Written by Olivia Barrera

Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. That means cook-outs, barbecues, family reunions, and eating al fresco! We have compiled some of the best Cooking Matters recipes for this time of year and this article also shares tips to make your outdoor gatherings as safe as possible from foodborne illness as well as the current CDC COVID-19 safety recommendations.

Cooking Matters recipes are created keeping health, nutrition, and saving money in mind. Each recipe is at least 4 servings and costs $10 or less! Cooking Matters recipes are also unique because they always include the Nutrition Facts label which is amazing if you’re trying to make healthier choices. Some quick tips are to use whole grains, lean proteins, and lots of color! We think the following Cooking Matters recipes would make great additions to your family’s gathering.


Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
Confetti Pepper Cornbread

Cranberry Walnut Cole Slaw

Chicken Burger
Northwest Apple Salad
Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
Confetti Pepper Cornbread
Cranberry Walnut Cole Slaw
Chicken Burger
Northwest Apple Salad

Creative Salads

Southwestern Black Eyed Pea and Corn Salad
Lentil Mango Salad
Moroccan Carrot Salad

Delicious Dips

Spicy White Bean Dip
Homemade Tortilla Chips

Kid Approved

Veggie Pinwheels
Raspberry Lime Fizz
Trail Mix
Banana Pudding in a Bag


Black Bean Brownies
Pineapple Carrot Muffins
Rolled Oats and Peanut Butter Cookies
Yogurt Parfait

Keeping It Safe

Refer back to our previous blog post about food safety here.

In addition to those guidelines, there are some other precautions you can take to ensure your family and guests stay safe and food-poisoning-free! Keeping cold food cold and hot food hot is the main challenge when we enjoy food outside. The recommended time frames are as follows:

Cold: You can hold cold food without temperature control for up to 6 hours if the food was held at 41F or lower before removing from refrigeration. Food should be labeled with the time it was removed from the fridge and the time it must be thrown out. Make sure the internal food temperature does not exceed 70F and throw away any food that exceeds 70 degrees. Serve or throw away all cold food after it has been outside without temperature control for 6 hours.

Hot: You can hold hot food without temperature control for 4 hours if the food was held at 135F or higher before removing it from temperature control. Label the food with the time it was brought out and the time it must be discarded. Serve or throw away hot food after 4 hours.

If you have the kitchen tools available for holding food at their recommended temperatures that is great! This would include a steam table, a slow cooker placed on the “warm” setting, or a warming tray for hot foods and an ice bath for cold foods. Making an ice bath at home is something most of us can do. Just place a large bowl or container filled with ice water under the food dish. Be sure to change out the water and add more ice regularly as the water warms.

Current COVID-19 Recommendations

Remind your guests to stay home if they have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days or if they are experiencing symptoms. Keep a list of attendees so you can alert all guests just in case someone comes down with COVID-19. Wash hands often and make sure there is enough soap or sanitizer available. Use single use hand towels so guests don’t share a towel. Try to limit the number of people serving food and shareable items such as condiments. Clean commonly touched surfaces in your home before and after gatherings.

The CDC has updated COVID-19 precautions based on vaccination status:

Photo by CDC; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Sources and Further Reading

Choosing Safer

Personal and Social Activities-

Food Safety for the Home Kitchen-