Just because summer is drawing to a close doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in one last brilliant barbecue. Nothing will cheer up the little ones these last few August weekends (and on Labor Day!) like a gut-bursting cookout. From pre-grill nibblers to post-BBQ sweets, these recipe ideas will help you craft your best crowd-pleasing menu ever.
While you’re firing up the grill, whet appetites and amp up the fun with whimsical starters like colorful, triangularly-shaped salmon and edamame onigiri. These lightly salted Japanese rice balls are essentially finger food and will be a hit with little hands. If barbecues usually come hand in hand with crunchy, greasy snacks for your family, set out a bowl of carrot chips tossed with cinnamon for a healthier munch. Or, you might just be surprised at how quickly the children scoop up this zesty and garlicky hummus. It’s kid-approved, and you just might cultivate a hummus-lover (easy to pack for bagged lunches!) before the new school year.
Even if you have no plans of escaping Manhattan, you can still introduce some backyard cooking in your air-conditioned apartment. Hailing from New York Family’s August issue recipes, these genius marinated and curried chicken dishes bring “urban grilling” to city celebrations. For a taste of Asia at home, also try your hand at this honey-hoisin marinated skirt steak. Don’t eat meat? Smitten Kitchen’s grilled eggplant with caponata salsa is easily manageable in a grill pan—and just might be colorful enough to entice the kids to try an oft-avoided veggie.
To fend off a carb-induced coma, pair these smoky dishes with some lighter salads. Oozing summer in all its herby glory, this Israeli pesto couscous is easy enough to involve older kids and ease them out of their vacation idleness. The picky eater might enjoy a well chopped spinach and grape salad that adds some green to the mix, with just enough natural sugar to appease a sweet tooth. And to please the adult crowd, Bon Appetit’s jalapeno-lime-buttered corn on the cob adds a spicy kick to the menu. (Hint: no one will know the difference if you turn to frozen or canned corn when pressed for time!)
Of course, no summer cookout is perfect without a glass of refreshing and classic lemonade. Stir things up and add a twist to this iconic beverage with one of 20 refreshing ideas from Martha Stewart, like infusing strawberry-hibiscus tea or lemon verbena. But to stay one step ahead of this year’s temperamental weather, keep this seasonal Sandra Lee peach and apricot cider recipe on file as a versatile rain plan. A boozy treat for the grown-ups with a splash of bourbon on a chilly day, the drink is still a warm and fruity delight for the kids (sans the kick).
End the day on a sweet note with these key lime cooler mini ice cream pies, which combine two summer dessert staples into one confectionery masterpiece. For a health-conscious alternative, none of Health.com’s berrylicious pies and cobblers will set you back more than 300 calories. And if it’s just too hot to turn on the oven, drift into a chocolaty heaven with Real Simple’s no-bake marshmallow fudge and fondly dream of vacations past. Unless you’re an ice cream fanatic, in which case we recommend their ice cream social blog, which will have you scooping for sundaes until the cows come home.