Helping Hands in the Kitchen: Picnic Main Dishes

May 24, 2022

Many of my earliest memories of outdoor gatherings revolve around delicious food and spending time with family. In last week’s blog, I shared recipes for side dishes that will pair nicely with the main dishes in this blog for outdoor special occasions.

Example of barbecued pork spareribs


This recipe was one of my mother’s favorites to prepare, eat, and serve. You may need to adjust quantities for the number of ribs you’ll prepare.


  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seed
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup tomato catsup
  • 2 cups water
  • A few drops Tabasco sauce or few grains cayenne pepper


  1. Make a sauce of brown sugar, catsup, vinegar, water, and Tabasco sauce.
  2. Pour over brown ribs after they have been cooking in the oven (350 deg F) for 45 minutes.
  3. Put on the side of ribs, lemon slices, chopped onion, and another side of ribs, then put sauce on top.
  4. Finish baking in the oven until the ribs are done. (If you can “wiggle” a bone of the ribs and it moves easily it is done.)
  5. If cooking on the grill, prepare the sauce to brush on the ribs. Turn ribs often, don’t burn, but brush sauce on the ribs each time and cook until done. If necessary, cook on a grill with different levels of heat – cook on lower heat and the last 15-20 minutes cook on the hotter side of the grill to brown and get a little crispy on the outer side. Brush again with the sauce.
Example of grilled salmon


This dish is popular for outside summer events. To prepare the fish, leave the skin on, but make sure the fish has been cleaned (no scales, etc.), remove all the unwanted, inedible parts, including the bones if you prefer. Prepare the grill, hot but not scorching hot.


  • Brown sugar
  • Onion slices, sliced thin
  • Oranges, sliced thin
  • Lemons, sliced thin
  • Limes, sliced thin
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil


  1. Combine the salt, pepper, mint, garlic, and oregano.
  2. Drizzle the olive oil on the fish.
  3. Sprinkle the herbs on the fillet.
  4. Add a light coating of brown sugar over the fillet. 
  5. Add slices of onion, then slices of lemon, lime, and oranges.
  6. Place on the grill. Slow cooking is great for fish like salmon.
  7. Keep the lid down. Let it steam a little. Cook until the salmon forks loose, making sure it is cooked through.
Example of beef kebabs


This sauce can be used with any beef. It doesn’t have to be kebabs. The longer it marinades the more tender it will be.


  • 2 ½ pounds sirloin tip beef
  • ½ cup salad oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 2 small onions, chopped (or dried)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons candied ginger, or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 small tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges or use grape tomatoes
  • 1 large green and/or red pepper, cut into 10 pieces
  • 4-8 small cooked onions
  • Whole mushrooms – 8 (if large, cut in half)


  1. Cut meat into 1 ½ inch cubes for large kebabs or ¾-1” cubes for smaller kebabs. Allow 4 cubes of meat per skewer.
  2. Mix salad oil, soy sauce, vinegar, onions, garlic, ginger, pepper, and dry mustard.
  3. Marinate beef cubes in mixture for several hours or overnight.
  4. Thread 12 “ skewers with 4 large beef cubes and alternate with tomato, pepper, onion, mushroom. You can use 9” skewers and smaller cubes of meat and vegetables.
  5. Place kebabs on the grill 3-4” from heat.
  6. Baste meat and vegetables with remaining marinade during cooking.
  7. Grill large kebabs for 10-12 minutes on first side, turn and cook another 8-10 minutes until done. For smaller kebabs, allow 6-8 minutes on each side. 
Example of yakitori


This recipe is a favorite in our family. We learned this when we lived in Japan for three years. This dish is usually served on a skewer and made with any boneless parts of the chicken, although you can use bone-in chicken and no skewers equally as well and as delicious. The sauce may be varied, but it basically is shoyu (soy sauce). This is a guide, adjust for your flavor preferences.


  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (shoyu)
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • Garlic, dried and/or other spices/herbs (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger or crushed garlic to the marinade (optional)


  1. Cut chicken breasts into cubes and marinate in the other three items for 30-90 minutes. Skewer on bamboo skewers and broil in the broiler, on a charcoal brazier or a grill for 7-8 minutes, turning once or twice. Serve with rice or as an hors d’oeuvre.
Example of Korean sliced beef



  • Crushed garlic
  • Sherry (not cooking sherry)
  • Green onions
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soy sauce
  • Thin sliced beef (your choice of cut)
  • Red pepper flakes


  1. Marinate the beef (the longer, the better.)
  2. Grill the meat to your preferences in doneness.
  3. Serve with the juice. (Cook the juice to reduce it by half. Be careful using leftover marinades with raw meat juices.)

Bon Appétit!
With Love,

Granni K

Download this recipe here.