5 tips for stress-free outdoor entertaining

(BPT) - Good food, great company and the beauty of the outdoors: Dining al fresco with family or friends is the perfect way to enjoy beautiful weather. For many people, though, the job of outdoor entertaining can feel somewhat intimidating. But it doesn't have to be. With these simple tips, you'll end up hosting a memorable, stress-free get-together, whether it's a lovely patio lunch for two or a poolside party for twenty.

Keep it cool

If the weather on the day of your event is expected to be particularly hot, make sure you plan ways to keep things cool. Set up tables and chairs within the natural outdoor shade or move seating under umbrellas and awnings. You could even set out small spray bottles for guests to cool themselves off, or supply attendees with paper fans you can find at the local dollar store. Keep plenty of ice-cold beverages within easy reach by stocking metal serving tubs with drinks. No tubs? Look around your house for unexpected inspiration. For example, a wheelbarrow or kids’ wagon filled with ice and beverages works great and will reflect the easy summer vibes of your outdoor party.

Streamline food prep

Being a gracious host shouldn't mean being stuck in the kitchen. By choosing easy dishes, you'll make guests happy while freeing yourself up to join in on all the fun. A great place to look for crowd-pleasing appetizers that require little to no prep work is the frozen food aisle. Here, you’ll find a variety of high-quality, ready-made options that will help you save time without sacrificing taste. A summertime favorite that shouldn’t be forgotten is seafood. Brands like SeaPak make entertaining easy, with a variety of party-ready products like popcorn shrimp, shrimp spring rolls and butterfly shrimp available at your local grocery store.

Vary serving ware

Worried about mismatched serving ware? Fret not. This is hardly a problem when it comes to easy, breezy outdoor entertaining. Using an eclectic mix of different pieces, like wooden cutting boards, floral platters and striped serving trays, is both charming and on-trend. Even the plates that guests use can be a fun hodgepodge of patterns. Keep in mind that if you're serving food buffet style, you’ll want to have some mesh food covers on hand to protect your dishes.

Add outdoor activities

By adding some casual outdoor activities to your event, you’ll create a relaxed, playful mood that will inspire guests to mingle. Puzzles and board games are an ideal complement to all the easy-going conversation, and yard games, like croquet, beanbag toss and horseshoes, are popular standbys for partygoers both young and old. If kids will be in attendance, keep them occupied with their own activities and supplies, such as bubble blowers and washable sidewalk chalk.

Simplify your menu

Summertime meals are all about keeping it simple, so a handful of light and flavorful courses are all you need to keep your guests satisfied. A colorful summer salad, fresh grilled vegetables and a few easy main dishes like sandwiches and kebabs make up a perfect seasonal menu. Of course, don’t forget the dessert! Wow your guests with a fruit-topped cheesecake or pound cake.

To add a little food fun to your menu, try this Buffalo Shrimp Sandwich recipe. It will be perfect for setting the outdoor mood. Enjoy!

Buffalo Shrimp Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 18 oz package SeaPak(R) Popcorn Shrimp

1 cup prepared buffalo sauce*

1 soft baguette cut into 4 equal pieces, sliced and toasted

4 ounces blue cheese

1 cup arugula

Instructions:

Prepare popcorn shrimp according to package directions and toss with the buffalo sauce.

Divide the arugula between the 4 rolls and top each with the popcorn shrimp mixture.

Top each sandwich with blue cheese and serve.

For extra messy sandwiches, drizzle any leftover sauce onto the top of your sandwich before serving.

*To make your own buffalo sauce instead, mix together 8 tablespoons melted butter, ½ cup hot sauce, and 1 teaspoon seasoned salt.

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