Summer Hosting Ideas & Inspiration
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamt of growing up and hosting parties of my own. I would have make believe tea parties and balls, and couldn’t wait till the day I was old enough to cook in the kitchen myself, decide all of my party decor, and show through food and a well-thought out party how much I love all of my friends and family. Fast forward to now, and I am blessed enough to have a platform like my blog where I have even further reach; allowing me to share my hosting events, recipes, and decorating ideas not only with my friends and family, but my readers as well!
I recently hosted a summer barbecue for a party of eight. I myself don’t enjoy the feeling of leaving a party feeling too full and heavy, so I always heir on the side of serving a lighter amount of food (even at my wedding, I just served hors d’oeuvres so our guests could better enjoy dessert). Not only do I like to keep my food healthy and light, but I also like to wow people with my decor, while still staying within a price-point I am comfortable with.
Spring Salad With Polenta Croutons and Almonds
This salad was very easy to put together, but since the items are slightly unique and gourmet, it makes it seem like it took much more effort than it actually did. I put together in a large salad bowl mixed spring greens and kale. I topped with lots of chopped raw almonds, and polenta croutons. To make the polenta croutons, you can cube polenta and put on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil, and cook on 425 F for 12 minutes. Another way to make the polenta croutons is by putting them in a large wok pan with lots of oil and cook on high heat and toss till slightly crispy.
Since many people like to eat starting off with a salad, I didn’t want my guests to have to wait for the salad to be passed around. Instead, I had two bowls of salad, one on each end of the table. I had on the table a simple garlic vinaigrette and also a balsamic. Another great option for this salad would be a honey mustard dressing, which you can get my clean eating version of it here.
Summer Harvest BBQ Kabobs
I am on a big asparagus kick lately, since they taste the best in summer! I got a large package of asparagus from Costco, and 4 sweet corn on the cobs to serve my eight guests. To make the kabobs, I cut the corn on the cobs and asparagus into thirds, and cut my chicken into thick chunks. On metal BBQ skewers, I put a piece of corn on each end, with the middle being asparagus and chicken. For added flavor, I marinated the raw chicken in my honey mustard dressing for two hours prior to cooking. For a vegetarian option, you could use tofu, or just veggies!
Rustic Rosemary Peach Tart
For my last entree, I made a rustic rosemary peach tart. The crust was whole wheat, and had a light rosemary flavor, slightly sweetened with honey. The crust was topped with creamy, fresh ricotta cheese and juicy peach slices. I added a rosemary sprig on top for decoration.
This tart was one of the biggest hits at the party! I used a pizza cutter to slice into eighths. You can get the recipe for my rustic rosemary peach tart here.
For dessert, I wanted to go with the healthy, clean-eating theme of my party by making Paleo almond butter cookie sandwiches. The cookies were garnished with a raw almond on top, and the sandwich fillings were Greek yogurt and my cherry-strawberry preserves. And the best part? These cookie sandwiches are refined sugar-free!
You can get the recipe for my paleo almond butter cookies and cookie sandwiches here, and the recipe for my homemade cherry-strawberry preserves here.
These cookies, although small are quite filling since they are packed with protein! I made just one cookie sandwich per person so we all felt satisfied but not overly full (and also because my fridge was packed, no room for leftovers at the McDonald house)! However, in case someone wanted to satisfy their sweet tooth a little more, I added some blocks of 70% dark cocoa on a wooden cutting board. It was just store bought, but when presented in a rustic way looks super cute! My guests were generous enough to bring over red wine as a hostess gift, so nibbling on the dark chocolate with our wine was the perfect way to end a meal and enjoy while socializing.
To make this feel like a true summer gathering, I figured it would be great to go super traditional and use a red-and-white checkered picnic tablecloth. Since it was a windy evening, and there were going to be little ones at the gathering, I didn’t want to put out candles. Instead, I had large branches of rosemary in jars, which emitted a very strong aroma. I stuck the branches of rosemary in large mason jars filled with rocks and pebbles (that I just gathered from our backyard):
In the center of the table, I put large, beautiful sunflowers in a glass vase I found for $1.99 at the Goodwill. To display the kabobs, I used a large silver platter that was $6.99 also at the Goodwill, which I know I will get a lot of use out of for future hosting!
Since I’m all about going green when possible, I laid out our own white glass plates. On top, I placed the silverware place setting I made:
There were no need for spoons with the food we were having, so I just wrapped up a fork and knife in my place settings. I wanted to continue with my rustic summer party theme, so instead of a napkin I wrapped each setting in a Seventh Generation brown paper towel, then rolled up and tied with twine and a sprig of rosemary.
The Seventh Generation paper towels were the only disposable part of my table set-up, but they have a much lower impact on the environment than regular paper towels since they are made from recycled materials.
For cups, I placed a lidded jar and wine glass at each spot. The lidded jars were for water, and ten minutes before my guests arrived I added ice to each glass, making it easy for people to sit right down and enjoy the refreshments! A lidded jar is a great way to prevent spills as well as keep your ice solid for a longer period of time. I also placed two large carafes of water so that I wouldn’t have to be the hostess who spends half the meal getting up to serve people. After all, people come over to see you, right?
Nothing rounds out a theme like music, so we had to make a playlist to go with the occasion! The playlist received lots of compliments, and is a mix of indie music, folk, and indie covers of popular songs. You can download our Spotify playlist made for our party below:
It was one of the best parties I had ever hosted, and the compliments are still pouring in from the party! My biggest piece of advice to you when throwing your own summer party are:
- Keep the food light
- Have a couple small dessert options
- Use reusable plates and cups as much as possible
- Check out second hand stores for decor so you don’t break the bank
- Use ingredients that are seasonal to help support your theme
- Search for or make a playlist to add a great finishing touch to your party
- When your guests ask what they can bring, allow them to bring wine! It takes the pressure off you to have to pick out the right alcohol to suit everyone’s tastes, and people are more than happy to bring a gift in exchange for your hospitality and hard work.
- Have as much on the table as possible (drink refills, etc) so you don’t need to get up and leave the table much.
Sit back, eat the food you worked hard on, but most importantly of all, savor your flavors, sip your wine, and enjoy your company!