When I think back on summers past, I have so many memories of great summer cookouts. With the whole country celebrating on the 4th of July, it's the perfect time to plan a celebration of your own!
First thing's first: call or email the folks you want to invite early. Independence Day is a big day for picnics and BBQs, and people may get more than one party invitation. If you would like everyone to bring something - sodas, ice, salads - be sure to ask up front. Keep a list of who's coming and who's bringing what. That way if someone has to cancel you'll know what will need to be replaced.
Next, plan the food you'll be providing. If you're having a lot of people, a mixed grill should satisfy everybody. Hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ chicken, and smoked sausages should provide something for everybody. Or you might want to spring for BBQ ribs or steaks. Keep in mind who your crowd is though; these days there are a lot of people who don't eat beef or pork.
For side dishes I prefer the traditional standbys: salads, baked beans, deviled eggs, chips & dips and a veggie tray. Also, depending on what meat you'll be grilling, you may need sliced tomatoes and onions, a bowl of lettuce leaves, relish, ketchup and various mustards. A variety of summer desserts is always a hit too: Jell-O salads, pies & cakes. Another great idea is to put to use a homemade ice cream maker or two. The crank kind will also get people involved and keep them busy.
Now for some site preparation: give your yard, deck, or patio a once-over. Take care of any loose boards or nails sticking up on your deck, and make sure there are no dangers lurking in the yard that the little ones may trip over or fall on. Sweep the patio, clean the tables & chairs, mow the lawn, and you're ready to start decorating.
Decorating for an outdoor party can be simple and easy to do. Hit your local discount stores for summer sales. Tiki torches burning here and there around the yard look great after dark, and can also help people see where they're walking. Pick up some candles made for outdoors: the ones in metal buckets are nice and practical. If they contain insect repellant, so much the better. Just watch candle and torch flames if there will be children around.
If you're lucky you can see your community fireworks display from your yard. If not, hand the kids sprinklers and let them run around making your own fireworks display. Either way, you're sure to create some wonderful summer memories of your own.
Here's a couple recipes you can try:
Becky's Potato Salad
5 large baking potatoes
1/2 of a stick of butter
4 green onions -sliced
1 stalk celery - sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 large green pepper -chopped
Season-All seasoned salt
Peel and dice the potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Place them in a pan & cover with water. Put eggs in to boil with the potatoes. When potatoes are tender, drain and put into large bowl, set eggs aside to cool. Cut butter up into pieces and toss with potatoes. Set aside to cool. When cool, peel the eggs, and dice them up into the potato mixture. Add the green onions, celery, and green pepper. Stir in half mayonnaise and half Miracle Whip (I don't measure, just mix in a big spoonful or two at a time until it looks good), then sprinkle with black pepper and seasoned salt, and add cayenne to taste - I use about 1/2 teaspoon. Stir well, cover, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Easy Red, White & Blue Cake
1 yellow cake prepared from boxed mix
Whipped topping (1 tub of Cool Whip or 2 envelopes prepared of Dream Whip)
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can blueberry pie filling
Bake cake in a 9x13 pan. When cool, spread whipped topping over all. Spoon cherry pie filling onto half the cake, and the blueberry onto the other half.
If you enjoy this article, make sure to check out our Fabulous Fourth of July Menu.
Becky Doland is the Party Planning Contributing Editor at Suite 101. She writes monthly about a variety of party planning topics, including holidays, birthdays, weddings and showers, buffets for a crowd and intimate dinners for two. Make sure to visit her site, it is an excellent entertaining resource.