Tried and true recipes, from yours truly, from drinks to dessert....
First, start off with some Virgin Mango Coladas. (*giggle* I said virgin.) If you're like me, you usually just serve soda or water, but having a really great drink was a fabulous addition to a recent cook-out. I'm also partial to my homemade Sweet Tea. I think replacing 1/2 the sweetener with Splenda, not only cuts down on the calories, but lets the tea flavor shine through. As opposed to drinking sugar with a little bit of tea...like McD's. I'm just sayin.
Makes 1 gallon
4 family-sized black tea bags
8 c. water
2 c. sugar
Quick brew method: Place 8 c. water in and tea bags in glass measuring cup. Microwave for 4 minutes. Let steep for 5 minutes or more. Add sugar. Stir to dissolve. Put in pitcher along with tea bags. Add 8 c. ice water. Stir. Taste. Add lemon juice from 1/4 lemon for flavor. If the tea needs to be stronger, leave the bags in for awhile, otherwise remove.
Peachy Version: Substitute 4 Peach flavored tea bags for one of the family-sized bags. I personally like Country Peach Passion by Celestial Seasonings.
Minty Version: For yummy refreshing flavor, replace one family-sized bag with a few peppermint tea bags.
**To cut down on the amount of actual sugar, you can replace up to 1/2 of the sugar with slightly less than the same amount of Splenda.**
Next, add an easy make ahead appetizer, such as Jalapeno Popper Dip. Serve it with some crusty bread and your guests will be fighting over it.
And now, we're onto the main course. You could always serve the all-American stand-by of burgers & dogs. For this last party, I wanted to mix it up a bit. So I chose thin-cut Ribeye steaks (budget friendly!) and Grilled Chicken (assorted bone-in pieces) with Apricot Balsamic Glaze.
I'm sure your fabulous guests will be more than happy to contribute a side. Ask them to bring a pasta salad, potato salad, or baked beans. They'll feel like they're adding to your soiree and you'll feel relieved to not have to provide everything. Win-win, people.
And our newest summer go-to dessert, which can be made several days in advance, is Frozen Key Lime pie. It's kind of a pain to have to juice the limes, but maybe you can talk your husband into doing it, like I do. Feel free to use a pre-made graham cracker crust (I do!) and even whip cream in a can, if you must. The pie already has so much frozen tangy goodness, I don't think anyone will mind a few shortcuts.
On the day of the party, you will have to blend the drinks, bake the dip & slice the bread, grill the chicken/meat, and slice/serve the dessert. Much of the work has been done in advance, but if you have a friend man the blender or help with slicing, you'll have more time to enjoy your family and friends (and delish food!) and the summer days that are all too fleeting.