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Backyard Dinner Party

Hosting dinner parties is a great way to be generous with your home and serve others too. These 9 Tips are sure to help with Perfect Outdoor Entertaining.

  1. Keep it Simple: When hosting an outdoor dinner party, it's important to have a plan, but keep it simple. I like to make one or two dishes to serve to my guests, and I usually add a pre-made appetizer or dessert to decrease my time in the kitchen. Choose a couple of your favorite dishes that can be prepared earlier in the day. One idea is my Pesto Pasta, Cucumber Salad or Berry Crostata because these dishes can be made ahead of time. When my guests arrive, I can sit back and relax because the bulk of cooking is done! 

  2. Set the Scene: String some lights around your entertaining space, buy a few lanterns or just light some candles. Candles are like magic: They make everything look prettier! The lighting around your outdoor party will set a very relaxing vibe, and everyone looks great in candlelight. 

  3. Flowers: Flowers don't need to be fussy. Herbs, Hostas, or greenery from your bushes are great to set around your entertaining space. Or buy a couple of bunches of flowers from your grocery store, break up the bunches and place them all around in bottles or mason jars. So easy!

  4. Music is a Must: What's a party without great music? Well, we all know that answer so have some great tunes playing when your guests arrive. Check out Spotify or Pandora for a fun summer playlist or make your own!

  5. Have Cocktails Ready when Guest Arrive: Whip up a big pitcher of a refreshing cocktail for your outdoor get-together. One signature drink at a party is really all you need. I have several Sangria recipes on my site that are made in a large pitcher and can be made the day before the party! The pitcher of Sangria filled with fresh fruit also doubles as décor until the guests have emptied the pitcher! Also, when your friends ask what they can bring, tell them wine. Wine is easy to purchase, and you can never have too much wine.

  6. Use Cloth Napkins: I'm not picky about much, but I do love cloth napkins when entertaining. Cloth napkins really aren't all that fancy. They are fairly cheap, reusable, and make your table just a little more special. 

  7. Take the Indoors Out: I love to bring a few of the indoor pillows, throws or even a couple pieces of furniture outdoors. It makes the party feel homey and oh so comfy!

  8. Don't Let Cooking Flops Derail You: If you make your recipes ahead of time, you will have very few flops. But flops do happen! I once dropped an entire main course on the floor. Of course, I was bummed, but my guests handled it remarkably well. Flops are NOT a big deal if you have a backup plan! I always have my favorite Chinese Place and pizza place on speed dial. I promise that if a flop in the kitchen happens, you and your guests will still have a blast and will laugh about it for years to come!

  9. Keep it Simple: In case you forgot tip 1, keep it simple! No matter what you do, do not go overboard and stress yourself out. Your guests will enjoy one big bowl of pasta as much as they would with four different dishes. Cooking for others is giving and remember that Hospitality is Love in Action. Your friends will feel the love no matter what!

For more tips follow me on Instagram @lauren_lane_culinarian

These simple recipes are beautifully colorful and always a crowd-pleaser. 

Cucumber Dill Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 English cucumbers, sliced ¼ inch thick on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground Pepper
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced (optional)

Method:

Place cucumber slices in a colander over a plate. Sprinkle with kosher salt and toss. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring once. Rinse cucumbers and drain well.

In a bowl, combine the white vinegar, dill, sugar, and Pepper. Add cucumbers and onions if using, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra dill if desired.
 

Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound any type pasta (Cervasi recommended)
  • 8-9 ounces of store-bought pesto, or homemade
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Cervasi recommended)
  • Pinch of crushed red Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional add-ins: blanched asparagus, frozen peas, olives, spinach, capers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, arugula, torn basil, toasted pine nuts, roasted chicken or grilled shrimp

Method:

Bring a large pot of salted water (about 1 tablespoon Kosher salt) to a boil and cook pasta to al dente. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl.

Pour pesto and heavy cream over the pasta and toss until the pasta is lightly and evenly coated. Add Parmesan and red pepper flakes. Taste to see if additional salt is needed.

Lauren's Tips:

  • I love serving this salad at room temperature. Pull out of refrigerator 30 minutes before serving
  • Make this pasta your own by adding any of the add-ins listed above
  • This is great for entertaining because you can make it early in the day. Be sure to taste and re-season before serving. 

Grilled Tuscan Chicken

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • ⅓ cup olive oil (Cervasi preferred)
  • 12 chicken legs, 8 thighs, or 6 chicken breast 
  • with skin and bones.
  • Lemon slices, optional for garnishing
  • Loaf of crusty bread

Method

Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and olive oil.

Discard any excess fat from chicken, pat dry, and season with well salt and pepper.

Grill chicken as you normally would to an internal temperature of 165F or until the juices run clear.  If the chicken starts to burn, move it to a cooler part of the grill.

Transfer the cooked chicken to bowl with lemon dressing and toss to coat, and then transfer to a large serving platter. Garnish with lemon slices and serve with the crusty bread.
 

Lauren's Tips:

  • If you aren't able to grill, chicken can be roasted, skin sides up, in a 400°F oven.  If skin isn't browning enough, broil for the last couple of minutes.
  • For crispier skin, lay the chicken on a sheet pan (uncovered) and place it in the refrigerator overnight. This aids the skin drying for added crispiness. 

Berry Crostata

Ingredients:

  • Refrigerated pie crust, softened and unrolled (Pillsbury recommended)

Filling:

  • 3-5 cups berries
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon minute tapioca
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Method:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Place the berries in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, minute tapioca and sugar. Pour mixture over the berries and toss to combine. 

Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and unroll the pie crust. Spoon the berry mixture over crust to within 2 inches of the edge. Fold edge of crust over filling, pleating crust as necessary. Be sure there are no cracks in the crust; use a little water on your finger to dab any cracks to seal them. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush crust edge with egg mixture. 

Bake until filling is bubbling, and crust is golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. Carefully use the parchment paper to transfer the crostata to a wire rack and cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Lauren's Tips:

  • The minute tapioca and corn starch help the juices from running but don't worry if some of the juices run out. It's all delicious
  • The crostata can be baked up to 6 hours in advance. Serve warm or at room temperature
  • This is great served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

For more recipes and entertaining tips, follow @lauren_lane_culinarian and Lauren-Lane.com

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