Easy ideas to kick back and enjoy hosting this summer

Summer is synonymous with barbecues. There’s nothing better than being outside, grilling, having a cocktail and spending time with friends and family.  

Yet, hosting a big backyard barbecue can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming. Take these simple ideas and three menu options to make it easy and relaxing, yet still entertaining and delicious.

#1 The plan:

Don’t stress yourself out trying to impress. There is no need for extra dishes and trips back and forth into the house, so stick with paper plates and napkins. Use a silverware caddy or glass jars for plastic silverware. Keep a garbage bag and recycle bin outside for easy cleanup.

For appetizers, chips and dips are the way to go. Then pick a “bar”-themed meal that allows guests to create their own versions of dinner with their favorite fixings. For dessert, ice cream or Popsicles are the ideal summer treat. (To indulge, try a liquor-infused ice cream like Tipsy Scoop for the adults.)

#2 The food:

Complex and time-consuming are not ideal meals to make for a barbecue. Instead pick something that can easily be cooked, then assembled by guests in a buffet or bar manner. You provide the options and your guests make their plates.

#3 The fun:

Signature cocktails for both adults and kids can take a barbecue to a new level of fun. Whether it’s margaritas, sangria or Moscow mules, pick a drink that reminds everyone of sweet summer thoughts.  

You can even make a special drink for the kids like kiddie cocktails or sparkling pink lemonade. Use a large beverage dispenser for either water or a kids’ signature drink so they can help themselves. Add colorful straws or frozen shaped ice cubes for extra pizazz.

Parents will be eager to get in some adult conversation, so have out a few activities to keep the kids busy. Simple stuff like chalk, sidewalk paint or bubbles always do the trick. Or amp it up with a few games that both old and young will find entertaining. Pie Face Showdown is the ultimate blast of fun for whoever has the quickest hand with whip cream to your opponent’s face. Also the games Speak Out or Watch Ya Mouth are the new rage with mouthpieces that make words a challenge to guess. 

Mini Burger Bar

Burgers are a guaranteed crowd pleaser, but make them mini-sized for this burger bar.

For your mini-patties: mix 1 pound of ground chuck with ½ tsp. onion powder, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. ground black pepper and ½ tsp. kosher salt.

Prep your mini burger patties in advance, so you just have to grill them for 2-3 minutes per side.For your burger bar options, provide cheese slices, mustard, ketchup, relish, dill pickles, mayonnaise, diced red onion, tomato slices, lettuce leaves, caramelized onions, bacon strips, avocado slices, roasted red peppers, crispy onions, and anything else you think would add some divine taste. 

Pair the mini burgers with a fruit salad and either a potato or pasta salad.

Flank Steak Taco Bar

A Mexican-themed taco bar will please all summer backyard barbecue attendees. Marinate the flank steak for at least eight hours: Put 2 pounds of flank steak in a gallon-sized Ziploc with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar and 1 packet of fajita seasoning mix. 

Then prep your taco sides the night before or morning of the bash so they are ready to go. Some ideas are corn tortillas, flour tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, cilantro, queso blanco, cotija cheese, queso fresco, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, green onions, pickled red onions, sour cream, lime wedges and any other taco topping you can imagine.

Remove the marinated flank steak and let it sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes. Grill the steak for 5-10 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, and let rest for 5 minutes once off the grill. Slice steak against the grain. 

Serve up your taco bar to guests to create their own dream tacos!

Pulled Pork bar

Pork and barbecue go hand-in-hand and with a slow cooker it barely takes any effort, so try a pulled pork bar for the next gathering. 

Trim off any large pieces of fat from a 4-6 pound pork shoulder. Make a mixture of ½ Tbsp. salt, ½ Tbsp. pepper, 1 Tbsp. cumin, ½ Tbsp. paprika, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. dry mustard and rub the seasoning into the pork so it’s coated on all sides. Put the pork shoulder in a slow cooker and cover with 1½ cups of chicken or vegetable broth. Some of the pork will be above the liquid surface. Cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours. 

Transfer the cooked pork to a bowl to shred with two forks or your fingers. 

Serve the pulled pork with buns, pickles, a variety of barbecue sauces, coleslaw, sautéed mushrooms and crispy onions. Decadent sides could be baked beans, coleslaw, watermelon slices or macaroni and cheese. Your guests will feel the southern love for this meal.

Above all, remember to have fun and actually enjoy the barbecue yourself!

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