Hi everyone and Happy Summer! This is one of my favorite seasons to entertain, second only to Christmas… and unlike the winter holidays with their more indulgent, labor-intensive fare, my #SummerSoireeJustHaves revolve around starters, sides, sips and sweets that are simple and semi-homemade.


SummerSoireeJustHaves: Skewers – Make summer staples spectacular and reduce your need for plates, utensils and messy clean-up!

Caprese on a Stick–Slide alternating cherry tomatoes, soft mozzarella cubes and fresh basil leaves onto a skewer and drizzle with EVOO. They look gorgeous on a platter, taste divine and are ridiculously easy to make. (For an extra wow factor – grill the tomatoes for a minute or two the night before to deepen their flavor.)

Grilled Pineapple & Mango Skewers – Grill for just one minute per side at the start of the party. Simple and delicious!

Guacamole Deviled Eggs – Have you ever wondered what egg salad and guacamole would taste like together? In a word: YUM! Just mash together hard-boiled egg yolks with ripe avocado, a splash of lime juice, a dollop of sour cream and salt to taste (you can add diced onion or tomato as well – but I don’t). Add the mixture atop each egg as you normally would and top with a pinch of cilantro and a slice of jalapeno. Ole’!


Grilled Corn and Asparagus: Grilled veggies are a beautiful crowd-pleaser that are ideal for tossing on the grill in those 5-10 minutes while your grilled meat is resting! I shuck the corn and soak it in water overnight (with 1 TBSP salt). I also drizzle the asparagus with EVOO, salt and pepper on the morning of. Keep in the fridge until grill-time!

Pretty Pasta Salad: They say we eat with our eyes…so, split a batch of cooked rotini into two freezer bags and shake each with blue or red food coloring, respectively. (Other colors are also welcome…depending on your party theme and/or sense of whimsy). Rinse the excess coloring off (separately) in a colander and then toss (together) with all of your favorite fixings.

 #SummerSoireeJustHaves: Your Grocery’s Salad Bar! Why buy and chop up every pasta salad ingredient separately when someone has already done the work for you? A day or two before, I head to the grocery store and fill a quart-sized plastic tub with all of the crumbled feta, cubed cheddar, sliced black and green olives, red onion, sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, pepperoni, and roasted red peppers I can. Toss them with your pasta and a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette on the night before your party and you’re set!


#SummerSoireeJustHaves: Striped Straws and Mini Mason Jars. I don’t know why, but these two things in combination can even make a pour of boring cola look hip.  

Bubbly Blueberries: Make your run-of-the-mill bottle of prosecco more upscale by placing a few blueberries in the bottom of every glass. Effortless elegance! This works with strawberries, raspberries and even cherries – or a combination of your favorites!

Pineapple Lemonade: Since you’ve already purchased a pineapple for your apps, why not get two? I learned this clever trick a few years ago: cube up and freeze pineapple in a few ice cube trays (otherwise they stick together). Voila! Your party’s boring lemonade is transformed!


Berry Pie Sundae Bar: Summer is fruit pie season, but it’s also way too warm for me to be dealing with a hot oven. Instead, I buy a large tub (or two) of vanilla bean ice cream, a few cans of pre-made cherry and blueberry pie filling (transferred to pretty bowls, of course), a bowl of maraschino cherries and a whole lot of whipped cream! (Heat the pie filling up in the microwave or on the grill’s side burner for that hot/cold ‘wow’ effect!)

 And, that’s it folks! Seems too simple to be true, right? That’s entirely the point! After all, Summer Parties are about enjoying the beautiful weather and heavenly temps together…not about slaving over the stove and grill.

What are YOUR favorite summertime recipes and semi-homemade hacks? Tell me via the #SummerSoireeJustHaves tag on Facebook, @JustineSantaniello on Instagram and @JNSantaniello on Twitter.

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