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August 9, 2017

Summer Party Time with @AlisonDeluca

by Alison DeLuca
summer party table
courtesy of pexels

Our annual summer party is a wonderful event. We catch up with old friends, try new recipes, have a few cocktails, and watch the kids have a blast in the pool.

This year I got the flu virus from hell one day before the party. Result: anguish and rage at the universe for daring to strike me down on the one day we get to hang out, eat, and watch the fireflies. Just. So. Wrong.

And there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't cancel, so I simply had to suck it up and power through.

Luckily, this was not my first rodeo. I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make things easier.

The menu was planned: apps, dinner, and dessert plus drinks. The house was clean. Laundry was done. I'd gone to the grocery store, Costco, and the local vegetable stand.

summer campfire on the beach
courtesy of pixabay

The night before I made an exhausted effort and prepped all my serving dishes. I wrote a list of what I was going to make. Next, I cut out those items on slips of paper and put each one in a serving dish so I knew I was prepared.

With my last vestige of energy, I cleaned out my Tupperware cabinet. How do those things acquire so many extra lids since the last time I did that? The only possible explanation is aliens.


Appetizers

I've learned that putting out lots of complicated appetizers is a complete waste at a summer party. Bowls of chips, nuts, and fruit are plentiful. If your inner goddess demands an appetizer, go with something simple like sliced tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle on (purchased) balsamic glaze, and watch those puppies disappear like magic.

young boy at a summer party
courtesy of stocksnap

Sliders are another easy app to make. You can slap them together in the morning and store in Tupperware (which now matches with lids, thanks to the midnight cabinet raid) for when guests arrive. I just use Martin's potato dinner rolls and different fillings:

ham, Alouette cheese, sliced cucumbers
smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill
brie and blueberry jam

People go nuts over those tiny little sandwiches.

Main Course

Dinner was a bit more complicated. I had a small reserve of energy and chose to burn it on slicing fresh veggies to top really good sirloin burgers, which I'd ordered pre-made from the Wegmans' butcher. I collapsed at the table and prepped romaine, more sliced tomatoes, and onion.

I've done a lot of bun research. The interwebs say the best buns are either Martin's Potato rolls, again, or make your own brioche buns if you feel like it. Spoiler alert - I didn't. Martin's won out again.

summer drink in a stemmed glass
courtesy of stocksnap

Costco was a godsend for cheese and bacon, served on the side. I put blue cheese and more brie on a plate so our guests could create their own burgers. A dish of microwaved bacon was gone in a flash. I suspect some of the kids bypassed the burgers and just ate bacon for dinner.

Other add-ons for fun burger creations:

Olives, pickles, capers
The usual condiments plus Sir Kensington Special Sauce, Hot Sauce, Steak Sauce
Onion rings (buy frozen, heat just before burgers go on the grill)
Cheese plate, as mentioned above, with goat, swiss, pub cheese - whatever floats your cheese boat.
Fresh herbs
Sliced radishes, carrots, Kirby cucumbers

Keep the burger buffet simple, though, or the food line gets slowed down by the one guest who just can't decide which toppings to use on his burger. For crying out loud. I'd suggest picking 3-4 toppings and going with those. It's fun to group them, though, like the cheese plate or a basket of mixed wild greens.

Channeling Blanche Dubois, I've learned to depend upon the kindness of my friends. Everyone brings salads and desserts, so there's no need to prep anything except a purchased macaroni salad. One heroic pal brought burrata, which is my new favorite thing in the universe. Another bestie made cranberry, wild rice, and avocado salad. I just couldn't get enough of that stuff.

Drinks

This minimalist attitude extended to drinks: wine, beers, and kid-friendly waters in bowls of ice. I did make a tray of Moscow Mules since they're so easy: vodka, ginger beer, squeeze of lime (already cut up that morning) and fresh mint. Those things disappeared like magic.
table with summer cocktails
courtesy of pexels

Dessert

Like Elaine Benes, everyone brings desserts. As a result, I've learned to only make a few simple things so I'm not left with 50 leftover cakes and plates of cookies the following week.

Hello, can we talk guilt for a second? I'm conflicted with too much extra dessert - do I eat it and suffer calorie guilt, or toss it and suffer Irishwoman's waste-not guilt? Scaling back prevents that nasty little dilemma.

I served Jersey blueberries and dark cherries, plus frozen macarons in a pretty bowl. If your pesky inner goddess can't deal with such simplicity, you can always make Tollhouse cookie dough a week earlier and freeze in small containers. Pull one out the night before, spoon out some cookies, top with M&M's. Bake for 10 minutes per batch.

Your house smells like chocolate chip cookies, the guests exclaim over the M&M's, and it's super-easy. Win-win-win.
box of macarons in bright colors
courtesy of pexels

Another incredibly simple dessert people seem to find amazing are s'mores. You can cheat and make them in the microwave if you don't have a campfire: layer a large plate with graham cracker halves, one row of a Hershey's chocolate bar per cracker, and large marshmallows on top. Nuke for 12 seconds or until the 'mallows start to expand. Top with the other graham halves. Hand out to guests amidst cries of delight.

Even in the midst of my feverish flu, I had a great time at our party. My husband was super-helpful and took over grill duty, everyone pitched in, and the event was a success.

Lesson learned: good food is important, but great friends and family are vital to a happy life.

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.



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