This post is sponsored by Babbleboxx. All opinions and work are my own.
‘Tis the season… for impromptu hosting. I can’t be the only person who gets phone calls while the husband is coming home: It’s perfect grilling out weather! Oh, by the way, is it okay if so-and-so stops by for dinner?
At the beginning of our marriage, I would probably have freaked out. (No… that’s not true. I definitely freaked out.) Entertaining is something that I take seriously– after all, I want everyone to have a good time and I want it to be fun. Oh yeah… and I want to have fun too, not be so stressed out that I can’t enjoy it. (What can I say, I’m a Type-A personality.)
Ready for that impromptu phone call and T-minus 30 minutes to get a picnic together? No? That’s okay. I’ve got you.
Have some summer staples on hand
Let’s be real: Sometimes life is just not Pinterest-perfect. (Yeah, like pretty much all of it…) Sometimes there’s just not time to make everything from scratch, complete with your own hand-blended vinaigrette and crafted fudge pops. During the summer, keep a box of burgers and package of hot dogs in the freezer. (It’s probably not a bad thing to have a vegetarian alternative too, just in case.) You can keep rolls in the freezer too; just defrost in the microwave, or if it’s a hot day, let them sit out for a bit to warm up.
In your pantry, stock veggies that you know will be a hit, like Green Giant’s new baked beans (which you can get in Original, Maple, or Country Style). Toss them on the stove and heat up as a side or use them in a recipe. Because, you know the truth– it’s really not a cookout until there are beaked beans.
A few bags of chips and other hand-held goodies are always great. Just open and enjoy (and you don’t have to worry about prep or clean-up). Try RITZ Crisp & Thins–a new baked chip that has 50% less fat than regular potato chips and comes in four flavors (including bacon! And no, I’m not joking).
Sneak in a little red, white, and blue
My mom did Pinteresty things before Pinterest was cool… or even a thing. One of her picnic staples is red and blue bandannas (you know, the ones you can find in the dollar store) and a white tablecloth. She uses the bandannas as eco-friendly cloth napkins. Boom. Easy and cost-effective. Switch it up by going to a fabric store and getting jean fabric on sale at tablecloth length; fray the edges (no need to sew them), and you have a little bit of a western flair. Want to add a little more permanent Americana? Here’s how to make a cute chalkboard sign and here’s how to make a flag rag wreath.
Make burgers gourmet… fast
So you’ve got those burgers and hot dogs in the freezer, ready for a cookout a moment’s notice. If you want to make things a little different, add a dab of Newman’s Own Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce and smoked gouda. (Trust me, you’ll thank me later.) Made with cane sugar and black strap molasses, the flavor is unexpected but super delish on a burger. And it elevates it from a simple burger to gourmet! Boom. Cookout made.
If you’re doing chicken, throw a few breasts into a bag with a generous helping of Newman’s Own Citrus Splash. Let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight, then throw those bad boys on the grill. If you don’t have time for that–we are talking about fast cookouts here–make a huge salad, grill some chicken, and use Citrus Splash over it as a dressing. Fresh, easy, and unexpected… and 100% of the profits from Newman’s Own dressings, barbecue sauces, and all of their other products go to charity.
If the party’s going to be an all-day event, think about having snacks out as people come and go… and for kids as they get antsy waiting for lunch. Healthy choices like slices of fruit or whole grain crackers are a great wait to stave off hunger and make sure kids are getting a little nutrition before the inevitably less healthy picnic foods. If there’s not enough time for slicing and dicing snacks, single serving snacks are a tasty alternative. (And yes, you can still grab healthy foods in single serving packages, too.)
Mario Snack Olives are perfect for this exact situation. They come in a variety of flavors: Sea Salt Green, Sea Salt Ripe, Savory Pepper, and Garlic. Contained in their own pouches, they have no juice (so no mess!) and are a low calorie alternative for noshing before a picnic. (And you can stock up this summer through Amazon Pantry–20% off for Amazon Prime members through August 31 or grab coupons to use at the store here.) And if you have leftovers, they’re great to keep in a purse or backpack for an on-the-go snack while you’re in traffic, or at the doctor’s, or just hungry.
Have a go-to cocktail ready
Honestly, I am not a huge drinker. I like super fruity drinks, but I hate beer and wine (I know, I know). I just don’t like the taste of alcohol. But during the summer, the heat and al fresco dining can entice me to try a fun, fizzy drink. And don’t worry– I’ve got your signature cocktail for you. I really like this one because it’s easy to have these items on hand–you don’t need special purees or items you can’t ever find–and for it’s name: The SVEDKA Firework. (Screams summer, doesn’t it?!) Add in the red, white, and blue layers, (and the patriotic, limited edition bottle) and it’s just a lot of cheeky fun.
- 1 1/2 parts SVEDKA Vodka
- 1 part watermelon schnapps
- 1/2 part cranberry juice
- 1/2 part fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 part simple syrup
- 1/4 part Blue Curacao
- Club soda
Build in a rocks glass. Add watermelon schnapps, and cranberry juice over ice, then carefully add lemon, simple syrup, and SVEDKA Vodka to create the white layer. Then very carefully layer the Blue Curacao to create the color separation, and gently top with soda. Garnish with fresh watermelon pieces.