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How to Host the Best Yard Party

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, June 23, 2012  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

Maybe it’s the heat or perhaps the lazy weekends that get the best of me, but there’s just something about summer that makes me favor simplicity when entertaining.

I relish casual backyard gatherings free of place settings, invitations and intricate time-consuming menus. Instead I string up some twinkle lights, set out bubbles and chalk for the little ones and opt for easy-to-make eats. All are welcome! Just grab a chair or a spot on the picnic blanket in the yard.

Whether you opt for potlucks, menus that blend making some and faking (e.g. buying) some, buffets or a little of all three, it’s not only possible to host fuss-free gatherings — it’s encouraged! Here’s how to make your backyard the place to be for barbeques, special celebrations and summer hangouts with no added stress on you.

Starters that jumpstart the party One extra step can give appetizers a special twist for party flavors worth celebrating. Try these:

Jazz up skewers of strawberries, cucumber and watermelon by adding a creamy mint and feta cheese dip for a pop of flavor.

Top grilled slices of baguette with fresh ricotta, chopped pitted cherries and a drizzle of organic balsamic vinegar for a top of the pops treat.

Make fresh store-bought salsa your own by adding fresh or grilled corn kernels, water- melon, mango, pineapple, peaches or fresh cilantro or basil.

Spice up grilled sausage links by cutting them into bite-sized pieces and serve with bowls of grainy mustard, Sriracha sauce or onion jam.

Enhance your favorite potato salad recipe (or a great store-bought version) by spooning it into shot glasses and top with crumbled crispy bacon.

Make the most of leftover grilled salmon by flaking and stirring it into a fresh dip of puréed cottage cheese, lemon and horseradish. Then add chopped chives and fennel.

Buffets make it easy

From yogurt parfaits for brunch to ice cream sundaes for dessert, buffets are a win-win. Guests get to choose what they like and hosts get more time to mingle (and eat, drink, and relax). Consider offering a buffet for your entrée, drinks or dessert.

Here are a few of my favorite setups:

Treat friends and family to a simple Bellini bar. Chill bottles of Prosecco (or sparkling wine, ginger ale or lemonade) and make purées of summer’s best fruits for flavoring. Try puréed and strained peaches, cherries, blackberries or raspberries.

Set up a DIY pizza buffet and grill thin rounds of pizza dough that guests can top with tomato sauce, sautéed mushrooms, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, pepperoni, crumbled browned sausage, sliced olives, peppers and mozzarella. Or give your guests a chance to get in their greens (and reds and yellows) and offer grilled veggies as toppings.

Make the ultimate grass-fed burger bar with condiments and party-worthy toppings like caramelized onions, bacon mayonnaise, chipotle mustard, sliced avocado, pickled red onions and crisp butter lettuce leaves. To stick with the theme, you can add cheese from grass-fed cows too: try Kilaree cheddar or Rumiano Organic Monterey Jack.

Easy décor tips: Liven up your buffet table by decorating with Whole Trade® flowers in mason jars or drinking glasses. Write the buffet menu on a chalkboard and display summer favorites on cake stands or place plates on overturned bowls for height.

Plentiful platters

Lush, abundant displays are a feast for the eyes...and hungry guests. Bonus: guests serve themselves! Here are three party-perfect platters:

Arrange rows of chopped romaine, grilled chicken, hard-boiled egg, avocado, crumbled bacon, blue cheese and diced tomatoes for a colorful Cobb salad.

Grill grass-fed beef kabobs or flank steak and arrange pieces on top of grilled vegetables such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini. Serve with pesto or romesco sauce.

Create a tasty trifle in a wide, shallow dish with layers of cubed angel food cake, sweetened whipped cream and fresh ripe summer fruit like berries, peaches and cherries.

Browse through even more summer entertaining recipes online and for grilling greatness, gather hot tips and ideas at our Guide to Grilling.

What’s your recipe for easy outdoor entertaining?

 

4 Comments

Comments

Stylish Organics says ...
Yummy recipes and great arrangements ideas. Remember to make it eco friendly and beautiful by using bamboo disposable or reusable tableware.
06/27/2012 7:39:45 AM CDT
Joe Becerra says ...
What is great fun for a backyard party is a Paella feast. To pull this off you need a Paella grill unit and the pan. You cook in front of your friends and everybody marvels at your cooking ability. It takes a lot of prep but once that is done, cooking the Paella is a piece of cake. Joe
06/30/2012 11:49:55 AM CDT
Ann says ...
Love the idea of cherries and ricotta on a baguette! Thanks! Long live summer! cookingdangerously.com
07/02/2012 8:46:43 PM CDT
julia bellamy says ...
great ideas! just what I was searching for encouragement!
04/02/2013 3:40:42 PM CDT