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How To Make Your Summer Gatherings Unforgettable!

Summer celebrations!  Pool parties! Family reunions!

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer.  And, we will savor all the opportunities to gather again with family and friends - something we missed out on much of last summer.

Of course, that means food…and plenty of it!

What kind of foods do your summer celebrations include?  Anything unique and flavor-popping?  If we are not careful, these celebrations can end up like Thanksgiving, where the same dishes show up year after year!

There is nothing wrong with tradition but, especially this time of year, it's the perfect opportunity to take advantage of fresh in-season ingredients. Plus, the possibilities for spectacular tasting and healthy meals are endless!

Grilled Balsamic Chicken Legs-Get-Real-Wichita-KansasWe want to help include some new crowd-pleasing, great-tasting ideas into your summer celebrations!

Below are some great ideas and, if you are looking for a fantastic al fresco menu, this definitely would impress your guests:  Grilled Balsamic Chicken Legs, Sweet Summer Corn Salad and a Berry and Raw Brownie Parfait!


Salads & Snacks!

Go beyond the typical mayo-laden potato salad or coleslaw.  Take a scrumptious salad with unique flavors to your summer gathering and you will be the talk of the party!  Or, better yet, make the perfect poolside dip - like the Simple Salsa Fresca - and watch it disappear!  The key is fresh ingredients with flavor and colors that will make it look like summer in a bowl!

A few delicious ideas:

Easy Pineapple Salsa – use your pineapple corer to cut your pineapple into bite-size pieces, and then mix with a chopped red onion, chopped jalapeno, fresh cilantro, lime juice and a little salt.  You can also substitute peaches or mango for the pineapple!

Homemade Hummus - make homemade hummus pop with flavor by adding beets that have been roasted with balsamic vinegar.  And, don't forget to check out the secret to get that creamy, dreamy texture.

Salad with Addictive Spicy Pecans and Berries - this is not your average spinach salad!  Kick it up a notch by quickly sautéing some pecans with a little butter, brown sugar and cayenne, and then let them cool.  Toss the cooled pecans with a salad full of spinach or romaine, fresh berries, goat cheese and sweet red wine vinaigrette.

Crunchy Coleslaw - this one will beat the Crunchy Ramen Noodle Coleslaw Salad every day of the week!  Cabbage coleslaw mix combined with slivered almonds and sesame or sunflower seeds, and then topped with a dressing made with maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil sends this Asian-inspired coleslaw over the top!  It's simple, healthy and delicious!

Watermelon Blueberry Salad - combine watermelon with blueberries, fresh greens, walnuts, goat cheese and a simple dressing for an unforgettable treat on a hot day!



Grilling is, of course, an excellent idea for summer gatherings, but get creative and go beyond the hamburgers and hotdogs!  Try grilling kabobs, meatballs, or pizzas!  A great pizza to try is a Cherry Tomato Margherita Pizza.

Grill some cherry tomatoes until they are blistered and about to burst, and then combine with ground fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Top your pizza crust with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, the grilled tomatoes and grill the pizza until done to your liking...serve with a chilled white wine for a great taste of Italy!




Kick it up a notch and, instead of offering the typical baked beans or pasta salad loaded with sugar, serve a combination of grilled veggies...or you can even grill your salads.  Get creative with sweet potatoes, eggplant, okra, beets, summer squash, tomatoes and more!  Whole green onions and sliced turnips from the grill may blow your mind!  All it takes is a little olive oil, salt and pepper!

If you do want to serve some baked beans, check out the Stove Top Baked Beans or the Mexican Beans with Avocado.  And, for pasta salad, the Grilled Veggie & Tortellini Salad and Caprese Pasta Salad are both fantastic options.


Of course, summer celebrations wouldn’t be complete without desserts!  Help your family and friends satisfy their sweet tooth…with REAL food!  This year, kick the boxed pudding and cool whip to the curb in favor of an incredibly delicious summer dessert!

IMG_0696Chocolate Mousse - a few simple ingredients such as melted dark chocolate, ricotta cheese, almond milk and vanilla extract will create a creamy dreamy dessert!  Topped with fresh raspberries or strawberries…absolutely delicious!

Oatmeal Cookie Parfait Cups - Keep it simple with these individual yogurt parfaits with a cookie crust and made in muffin cups, topped with fresh berries and toasted chopped nuts.

Homemade Popsicles - turn your blender into a popsicle-making machine. Everyone will love the Red, White & Blueberry Popsicles, which are super-easy to make.  Simply fill popsicle molds with a layer of blended blueberries and honey, then a layer of yogurt, almond milk, vanilla and honey, and finally a layer of blended raspberries and honey.  Freeze for the perfect frozen treat!

Everyday Fruit Crisp - celebrate in-season fruits like berries, peaches, apples and pears and enjoy the succulent aromas as it bakes.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you will be the hero of the evening!


It wouldn’t be party without cold, refreshing beverages!  Of course, there are many different ways to prepare fruity cocktails, but if you are interested in serving nonalcoholic options, consider Fruit-Infused Water.  Served in clear pitchers or glass containers, fruit-infused water not only looks perfect for summertime, but it also tastes fantastic and will keep everyone hydrated!  Add fresh fruit and/or fresh herbs to water and let it sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature or 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.  Remember to leave room to add ice just before serving!

Store any leftover fruit-infused water in the can remove the fruit if desired (so it doesn’t start to deteriorate in the water) and drink it within 3-5 days.

Give it a try — some ideas include raspberry orange, strawberry basil, cucumber rosemary, watermelon mint, or create your own fresh flavor combination!

Tips for a Successful Party:



As the host, having a great atmosphere is important, but what will really impress your guests is the food.  Watch where people congregate at the next party…chances are, it will be in the kitchen or around the grill.  Let’s face it, if you put a little thought into the food and use fresh in-season ingredients, your family and friends will be raving!

Pick a Theme!

When planning a potluck party or get-together, make it easy on yourself and pick a theme!  Whether it is a Mexican, Italian or Asian theme, this will help ensure the flavors of the foods your guests are bringing will all complement each other!  Or, ask guests to sign up for specific foods, so you don’t end up with 10 pans of enchiladas!  A fun theme during the summer is Farmers’ Market fare!  Ask your guests to bring a dish that includes fresh ingredients from the farmers’ market, perhaps including an ingredient they haven’t tried before.  You will likely end up with a variety of dishes that are healthy, refreshing and full of flavorful in-season ingredients.  Plus, you might inspire your family and friends to make more trips to the market during the rest of the summer!

Safety First!

From a food safety standpoint, it’s always a good idea to plan to serve food within the first hour of your party.  Food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and if serving food outside on a really hot day, it is recommended you not leave food out for more than one hour.

The Perfect Party-Goer!

As the guest…come to the party prepared!  If you are bringing a side dish, make it easy on your host and bring it ready to serve...serving spoon included.  Put some thought into what you take to a party and make sure it is a food that will hold up well if it has to sit for a little while before serving.  For example, keep the salad dressing separate and dress the salad just before serving.  And, keep in mind, people love wrapping, dipping and eating with their fingers so consider ideas such as:

Summer Peach Lettuce Wraps-Eat-Real-AmericaSummer Peach Lettuce Wraps - cooked rice noodles wrapped up with fresh diced peaches, red and green bell pepper, cucumber, mint, and kohlrabi, and then topped with a sweet and tangy peanut sauce.

Middle Eastern Nachos - toasted whole wheat pita chips topped with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and chickpeas. Then, add tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and fresh cilantro just before serving.

Make Your Own Bruschetta - show partygoers how to brush fresh garlic on a slice of toasted baguette, and then top with a fresh combination of tomatoes, red onion, basil, and balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top…now, that is summer flavors at their best!

Whether you are serving the food or bringing food to a party, if you want to stand out, the most important thing to remember is…think outside of the box and keep it light, nutritious and full of flavor!

Remember, you don’t have to be a great cook, but if you have great ingredients, you will have great results!


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2 Responses to How To Make Your Summer Gatherings Unforgettable!

  1. Every day is a dog day in my house. Just ask Charlie the lemon dog.

    This list is amazeballs. (Are the kids still saying amazeballs? Am I dating myself?) The two recipes that made me go “Oooh” are the Mexican Beans with Avocado and the Peach Lettuce Wraps.

    Add to recipe box. Click aaaand click.

    • See, this is why we get along so well…dog lovers unite! And, yes, amazeballs is absolutely still a thing, or at least should be — thank you! We think you will love those two recipes, the Peach Lettuce Wraps are definitely a favorite! Enjoy and let us know what you think!

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