Bring variety to foods served at your picnics and cookouts

The warmer months are the perfect time to enjoy meals outdoors, so head out to the backyard or the local park for a sunlit lunch or a breezy, laid-back dinner. Your family probably has some favorite picnic menu items they frequently request, but if you’re looking to inject some new life into those traditional foods, try the following:

* Add sparkle to your salad – Gelatin salads are quick and easy to prepare a day or two in advance of your picnic. If you’re interested in giving your gelatin salad a bit of pizzazz, consider using ginger ale or soda water instead of plain water. Or, if your party is for adults only, Champagne or a sparkling wine will give the salad a fun new flavor twist.

* Spice up the grill – Grilled meat is always a top choice for picnics, and it’s an area where you can explore many different flavors to accompany the meat. Take advantage of the growing season by adding chopped sauces like fruit salsa or pico de gallo to your cooked meats. The fresh flavors of fruits and vegetables from your garden or found at a local farmers market will quickly transform steak, chicken, pork and fish into a new meal. Make the sauce ahead of time so the flavors can meld. Once the meat is cooked, remove from grill and place on plate. Spoon the sauce on top and serve.

* Give side dishes a new style – Potato salad is a staple side dish for a classic picnic get-together. This summer, consider trying something new with your traditional recipe. Hashbrowns are a great way to give your salad new texture and taste without straying too far from the traditional German-style potato salad recipe. And to make your picnic menu even easier, Hungry Jack Original Hashbrown Potatoes cook quickly and allow you to skip the whole potato peeling and cutting process. This Hashbrown Potato Salad recipe will delight all who attend your next outdoor gathering.

* Dessert with a surprise – Frozen fruit pops are a popular picnic dessert option and nothing is better than the homemade version. This summer, consider giving your homemade frozen treats a bit of flavor variation. Instead of using juice to make frozen fruit pops, consider blending yogurt, fresh fruit and some honey together before freezing into delicious chilled treats. Your friends and family will love the surprising new flavors. If you need to transport your frozen treats, place them in a cooler or cardboard box with a small amount of dry ice, which is available at most grocery stores. Once at your picnic location, remove the dry ice from the container to allow the fruit pops to temper; be sure to follow all guidelines for handling dry ice.

Have fun with your backyard dining and picnics this summer and be sure to explore all the new textures and tastes you can easily create. You’ll probably find yourself planning more meals out-of-doors just so you can try all the new menu items.