There is something very special to be said for enjoying a summer evening of dining outdoors.

Nature brings its own relaxing effect: the grass between your toes, outdoor landscape and beautiful sky.

Relax and take pleasure in several easy make-ahead dinner menu ideas using garnishes found right in your own garden.

For a summer twist, try making your own fresh fruit tea. A favourite in our backyard is iced mint green tea.

Start by brewing a large pot of mint green tea. Chill in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving, add lots of freshly cut mint and ice. Sweeten your tea to taste. This refreshing tea looks great on a hot summer’s day served in tall glasses and garnished with slices of lemon.

If you planted vegetables this year, you should start seeing the fruits of your labour. Serve up a savoury summer salad using a variety of seasonal fresh greens. Try a blend of arugula, radicchio, pea sprouts and watercress. Top with your own fresh fruit vinaigrette.

To make your own blackberry vinaigrette, crush 12 blackberries in a bowl. Add ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil and ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon. Add a tiny splash of port wine for rich flavour. Top with shavings of your favourite Parmesan cheese.

Fresh herbs and edible flowers provide a beautiful finishing touch to all summer cuisine. If you are unsure what to use, try the natural buttery-saffron flavour of golden-orange calendula officinalis. It makes an excellent substitution for mustard.

The natural zangy peppery taste is commonly used to garnish platters, salads, drinks, desserts and savoury appetizers. These pretty petals also make great vinegar.

Lavender is also a popular finishing touch with chocolate dessert, fondue, sorbet and ice cream.

For a sweet-smelling garnish to sorbet, ice cream, cakes and punches, try the citrus-scented blossoms of scarlet plume pineapple sage.

For easy outdoor summer grilling recipes and entertaining ideas, check out the latest great grilling menus found at www.foodnetwork.com.

Or you can check out the archives at old.whatsupyukon.com for my colleagues’ many wonderful Northern-themed recipes: Pat McKenna’s Yukon Cooks and Rob Millar’sBarbe-Yukon.

When entertaining outdoors, don’t be afraid to use colour on your table. For an informal, casual setting, mix and match tableware and glasses. Add a splash of colour using napkins and your favourite tablecloth. For a great finishing touch, tie together fresh flowers and herbs from your garden and create your own centrepiece.

It’s always wise to burn citronella well in advance of your party to chase away the mosquitoes.

This summer, why not choose the perfect evening to throw a barbecue. There’s nothing like spending an enjoyable afternoon with family and friends followed by an evening dinner outside. Outdoor entertaining has its own natural ambiance.

Relax and enjoy with some easy make-ahead dinner drinks and menus using garnishes found right in your own garden. You are sure to relax, enjoy good conversation and an evening with family and friends – right in your own backyard.