Making Fall Cookouts Special

October 28, 2013 Grilling, Seasonal Tips

The hot days and long nights of the summer may be in the past, but that doesn't mean that barbecue season has to come to an end. I don't know about you, but cooler weather and the excitement of fall makes me even more eager to barbecue. Luckily, any time of the year is perfect for fun with family and friends, and no gathering is complete without delicious food to share. Whether you're celebrating the shift of seasons, hanging out after a football game or simply spending a Saturday night with friends, make your get-togethers memorable by surprising your guests with new approaches to your classic favorite foods.

With food this memorable, your guests will be eager to gather again soon.

Serve Standout Sides There is something special about cooking out on the grill that brings friends together, and every successful barbecue needs some solid side dishes to go along with the grilled meats and veggies. Instead of placing an ordinary green salad on the table, dress up your salad with garbanzo beans, spice things up with a taco salad with kidney beans or try a totally new salad recipe, like a mixed-bean salad. Looking for something quick and cool to serve as a side? This three-bean salad is just what your party needs.

Another classic crowd-pleaser is chips and dip. But I say forget about the jar of salsa off the shelf. Spice up your party with homemade black bean salsa, served with tortilla chips. Give your chips and dip a fall spin by presenting them in hollowed-out gourds instead of bowls. While you're at it, whip up a seven-layer dip with refried beans and spices, topped with diced tomatoes, avocado, olives, sour cream and more. Or add a Mediterranean flare to your get together by making your own hummus from garbanzo beans — you'll be amazed how fast and easy homemade hummus can be! Just grab some pita chips and carrots, and you'll be ready to dip. Want to wow your guests? Try black bean hummus appetizers instead. Everything goes into the food processor for easy preparation, and the results are to die for.

Don't Stop With the Food While you're mixing up some old favorites and new finds, don't forget to dress up the table, too. Try decorating with pumpkins and gourds of various sizes and shapes. You'll find that they're not only festive, but the unusual shapes and colors can make for great conversation-starters as well. Take advantage of the cooling temperatures by planning a few outdoor games that involve the kids and adults together. No special set up is necessary; a few balls and a Frisbee can provide hours of entertainment.

No matter what you end up serving at your next get-together with family and friends, don't forget to savor the time together. Just be warned: With food this memorable, your guests will be eager to gather again soon!

Meet Laura Franklin

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