The official start of summer is just 3 days away!
At least for the PNW.....because, up here, summer weather doesn't really arrive until July 4th.
It's literally like a switch gets flipped.......the clouds, rain and drizzle disappear. The sun comes out. And parks and beaches fill up with everyone soaking up the warm weather.
It's the time for backyard bbqs, hanging around the fire pit long after the sun has set, and spontaneous gatherings with friends. We rarely set our alarms, love exploring and discovering new places to hike, spend time at the beach and try our best to soak up all the sunshine we can.
AND it's shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops all.day.long.
Speaking of summer and parties....
ARE YOU READY FOR ENTERTAINING THIS SUMMER?
If you're not, no worries!
I HAVE 5 TIPS FOR GETTING SUMMER PARTY READY! I guarantee if you follow these tips (and I promise these tips are easy to follow, will save you a ton of time AND will also lower your stress) you will be THE "host with the most" this summer!
Tip #1 -- Plan the Menu
I'm a firm believer that ANY summer party (truly, any party at all!) revolves around the food. It doesn't really matter if you're sitting on blankets on the grass, a picnic table in the park or beach chairs with toes in the sand. Wherever you are hosting your party, the first thing you should plan is the menu. The GREAT thing about a summer party is you can make it incredibly casual!
I plan a loose and easy menu that typically revolves around 4 parts: an appetizer platter, main course, veggie, and, of course, dessert.
If you want to stay even MORE organized, click here to grab my free printable weekly menu planning calendar.
When friends arrive I love having a gorgeous cheese board for everyone to nibble on. I'll fill it with an assortment of hard cheeses and soft cheeses, crackers, meats (usually prosciutto and salami), olives and nuts.
Boards are getting loads of attention right now which I love. They are incredibly easy to assemble, you can use store bought ingredients AND you can put it together before your guests arrive (no last minute prepping which can be so stressful!).
It's summer, so, this means bbq. I often think that most summers I'm running to the store to buy more coal for the grill, than anything else! We're old school and my husband loves grilling on a charcoal grill. To me, the char and flavor you get from a charcoal grill is what grilling is all about, and it's hard to replicate with any other cooking method.
With summer parties, I always like to be sure to make food that can be served at room temperature. Living in the PNW that means salmon (because it's fresh and cooks quickly), but we'll also throw some steaks and even shrimp on the bbq. Sometimes, we'll do steaks AND shrimp for a little surf and turf.
This can take many forms. I love a huge salad packed with summer veggies like corn, zucchini, tomatoes and avocado. Top it off with some toasted hazelnuts, crumbled feta, chopped fresh herbs (parsley, basil and tarragon are my favorites!) and a vinaigrette (or this creamy herb dressing) and you're done. You can assemble the salad ahead of time, and add the the avocado, feta and vinaigrette right before serving. Another option are grilled veggies. Corn is, of course, the most obvious, but you can also grill squash, asparagus, and, watermelon is fabulous grilled. Ok, watermelon isn't a veggie, but it's SO yummy grilled. Toss the watermelon with mint and feta for a light refreshing side dish.
Keep scrolling for one of my absolute favorite side dishes, Orzo with Roasted Veggie.
You can make it ahead and it will go with whatever main dish is on your grill!
Summer desserts are the easiest! You can do a sundae buffet, make popsicles, or, my personal favorite, a fruit cobbler.
My kids also love ice cream sandwiches, and it's incredibly simple to make your own. Either bake (or buy) your favorite cookie. If you're baking them from scratch, let them cool. While they're cooling, take 2 or 3 different ice creams out of the freezer and let them defrost slightly on the counter. Then take a cookie, put one scoop of ice cream on top, place another cookie on top of the ice cream and very gently press down. You want to press gently enough to flatten out the ice cream slightly, but be sure the ice cream doesn't melt out. Place on a cookie sheet and continuing going until you have 1 ice cream sandwich per person. Then stick the tray in the freezer and allow enough time for the ice cream to freeze up again. And there you have it. The world's easiest summer dessert.
Tip #2 -- Create a Warm Welcoming Space
You want to create a space that is inviting, welcoming and where your friends want to hang out all evening. This means creating a comfortable, warm and cozy seating area.
This may seem like a complete no brainer. Right now you're probably thinking --- "Seating? Of course I have a table and chairs!" BUT, do you have a separate seating area for overflow? It's summer, so you want to be able to accommodate EVERYONE who shows up. Whether cousin Fred brings his new girlfriend, or your neighbor brings her in-laws who are visiting, you want to be sure everyone has a place to sit.
Another thing to be sure you have on hand are all the little extras that we can all easily overlook. Do you have cushions on the chairs? We went without for awhile because I couldn't find just the right cushions. Needless to say, we usually ate at the table quickly, and then headed inside. Not exactly the ideal situation.
Are there blankets on the backs of the chairs (or in a basket) for when it gets chilly? I admit, this was something I hadn't ever thought of until a few years ago. We were at friend's house, and, as soon as the sun set, she brought out this enormous straw basket overflowing with an assortment of blankets. Because we all cuddled up with cozy blankets, we all stayed and chatted much longer than we probably would have otherwise.
It's the little touches that make for a warm environment to host your summer parties, and ensures your guests will want to come back again soon!
Tip #3 -- Add flowers to the table
I LOVE collecting flowers from my garden and placing them in mason jars on my table. If there aren't any flowers, I collect any greenery or herbs I can find. If I need a taller arrangement for a side table or bar, I'll put the flowers in a pitcher. Otherwise, I like to keep the arrangements short so everyone can see over them. I'm sure we've all been to parties where you're trying to talk to the person opposite you, but can't see them over (or through!) the flowers.
If you don't have flowers and can't get to the store, grab some lemons and limes, and layer them in a short, wide vase.
Tip #4 -- Lighting (candles, candles and MORE candles!)
Full confession time. I'm a complete and total sucker for candles. If you open my cabinets, you'll find an obscene number of votives. There's something magical about sitting outside, on a warm summer's night, chatting with friends in the glow of candlelight. Plus, as I get older, I'm definitely appreciating the gentle light of candles even more! An added benefit is you want everyone to see who they're talking to when it gets dark. If you're all sitting in pitch black, it might feel more like a scene from a scary movie, instead of a fun, casual summer dinner. And that's not a good vibe, at all!
Another way I use votives, is filling mason jars with sand (if you aren't lucky enough to live by a beach, you can buy bags of sand at most craft stores), stick a votive on top and line my table with them. I also love having hurricane lamps right at my front door to greet everyone. A few times I've even lined my steps with them.
Besides candles, I also love strings of light. They add to the ethereal glowy vibe that makes summer dinner parties extra special.
Tip #5 -- Music (Don't forget the playlist!)
In my opinion, it isn't a party without music. There are numerous apps that have summer party playlists you can download. You can pick the vibe you want from a pretty big selection. Reggae and Hawaiian are my go to's, but those are only two options. Just like there are multiple ways to grab a summer playlist, there are numerous ways to play your music. We happen to have an Amazon Echo, but there's the Google Home, and a seemingly endless selection of speakers. I love that record players are making a comeback, and are inspiring me to pull out my old vinyl's.
Two rules I like to follow when it comes to music at any party.
- Make sure the volume is not too loud. You want it to be just in the background. Loud enough to hear, but not so loud that your guests have to holler over it to chat. Remember it's a party, not a rock concert.
- Make it clean. Once upon a time, I went to a party for one of my son's friends in LA. There were tons of kids. And siblings. And my friend had downloaded some songs, but hadn't checked to be sure they were they clean version. Then the song came on. It was most definitely NOT the clean version. She practically dislocated her shoulder diving for the remote to turn the music off. SO, if there will be kids, and even if there aren't, depending on your friends you might want to double check that it's the clean version.
So there you have it. My 5 tips on how to get summer party ready. What things do you do to prep for summer parties? I'm always looking for tips, so let me know in the comments section!
- 1 orange bell pepper, 1-inch diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
- 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in 1 inch pieces
- 2/3 cup good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound orzo
- 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss the bell peppers, onion, tomatoes and asparagus with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, until golden brown, turning once with a spatula.
While the veggies are roasting, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer orzo to a large serving bowl.
When the veggies are done, add them to the pasta making sure to add all the liquid and seasoning, too.
For the dressing, in a small pitcher whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour about 1/2 of the dressing over the pasta and vegetables. Be sure you toss orzo with dressing while the orzo is still warm. This helps all the lemony dressing flavors infuse into the orzo.
Let pasta cool to room temperature.
Add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil.
Taste and season with extra salt, pepper and lemon juice if needed. You can also toss with a bit of the extra dressing if needed. If you don't use all the dressing it will keep in your fridge for one week.
Serve at room temperature.
This salad can also be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Inspired by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa