Summer’s Last Hurrah: The Labor Day Cookout

The best way to celebrate Labor Day is to have a cookout with family, friends and fun activities. Foodies can wow guests with grill-friendly takes on the freshest fruits and vegetables in season now such as summer squash, tomatoes, corn, melons and peaches — or keep things traditional with hot dogs and hamburgers. Whatever you choose, most people want to get one last hurrah in before the (observed) end of summer, and have and extra day to do so before they return to work.

Celebrating the Fourth of July Outdoors

The #pandemic is subsiding in most parts of the country, mostly thanks to a vigorous push to get people vaccinated against COVID-19 as quickly as possible. But you may still wish celebrate Independence Day outdoors this weekend.

The pandemic pushed people to take more of their activities outdoors over the last 18 months since the virus is difficult to transmit in open, well-ventilated areas. And there’s no reason to stop enjoying the outdoors — and the summer sun — now!

You may opt to get together with friends and family over a cookout or at the pool to observe the nation’s 244th birthday over the long weekend. Any or all of these options will now be relatively safe if you continue to take common-sense precautions.

The World Health Organization advises that even fully vaccinated people wear masks and practice other preventive measures such as hand-washing and social distancing to discourage the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Most people will be eager to see a parade and fireworks display since so many were canceled in 2020. Leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals, however — with record temperatures throughout the western half of the country, the risk of fire is substantial.

What’s more, pets and veterans alike may be traumatized by fireworks, says American Humane. The boom and bombast of ceremonial fireworks isn’t much different from live ammunition when you suffer from #PTSD.

Veterans’ groups will participate in Independence Day events throughout the country, however, appearing at parades and festivals. Many will feature fundraising for veterans’ causes, and all offer locals the opportunity to #thankaveteran personally.

If you have time, visit one of the country’s many state and national parks. More people have embraced hiking and camping during the pandemic, and there is probably no better or healthier way to see “America the Beautiful” up close.

Whatever you choose to do over the long weekend, try to get outside and celebrate the nation’s birthday safely. The pandemic is not yet over, but the good weather will end before you know it.

 

Great Foodie Hacks for Grilling

Try a few foodie “hacks” if you want to look like a grill master. For instance, did you know that you can use Doritos as kindling for your fire? “It’s a wonder they’re used for anything else,” says WonderHowTo. To keep burgers moist, mix a tablespoon of butter into the mix, or form each patty around an ice chip or butter pat to help keep them from overcooking. Grilling atop wood planks, salt blocks and lemon slices imparts flavor to meat, vegetables and fish easily; and if you really want to look like the cookout king, grill something unexpected such as pineapple, watermelon or pizza.

Don’t Stress Out About Your Cookout

Want to keep your cookout stress-free? Prep everything before guests arrive, says the Travel Mamas blog. Marinate your meats and get sides ready to plate well ahead of time — or ask your guests to bring a covered dish to pass. Make sure you have sufficient propane or charcoal for your meal plan, and keep noshes separate from the cooking area to preserve the grill master’s creative space. Invite guests to help themselves to drinks, and consider offering entertainments such as bags or horseshoes. Finally, “Have fun,” the blog says. “When the host is relaxed and having fun, so will your guests.”

Basic Tips for Charcoal Grilling

Nothing beats a charcoal grill for real cookout flavor, but neophytes may be unsure how to achieve pro-quality results. First, says Spruce Eats, measure the fuel — more briquettes mean higher temperatures, so adjust the amount based upon the foodstuffs you’ll be grilling. A chimney starter is the best option for getting coals lit; once they’re glowing, you can arrange them into a uniform bed or “zones” to allow a dual-temperature cooktop. Oil and preheat the grill’s grate, then put those steaks, brats and vegetables on, further controlling cooking heat by adjusting the vents.