August 1st, 2013
This guest blog post comes to us from Amelia Winslow of Hermosa Beach, California. Amelia is a nutritionist, mom, and food enthusiast. Her blog, Eating Made Easy offers simple ideas and low-stress ways to eat healthier and live better. Thanks for the pointers, Amelia!
Six Tips for Summer Entertaining
Summer is the perfect time to have people over for a casual party or BBQ. The weather is warm, the nights are bright and we all seem to be in less of a hurry. But without some strategizing, even the most low-key events can become stressful for the host. And the last thing you want is to miss spending time with your guests or to find yourself doing dishes at midnight! Below are some tips to make summer entertaining enjoyable and stress-free.
1. Keep the food simple. With so much delicious produce in-season during summer, there’s no need to make anything complicated. Plan dishes that can be served chilled or at room temperature, or that can be left on the stove over low heat until the last minute. A cheese platter, a simple gazpacho (which you make and chill ahead of time), a couple loaves of crusty bread and fresh berries with whipped cream is a crowd-pleasing summer meal that won’t take up any of your time once the guests arrive. As long as you use high quality ingredients, your guests will never know if something was easy or hard for you to make!
2. Prepare ahead of time. Make as much of the food as you can before the party. Get out serving platters and wine glasses, ready the table, and arrange some simple decor - like votive candles or wild flowers in mason jars. Buy ice and refrigerate beverages a few hours before people arrive. By the time your guests knock on the door, you’ll be ready to sit down and enjoy a cool drink along with them.
3. Take some help from the grocery store. Mix a few prepared items with some homemade ones for great taste in minimal time. I love making bean dip (recipe below!) to serve with chips & fresh veggies from the farmer’s market. Or, use a soup starter as the foundation of your meal: in just a few minutes you can have a one-pot entree that’s ready to serve when you are.
4. Entertain outside. Whether you have a big backyard or tiny patio, dining al fresco is fun and makes people feel more relaxed. If you don’t have any outdoor space at home, refresh your living space by opening up the windows to let the summer light fill the room.
5. Accept guests' offers to help. When your friends ask what they can bring, have an answer ready. Most people like to contribute something that makes your life as the hostess easier. Wine, bread or dessert are great meal components to farm out because they’re easy for guests to pick up and allow you to focus your attention on the appetizers and entree.
6. Start early. Entertaining can be easy and fun, but you’ll still need some time to prepare. If you work during the week, host people on the weekend so you have time to shop, cook and tidy up. And to prevent last a minute panic, give yourself an hour more than you think you’re going to need to get ready. Better to have some time to kill than to be half-dressed when the doorbell rings!
This is one of my favorite appetizers to make when entertaining. Mix ingredients well and serve with chips and vegetable crudité, or spread it on toasted baguette slices with a few cherry tomatoes on top.
Creamy Bean Dip
1 container organic refried black or pinto beans from Pacific Foods
⅓ cup cream cheese
Juice of 1 small lime
3 Tbsp salsa
½ tsp cumin
1 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeno (optional)
Cilantro for garnish