One of my favorite parts of summer is being able to entertain our friends and family outside. There’s a casual vibe when it comes to a summer party.  People come expecting easy, fresh food, a refreshing cocktail, and lively conversation.

Easy enough, right? 

Well, I get asked all the time for ways to make entertaining easier.  I totally get it.  You have young kids making it hard to prep, or you aren’t all that confident in your cooking abilities.  Maybe you just don’t like your yard and are unsure of what to do with the space.  Listen, the excuses are honestly endless. And I’ve done it right along with you!

I’m going to break down a super simple summer dinner party I hosted this past weekend so you can see how manageable it is.  Fun fact? My husband was sick and unable to help me with anything.  I prepped and hosted it all on my own, with my five and two year old along for the ride, and I lived to tell the tale.

But…I did have 2 little secret weapons for this party. 

1. My Easy Summer Entertaining Guide. I pulled a fast cocktail and dessert out of that one, and delegated those to my sister. Check! It was super easy because all I had to do was send her the guide and she went shopping right from her phone! Want your own free guide?  Click here!

2. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Real Life Dinners, the new cookbook from my girl, Rachel Hollis.  I knew I needed recipes that would be fast, easy, and appeal to different people (i.e. picky kids) so I cracked this baby open, picked out 3 winners and started prepping.  Magic!  I’m totally digging this book, and as you continue to read and see how delicious and EASY the recipes were, you will too!

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Alright, let’s host this stress-free summer dinner party!

The cookbook is broken up into chapters of all different kinds of dinners. There’s salad for dinner, breakfast for dinner, etc., but the chapter I turned right to was dinner on the grill! It’s a summer dinner party and the grill must be involved!

Once I saw the Foil-Wrap Fish Bake I was sold because I could make the packets ahead of time! That means I got to assemble each packet while Hudson napped…one less kid at my feet! I chopped and prepped all the ingredients, just like Rachel had them organized in the picture, laid out 6 pieces of foil (I was making 6 packets), and started assembling!

The recipe in Real Life Dinners, tells you to melt the butter with the garlic and herbs, which would be delicious. Because I was making these ahead, I added a pat of butter to each packet and sprinkled each with the garlic and dill instead. I didn’t want the melted butter to get all weird sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked. The packets turned out ah-mazing. Keep scrolling to drool over the finished meal!

Cocktail Hour

Next up…cocktail time! These stunning Tequila Blackberry Lemonades were to die. They were SO refreshing and not too sweet. It tasted like summer.  They paired perfectly with the two different toasts I decided to serve as appetizers. You can find the recipe for the cocktail in my Easy Summer Entertaining Guide!

Rachel’s cookbook is only dinner recipes.  It’s all about simplifying your family’s dinner routine, so there isn’t recipes for appetizers, cocktails, desserts, etc.  But, I am a creative gal and because I wanted to stay in one place and cook from one book, I turned a “dinner” into an app!  Instead of leaving the toasts whole as you would for a meal, I cut them into chunks that guests could easily pick up and enjoy.  They were a great little bite and the fruit paired very well with the cocktail.

Real Life Dinners outlines many different fun toast combos, but I just chose two to keep things easy.

1. Ricotta, prosciutto, cantaloupe and a drizzle of honey

2. Mascarpone, slices peaches, pumpkin seeds, and a drizzle of honey

*the recipe technically calls for plums here…but they aren’t in season yet and peaches are delish right now.

See how I change things up to make them work for me?  This confidence comes the more you entertainin. I am very aware of my abilities (solo parenting/hosting especially!), and I also like to use what I have.  The less stuff I need to buy the better.  Going to another store to buy plums? Yeah, not going to happen. Using the ripe peaches I already have instead? Done!

Make your life easier, sister.  Have the confidence to deviate a bit from recipes and outlines, and trust your instincts! It’s one of the biggest ways I manage my stress when planning events.

The sign of a good cocktail hour…and also your clue to get dinner out? Cocktails needed a refill and the apps being almost gone.  If you’ve already refilled the plate once, then it’s time to push dinner.  You don’t want guest’s appetites being ruined, and you know that if there is food in front of you, you’re going to mindlessly eat it.  Brain tricks!

Time for Dinner

I want to take a second to point out how simple my tabletop is.  It’s an outdoor dinner! Nature gets to be your decor!  A crisp blue and white stripe tablecloth, cloth napkins, white plates, and a beautiful vase of flowers from the local Farmer’s Market. So easy, but still looks like I put some effort in to treat my guest’s to a lovely evening.
I chose a green salad, the Fattoush salad to compliment the Foil Wrap Fish Bake packets.  It was a great pair!  The crunchy, fresh veggies were great with the decadent, buttery seafood in everyone’s little dinner present. I also loved the pop of spice from the Moroccan spice blend on the pita chip croutons! Super fun touch.

I mean…can we take a moment of silence?  Both for how delicious (and totally perfect for summer) this packet is…but also for how EASY it was!! I asked the fish guy at the grocery store to cut the fish into portions for me, so literally the most annoying part of putting this dish together was cutting the corn.

Anyone, no matter their kitchen skill level, could serve this dish.  It is something that makes a statement when it comes to the table.  Each guest gets a little present they get to open, the lemony/herby smell hits them as they unwrap and feast their eyes on the delicious seafood.  What a special meal! Is your mouth watering yet? Mine sure is!

I was also a little nervous that the potatoes would not totally cook, but was pleasantly surprised that they were perfect.  Everything came out cooked as it should.

Recipe for the Foil Wrap Fish Bake

Ingredients:

1 pound red potatoes cut into 1/2 inch chunks

3 ears corn on the cob, shucked and cut into 2 inch slices

1 pound halibut cut into 4 pieces (mine ended up being about 1/3 lb each)

1/2 pound extra large shrimp

6 tablespoons of butter, melted

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons, snipped fresh dill

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

serve with crusty sourdough bread and lemon wedges

Directions:

1. Preheat the grill to medium heat to get to 350-400 degrees.

2. While the grill heats (or you can do this ahead of time!) prepare the ingredients, and cut the foil into 18 inch pieces.

3. On the front half of the foil, place a quarter of the potatoes and divide the corn on the cob pieces.

4. Next, add the halibut on top of the potatoes, then add 4 shrimp around the fish.

5. Stir together the melted butter, garlic, dill, pepper and salt and pour the mixture evenly to coat each of the filets.

*If you are making ahead, sprinkle each packet with garlic, dill and season with salt and pepper. Place a pat of butter on each fillet.

6. Carefully fold the long end of the foil over the top of the fish and vegetables. Double the fold to seal the 3 edges on each of the foil packets.

7. Place the packets on the heated grill and cook until the fish and shrimp are cooked through, and the potatoes are done. 12-15 minutes.  (Mine took just a little over 15 but I had bigger halibut fillets).

8. Serve each guest their little foil packet with crusty bread and a squeeze from the lemon wedge.

Recipe by Rachel Hollis from the cookbook, Real Life Dinners.

Did Somebody Say Dessert?

My kids LOVE s’mores.  What kid doesn’t actually? They aren’t my favorite, to be honest, but I will obviously participate and enjoy if they are an option!  I am a lazy parent when it comes to s’mores. The mess annoys me and the walking around with sticks is something my accident prone son doesn’t need in his life.

I’ve been wanting to try this S’more Brownie recipe from the Easy Summer Entertaining Guide for awhile now, and this was the perfect night to do so! And remember I delegated this one to make my life even easier? Pro tip!

These pretty much were as heavenly as they look.  There is just something about that charred marshmallow that screams summer.  I definitely cut them too early, so my recommendation is to let them completely cool down and then cut. Our brownies were super gooey and warm, so no complaints there, but they were a little harder to eat than a nicely cut one would be. 😊

Recap: Hosting a Stress-Free Summer Dinner Party

1. Be intentional when you meal plan- what is realistic for you to do/what can you delegate to guests?

2. Have the confidence to make recipes work for you!

3. Keep the tabletop super simple! A beautiful linen goes a long way!

4. Have a cocktail and appetizer waiting for your guests when they come- make them feel at home!

5. Use your resources!  Take advantage of the free Easy Summer Entertaining Guide and treat yourself to Real Life Dinners– then every night gets to be like a fun stress-free dinner party!

 

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