’s also need to bring extra trays or plates when you choose finger food.

We suggest using butcher paper to wrap sandwiches and moist cakes or pastries. This will stop them from getting too soggy. Reserve your salad dressing to the side so the greens don’t go limp and translucent. If you bring a cooler, bring an extra cloth to cover it for prepping. Coolers make great tables when in need. It’s even better when you can make it look nice in the process!

For the adventurous picnicker who likes to enjoy a meal next to an alpine lake, on a mountainside, or along the cliffs that drop into the Pacific Ocean, try Dirty Gourmet or The Kitchn for recipes.

For the foodie picnicker who wants to experiment with cuisine and not be limited by the idea of tea sandwiches and cookies, try Jamie Oliver or The Gourmet Traveler for recipes.

For those of you who like it simple, these recipes from Food52 and Serious Eats are right for you.

Host an outdoor recipe party

Two gals from the Niman Ranch team hosting their own recipe party in Denver, CO. Posted by @smspin on Instagram: Ladies recipe night! #yummy #ladiesnight #tarragonattheparty #spritz #fruitsandtherbs

Ditch the traditional potluck and try hosting a recipe party! Here’s how it goes:

  1. Pick a theme for the night (savory & sweet, cold recipes, salads, etc.)
  2. Provide the group with recipe ideas via group email or a Facebook group (try sharing a link to one of Serious Eats’ Recipe Roundups or any of Food52’s What to Cook blogs). Instruct guests to bring the ingredients for their chosen recipe to the party.
  3. Everyone makes their recipe at the party.
  4. While eating, talk about what each person made and how they made it. You could also discuss any other topics relevant to food.

Supply the staples like flour, oil, salt and pepper. If you don’t have enough cutting boards, bowls or knives, request guests bring these items. We suggest only hosting 6-8 guests to allow for enough space for everyone to prep their dish.

Our very own Lauren Nischan-Snook and Sara Mae Spinale hosted a recipe party in Denver, CO, just last month. They decided to turn it into a ladies-only recipe night with a Fruits & Herbs theme. Guests brought recipes like tomato strawberry bruschetta, watermelon four herb salad, mango cucumber chili salad, and bacon, apple and arugula thyme aioli sandwiches. They all talked about their dish as they ate over specialty cocktails featuring homemade orange ginger mint simple syrup.

What will guests bring to your recipe party?

Patio hop around town

IMG_9107
The Greenhouse Tavern’s patio on the popular 4th Street in Cleveland.

Grab your favorite companion(s) and plan a date moving from patio to patio around town. If you’re hungry, make sure it’s a restaurant. If you’re strapped for cash, visit some of the best happy hours in your area. If you’re curious about what’s in a certain neighborhood, catch an Uber or Lyft and hit the town on foot!

It’s always fun to try something new, so check out a blog like Eater for recent restaurant openings. If your city doesn’t have a blog like this, have everyone in your group add their favorite spot or neighborhood to the map. You can find out a lot about a person by which patios they choose!

“Pick-your-own” at a local farm

The Wright Kids

For those of us with a garden, August and September are major harvest months. The bounty of the season is literally right at your door.

For those without a garden, you can still feel the pride of harvesting your own meal by finding a local pick-your-own farm near you! It’s an especially great activity for kids. Depending on what agricultural zone you’re in, you could have the chance to pick some of the following before fall:

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Corn
  • Gourds
  • Peaches
  • Pears

Pickyourown.org is a great resource for finding a farm in your area. We’ve also had employees who offer up their time on the weekend to help harvest and pack CSA boxes for farmers in return for produce. Just talk to the farmers at your local farmers market to see if they need the help!

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