Make-Ahead Food Ideas For Memorial Day and 4th of July BBQ Picnics

Like many folks on Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, you might be making plans to go camping, or planning a BBQ, or even going somewhere for a picnic.

Whatever the event, if you are the one in charge of the meal planning and cooking, if time allows, please try some of my make-ahead food ideas before, so that you can have more time to relax and to enjoy yourself and your family on the actual day of the event!

Just because you are the one in charge of the planning and cooking, it doesn’t mean you have to be busy doing EVERYTHING food-related that day. Consider these make-ahead food ideas:

Make-Ahead Marinated Chicken and Steak

Adding steak and chicken to the hamburger and hotdog menu is easy.

The prep. time for any of my marinated steak, teriyaki chicken and Thai Chicken recipes is 15 minutes at the most. For days or weeks before, combine the marinade and meat in a freezer bag and freeze according to the recipe’s directions. Remove from the freezer the day before the event and place in the refrigerator to thaw. Or prepare a day ahead, marinate and refrigerate for 24 hours. When your grill is pre-heated, you will be ready.

Make-Ahead Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

For a special, out-of the-ordinary indulgence, how does a beef tenderloin stuffed with spinach, Swiss cheese, garlic and mushrooms and slow cooked on the rotisserie grill sound? Although beef tenderloin is very expensive per pound (check out your local wholesale club for the best price) it is definitely worth a once-a-year Memorial Day event! Estimate ½ lb. per person, and a five pound tenderloin will easily feed about 10 people. My stuffed beef tenderloin recipe includes make-ahead instructions for the stuffing, allowing you to make the stuffing a day ahead.

The day you are ready for the grill, rinse the beef under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut a lengthwise pocket into the side of the beef and fill with the stuffing. Tie the beef tightly with 5 or 6 separate strings to keep the pocket closed. Cut off the excess strings if they’re hanging. Rub the outside of the beef with the minced garlic and season with salt and pepper. Insert a cooking thermometer in the center in the thickest part of the beef (not the stuffing.) Grill on a rotisserie (or bake in the oven at 375°F) until the thermometer registers rare in the center. Do not overcook. The ends will be more done. Let the beef rest for 15 minutes before you cut it. Remove the strings. Cut into ½ inch slices. Your guests will think you labored over extravagant cooking recipes, while you too are sitting and enjoying this delicacy.

Make-Ahead Cole Slaw and Pasta Salads

My cookbook contains some easy make-ahead cole slaw and broccoli slaw recipes. Whether its broccoli salad, Hawaiian cole slaw, or healthy broccoli slaw, it is simple to make these a day ahead. Make the dressing a day ahead and refrigerate. Assemble the other ingredients and refrigerate. To avoid a soggy cole slaw, add the dressing and toss your cole slaw right before your BBQ.

My Italian sub and macaroni pasta salad recipes can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, and these will taste delicious the day of the event.

Make-Ahead Desserts

Dessert breads are a great finger-food for a picnic or an after BBQ treat. Many of my easy dessert bread recipes like banana bread, cinnamon bread, blueberry bread or strawberry bread, allow for making ahead and freezing.

After baking two loaves of bread (many of my bread recipes will yield two loaves) wait until they are completely cooled. Next, wrap them in plastic wrap before placing them in a vacuum bag to freeze. Take them out of the vacuum sealed bags to thaw, this way the breads are already wrapped and ready for you to serve in about 4 hours.

Kids always go for the cookies, even big (adult-sized) kids! Homemade cookies are simple, make-ahead desserts that are a great finish to any picnic or BBQ.  Making Ahead is easy when you flash freeze your cookie dough.  Use the flash freezing method for my cookie recipes and you will have fantastic results.  These cookie recipes include:  big ginger cookies, brownie cookies, macadamia nut cookies, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter chocolate chip crackles, peanut butter kiss cookies, snickerdoodles, and everyone’s favorite, chocolate chip cookies.  You can find these cookie recipes, as well as, all of the above mentioned recipes and my make ahead directions in my Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms Cookbook.

The more prep. work you do in advance, the more fun you will have at your BBQ.  You want to be in the fresh air and sunshine NOT in your kitchen!