I’m so looking forward to this holiday long weekend. If you haven’t already planned a festive meal or two here’s what I 100% recommend:
You need burgers:
I make lotssss of burgers. My favs are Ranch Chicken Burgers (also serves well over salad if you have a health-conscious crowd), or Parisian Burgers (not as easy for a large crowd).
I love a build-your-own when hosting. Set out a burger bar with lots of fun toppings. I just did this with sliders and posted a few I recommended (a frame with Cowboy Burger = BBQ sauce + cheddar + caramelized onions & a few others).
You need a side:
Plan a fun one + a super easy/hands-off/crowd pleaser.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes is a good one that can sit out for quite awhile.
Ramen Salad with Broccoli Slaw is so addicting.
Basil Vinaigrette for Orzo, Tomato, and mozzarella salad is so great with any shape pasta for the idea of caprese.
Most are easy enough to throw together in advance, or can be something deliciously simple like really cold watermelon or baked beans you added a tough of sriracha to or liquid smoke to. Serve in a crockpot to heat & serve all at once.
You need a signature beverage:
Rosemary Hard Lemonade is an easy one to pre-mix in a pitcher OR to serve the alcohol on the side for guests to mix to order for a cocktail versus mocktail. Don’t worry about a whole bar.
Freeze some lemonade ice cubes to go with ice tea for the best Arnold Palmer out there!
You need some snacks:
A burrata & crostini bar is definitely fun, though maybe too much if you’re then serving a whole meal. Keep it simple!
My 100% crowd pleaser is this suuuuper easy Greek Dip: Hummus + tomato/cuke/pepper tossed with dressing + feta, served with pita chips or wheat thins.
Also put out some chips. Done.
You need some dessert:
I’d totally farm this out to one of your guests, but if you are compelled to serve something, vanilla ice cream with strawberries & blueberries (maybe pop open a jar of salted caramel sauce!) seems wayy better than a flag cake you’ve seen 100 times on pinterest.
Or these Peanut butter & Jelly bars are pretty awesome, and fool-proof plus you can make ’em in advance.
You’ll have wayyy more fun if you are a happy host. Prep in advance, put the first to arrive to work…then they won’t feel awkward. Have some tunes already on, offer them a drink, then say “sure, you can carry this out to that table”. It puts everyone at ease.
My fav hosting tips:
1) make a list & prioritize your prep. I literally number what has to happen first so I can have things pretty much cleaned up before guests arrive.
2) know what you’re serving in what vessel. I lay the bag of chips into the bowl they’re going in so it is ready, out of the way, and so I’m not standing on a chair reaching for a bowl while trying to chat with somebody. See also: putting your guests to work.
3) get showered & dressed early enough. It is easier to slice your watermelon with guests there than it is to be dripping wet & in a towel when somebody arrives!
4) a sign I’m getting old: wear some good shoes if you’re spending the morning grabbing the cooler from the attic, wiping off the patio furniture, chopping veggies, etc. You then won’t be pooped when it comes time to party!
5) keep it simple enough to actually accomplish. You don’t need to offer 8 sides or accommodate 100 things each guest would like to eat. I like anything I can make in advance, and to be balanced enough that there’s something fun to eat but also that I’m not ready for a nap when the time actually comes. Not hosting an actual meal is pretty great too. I just hosted a happy-hour get together with: a top-your-own crostini station; fruit with yogurt dip; chips & goldfish. I offered sangria & some summer beer. It was so easy.
Bonus) some little details are really worth it. Setting the mood by playing music & offering a drink are so great when people first arrive. Set out sunlotion/bugspray/towels or whatever everyone might need before they need it (ditto on the spare toilet paper). Label your food so people don’t have to ask you what’s what (multi-ingredient foods, or drinks in pitchers- especially when containing alcohol, or if you have lots of offerings). I think themes come together best when mapped out- I print suggested combos & pop them into frames to help. I like things in writing so I can actually talk to people…a note for what is trash/recycling for you, or “more drinks inside” or “come on around, we’re out back” or whatever is helpful.