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Complete Make-Ahead Summer Dinner Menu & Recipes

Updated on October 26, 2014
Welcome Summer Dinner Menu
Welcome Summer Dinner Menu | Source

This Delicious Summer Dinner Menu Features Make-Ahead Recipes

Summertime and the living is easy! Or maybe just easier with this complete summer dinner menu comprised mostly of recipes that can be made ahead!

Some of them require quite a bit of work beforehand (potato salad generally does) but, on the day you are having company, you are hosting a BBQ or just need your supper to be ready and waiting, there is little work to be done.

My family usually takes a number of the components of this meal when we go camping. We arrive and set up camp and our first night supper is ready and waiting for us in the cooler. We also often take parts of this meal to potluck dinners or to the homes of our family and friends.

Click here to buy this flag from Amazon to fly at your Summer Dinner.

Ant Salt and Pepper Shakers
Ant Salt and Pepper Shakers | Source

Mix 'N Match Summer Dinner Idea

On this page, you will find my complete summertime menu which includes recipes for tossed salad, glazed baked ham, Hawaiian potato salad, country seed bread, Hawaiian punch and even a couple of dessert options. I have been making parts of this meal for up to twenty years and assembling the whole menu periodically for the last eight. As a Mom of teenage boys, lots of food is always welcome and anything that provides delicious leftover possibilities, fantastic!

Of course you can choose whichever components of this meal that you like. You can simplify it by eliminating the baked ham and serving deli ham instead. Or maybe you have your own family-favourite potato salad so you'll take a pass on the one I've included. However you choose to create your menu, I hope you'll enjoy some of the ideas on this page and that some of these recipes will become favourites of yours, too!

"The ant is knowing and wise,

but he doesn't know enough

to take a vacation."

~~ Clarence Day

Baked Ham Recipe
Baked Ham Recipe

The Best-Ever Glazed Baked Ham Recipe

How would you describe the best-ever glazed baked ham recipe? In my opinion, the recipe for the best baked ham would have to be fairly easy to put together and yield an absolutely delicious result. This recipe does just that. It is actually very easy and the result will melt-in-your-mouth.

The Best-Ever Garden Salad Recipe

The Best-Ever Garden Salad Recipe is a special recipe that I take to potlucks and occasionally make for my family. It is a yummy recipe for a tossed green salad that features a wonderful low-fat dressing. The recipe originates from the Looneyspoons: Low-fat Food Made Fun cookbook authors, Janet and Great Podleski.

New Oxo Salad Spinner
New Oxo Salad Spinner | Source

The Oxo Good Grips Green Salad Spinner

Allows you to spin your salad dry quickly and easily. It is Amazon's top selling salad spinner.

The best salad spinner is The OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner. It is Amazon's bestseller and has is the salad spinner with the most five-star Amazon customer reviews. Plus, I can personally vouch for it. We have had this kitchen tool in our kitchen for years and we love it!

Potato Salad Recipe
Potato Salad Recipe

The Best-Ever Hawaiian Potato Salad Recipe

Potato salad is one of those foods that tastes better the next day. That suits me perfectly on occasions when I want to have part or all of the meal made ahead of time. This one definitely gains a lot of flavour overnight and I wouldn't dream of serving it on the day I made it!

Not the simplest potato salad recipe ever, this is certainly one of the most delicious ones! It contains more vegetables than the average potato salad and a slightly lighter-tasting and healthier dressing that still manages to be true to a mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip) based potato salad.

The Cold Bowl On Ice
The Cold Bowl On Ice | Source

The Cold Bowl On Ice Will Help

Make sure that you keep your potato salad cold. Don't take any chances on serving your family and friends an 'iffy' salad.

The Cold Bowl on Ice is an attractive acrylic bowl that will help keep your salad chilled. You simply fill the base with ice. The cold will travel into the bowl and chill the food. I think that the fact that the bowl is acrylic is a bonus in the summertime when life tends to be more casual. It is break-resistant and dishwasher safe, perfect for The Best-Ever Hawaiian Potato Salad.

Don't use this bowl for transporting your potato salad unless you place it in a cooler with plenty of ice. The real purpose of the Cold Bowl on Ice is to keep your salad cold while it is on the table and people are serving themselves from it.

Snow Pea Salad
Snow Pea Salad | Source

Two More Salad Side Dish Ideas

A snow pea salad and a cold rice salad.

If you need to round out your meal a bit more, you could consider adding a The Best-Ever Molded Rice Salad. Both are unique additions to your summer dinner menu.

Rice Salad
Rice Salad | Source

"Large, naked raw carrots

are acceptable as food

only to those

who lie in hutches

eagerly awaiting Easter."

~~ Fran Lebowitz

The Best Ever Veggies and Dip or Crudites Ideas

Crudites do a wonderful job of rounding out this meal. They provide color and crunch and, of course, more nutrition. Best of all, they are easy and when I put a plate of them together they disappear faster than lightning! (On the other hand, if my family opens the fridge and sees a bag of whole carrots or a cucumber, they are NOT going to be eating those vegetables!)

So in terms of this meal, I always prepare carrot coins. I used to buy baby carrots but I no longer consider them an option for my family. I also always prepare cucumbers and bell peppers. They are, if you will, the foundation of our crudites selection.

Depending on when the vegetables will be eaten and how much time I have to prepare them, I build up from there. I might add broccoli, cauliflower or cherry tomatoes but of course, the choice is endless. You can add any vegetables you desire.

If we are eating them at home, we have a fun fish-shaped platter that we use. My boys are teenagers but they still love those fun touches. If we are taking the vegetables to a potluck or a dinner, I will put them on a pretty white platter that I have although I am looking at the serving tray on ice shown below and thinking I ought to have one of those! A final option is the trusty Ziplock freezer bag. I use them when we are taking the vegetables on a trip, like to the campground. They are sturdy and malleable which means that when I squeeze them into the cooler, they are happy to fill whatever nooks and crannies are available. The crudites are usually the first item out of the cooler when we arrive at the campsite!

Dip? Oh yes, we have to have dip. (As a matter of fact, dipping it is the only way one of my sons can eat a carrot.) For convenience, we often buy a healthy choice salad dressing from the grocery store. However, we also frequently put together a natural lemon dill dip mix like one of these.

Appetizers on Ice Serving Tray

Appetizers on Ice Serving Tray
Appetizers on Ice Serving Tray | Source

A 2-in-1 revolving serving tray with lid.

Perfect for keeping your crudites cold, this dish features a deep bottom tray for crushed ice and three food trays that sit above. It also comes with a removable cup for placing your dip in. Each of the trays on top has a lid to help keep the cold in and the insects out. Perfect for supper, this tray is made of clear acrylic so it won't be easily broken.

"He was in love with life

as an ant on a

summer blade of grass."

~~ Ben Hecht

The Best-Ever Country Seed Bread

The Best-Ever Country Seed Bread Recipe is a delight to throw together using your bread machine. Most recipes for your bread maker are easy, but not all are as delicious as this one is. It always receives rave reviews and is a staple at our house.

If you are travelling, you'll want to make this bread the day before but otherwise, I would choose to make it the day of your dinner for there is nothing like the smell of a loaf of homemade bread fresh out of the bread machine.

Red Graniteware Pitcher
Red Graniteware Pitcher | Source

The Best-Ever Hawaiian Punch Recipe

And a beautiful red pitcher to serve it in.

We love this Hawaiian punch and we serve it at parties, at special breakfasts like Christmas and Easter and when we just feel like treating ourselves. It is delicious, easy and nutritious plus we always feel like the day is special when we make an out-of-the-ordinary drink in the morning. It is a great family recipe although the measurements for adding rum are given. We have never found it necessary to do so though.

This recipe originated from the Culinary Arts Program at Maui Community College. I am sorry to say that I have absolutely no idea where I found it but I am pleased to say that we LOVE it. It's perfect for any party or gathering plus we often have it for a special breakfast, at a birthday party and my son even dressed as a Hawaiian and sold it at a cultural fair at his middle school. (Everybody loved it!)

To see Amazon's collection of red pitchers, click here.

The Ants Go Marching

Two By Two,

Hurrah, Hurrah!

Fantastic Summertime Cookbooks - These summer themed cookbooks have great reviews by customers at Amazon.

The Summertime Anytime Cookbook: Recipes from Shutters on the Beach
The Summertime Anytime Cookbook: Recipes from Shutters on the Beach

"Crazy delicious and easy to use recipes. My new staple is the sweet corn chowder. The book is also loaded with great cooking tips and is so beautiful to look at, I bought a dozen copies to give out as hostess gifts this summer! The summertime vibe is now very much alive in my home(and it isn't even summer yet!)" ~~ Jessica, California

Best Summer Weekends Cookbook
Best Summer Weekends Cookbook

"This cookbook is worth even if you only make the Wheat Berry Salad with Wild Rick and Orzo. It's an extremely heathly dish that's perfect for outdoor parties and potlucks -- no mayo to spoil. The Mix-in-the-Pan Cake is a nice recipe that brings back memories of the old Snackin' Cake product -- a classic of the 1970's that was a family favorite when I was growing up." ~~ Mary, Pawtucket

The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food
The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food

"This is a terrific book of seafood recipes and side dish ideas too. The thing I liked best is that all the food is very casual, not the fancy stuff that looks great on the cover but that you'll never cook. The fish recipes offer ideas for substitutions if the ideal fish isn't in season or region." ~~ T. Griffin,Raleigh, N.C.


"Food is an important part of a balanced diet." ~~ Fran Lebowitz

Don't Forget A Wonderful, Summertime Apron... - Of course we love this ants apron...

Ant Apron
Ant Apron | Source

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies (or the ants) die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." ~~ Erma Bombeck

Is summer food a part of your family traditions? And do you love or dread the ants?

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    • TreasuresBrenda profile imageAUTHOR

      Treasures By Brenda 

      5 years ago from Canada

      @favored: Molded rice salad reminds me of the 1950s...when so many salads were made with Jell-o!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      Never heard of Molded Rice Salad. So many new choices here. Checking out some of your other links. Thanks.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Lots of great recipes for summer! I am from South Africa and we are currently putting winter behind us and anticipating the summer months!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      I do not love ants. I tolerate them, as long as they don't stream in by hundreds. Summer food is definitely a part of our life and traditions. My favorite is potato salad, and I've got it down to 15 minutes for two (even built a lens on it). We love impromptu picnics, too, so we keep lots of foods on hand, ready to throw in a basket or bag and out the door. Nicely done page.

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very yummy! Bookmarked for future reference. :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You have certainly thought of everything one could possibly need to cook up a perfect summer dinner, Brenda. Of course, you could have left the pesky picnic ants uninvited.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image


      6 years ago

      Ooo, now you made me hungry for some great summer salads.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      So many great recipe recommendations and awesome serving suggestions! I will definitely be back for more inspiration :)

    • petelovestoread profile image


      7 years ago

      great lens and great recipes!

    • LadyKeesh profile image


      7 years ago

      I am liking this lens for the culinary day Quest.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic lens, nicely done! Squidlike

    • TreasuresBrenda profile imageAUTHOR

      Treasures By Brenda 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @anonymous: Thanks for visiting & for the feedback. I do appreciate it.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Ants don't bother me that much. Your ant salt and pepper shakers are adorable! Love the food options too.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love this site, I already found some things I needed too through you on, the melanine plates and salad spinner, (mine got a bit roughed up in moving to my new house;) so thanks, and the receipes, everything, I will be stopping by again:)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas Brenda. Greetings from the hot Dalmatia, the best vacation area on Croatian coastline. I'm enjoying fresh summer salads these days but now I am thinking of trying some of your suggestions here:)

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      7 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I enjoyed this sales lens. You made it happy, sassy and altogether a wonderful lens!SquidAngel blessings!

    • finalfantasyxvi profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens! Ant salt and pepper shakers are fine. Ants on my food, not fine. Yeah, summer food is a big part of my family traditions.

    • RetroMom profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas, perfect for the summer. I don't like ants especially when they come crawling on my food but i love those ant salt and pepper shakers.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens!thanks for sharing and information.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      nice lens!Thanks for sharing and information!I like cuisine.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sounds great, tasty ideas!

    • biggking lm profile image

      biggking lm 

      7 years ago

      watermelon is goooooooood

    • squid-pinkchic18 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love being at our cabin and eating all our summer foods. BBQ chicken, fresh fruits and veggies, ah - summer!!

    • mrsclaus411 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas and yummy recipes. Looks like so much fun, perfect for summer.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 

      7 years ago

      just discovering, you are on the Top40List...great...fantatic...So proud, you SquidLiked one of my lenses...Congratulations...Learning a lot from you

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm going to try the Hawaiian Potato Salad Recipe. It sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    • LadyCharlie profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice picnic ideas...and a cute lens...blessed!

    • WiseWoman1 profile image


      7 years ago

      I love it! What a wonderful lens. Great images,delicious menus and ideas. Thanks for sharing. I will be using some of your recipes this summer.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great recipies! I need to try some!

    • CameronPoe profile image


      7 years ago

      Those ant salt and pepper shakers are the coolest. And I love the molded rice salad. I'd like to taste it.

    • biggking lm profile image

      biggking lm 

      7 years ago

      I love a really cold salad, and boy was I surprised seeing that they sell bowls that have ice and cool the food in them. Amazon here I come.

    • Webrevolve LM profile image

      Webrevolve LM 

      7 years ago

      Summer is never complete without a traditional picnic in the sun!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      mmmm...just give me a chunk of that watermelon in the intro and I'll be very happy eating it off one of the beautiful plates you have here...we do LOTS of barbecuing during the summer. Ants...they don't bother us too much...but yellow jackets, that's another story:-)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens! Makes me think of the wonderful picnics we had as kids with Mom's fried chicken and her homemade lemonade, and her roomy wicker picnic basket. Love the quotes and all the other ant stuff! Make-ahead recipes for summer are great!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      7 years ago from Kansas

      I hate to cook in the summer, so we eat a lot of sandwiches, soup in the crock pot, or barbeque outside.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      Erin Hardison 

      7 years ago from Memphis, TN

      What a wonderful summer picnic menu. Love the ant salt and pepper shakers, but don't care for the real thing at my picnic. :) Congrats on LOTD!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice Lens....

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very appetising Lens indeed! Great job with this page, summer meals are surely something I'm looking forward to this year :)

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 

      7 years ago from Florida

      I also like the ant salt and pepper shakers. You sure picked out some great items.

    • peggygallyot profile image


      7 years ago

      Love your lens .

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      love this lens . nice thanks.

    • microfarmproject profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice summer recipes. Thanks!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm pretty much at peace with ants and they will clean up the smallest morsels that may be left behind. My grandma used to say, "Everybody has to eat", guess that's where my peace come from. You are prepared here for an absolutely complete make ahead summer fun menu. I don't think I'd heard of molded rice salad before. Congratulations on front page honors!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      Great summer dinner ideas and I really enjoyed the way you made the colors on the page match, very enjoyable lens :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love the ants salt and pepper shakers! Very funny.

    • biminibahamas profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas for outdoor dining!

    • pcgamehardware profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas, I have to send my wife here... Thanks for sharing. :)

    • lkamom profile image

      Heather McGlaughlin 

      7 years ago from Marryland

      Great lens, I love eating out of the fridge in the summer. Growing up we always ate dinner on our enclosed front porch. I miss those days.

    • justDawn1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice lens! :)

    • NTxWriter profile image


      7 years ago

      Very cute picnic ideas and delicious sounding BBQ recipes! I love the things with the ants on them. The "how to throw a frisbee" was a cute idea too!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I love a cool, ready-to-eat meal on a hot summer day. No slaving in the warm kitchen. I like a platter of sliced tomatoes, fresh from the garden. Sprinkle them with some oregano and feta cheese.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Yummy oh so yummy.

    • TeacherRenee profile image


      8 years ago

      Great ideas! With a few weeks left of summer, I'll definitely try some of these ideas! Great lens!

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 

      8 years ago

      Cool lens.

    • ellagis profile image


      8 years ago

      When I was a child, I used to have picnics with my family only once or twice per year, during summer holidays. So, I cant help considering it a very special moment, a great occasion to share with friends (and not with ants, pleeeeeeeeese!!!! :D )I love your lens, its full of colour, joy and nice things, just like a summer party!

    • GreenfireWiseWo profile image


      8 years ago

      Great ideas! Thank you.

    • pimbels lm profile image

      pimbels lm 

      8 years ago

      Great selection of recipes. Can't wait to try them. Nice lens,thank you.

    • LindaCramer profile image


      8 years ago

      I was searching for a quick make ahead dinner. Thanks for the ideas!

    • DuaneJ profile image


      8 years ago

      great the potato salad!

    • KokoTravel profile image


      8 years ago

      Very cute lens... isn't summer exactly when you want dinner to be easy and fun... thanks for the ideas.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image


      8 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      I love the idea of make ahead summer dinner recipes!

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 

      9 years ago

      Can't wait to try the Hawaiian potato salad recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    • momto4 lm profile image

      momto4 lm 

      9 years ago

      Great collection of recipes! Thanks for sharing!

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      9 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Nice feature on summer food and great ideas. The ant shakers are cute but I couldn't help wondering how you would hold them!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Nice lens! Love the ant shakers. Thanks for adding this to my Food Collection lens.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      10 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wow, great job! Thanks for linking to my lens. I'll have to come back for some dinner ideas for this summer.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a fantastic, summery lens. Here in Panama it's the rainy season but now I feel like going on a picnic. :-)

    • Simeyc1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great stuff! Love the Hawaiin Potato Salad and those carrot ideas! Lensrolled to my Guinness Recipe Lens! 5*

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      10 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Lots of great ideas here 5*

    • MsSnow4 profile image

      Carol Goss 

      10 years ago

      Oh this sounds yummy :) thanks

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 

      10 years ago from Arizona

      I made that Hawaian Potatoe Salad and it's delicious. [in reply to shajo]

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      10 years ago from USA

      This delicious lens is today's feature at the Cabaret Squidoo Best Recipes Arcade.

    • Eklectik1 profile image


      10 years ago

      I Love everything about summer

    • Barkely profile image


      10 years ago

      I loooove summer meals. I can cook outdoors, and there's so much in season, delicious produce around to make them taste wonderful!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 

      10 years ago from Arizona

      This is a wonderful example of how to create a page linking to other related pages. Wow...I sure did learn something today. Just not sure I can pull it off with such finesse. You are a real pro. I love this lens. I've read it all; now I have to go back and click on all the links because I want those recipes!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great Lens! I am thinking of trying the Hawaiian Potato Salad Recipe for a family reunion coming in June. Wish me luck :)

    • HenryE LM profile image

      HenryE LM 

      10 years ago

      I'll have to try some of these out!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      What a great lens! Yours are all beautiful, I'm inspired.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      10 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I love this lens and your recipes. "The Ants Go Marching Ten by Ten" was such a clever addition as is all the neat products. The red and white china is my favorite.

    • Lou165 profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      Another fantastic lens Brenda, I love, love, love the ant salt and pepper shakers a great find.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      10 years ago

      Welcome to Best Tips for Homemakers - you're a featured lens!

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      10 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      These foods and dishes would make such a lovely banquet!

    • papawu profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow, this is one heck of a lens. So much food to choose from. Wonderful job.

    • squid-janices7 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great photos - I love the condiments on ice serving tray. I'm so tired of the cold...I can't wait for summer and some yummy summery foods like brats and potato salad!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      WOW, what a great lens! Mmmmmmm

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      10 years ago from Royalton

      Great ideas for a summer picnic. I've lensrolled this to Old Black Fly who would be delighted to join the ants for lunch.

    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      10 years ago

      Very nice looking and well laid out lens. I love the beautiful and unusual products offered here. The recipes look fabulous!

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      10 years ago

      Wow, this just makes me long for a hot July day and a parade! Wonderful!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      10 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Wow! This lens is a masterpiece. What a great compilation! I love your recipe selections, love the red gingham and the ants, even love the Rocket Moms template. Beautiful and tasty, too. Who could ask for anything more?!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      10 years ago from USA

      Wonderful collection of recipes! Very nicely done!


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