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never too early -- diy bbq party-planning
by Sophie Miller
Some of the best memories I have of warm weather involve sitting outside in the backyard as the sun was setting, the wind calmed, and the smell of brisket with red potatoes and asparagus was in the air. This defined summer evenings for me, and it wasn’t until I had to do all of this without my dad that it really became that big of a deal to throw a big barbecue party myself. I’ve now been planning barbecue bashes independently for 15 years – for others as well as myself. Here are some of the most successful barbecuing ideas I’ve found over the years.
Food Decisions and Party Motivation
Why are you throwing a barbecue? Are your kids visiting from out of town? Are you or your significant other celebrating a new job? Or, is there no particular reason and you just want to have an old fashioned get-together? Depending on whom the party is for you’ll need to pay attention to the type of food items you’ll offer at the event. Maybe you’ve got some friends with Celiac disease so you’ll need to make sure nothing is breaded or the sauces aren’t gluten-based. Maybe your daughter is trying to shed some weight after her first child so offer some veggies besides the run-of-the-mill potato chips and baked beans. Many people aren’t crazy about seafood, so it’s important to offer alternatives to satisfy those with different tastes.
Experimenting with appetizers is a trial and error process. Find something that goes over well and you can carry that over to the next party. If 3/4 of the pan is left untouched after the hordes have passed take that as a hint that it didn’t go over well for whatever reason. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. And be reminded that potato salad is always a go-to option here.
- Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins
- Potato skin filled with green onions, cheese, diced chicken breast, Frank’s Buffalo Sauce (which is not made of actual buffalo – it is made up of mainly vinegar, water, red peppers, salt, and other spices), and fresh bacon bits (optional)
- Grilled Caprese
- Slice of tomato topped with slice of fresh mozzarella and basil leaf
- Walking Tacos
- Casserole pan with ground beef, black olives, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, refried beans. Dip with chips!
- Spinach and Ricotta Eggrolls
- Not real tough to make, just roll and bake! Here is the recipe, courtesy of Food.com!
A word on supplies
There isn’t a great reason not to go eco-friendly, whether you believe in the stuff or not. If you’d rather not have a stack of dishes piled up in your sink, here are some eco-friendly plates and other disposable party supplies for your barbecue. No one wants to scrub dozens of dishes after a huge party, especially one that includes barbecue sauce and potato salad (if you didn’t know, messy is an understatement). Just make sure you have enough disposable cutlery, napkins, and cups too! No one wants to eat off the table. ;)
Entrance of the Entrées!
Anyone can grab a load of fried chicken from the local market, throw it in a tub, and call it good there. But part of the fun of barbecues is the creativity portion of it. Show off your ability to concoct a main entrée that really WOWS them. I’m thinking items like stuffed red bell peppers, grilled chicken Kiev, homemade meatballs with a specially-prepared marinade, food that goes above and beyond the call of duty. You can get even fancier than that if you want! You’ll want to have done some experimentation at home prior to cooking up an entrée dish in bulk. Make a bit of the dish the night before a work day and take it for lunch the following day. If it works, grill it up! If not, try again with something different.
I think of barbecuing as something very American. Don’t get me wrong, other cultures enjoy getting together with friends and family as well, but the way we do it just seems different. It feels much closer and friendly. Spending time overseas in a few different countries has helped me realize this. The summer barbecue is something that defines our culture and a tradition that should be upheld for generations to come.