Summer’s finally here, and that means we can finally start dining alfresco! Despite the exposure to bugs and the wind, I absolutely adore eating outside. It adds a sense of spectacle and freedom to the whole atmosphere, and makes one more excuse to get out in the sun. If you’ve never hosted alfresco dining before, and you want your first time to go off without a hitch, then this post is for you. Here, I’ve put together a helpful guide for dining alfresco and a few tips for keeping it healthy. I hope it makes your outdoor meal one to remember!
First of all, make sure the environment’s great for eating. Obviously, you’ll need a table which accommodates for all your guests. It also helps to have some outdoor chairs which you won’t mind getting a bit of dirt on them. If you already have some outdoor chairs, give them a once-over long before your guests arrive. It may bring down the mood a little if someone looks down and realises a spider’s crawling up their leg! A nice, bug tablecloth should also be on your checklist. If you’re going for a retro, chic look, then you can probably find a great floral-pattern piece in one of your local shops. If you want to make the meal really memorable though, you could buy something more like these Hotel quality linen tablecloths from Richard Haworth. You should also plan some subtle décor to give a nice finishing touch to the whole scene. Chinese lanterns hung above the table will work with almost any alfresco setting. To make sure the bugs don’t ruin your meal, get a couple of citronella candles from Purple Turtle. While nothing can make up for great food, an attractive, welcoming setting to your meal will go a long way.
Next, onto the food. Seen as you’re reading this blog, you probably make a point of keeping your meals as healthy as possible. While barbeques are widely associated with meat, they don’t have to be the centrepiece of the whole meal. In fact, it’s easy to have a veggie-orientated meal and still keep everyone happy! Peppers, courgettes, onions taste brilliant when they’re grilled on a kebab. Some fruits like peaches will even taste great after being grilled. When it comes to meat, the best way to make sure it’s healthy is making your own burgers from scratch. I probably don’t have to tell you how full of fat most store-bought ones are! Having said that, there are still a few good brands you can stick to. Again, although red meat is considered a staple of outdoor cooking, I’m sure your guests would be more than happy with chicken breast and fish.
Like a lot of parents, you might find it extremely hard to make sure your kids are getting their five a day. Because they haven’t grown out of their sweet teeth, getting a mere five fruits and vegetables feels like a chore to them. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to slip it by them! Create your own healthy dip by mixing chopped beetroot with some low-fat Greek yoghurt, and a little black pepper. An extra squeeze of lemon juice will give the dip a little extra zest. If you’re not a fan of beetroot, or you know your kids are too quick for that, then swap it for a different vegetable. Roasted peppers and aubergines are both good choices. Finally, serve your dip up with some veggies in small, manageable portions. Carrot sticks are the obvious choice, but be a little more adventurous! Cucumber, celery and radishes all go great with this homemade dip. Everyone likes coleslaw. What you and your guests may not like is how fattening store-bought coleslaw can be. The problem is in the mayo, but this can be easily subbed out for something more light. Yoghurt, mustard, pepper and a little olive oil mixed with vegetables will make for a wonderful substitute for coleslaw. In my opinion, it’s even better than the coleslaw they serve in some restaurants!
Obviously, it’s important to keep hydrated in the hot weather. This is especially true if you’ve got kids running around, rapidly sweating out their electrolytes. Many of your guests will be happy with cold beer and rosé. However, if you’re going to be serving up to more health-conscious guests, then you should pick something else. Obviously, the healthiest option possible would be water. However, this isn’t the most exciting or tasty drink in the world. You can still keep things both healthy and tasty by making your own flavoured water. Simply get a pitcher, fill it with water, and then fill it generously with lemon, lime and mint leaves. If you don’t mind a little sugar at your table, or you just deserve a day off of the diet, then you can make your own ginger beer pretty easily.
Finally, desserts. Like it or not, these are kind of a given when you’re hosting a large meal. If you’re as health conscious as me, then watching people shovel down ice cream and other fatty dishes is painful! Although you should have a few popular desserts, there’s still a few healthier options to try out. Making smoothie lollies is an easy and healthy solution for the dessert course. It’s also one more great way to make sure your kids get their five a day. For something a little more grown-up, whip up some gorgeous fruit salads and keep them in the fridge throughout the day. Believe it or not, there are recipes for ice creams and sorbet that aren’t bursting with fats and sugars! Daily Burn has some great ones. Just make sure you leave yourself enough time for this. Healthy desserts are pretty tough, and you don’t want to come out with a tray of half-set gloop!
Take this advice, and you’ll be able to create the perfect Alfresco experience. Healthy and delicious are hard to marry sometimes, but I’m sure you can do it! Hopefully, you’ll find a few healthy recipes which will help you out again and again.