by my dear friend Beth...
(photos by my dear friend Katy)
Is summer really over after Labor Day?? I say no, not in my house. Too many delicious late "summer" veggies to digest and incorporate into yummy food. But, because the rest of the world does recognize Labor Day weekend as an end to pool days and a beginning to sweaters and football season, my hubby Brad and I decided to throw a big backyard BBQ this year. Originally, we thought we'd just have a few close friends over... cut to 25 adults + 7 children... not really sure how that happened??
Helpful Hint #1:
After numerous weekend parties I've FINALLY come to the conclusion that once your guest list hits 10 you might as well tack on an extra 20 or so people because at that point, does it really matter?
Helpful Hint #2:
In an effort to actually ENJOY yourself at your own party (which is a challenge for any host) it's important to spend time planning your menu and making as much as you can the day or night before.
Helpful Hint #3:
Pick 3 main dishes you want to do well and make a lot. I find when you try to make too many dishes, portion control becomes an issue, not to mention expense. On that note, let's get to the grub, shall we?
For the main course I picked turkey burgers, and in an effort to go a tiny bit more "gourmet" I found a super easy and great recipe for Greek Turkey Burgers. Here's the trick: add 1/4 cup of chicken stock for each pound of meat. It really helps keep the burger from falling apart and adds a bit of flavor.
Ok now for the easy part: I purchased Trader Joe's delicious Tzatziki sauce for the topping.
That plus some lettuce leaves are all I offered for condiments and not one complaint! For 25 burgers I used 5 lbs. of ground turkey. I mixed the meat the night before, made all the patties and arranged them on layers of waxed paper so they'd be ready to go.
For people that weren't in the mood for burgers, I made a Grilled Eggplant Salad, courtesy of the wonderful and beautiful Giada.
Can I tell you how yummy this was? Plus, it totally satisfies any vegetarians, pescatarians, or whatever "arian" guest you invite as a main course. I grilled the eggplant the morning of and because it doesn't need to be refrigerated and can be served at room temp, just let it sit out until the party. Although, be sure not to add the goat cheese until the last minute.
Also that morning, I rinsed lettuce and cut it (I know, you're supposed to tear lettuce not cut it, but did I mention I have an 18 month-old son? Knife = easy time saver, period).
Helpful Hint #4:
If you want to prep a big salad before a party, after you rinse it the day before or morning of, throw it all in a brown paper bag. It helps absorb moisture and avoids smashing leaves into a baggie. Then, right before the party, make your salad in the bowl and put cold, damp paper towels over it until it's time to eat.
When I have time I like to try and make a special drink. I found this recipe for Strawberry Lemonade from Real Simple and guess what? It's really simple! For this particular party, I was anticipating some beautiful pregnant women and so I put a bottle of Kettle One on the side, so everyone could enjoy! Plus who doesn't enjoy a little PYO (Pour Your Own) cocktail : )
Helpful Hint #5:
For dessert, if you don't have an amazing baker in your life like Siri, go with a classic: ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. Nothing says EASY like opening a box. Plus, the kiddies always love the task of helping pass out dessert.
And finally, Helpful Hint #6:
When your friends offer to bring something, don't be afraid to take advantage of it, say YES! Of course, it's easy for me to say yes, because I have wonderfully talented friends aka Siri and Katy - queen of creative creations, yummy appetizers and usually something involving cheese! So I don't just say "yes" when they offer I YELL "yes please!"
Happy Hosting, xo Beth