The main element (or factor) of summer entertaining on a porch, deck or patio is to keep it simple. This aspect can apply to not only clothing (casual wear, of course), but also food, drinks, lighting and décor.
Here’s a few tips and ideas to maintain simplicity and keep things running smoothly:
Go for light food; consider appetizers and very easy-to prepare items like hot dogs (now if you want or prefer burgers or steaks, roast potatoes, etc., by all means go ahead. But bear in mind that this automatically makes your simple gathering complicated. And who needs that?). Ready-made or quick, easy-to-make dips, potato chips, basic salads (nothing elaborate) and perhaps a cold cut platter (with cheese), sandwiches and ready-made desserts-like Klondike bars, popsicles or even fruit-are the order of the day (or evening). For added simplicity, these can be served buffet-style.
If possible, try to set up a few self-serve drink stations: Allow your guests to refill their own drinks by placing a pitcher of drinks on a small end table or cart. Cover it with a bright-colored tablecloth and stacked glasses. Include an ice bucket and tongs.
Serving beer or wine? Ice them down in coolers placed next to the drink station. Try to position the station away from the food to keep lines from forming.
And no one will mind if you’re using some Mason or jelly jars (as long as they’re clean) or serving from mismatched dinnerware (or even paper plates; just make sure to get those sturdy ones. Don’t you hate it when you put only two items on a regular paper plate and it either folds in half or totally collapses? I know I do).
Here are two very quick and simple recipes to get you started:
Easy Asiago Dip
1 cup of Hellmann’s Real Whipped Tangy Dressing
½ cup of grated Asiago cheese
¼ cup of finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, chopped
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.
Chill, if desired.
Serve, if desired, with your favorite dippers (raw veggies, chips, etc.)
Makes 4 servings
Work time: 10 min.
“Cook” time: 30 seconds!
Zippy Ham Salad Sandwiches
8 ounces cooked deli or cooked ham
¼ cup Hellmann’s Real Whipped Tangy Dressing
2 Tbs sweet pickle relish
2 Tbs finely chopped onion
8 slices white or wheat bread
4 slices American cheese
4 small green leaf lettuce leaves
Combine the ham, dressing, relish and onion in a medium bowl.
Spread bread, if desired, with additional dressing.
Arrange 4 bread slices on aluminum-foil-lined broiler pan.
Evenly spread bread with ham salad, then top with cheese.
Broil for 1 minute or until the cheese is melted.
Top with lettuce and remaining bread.
Makes 4 servings
Work time: 15 min.
“Cook” time: 1 min.!
Sources: “Simple outdoor gatherings”-Family Features–The Vindicator, June 26, 2013