Easy Summer Entertaining

June 22, 2010

It’s the longest day of the year! Which means it’s only downhill from here. No! It means you have time to think about having a get-together. Because really, nothing says summer like an outdoor gathering of good friends and family. Here’s guest blogger Michelle to break it all down:

We recently hosted a party.  Traditionally we go all out – lots of prep work and running around throughout the party to ensure everyone’s well fed and enjoying themselves.  This time we took a different approach; while we had 34 guests, we made it stress-free and fun.

Here are some of my tips for Easy Summer Entertaining:

Keep it Simple and Prep in Advance

I truly believe your guests will relax more if you’re socializing with them, so do everything in advance so that you can enjoy your guests.  Put out the appetizers right before guests arrive.  Serve easy things that don’t require cooking/re-heating such as hummus, cheese and crackers, fruit, chips and salsa, Greek olives, and tzatziki.  If you want to make it a little special, order a prepared shrimp cocktail platter.   If you’re outdoors, be sure to have ice trays to put beneath the appetizers, and bug screens to put above them.  Then everything can sit out awhile without aging before your guests’ eyes.

Serve, and Then Enable Self Service

When guests arrive, offer each a drink and show them where all the drinks are so that they can help themselves to the next round.  Have a non-alcoholic cooler for kids and teetotalers and a distinct beer/wine cooler a few feet away.  My five year old son once poured himself a margarita at a friend’s party since the “adult” drinks were mixed in with the non-alcohol drinks.  He thought it was lemonade.  Thankfully, he didn’t like it and the hosts changed things to prevent recurrence.

Thanks for Offering – Yes, Please bring…

Don’t be afraid to delegate.  Guests often ask “what can I bring?”  Take them up on the offer!  Ask them what they would like to bring – lots of folks have interesting specialties that can add great variety.  Have someone bring an appetizer, and another bring a side dish.  Let folks help set the table and pass the appetizers.

For the main dish, we usually grill something easy like hamburgers and hotdogs that cook up quickly, just as the table is set and we’re ready to round everyone up for the meal; we may also start with chicken, sausage, kielbasas – these types of things cook slowly on a grill so you can put them on the lowest heat at the start of the party as guests arrive and not have to keep too close an eye on them, since they won’t burn with a low flame.

For dessert, I’ve learned to keep it simple; we recently served novelty ice cream bars and cones for the kids and brownies for adults. A fruit salad is always on standby as well, cool and refreshing in the summer heat.

I think everyone had a great time.  I know I did!

Orzo salad, anyone?

Here is a recipe for an easy do ahead Orzo salad:

Juice of one lemon

¼ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves minced

Ground black pepper to taste

½ cup of olive oil

¼ teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Pinch of sugar

1 lb of cooked and cooled orzo

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

2 chopped cucumbers

Pint of cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half

Combine first 7 ingredients.  To the cooked pasta, add the feta cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes.  Dress immediately before serving.  If the pasta is too sticky, add more olive oil.

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