Family and vast amounts of food just go together. I remember as a child hiking to John Muir cabin, our backpacks groaning with the weight of unnecessary food. I tell you-we didn't starve on that excursion. I've never had such amazing homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh corn on the cob and barbecued ribs!
Photo by Abby LaForce Barbecued chicken with apricot, ginger and chipotle sauce, spicy tex-mex cornbread and a simple slaw with fresh mango are flavor-packed additions to any summer picnic.
From buttermilk waffles, sandwiches on fresh baked bread, savory pot roast and vegetables baked in the ground to homemade apricot cobbler-our bellies were stuffed to the brim by the weekend's finale.
Standing on the warm cabin floor, the smell of burning coals and the lazy chatter of family wafting through, I've never been happier or more content.
I look forward to summer outings especially picnics and barbecues. It gives me a reason to pour over recipes, and come up with something fun and delicious. When picnicking it's important to pick foods that are easily transported and can be partially to fully prepared ahead of time.
For barbecuing it's tradition to grill hotdogs or hamburgers; however, if you're adventurous and want to make it more special try something innovative.
Barbecued chicken is the ultimate summer comfort food, add some chipotle sauce, a hit of apricot flavor and you're in business. The chicken is great when grilled at the premise; have the sauce prepared ahead.
To balance out the spicy flavors, add a crunchy slaw infused with tangy dressing, juicy mango and vegetables. The slaw is simple to prepare, and tastes better the next day.
A simple bread staple is tex-mex cornbread, which is easily transported. Throw in fire-roasted chiles, smooth sharp cheddar, smoky paprika, and it's cornbread with a kick.
Concerning desserts, I find a rule of thumb is plan your dessert around what's transportable and won't get ruined in the back of your car. Cookie or dessert bars are the best sweet treat for a casual party: guests can pick them up and eat in hand and they're quick to prepare.
A great foundation is a brownie layer. Simply use your favorite mix if you don't have the time for homemade, and build from there. You can dress up the brownies by glazing with chocolate glaze or frosting, top with chopped nuts, candies or coconut or fold toppings in brownie batter. Fun flavor combinations are chocolate mint, peanut-butter cup or chocolate raspberry. Try these recipes out, and make your summer barbecue unforgettable.
Apricot, Ginger and Chipotle Barbecued Chicken
The trick to barbecuing chicken is low heat, producing a tender juicy bird
Chicken parts, including drumstick, thigh and breast
(calculate 2 pieces per person, or more)
Olive oil, fresh ground pepper and kosher salt
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup ketchup
1 tbs. canola oil
1 tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. fresh or dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried mustard
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 ½ tbs. chipotle hot sauce,
or more to taste
1 tbs. chili powder
Juice of 1 large lemon
Combine sauce ingredients. Brush chicken with olive oil. Place chicken on grill at low temperature, sprinkle lightly with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt. Cover and grill for 15 minutes before turning and grilling another 15 minutes. Brush with barbecue sauce, cover and grill 5-10 minutes before turning and brushing again. Continue procedure until all chicken is heavily glazed. Cook chicken until temperature registers 180 degrees F. Watch smaller pieces as they cook quicker, chicken breasts tend to dry out quicker than thighs or drumsticks.
Cha Cha Slaw with Fresh Mango
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
1 medium head nappa cab
bage, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrots*
½ head medium purple
cabbage thinly sliced
½ cup fresh cilantro,
2 large ripe mangoes,
peeled, seeded and cubed
1 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 orange
3 tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. fresh ground
pepper, or more to taste
Combine cabbages, cilantro, carrots and fresh mango. Mix dressing ingredients until blended. Pour over vegetables, and toss to coat.
Adjust seasonings to taste, with additional lime juice or fresh ground pepper. The coleslaw can be made one day ahead, covered and refrigerated.
*To save time, purchase carrots already shredded in the packaged salad department.
Tex-Mex Cornbread with Fire-Roasted Green Chiles and Sharp Cheddar
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
1 package cornbread mix or
favorite cornbread recipe
(enough to make one square
1 4 oz. can fire-roasted chiles
1 cup grated sharp or
medium cheddar cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp. chile powder
2 tsp. smoked or regular
½ tsp. ground cumin
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a square 8X8X2 pan. Combine dry cornbread mix with recipe's ingredients. Following cornbread mix instructions, add in the wet ingredients.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into squares.
*Smoked paprika can be found at Gourmet Alaska in the Juneau Nugget Mall.
Abby LaForce is owner of Abby's Catering Co. in Juneau.