Easy Summer Grilling and Party Menu

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Bee’s first birthday party ended up being low-stress and super easy despite having it in a rented home while on vacation with 20+ people!  Part of the ease of preparation had to do with some great helping hands, and the rest on the simpleness of the menu… plus a secret shortcut or two.  Don’t let the simplicity fool you– these recipes are outright delicious thanks to the experts I stole them from.  The food got rave reviews, which was icing on the {cup}cake!

Fresh Fruit

Since it’s hot down here we started with fresh fruit on the table.  It was a big hit after a day at the beach, and you can’t get more fresh than some watermelon, grapes, and strawberries tempting everyone to snack while the finishing touches were being put on dinner.  Bonus: the kids loved it, too.

Grilled Pita and Hummus

Hands-down, this is one of our favorite summer “recipes”.  You can serve this as an appetizer or along with the chicken souvlaki if you wish to make them more like sandwiches.

Start with flatbread, pocketless pita or Naan:

Brush lightly on both sides with olive oil:

Sprinkle with salt (preferably kosher or sea salt), fresh ground pepper, and rosemary:

Throw them on the grill for about a minute each side and serve with hummus.  A local eatery makes these and also includes a cucumber yogurt sauce (see below), diced cucumbers, roasted red peppers, and a tapenade as dippers.  Easy and delicious, this is one of my summertime favorite treats.

The next two recipes came from my very favorite Greek cookbook, The Complete Book of Greek Cooking (by the Recipe Club of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, which makes it authentic AND awesome):

Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs
okay, so this is my sister making the salad.  let’s pretend it’s the kabobs. 😉

Whip up a quick marinade, soak, chop veggies, skewer, grill, done.  This is a big hit every time. TRUST.  Since we are Greek a side of Tzatziki (see recipe below) is a must.  😉

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 TB minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 whole chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
veggies such as red and green peppers, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes chopped into large pieces for the skewers

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl (or gallon ziploc bag).  Add chicken and marinate in the fridge for 3+ hours.  Arrange chicken and veggies on skewers and brush with some of the marinade.  Grill or broil, turning frequently, until done (15-20 minutes in the oven, grill times vary so use your best judgment and a meat thermometer!)  Serve individual kabobs or un-skewer onto a large platter to serve family style.  Grilled pita and tzatziki sauce make it authentic!

Tzatziki (Cucumber Yogurt dip)

Here’s how to make it from scratch, but I bet using Greek yogurt as a base would take out the straining step.

2 cups plain yogurt
2 large cucumbers
1 TB minced garlic
1 TB white vinegar
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl (hint: I used a coffee filter in the strainer and it worked beautifully!)  Drain several hours or overnight.

my patented (not really) coffee-filter-in-the-strainer method
strained yogurt, waiting for the add-ins

Peel, seed, and coarsely grate cucumbers (hint: I’ve also finely chopped them instead.  Works just as well).  Drain well.  Add garlic, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper to cucumbers and mix well.  Add drained yogurt and blend.

Creamy Pasta Salad

The taste when you first put this delicious Pasta Salad with Celery together is strong, but quickly mellows out to perfection.  I doubled it for 21 people and had some left over for lunch the next day.  It got rave reviews– thanks, Martha!

Crab Cakes

We got regular sized crab cakes at Risky Business Seafood here in Avon, thawed them, cut in half, and reshaped into sliders.  Just a little somethin’ somethin’ extra on the plate.  YUM.  While we did disclose they weren’t homemade by us, we got bonus points for making them into sliders.  Plus RBS has perfected the crab cake using fresh caught crab and they taste homemade!


Chilled in a tub on the deck.  Like nature intended.  (YES, there’s beer in there.  Don’t judge, it may have been a first birthday party but I promise we didn’t let the babies drink alcohol.  Not ’til next year.  HA!  just kidding, just kidding…)


Directions on how to decorate the ocean and beach cupcakes can be found on Bee’s birthday party post.  It was super-easy… and, they got Bee’s seal of approval.  He even squished one between his belly and the tray of the highchair.  I think think that means “two thumbs up!”

Everything on the menu can be made the day before (with the exception of the pita) which adds to the ease of preparing the food.  This is a party menu I go to again and again.  What are your favorite summer recipes?  Do you have one that wins every time?  Please share!
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