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How To: Throw a Summer Outdoor Dinner Party

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The unfortunate part about summer in Texas, more specifically in Houston, is that you want to go outside but it's just too dang hot to stay out there for more than five minutes without breaking into a sweat.

My family loves to grill during the summertime, and we love taking our food from the grill to the patio table. Sometimes the weather is our friend and we can stand the heat of not only the grill but also the season itself; however, most of the time the weather is our worst enemy.

But if you're still determined -- and why shouldn't you be? -- to throw an outdoor dinner party, or just an outdoor dinner, this summer, here are some tips on keeping the food fresh, you cool and your guests comfortable.

Keep the Bugs Away

First of all, keep your food and guests bug-free with a few tricks. Place covers over dishes if you're having a serving station outside. Of course, you can keep bugs from getting into your serving dishes if you let guests fill up their plates inside, but where's the fun in that?

Whether you have covers that match the dishes or you want to purchase one of these super cool net covers, anything that keeps insects out of your food will work.

I have always been a fan of using tiki torches to light up the night and keep the mosquitoes away. It's a twofer -- decorate and keep the bugs out. Obviously you need to be careful with your torches...don't place them underneath a tree or tent or close to anything that could catch on fire. But if you properly set the torches up in areas where mosquitoes and bugs are most likely to congregate, then you can create a relaxing, mosquito-bite-free zone.

Make Seating Comfortable

No one wants to sit outside in the heat in a hard, uncomfortable chair, wishing he was back inside where it's nice and cool. Place pillows in the seats or use pretty seat cushions to add a little splash of color to the table setting.

Besides making the table where you will have dinner comfortable, create a space for guests to lounge before and after. Serve appetizers with cocktails before the meal and let guests mingle and chat with one another. Afterwards, use that same space to enjoy desserts and drinks. The more comfortable your guests are, the longer they'll stay outside and enjoy it.

Keep It Cool Outside

This is probably the most difficult thing to do when the temperature outside is scorching, but the easiest solution to this problem is to schedule your dinner for later in the evening. Don't have guests come over at 4 p.m. when it's blazing hot. The sun doesn't go down until much later, so invite everyone to show up for drinks and appetizers around 6, then sit down to eat around 7:30, followed by desserts at sunset. Not only does the setting sun create a beautiful backdrop to your dinner, but your guests will be happy they aren't sitting underneath the bright sun.

If you have a patio or a covered deck, then no need to use a tent or umbrellas to keep your guests covered. But if you have wide-open spaces in your backyard, then set up a tailgating tent or several umbrellas above the tables to keep everyone in the shade. It doesn't hurt to place a few fans around the area so there's always a light breeze.

Keep guests refreshed with cold towels in an ice chest outside for when it gets a little too hot.

Cook Something Simple

No need to slave away in the kitchen to make a five-star meal utilizing innovative techniques and daring ingredients. Your guests want to eat something familiar, something easy and something tasty. Here are a few recipe ideas that are sure to satisfy all appetites.


• Guacamole and chips • Crostini -- tomatoes, hummus, sliced meats • Grilled shrimp on skewers • Mini cheese/chicken quesadillas • Spiced pecans/cashews/almonds • Smoked salmon

Side Dishes

• Cold corn and tomato salad • Texas caviar • Watermelon and tomato salad • Pickled carrots/cucumber salad • Small baked potatoes • Stuffed tomatoes with blue cheese


Grilled skirt steakChicken kebabs • Crab cakes • Lobster rolls • Burgers • Pulled pork sandwiches • Fish tacos


• Fruit sorbet • Strawberry shortcake • S'mores • Panna cottaGrilled fruit (peaches, pears, pineapple, figs)


• Lemonade • Peach sangria • Various wine coolers and beers • Margaritas • Mojito

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