An Alternate Summer Bucket List

I originally wrote this post earlier in the summer, when I had barely made it through any of the things I had imagined myself doing that season.  Since then, we crossed off a bunch of “Summer Bucket List” items, but I wanted to share it anyway, as a reminder that it’s completely okay to take summer at your own pace and maybe not get to all the things you thought you were going to get to.  There are plenty of future summers for those things and in the meantime, you might just discover happiness in a whole slue of unplanned activities ūüôā

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When I looked at my Summer Bucket List, hanging on the magnetic board in our kitchen, with just two items crossed out, I felt sad.  But then I thought of all the wonderful and fun things I did this summer that weren’t on that list and I felt sad no more.  I didn’t fail, I just wrote the wrong list!

What if, instead of spending most of our time trying new things, we just fine tuned/perfected/cemented our love for old things/routines/habits/experiences.  Getting better at stuff you already know you love is totally an accomplishment to me.

We went to the Farmers’ Market every Saturday we could and knew the best tents for tomatoes and just how much we could fit into my bike basket (even if we still bought more than that every time…).

We watched Dirty Dancing at Film on the Rocks and knew you forego the tailgate in favor of a amphitheater picnic because it means getting in earlier and grabbing a better seat.

I went to Yoga on the Rocks, not once but twice!  We went to so many good concerts and even upped our tailgate game by buying an actual table to sit at.

I baked ALL THE THINGS.  If weekly pie/cobbler/cake is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.  But don’t worry, we still made time for a trip to the ice cream parlor too.

We dined al fresco so many times and didn’t take a single backyard dinner for granted because they are, arguably and low key-ly, the best part of summer.

I read and ran and relaxed.  Uptight might be my middle name, but when there’s corn to grill and hammocks to read/nap in, who has time to worry about how clean (or dirty) their kitchen floor is.

I got a new grill and we found that sweet spot between BBQing for a group and just grilling up a quick dinner for ourselves.  In the end, that mostly means we just ate a lot of good things this summer.

Don’t even get me started on our little garden that I love with all my heart.  We were so much more organized and prepared this year and it was so fun to see new things grow and have that 10-minutes to water and admire all those cute little vegetables after work.

And let’s not forget weddings and vacations and weekends spent with our families that could have been stressful but ended up being relaxing and rejuvenating and a good reminder that despite all the bad things in the world, you have your people and they have you.

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So today, we say goodbye to Summer 2017 and hello to the official fall season and I’m feeling really good about it all ‚ô•

Summer BBQ Recipes 2017

If you’re new to this space, welcome to the post where I share/link all the things we barbecued this summer. ¬†I like it for inspiration the next year and also because it’s fun to look back and see what we were into during a particular summer and how much our BBQ game has grown since I started posting these. ¬†And this year, Summer 2017, we barbecued to our little hearts’ desire!

From low key weeknight dinners, to celebratory holiday feasts to BBQs with all our friends and family, we did it all this summer! ¬†It made me feel happy and hot (why doesn’t anyone talk about how sweaty you get standing at the grill??) and adventurous (we even grilled lamb chops!) and I’m grateful for every meal and dish and person I got to share it all with this summer¬†‚ô•

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Drinks:

Cherry-Peach Sangria //¬†People are now referring to this sangria as “Lauren’s Drink,” so I think it’s safe to say I’ve A) made this A LOT and B) drank A LOT of this. ¬†Definitely double it (and maybe even triple it if you have a big group) but you can keep the fruit amounts the same because I always have leftovers of that stuff at the end of the night and why waste a good stone fruit?

Strawberry Summer Water // When I saw this recipe on the internet I immediately showed it to Joey like “someone literally wrote a recipe for water with fruit in it!” ¬†Followed seconds later by “I’m gonna make it…” ¬†Continued irony when everyone at our summer BBQ claimed it to be VERY GOOD. ¬†

Bonus Non-Recipe // We made a good handful of margaritas this summer and I feel very good about it.  Make a simple syrup by boiling equal parts water and sugar, then combine 1.5 oz. tequila, 1 oz. triple sec, juice of one lime and 1.5 oz. of the (COOLED) simple syrup and shake over ice.  So simple!

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Apps/Sides:

BA’s Best Guacamole // It’s called BA’s Best for a reason. ¬†Also, no tomatoes and I’m so very down with that!

Maple Baked Beans¬†//¬†I’ve made these a few times and they¬†always turn out great! ¬†Plus you just dump it all in the crock pot, set the timer for 4 hours and forget it. ¬†Couldn’t be easier!

Cranberry-Almond Broccoli Salad¬†//¬†I LOVE this broccoli salad because: bacon. ¬†BUT I’m also here to tell you that I made it WITHOUT bacon OR almonds (because I love my vegetarian and nut-allergic friends) and somehow it was still so dang good! ¬†That creamy dressing holds up all on its own. ¬†Plus it’s really really easy to make and tastes even better than the Whole Foods version. ¬†This is my go-to BBQ side dish!

¬†Ultimate Red Skinned Potato Salad¬†//¬†I usually leave the potato salad to my mom (because she makes the best!) but turns out she’s not at every BBQ I’m at so I tried my own hand at it and this mayo-free version blew me away. ¬†Honey mustard dressing is where it’s at! ¬†And for the record, I didn’t even add more dressing after the initial 1/3 cup because I thought it tasted perfect right then!

Easy Cornbread // Okay, that recipe title does not do this cornbread justice. ¬†Officially re-naming it THE VERY BEST CORNBREAD TO EVER EXIST, AS CONFIRMED BY EVERYONE I’VE EVER FED IT TO. ¬†Too long? ¬†

Greek Farmers’ Salad // Told my mom I made this for Father’s Day and she was all “oh, I’ve never made it” and then I told her I got the recipe from her. ¬†She’s a goofy one! ¬†This salad is my easiest potluck side and I think I’ve made it about 300 times. ¬†

Grilled Corn and Bell Pepper Salad¬†//¬†Do not underestimate the power of a simple grilled veggie salad, especially when summer produce is at its peak. ¬†Joey grilled all these veggies and when he came back inside he said “well, do you wanna be mad at me now or later, because I charred the hell out of the bell peppers,” but then he actually grilled them to perfection and I tossed them in the dressing and was delighted at how good and fresh it all tasted.

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Main Dish:

Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs // If you, like Joey and I, are a bit intimidated by bone-in skin-on chicken thighs, this works perfectly fine with boneless skinless thighs too!  The marinade makes for the most beautiful grill marks, to boot.

Grilled Chicken Wings with Shishito Peppers and Herbs //¬†Does it count as a BBQ if there’s only two people in attendance? ¬†It does if it’s a holiday! ¬†Or so I say. ¬†This dinner was a monumental win for me because A) it was the inaugural meal on my new grill and B) it turned out incredibly well. ¬†For the record, I thought I burnt some of the wings but those ones ended up tasting the best so don’t fear a little char! ¬†

Grilled Steak Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce // Honestly, this recipe was A LOT of work. ¬†I’m all for making stuff from scratch but a sauce, a salsa, pickled veggies, marinade, grilled onions and steak is a lot to handle in one day. ¬†VERY delicious but also maybe very exhausting. ¬† ¬†

The BA Burger Deluxe // For when you just need that classic cheeseburger, ya know?

Spinach Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers // I love love love these burgers because they are way juicy and because there are few things as delightful as biting into a goat cheese pocket.  I just throw in a handful of chopped fresh spinach in place of the frozen and just FYI, these can easily be made gluten free by just leaving out the panko.

BBQ Chicken Burgers // You¬†can make these with any cheese but you should make them with sharp cheddar because it can hold its own against the BBQ sauce, making for one flavor-packed and supremely tender burger. ¬†Please be forewarned that the patties are kinda wet but all’s well that ends well and these end SO well!

Grilled Lamb Rib Chops¬†//¬†We used a combination of this recipe (for the marinade, which we let sit for ~5 hours) and this guide (for the grilling method) and while I¬†shouldn’t take any credit because I never even stepped foot near the grill while Joey made these, I¬†want to take credit because I bought the chops, prepped them for marinating, semi-researched the grilling method and made all the sauces and flatbread that we ate with it. ¬†TL;DR: THIS MEAL WAS SUPER DELICIOUS.

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Desserts:

Giant Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie¬†//¬†All hail the cast-iron skillet! ¬†And the giant cookie! ¬†And this recipe for being so easy and made of all pantry ingredients, aka you could probably whip it up right now if you wanted to! ¬†Joey squeezed my arm SO hard when he took his first bite of this cookie because he was THAT excited about how good it was. ¬†Do it — you won’t be disappointed.

Easy One-Bowl Upside-Down Cake //¬†Fail-proof! ¬†I made it once with cherries and lime and another time with blueberries and lemon and both turned out so incredibly good! ¬†If you’re the type of person who considers batter to be beautiful, this one is GORGEOUS. ¬†Don’t skip/be scared by the whipped sour cream because it totally takes this cake to another level of deliciousness. ¬†

Blackberry-Cherry Cobbler with Honey Whipped Cream //¬†I’m a huge believer in cobbler. ¬†So much easier than a pie or even a galette! ¬†This biscuit dough comes together so easily and the entire recipe take minimal effort so it’s a real win for us cobbler lovers. ¬†¬†

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Tahini Brownies // Usually, the words gluten-free make me run for the hills, but sometimes I do attempt to be accommodating and these had me at tahini. ¬†Turns out they were fan-freaking-tastic and I bet, if you didn’t tell anyone, they wouldn’t even know these didn’t have flour in them. ¬†If you’re not into that sweet-salty thing, maybe half the salt, but I’m a salt freak so I loved em’ as they were. ¬†

Bonus Non-Recipe: Need to tell you that recently, I discovered the pure bliss of a grilled peach topped with yogurt, honey and maybe even some toasted almonds and making this little dessert for myself was the best form of self-care ever.  Do it!

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Looks burnt but tastes good!

Thank you, Summer 17 for all the happy and delicious times and for never letting us run out of propane mid-BBQ ūüôā