Labor Day is the last big hooray that pretty much closes out summer and it’s a huge weekend for going to the lake, beach, having BBQ’s and getting together with friends and family. I love to entertain and having people over…from planning the happy hour and apps, to getting together the dinner, figuring out a dessert and lastly pairing the perfect wine or cocktail to complement the snacks and meal.
Planning any get together can be stressful and hard, I know I’m always wondering what others are wanting or expecting, should I try something new or go with a tried and true recipe,? Do I just have a bunch of appetizers or should I have a main course? What about drinks, do I have wine, cocktails and what about the non-drinkers? There are so many parts to hosting a BBQ, so today I’m sharing how I plan for a party and some of my tips and tricks to help make it less stressful!
I think one of my favorite things to put together is a cheese tray. I think it’s so fun to go to the store and pick out different cheeses and fruit and nuts to compliment them. I usually go with three cheeses for mine and you will always find one of them is cheddar…because who doesn’t love a good cheddar cheese. I am not picky when it comes to a white or yellow cheddar, I tend to mix it up, but one of my favorite go-to cheddars is the Kingdom Organic Sharp Cheddar from Costco. It’s perfectly paired with dried mango (I love these, but there have less sugar and are great too). Other great choices for the trey are manchego, gouda and brie. Lately, I have been loving this Champignon Mushroom Brie, also found at Costco.
Tips For The Perfect Cheese Tray
- Here a few tips for the perfect cheese tray. Make sure your cheeses are contrasting in flavors and in texture, this keeps thing interesting and provides an array of experiences.
- Make your tray 30-45 minutes ahead of time. This allows for them to get to room temperature and all of the aromas and flavors to really come alive.
- Make your tray look pretty, using a great platter, butcher block or stone tray is very inviting and draws the eye to it….we eat with our eyes first, #amiright???
- The pairings are just as important as the actual cheese. Adding nuts, dried and fresh fruit, spreads, baguettes slices and/or crackers always compliment and bring out the flavors.
Other great smacks and appetizers are cold or roasted shrimp, chicken skewers (love these), vegetable and fruit trays, and any great dips….this can be anything from chips and store bought salsa or dips for something fast and easy, to a homemade seven layer or spinach artichoke dip or anything else in between. My tip for buying anything store bought is to take it out of the package and put it on your own platters and bowls.
Depending on who you’re entertaining will depend on what you make. If it’s super casual it can be as simple as hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers/turkey burgers. These are usually crowd pleasers for all ages. Our favorite thing is marinated chicken, THIS is one of my favorites. If budget isn’t a factor or the group is pretty small, steaks are also a great choice. A fast and easy option for any get together is also anything Mexican, enchiladas, taco/burrito bar and salad.
I’m all about cookies and ice cream…and together nothing screams summer more. I love having fresh baked cookies and then having a few ice cream flavors and bowls of different topping for people to make their own ice cream cookie sandwiches. The kids LOVE this activity and you would be surprised at how much the adults love doing this … I think they even love doing it as much, if not more than the kids!
Cocktails + Mocktails
We are mostly red wine drinkers over here, but whenever I put together a happy hour or appetizers for guests I typically choose a white or rose wine, especially for hot summer days because they are chilled and tend to be more refreshing. These are also softer and won’t over power the these lighter flavors + they are great for sipping on and don’t often require food to enhance their flavors. A few of our favorites are from Brickhouse, Domaine Serene, WillaKenzie and Domaine Drouhin. Yes we live in California and no none of these are from here….I’m sorry, but CA whites are just not my favorites they’re thick and often buttery because of the use of oak. If you love clean and crisp then Oregon and even Santa Barbara are our choices, the use of steel to age keeps them much crisper!
For any pregnant guest or non-drinkers I love finding a great mocktail. I’ve made anything from a margarita to a mixture of juices topped with sprite or soda/tonic.
Besides having the main items listed above, I also place snacking type foods out, like on the coffee table, or on any side table. I feel like no matter how much real food you have out, people love having small snacks to pick at throughout the party. My go-to snacks are deluxe mixed nuts, Monster Mix from Target and Popcorn. I LOVE SkinnyPop, all the flavor with less calories and they have a ton of great flavors. Our household favorite is a classic white cheddar. SkinnyPop has actually created a fun popcorn and cocktails pairing to help you get a your summer snackin’ on! Below I have include their cocktail guide pairing list.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you have a great week and are already starting to plan your holiday weekend!
Skinny popcorn and a margarita? Now that’s a party I want to be invited to! Sounds like the perfect way to end summer (can you believe it’s over?!!) -xo