We have lovingly dubbed it the "party pit"- a little narrow mostly unused space next to our house. Adrain and I have adopted the idea that we should find ways to use every part of our spaces to the max, so when I suggested that we move our picnic table beside our house, rather than the logical teeny patio area that was crowded with a BBQ and potting bench, he was willing to see how it would work. I strung gobs of mis-matched light strings above it, connected from the house to the fence and placed gorgeous blue-glass TIKI® Brand Torches here and there, and in planters and the whole thing suddenly became rather magical.
I love entertaining. But I think outdoor entertaining is my favorite. It's got a relaxed, casual, come as you are and stay as long as you can feel to it. Our backyard tends to have about four zones to it. (I think having zones is a great way to entertain effortlessly and that's the key to enjoying yourself as the host.) We've got our eating zone, our cooking/prepping/BBQing/Serving zone, our campfire/hangout til it's dark and the kids are dragging zone, and the play zone- ours includes a giant trampoline. We've strung lights and placed TIKI® Brand Torches all over the place, which sets a festive atmosphere. (And with the lights, don't worry if they don't match. None of ours do, and it makes it quirky and fun.)
The other thing I do at the very start of BBQ season to make things easy and enjoyable, is create an outdoor entertaining box. I've got a sturdy basket that holds round placemats, (Ikea) shatterproof dishes and glasses (Pottery Barn) along with some no-fuss yet coordinated cloth napkins (Target) (no ironing necessary) a tray (Ikea) and utensils. *You can include tea lights and matches, salt and pepper, a table runner or whatever else helps you set a cute table in just a couple of few minutes. This has been very handy when friends are over and we have a spontaneous dinner together, as I can just grab the whole basket and I've got everything I need already in it, without having to make constant trips back inside the house.
There are a few food items I like to keep on hand all summer long for just such an occasion. I often have a jar of my salted caramel sauce in the fridge, good vanilla bean ice cream in the freezer and if you want to go a little beyond that, simple ingredients for a cobbler are always a crowd pleaser. (All you really need to keep on hand is a box of Bisquick (we use the gf mix) and a couple cans of peach slices. The staples used are sugar, eggs and vanilla. That's it.)
In a Pinch Peach Cobbler:
*Drain can of peaches and reserve juice.
*Divide and melt 1/4 stick butter into 4 ramekins or oven safe soup mugs, in the oven @ 350°.
*Mix the following batter while that melts; (1c bisquick+1c sugar+ 1tsp vanilla & 2 eggs. - If too dry add 1-2tbsp of reserved juice.)
*Once butter is hot drop spoonfuls of batter in; then arrange peach slices over all and bake 35 min @ 350°.
*For extra fun scoop vanilla bean ice cream on top and drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
If you're hosting a gathering and don't want to waste money on flowers, I love taking something that I'm planning to put into the ground soon, and wrapping it with brown paper and gardening twine. Having a grouping of these is simple and sweet. (And when the party's over toss the paper and plant them in your flower beds. Win-win.
I love setting up an area for buffet style foods and drinks, as well as listing the menu for our guests. (I made this simple chalkboard and hung it from my potting bench with cup hooks) I love the way this TIKI® Brand Table Torch looks off to the side, and coordinates with the blue glass TIKI® Brand torches near our picnic table area. It actually has a button you can push to make the blue glass ball glow. (My kids were enthralled with this feature and I finally had to stand there and tell them they weren't going to get any cobbler if they kept pushing it off and on.)
I used watercolors to create little place cards. That's not something I do very often but I was itching to paint. (I love putting extra little touches on the table to make my friends feel special and to be honest, place card painting is one of my very favorite things. You could easily print them off the computer, of course or try this super easy version!)
Okay now let's talk food.
First of all, we gave all the kids hot dogs before hand, and then let them jump on the trampoline while we ate. The grown-ups got a steak salad because it's the easiest thing in the world, which is what outdoor entertaining is all about. A bowl of spring greens, some heirloom tomato slices, slivers of red onion, freshly cracked pepper... then some thinly sliced grilled steak and honey mustard dressing on top. Heaven. (My man uses a bottle of Worstershire sauce along with a huge amount of garlic to marinate his steaks. They are amazing.)
We served herbed fries in tiny buckets lined with parchment paper alongside our salads. (Sprinkle chopped cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper over frozen fries and bake as directed.)
Our favorite fry dipping sauce is about a cup of ranch, a huge handful of cilantro, a squeeze of lime and one avocado blended in a food processor. Everyone always eats it til it's gone and I caught the guys dipping their leftover steak slices in it. Love that! You can use it as a dip, salad dressing or just all around non-boring condiment.
A pitcher of blackberry-coconut juice and vanilla bean sodas for the kiddos were perfect.
I guess if there's anything that I can encourage you about when it comes to outdoor entertaining- it's this. You don't have to have a big space to make it a regular, yet special occasion. A few simple food dishes whipped up from what you have in the pantry, a few festive touches like cafe lights and TIKI® Brand Torches, some good conversation, and you've got a memorable evening to tuck away and treasure.
TIKI® Brand torches would love to help you make your outdoor entertaining season the best ever. And to do that, they have a fantastic giveaway to offer to one lucky winner! (You can also find everything I've shown in this post at Target.)
The giveaway package will include 4 TIKI® Brand Glass Torches + 1 TIKI® Brand Glowing Table Torch,+ 1 64 oz bottle TIKI® Brand Torch Fuel + 1 Snap & Pour spout. (= retail value $107.93) (You can check out the TIKI® Brand inspiration gallery here if you need some ideas on how to use them, along with checking out all the great options and accessories they offer!).
In order to be entered to win this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post answering the following question- "How does the TIKI® Brand help to create the perfect environment for your outdoor entertaining?"
This post is sponsored by TIKI® Brand, but as always, all opinions are my own.
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.