The Ultimate Outdoor Garden-Party Menu for Summer Entertaining

Celebrate summer's finest produce and garden-to-table cooking with this easy-breezy picnic menu to share with family and friends.

The Ultimate Outdoor Garden-Party Menu for Summer Entertaining

The expression "FOMO" (fear of missing out) doesn't even cover it when it comes to how I feel about taking advantage of seasonal produce during the summer months. Hysterically obsessive would be a more apt way to describe how I feel about summer fruit and veggies! There is just too much to enjoy. Farms and gardens are simply bursting with gorgeous fresh produce, and I cannot get enough of it!

I also want to be spending as much time as humanly possible outside. Fortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive! I always try to make sure our summertime parties can be served in one of three locales: the porch, lawn, or patio. And of course, when planning an easy-breezy summer entertaining menu to be shared al fresco, I highlight as many garden vegetables and as much ripe local fruit and another farm-stand bounty as possible.

Mason jar cheesecake

Pictured Recipe: No-Bake Mason Jar Strawberry Cheesecakes

What I love most about this garden-party menu is, of course, all of the seasonal ingredients it includes: fresh herbs, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, fresh peaches, eggplants, and greens. Plus, when I stop at our local farmers' market, I always pick up a couple of dozen farm-fresh eggs, jars of giardiniera, crusty bread, maple syrup, and honey. (In my enthusiasm, I have been known to buy more than I can carry!) So, I was sure to include them in this garden-party menu too.

Another bonus? This menu is designed to be made ahead and enjoyed outdoors, so you can prep it and transport it all to the garden or patio with ease. Both desserts can be made the day before. Even the pressed sandwiches can be made long before the guests arrive. The only "last-minute" cooking will be when you throw some smoked sausage on the grill for a super-easy grilled appetizer to get the party started. This means all you'll have left to do is sit back and enjoy your party.

The Ultimate Outdoor Garden-Party Menu

Homemade BBQ sauce made with fresh raspberries adds bright summer flavor to grilled smoked sausage. Make the sauce the day before, and then just reheat it before serving. If you're using a charcoal grill, set up your charcoal chimney ahead of time. Then all you'll have to do is light a match once your guests arrive.

I don't think it would be possible to have a garden party without deviled eggs! In this recipe, I used Greek yogurt to keep them on the lighter side. I couldn't help but grab a handful of fresh herbs from my raised bed to add to the yolk mixture. Tote the deviled eggs in a clean egg carton for easy portability or use a ceramic egg carton like the one shown here.

Start With a Garden-Party Salad

Better Three-Bean Salad

Pictured Recipe: Better Three-Bean Salad

I am somewhat of a bean-salad nut, but I can't stand when they are overly sweet or the beans are mushy. In this Better Three-Bean Salad, I added fresh steamed crisp-tender green beans and snap peas plus herbs, and only a touch of sweetness from 2 teaspoons of honey.

Add a Nice Sandwich

Vegetarian Pressed Italian Sandwich

Pictured Recipe: Vegetarian Pressed Italian Sandwich

Italian pressed sandwiches make a great make-ahead picnic or garden-party main course because they are assembled long before the guests arrive. For this satisfying vegetarian sandwich, I filled it with grilled eggplant, artichokes, and peppery arugula. In lieu of olive spread, I pureed giardiniera with garlic for a zesty kick. If you can, look for a really good ciabatta for the best crunchy crust. It makes a big difference!

And, Don't Forget Something Sweet

No-Bake Mason Jar Strawberry Cheesecakes

Pictured Recipe: No-Bake Mason Jar Strawberry Cheesecakes

Save room for dessert because these irresistible no-bake cheesecakes are sure to be a big hit! I love that they're sweetened with honey and that they pack up neatly to carry to the patio.

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

Pictured Recipe: Mixed Berry Hand Pies

A classic dessert from the South, these berry hand pies are made with two kinds of berries-and they're baked, not fried.

Add a Cooling Drink

Iced tea

Pictured Recipe: Peach Iced Tea

This no-sugar-added iced tea gets all the natural sweetness it needs from peach and mint. Make sure to have plenty of ice on hand for this tea and any other libations. A good rule of thumb for outdoor entertaining: plan on the number of guests times two equals the number of pounds of ice. I know it sounds like a lot, but it will melt quickly, and you'll want to keep the food and drinks cool.

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