Outdoor dining can be one of the most enjoyable experiences of summer, whether under the shade of a sprawling tree, on the dock, at the beach or in your own backyard.
We can feel our bodies relax while we admire the vast panorama from earth to sky. Some of my fondest childhood memories are sitting on the sand enjoying favourite summer food like cubes of fresh rhubarb cake, fruit and vegetables with dip, homemade cookies, cheese with crackers and puffed wheat squares.
I will never forget sipping cool drinks through a licorice straw and when my hands got wet and dirty, I simply dipped them in the water and moved on to my next entree. My friends and I never wanted to go inside.
Now, a trend that reminds me of those days is serving a charcuterie board with a variety of food.
The French tradition has evolved to an array of offerings, but originally, it was a large tray to present cured meats along with cheese, breads, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Here are some of my favourites to include on a board or tray.
Spinach dip with naan bread
My daughter introduced me to naan bread. I now prefer it to crackers. Give it a try.
- 1 1/4 c. frozen spinach (10 oz.), thawed, chopped and drained very well until no liquid drips out (you can also use fresh spinach, but cut off the stems and cook in oil in a skillet to tenderize 284 g
- 3/4 c. mayonnaise 175 mL
- 1 1/4 c. sour cream 300 mL
- 1 tsp. Worcestershiresauce 5 mL
- 2 tsp. onion powder (you can also use one chopped fresh green onion) 10 mL
- 1 tsp. garlic powder 5 mL
- 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
- if desired, you can add in about 2 tbsp. /30 mL of grated cheddar cheese to the dip for a variety in the taste. Optional but good.
In a small mixing bowl, mix the mayonnaise and sour cream.
Add in the Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.
Stir in the spinach and mix until everything is combined.
Chill for a minimum of one hour. Makes about four cups (one litre).
Note: I buy my naan bread for convenience. I prefer the President’s Choice minis. The smaller option is so easy to use in a dip.
When ready to serve, place naan bread on a cookie sheet and heat at 350 F (180 C) for about two minutes to warm.
Also, before warming, you could sprinkle the bread with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Along with this spinach dip, offer a marinara sauce as an alternative if desired, or even a ranch dip. You can also add some hard cheese or deli meat such as salami or prosciutto to accompany your dip. Source: www.glutenfreepalate.com
Note: From experience, if you are offering a variety of dips on your board, it is a good idea to label which dip is which so the strawberries don’t get in the spinach dip.
At many functions a sweet board with squares is offered, including cookies, chocolate chunks and small pieces of cakes. You could pair this with fresh fruit and dip. What a guilty pleasure but a must as many people cannot resist a treat every now and again. Here are some great options:
Fresh strawberries and cheesecake dip
Cheesecakes are known for their decadent taste and presentation, but we do not have always have time to whip one up.
This is my take on a dip that tastes like cheesecake filling and is excellent with fresh summer strawberries.
- 8 oz. softened cream cheese block 250 g
- 1/2 c. – 3/4 c. sugar (personal taste) 125 – 175 mL
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice 30 mL
- 1 c. whipping cream, whipped (you can also use equal amounts of cool whip for a thicker dip 250 mL
- Optional: reduce lemon juice to 1 tbsp. then add 1 tbsp. Amaretto liqueur to intensify the fruit dip
In a mixing bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff. Then in a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice together. Gently fold prepared whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well combined and smooth.
Refrigerate for two to three hours or until firm. Chill until ready to serve.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for four to five days. Enjoy with fresh strawberries. For variety, add fresh pineapple, grapes, honeydew melon or cantaloupe to the dip.
Creamy ranch dip with veggies
A ranch dip always has a place on a vegetable board. Kind of like the icing on the cake.
Serve with fresh vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
- 1/2 c. mayonnaise 125 mL
- 1/2 c. sour cream 125 mL
- 1/2 c. buttermilk or regular milk 125 mL
- 1 tsp. dried or fresh green dill weed 5 mL
- 1/2 tsp. dried or freshparsley 2 mL
- 1/2 tsp. dried or freshchives 2 mL
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 2 mL
- 1/4 tsp. onion powder or one small chopped green onion 1 mL
- 1/4 tsp. salt, adjust to taste 1 mL
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper .5 mL
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice or white vinegar 10 mL
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until combined and creamy. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 1 1/2 cups /375 mL of dip.
This dip will keep nicely in the refrigerator for up to a week. Source: adapted from www.barefeetinthekitchen.com
If you feel too rushed to make a dip, pick up a Marzetti or Litehouse Ranch Dip in the cooler section of your grocery store.
This is a family favourite. You can modify by substituting oil for butter or margarine. It’s such a seasonal treat.
- 1/3 c. oil 75 mL
- or 1/2 c. butter 125 mL
- 1 1/2 c. sugar 375 mL
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
- 1 c. sour milk, buttermilkor cream 250 mL
- 2 c. flour 500 mL
- 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
- 2 c. fresh rhubarb, cut fine 500 mL
- 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
- 1 tsp. cinnamon 5 mL
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Mix oil and sugar, add egg, vanilla and sour milk. In another mixing bowl, combine the flour and soda. Add to sugar mixture and stir until combined. Fold in rhubarb and pour into a 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) pan. Mix topping and sprinkle over the top of the batter.
Bake in heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
Serves 12 with large pieces, but use smaller pieces on a board. The perfect tart meets sweet.<
No butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
This cookie offers an option to use oil rather than butter or margarine in the batter. Although I am a butter lover, it is good to use saturated fat in moderation.
- 1/4 c. oil (I used olive oil, but use whatsuits you) 60 mL
- 1/2 c. brown sugar 125 mL
- 1 egg 1
- 2 tsp. vanilla 10 mL
- 1 1/4 c. rolled oats 300 mL
- 1/2 c. flour 125 mL
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda .5 mL
- 1/8 tsp. salt .5 mL
- 1 c. chocolate chips of your choice (I likedark chocolatechips) 250 mL
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl beat together oil, sugar, egg and vanilla.
Slowly add dry mixture to the wet mixture, stir until combined.
Add in chocolate chips.
Shape dough into two-inch balls and place onto a baking sheet.
Bake for 10 to 14 minutes. Makes about 12 cookies. Source: www.foodsguy.com
Old-fashioned puffed wheat squares
Summer treats are not complete until you bite into a gooey puffed wheat cake.
- 1/2 c. butter or margarine (I like butter) 125 mL
- 1 c. corn syrup 250 mL
- 1 c. white sugar 250 mL
- 1/4 c. brown sugar 60 mL
- 6 tbsp. cocoa powder 90 mL
- 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
- 9 c. puffed wheat 2.12 L
Combine butter, corn syrup, sugars and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan.
Bring to a boil, with bubbles on the surface. Stir constantly on a low boil for two minutes, no more. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
In a large bowl, pour mixture over puffed wheat.
Mix well and press (with damp hands) into a greased 9 x 13 (22 x 33 cm) pan. Source: Originally from the cookbook The Best of The Best and More from the Best of Bridge Collection.
Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.