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Outdoor entertaining made easy
Make the most of summer gatherings
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013
by Brandpoint

Patio season has arrived, and opportunities for outdoor social gatherings will abound in the coming months.
Birthdays, graduations, showers, holidays and any other reasons to enjoy warm weather will call for unique outdoor party solutions that differ from indoor events. Here are a few ideas to make al fresco entertaining a snap.

Fruity refreshment

clientuploads/v38n13photos/Entertaining_Strawberry Aqua Fresca_300.jpg
Fruity and refreshing Strawberry Agua Frescas are easy to make and serve at your next gathering. 

 Enjoying seasonal fruits is one of summerís most delicious pleasures, so incorporate fresh fruits into every aspect of your gathering.

Go beyond the traditional fruit plates and garnishes, and sweeten regular water with fresh fruits for an invigorating beverage that is perfect for the patio. With a few whole fruits, ice and a high-performance blender, a perfect summer concoction is seconds away.

To make a Strawberry Agua Fresca, simply blend one cup of fresh strawberries, four cups of cubed, seeded watermelon, three-fourths cup of lemon juice and two cups of ice to create a rejuvenating and healthy whole-food juice beverage that your guests are sure to enjoy.

Get grilling
 Many people associate summer gatherings with grilling, but that doesnít mean your menu options need to be limited to the typical hamburgers and hot dogs found at most cookouts. Experiment with more health-conscious grilled cuisine, including salmon, shrimp, veggie burgers and chicken.

And donít just reserve the grill for entrees, either. For an appetizer, try grilling slices of ciabatta or pita bread and topping with chopped tomatoes, basil and olive oil to create an easy bruschetta. Season and toss sliced, cooked potatoes on the grill to make your own steak fries, and use a blender to concoct various dipping sauces and homemade condiments.

Roasting vegetable skewers also makes for a light but flavorful side. You can even use rosemary sprigs as the skewers for extra zest. The grill is a versatile tool for summer entertaining, so use it to its full potential this season!

Summer settings
 Outdoor dinner parties are typically less formal events, but some instances still call for place settings and arranged seating.

To create a fun, light atmosphere that is still organized and thoughtful, use colorful place mats and napkins to offset a white or neutral tablecloth.

Thereís no need to break out the fine china, either. Opt for bamboo or melamine plates and bowls instead, which are available in a wide array of colors and designs. Bamboo serving utensils can create a beach-like feel, and reusable, recyclable plastic silverware is an affordable alternative to disposable cutlery. Have fun with table decorations and fill glass bowls and vases with flowers, colorful stones and floating candles for an attractive, summery table setting in no time.

Add pretty citronella candles for decoration that will also keep your table bug-free.

Night lights
 Many summer soirees carry on past sunset, so lighting your patio area is important. With hundreds of options available for any outdoor area and budget, you can create whatever atmosphere you prefer.

Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walking and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel. Garden lights lining the driveway and walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner revelry. The right mood will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm summer evening.

Follow these few simple tips to create the perfect outdoor gathering, and youíll be in the swing of summer entertaining in no time.


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