#Domesticphd's Top 6 Cottage Menu Musts!

After months and months of waiting, summer has finally arrived and with summer comes some of the best things life has to offer: summer fruits and veggies, refreshing cocktails and long summer days spent relaxing outdoors. With the Canada Day weekend almost upon us, I thought I would give you my run down of what I'll be eating at the cottage this weekend. These are menu must-haves for me because every item can be made ahead or requires little to no prep. Most of all, each recipe is delicious! 

Enjoying the Muskoka sunset! 

Enjoying the Muskoka sunset! 

1. Pimm's No. 1 Cocktails 

This gin based liquor is the perfect base for light and refreshing dock-side drinks due to its slightly bitter and citrus notes. I first discovered Pimm's in England while on a backpacking trip around Europe with some of my university friends and it became an instant favourite for girl's get-togethers! I like to mix a big pitcher and let it chill in the fridge for an hour or so- similar to a sangria. My exact recipe varies depending on the ingredients I have on hand, so try out this option or experiment for yourself! 

  1. 1.5 cups Pimm's No. 1 Cup
  2. 2 cups Ginger-ale 
  3. 1 cup Club Soda 
  4. 3 shots Triple-sec (optional but if I have it on hand, I'll throw it in) 
  5. Sliced cucumber 
  6. 1 cup frozen berries (anything will work here, I usually use some sort of fruit medley)
  7. 1 lemon, sliced 

2. A Well-Stocked Charcuterie Plate  

A delicious charcuterie is plate is beyond easy to prepare and will certainly please your starving friends while enjoying afternoon beverages or tide everyone over while you prepare dinner. Although in my books, it could very easily just be dinner itself! I eat a lot of charcuterie and so I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur. Here are my 3 easy steps to an awesome charcuterie board: 

  1. Choose an assortment of meats and cheeses. Look for varying flavours and types- a mix of spicy and mild salami and kielbassa is a great start for meat and when choosing cheeses use the same principles but also include a mix of soft and hard cheese. 
  2. Make sure you have enough crackers! 
  3. Think extras. Little dishes of extras add flavour and combo options to your charcuterie plate. For extras, try to cover all of the taste senses, sweet (fruit- pears, orange slices or dried figs), salty (pickles or olives) and savoury (nuts). 

3. Lentil-Chickpea Salad 

With all of the treats that are often packed for cottage and camping weekends, it is important to make sure you sneak in some veggies and fibre! This lentil salad is one of my absolute favourites because it just gets better with age (read: make ahead and store in the fridge for up to 4 days!). Again, this recipe is flexible so you can really dump in anything you have in the fridge. This means that it is also an excellent pre-vacation meal because it will help you clean out your fridge before you leave! According to the United Nations, 2016 is the "International Year of the Pulses" so there is no better time to enjoy this fibre-filled, iron-and-protein rich salad! Watch this video to see just how awesome lentils (and their other pulse friends) are!  This salad can be a meal in itself or a great bbq side. 

Combine the following ingredients and toss. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavours to develop. This recipe serves 8 as a side-dish: 

  1. 2 cans lentils, drained and rinsed 
  2. 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  3. 7 radishes chopped 
  4. 1 green pepper, diced 
  5. 1 red pepper, diced 
  6. 1 tomato, diced 
  7. 1/2 red onion, diced
  8. 1/2 cup chopped cucumber 
  9. 1/2 cup feta cheese 
  10. 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped 
  11. 2 tsp grated lemon and 2 tsp juice 
  12. 3 tbsp olive oil 
  13. 3 tbsp white wine vineager 
  14. Pinch of salt and pepper 

4. Overnight French Toast 

Photo is taken from the Cooking with Flavor Cookbook (between paper written and packing, I haven't prepped this yet!)

Photo is taken from the Cooking with Flavor Cookbook (between paper written and packing, I haven't prepped this yet!)

The best part about this recipe is that you can make it the night before and then the person who gets up first in the morning can pop it in the oven. It takes ~25 minutes to cook so that gives everyone else a chance to get up (note: there is absolutely nothing better than waking up to the sound of waves and the smell of french toast baking!). This recipe also freezes well so in situations where I haven't wanted to take time to prep at the cottage, I have made it ahead, frozen it and travelled with it in the cooler. Allow it to thaw prior to serving, or you can even cook right from frozen, but it takes a bit longer. I have been using this recipe for years and it comes from the Cooking with Flavor Cookbook. If I have a big crowd, I always make a few pans of this- one pan served ~4 people depending on appetites! 

Ingredients: 

  1. 5 eggs, beaten
  2. 3/4 cup milk 
  3. 1 tbsp vanilla extract 
  4. 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  5. 1 loaf Italian bread cut into 8-inch slices (I actually usually use thick Italian style whole wheat bread) 
  6. 1 package of frozen whole strawberries (16oz), thawed (this time of year fresh would also work well!)
  7. 4 ripe bananas, sliced 
  8. 1/2 cup sugar (original recipe calls for a full cup but I always half it)
  9. 1 tsp cinnamon 

Mix berries and bananas with sugar and cinnamon in 9x13 baking pan and top with bread. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and baking powder and pour over bread to soak; turn to coat well. Sprinkle bread with more cinnamon if desired. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Celsius and cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

5. Watermelon Salad 

Watermelon is the definition of summer and there is no better treat on a hot afternoon due to its hydrating powers. While watermelon slices are super easy, this salad, which is just as easy will step up your culinary game! All you need to do is slice 1/2 a watermelon into 1-inch pieces and combine with 2 tbsp lime juice, feta cheese and 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves. It is healthy and delicious! Enjoy this salad right away as it doesn't keep well. 

6. Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies- A Milk and Cookies Bakery Signature! 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies- A Milk and Cookies Bakery Signature! 

I think everyone has a favourite chocolate chip recipe. While they aren't fancy, they are really just so so good! I like to make up a batch to leave out on the counter; hungry swimmers can swing by and grab one whenever. You could also serve chocolate chip cookies with a scoop of ice cream for a very easy dessert! Ever since travelling to New York and visiting the Milk and Cookies Bakery, I have been obsessed with everything in this cookbook

I hope my top 6 cottage menu must-haves have given you some inspiration for your own long weekends, whether you are cottaging, camping, visiting family or having relaxing staycation! These recipes are meant to allow you to make the most of your weekends- the most time in the water, laughing with friends, reading a book and soaking up the sun- while still allowing you to eat well (healthy and delicious). This is really what it's all about- good food with good friends on hot summer days that turn into long summer nights! 

Happy Canada Day Long Weekend! 

xo Kath