By: Shira Gill
The weather is hot and the fruit is ripe! Summer is the perfect time to host an outdoor party. Whether you have a birthday to celebrate or just want to enjoy some outdoor fun with friends and family, here are some simple and budget-friendly ideas to get you started.
Location, Location, Location!
Take advantage of the nice weather and set up shop in your favorite park or even in your own backyard. Make sure wherever you decide on has a large table for staging the food and a grassy area for playing and relaxing. Lay out some large picnic blankets and festive throw pillows to set the scene. For extra credit throw some fresh flowers in milk jugs or mason jars and prop up some large umbrellas to provide some shade.
Here are some ideas for a casual summer menu which includes a variety of kid-friendly options.
For the adults try some gourmet goodies on baguette and then cut them into small pieces and wrap in wax paper in individual portions. A few favorites: Brie & arugula, prosciutto with fig jam, grilled chicken & avocado, grilled veggies & goat cheese.
For the kiddos try PB&J, turkey & Swiss, or hummus & cucumber on soft wheat bread. Use star or heart-shaped cookie cutters and place sandwich bites on cake stands or a large platter for easy grabbing.
Nothing is easier and more delicious than bountiful bowls of summer fruit. Offer strawberries, cherries, peaches or whatever looks ripe at your local farmer’s market or produce store. You can also make fun fruit skewers with fresh melon, pineapple and berries or put out a bowl of crisp watermelon wedges.
Corn & Bean Salad – Sautee fresh corn kernels and one minced shallot in a touch of butter for a few minutes. Toss the sweet corn in a bowl with cooked white beans, scallions, basil, & parsley. Season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes to punch it up.
Couscous – cook regular or Israeli couscous and add raisins, chopped nuts, cucumbers, crumbled feta cheese, fresh herbs, and vinaigrette of olive oil, balsamic and lemon juice. Top with lemon zest and parsley.
Flash-Roasted Asparagus – Chop off ends and toss asparagus spears in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake on a baking sheet at 450 for five minutes until the asparagus is bright green and slightly crispy. Season with a squeeze of lemon and grated lemon zest.
Try an assortment of fresh veggies with a home-made dip – Puree white beans with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic for an upscale take on hummus or create a refreshingly light dip by adding dill, mint, lemon, salt and pepper to your favorite plain yogurt.
Buy an assortment of your favorite healthy snacks and display them in little buckets or festive bowls. Cheese popcorn, caramel corn, and pretzels are guaranteed crowd pleasers.
For a simple sweet treat offer lemon bars (cut in half on the diagonal) and brownie bites. If you want to channel your inner Martha Stewart, construct homemade ice cream sandwiches on freshly baked (or store bought) chewy cookies. Try lemon ice cream on gingersnaps, vanilla bean on chocolate chip and coffee on chocolate cookies.
Coordinate some simple outdoor games that are old school but still cool! Here are a few favorites:
Shira Gill is the founder of Simply Sorted, which offers lifestyle & organization services throughout the SF Bay Area. For information please visit: www.shiragill.com
[Photo Credit: Flickr Member Banana Custard]