When it comes to outdoor living, a kitchen is so often the epicenter for connection and wellbeing. With good food and close community on the menu, life is pretty delicious.
Having an outdoor kitchen the whole family can enjoy is a philosophy that’s alive and well at Lilyana by Hillwood in Celina, TX. Located in our pavilion adjacent to the swimming pool, our outdoor kitchen is open for residents who want to connect and make memories in an open-air environment.
These are folks who have mastered the grill, as well as the art of cooking for a crowd. We asked some of our residents to share their best advice and recommendations for backyard cooking ideas to feed a group. Here’s what they told us:
When in doubt, start with chicken.
Few foods are as versatile and crowd-pleasing as chicken. It readily adopts almost any flavor profile, is less expensive than red meat, and satisfies picky eaters and kids, too. You can make it the main course or use it to enhance one.
Some favorite chicken recipes include:
Kabobs Go with Everything
Because crowd cooking can mean navigating lots of different dietary restrictions, some simple veggie skewers are a great way to cover all your bases and make sure no one leaves your outdoor kitchen hungry!
You’re free to string up any seasonal veggies you find at the farmer’s market or local grocer. However, you’ll want to avoid those that don’t stand up well to heat like greens. Otherwise, we like to alternate different combinations of:
- Bell peppers.
Have a Plan for Keeping Everyone Cool and Bug-free
In Texas, we’re fortunate that dining outdoors is a nearly year-round experience. Even still, it’s important to have a plan for keeping everyone hydrated. When the mercury rises, come prepared with a large water dispenser.
Consider infusing the water with some cucumber slices for 2-4 hours before your gathering. According to dietitians, “These cooling foods clear out the toxin and heat from the body and protect you from many heat-related diseases.”
If you’re looking for a way to keep flies and other bugs away from the meal you have lovingly prepared, try investing in some inexpensive mesh food covers.
You can make (almost) anything into a taco.
But really. Be it beans, veggies, or more traditional proteins, if you’re trying to make a meal stretch, portion it out into tacos, load it up with lettuce and salsa, then serve.
People also love the camaraderie and creativity that comes from a build your own taco bar!
For more ideas, check out this 27 taco Tuesday recipe roundup from The Spruce.
Use Compostable Dish Ware for Easy Cleanup
Especially if you’re feeding a big crowd, you can end up with a lot of waste. But if your cups, plates, napkins, and cutlery are all compostable, you can have one single trash receptacle to collect everything at once.
You can dispose of it in a number of ways: by offering to give it to a community garden, contacting your city to see if they have composting services, or starting your own compost in the backyard!
Keep Side Dishes Simple
Again, the trick here is to see what’s in season and let that guide your meal planning.
Review this interactive seasonal food guide of fruits and veggies to see the time of year they’re typically most ripe and available. From there, grab some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and fire up the grill for a no-fuss family dinner al fresco.
There’s Always Room for Dessert
Ending the evening on a sweet note is a great way to bring the meal to a close. Try grilling some summer peaches or autumn apples and using them as an ice cream topping, or making a cobbler on the grill!
Backyard Cooking at Lilyana by Hillwood
Is your mouth watering just thinking about all these tasty summer meals? Us, too. It’s one reason we’re so proud of the community outdoor kitchen at Lilyana by Hillwood. And it’s just one of the many perks we offer homeowners.