Tips for a Great Outdoor Meal & Grocery Outlet Giveaway

Simple decor for an outdoor meal - A Well Crafted Party

The warmer days of Spring are here and Summer is just around the corner. For me this means that it is time to bring dinner OUTDOORS! Spring and Summer holidays and special occasions (Mother’s Day is Sunday!) are the perfect opportunity to bring a meal outdoors. The change of scenery can help make any meal feel like a special meal. But, not every meal makes for a great outdoor meal. You’ll want a meal that can hold up to the weather, be easy to serve and not too complicated to pack up and bring to wherever you are having your outdoor meal. When Grocery Outlet asked if I wanted to work with them on a post I immediately thought of all the fun outdoor items that they get this time of year, and wanted to throw a little outdoor party in honor of Mother’s Day. Below are some of my tips for creating a great outdoor meal. Check in tomorrow for a few recipes that anyone can make that are great for an outdoor meal!

Quick, Easy Outdoor Meal Anyone Can Make - A Well Crafted Party

What makes a great outdoor meal?

I think that there are a few factors that make for an outdoor meal, including simplicity. Part of eating outdoors should be that the whole meal has a more relaxed feel to it. Even if you are going super fancy and formal, the meal itself can be made simple and easy to eat while still being elegant. Last year I went to a wonderful outdoor farm to table meal that completely hit all my favorite notes of an outdoor meal! Here are my tips for what makes a great outdoor meal:

1. Keep it Simple – The meal does not need to be complicated nor have a lot of steps. The perfect outdoor meal can either be cooked outdoors, or packed up and easy carried outdoors. When planning an outdoor meal you’ll want to keep your ingredient list down (at least the items that are going to the table, if you want to prep a complicated many ingredient meal at home that still carries nicely and is easy to serve then by all means, go for it!), keep the garnishes to a minimum and let the meal really be the centerpiece of the experience.

2. Make sure it holds up to the weather- Besides food safety, considering the weather is important for the overall meal experience. If the meal you are serving really tastes best piping hot then you’ll need to figure out a way to cook or at least reheat outdoors so that the wind doesn’t take down the temp. Or, you can choose a meal that can be served at room temperature or cooled. If it is really hot then you might need to think about whether your desserts or meal items are going to just melt while waiting to be served. Of course, don’t forget about food safety as no one likes food poisoning. Items that are sitting out need to be properly cooled or heated to keep the items out of the danger zone.

3. A pretty setting – Eating outdoors can be a wonderful experience that can make any meal feel like a special occasion. Of course, if that meal is served in a not-so-ideal space and handed out wrapped in plastic it can feel more like a fast food experience than a special occasion. Take a few moments to make the meal special by taking care on how it is served. Even dressing up your picnic items a bit can make an ordinary meal feel extraordinary. When throwing parties in my back yard I often opt to cut flowers from my yard and use my basic dishware from the house. I leave my really nice dishware inside, but the basics can still feel dressed up when surrounded by nature! When I picnic I try to make things nicer by wrapping them in parchment paper and twine rather than just plastic baggies, or serving items on bamboo plates or reusable outdoor plastic plates instead of opting for paper.There are also a lot of great brands of really beautiful paper plates out there that can be perfect for making an outdoor meal feel special.

4. Think about pests – Nothing can ruin a meal faster than a few pests. Supply bug spray, plant bug repellent plants around your yard, or use some citronella candles to ward off pesky mosquitoes and flies. I found these adorable yellow tins with citronella candles at Grocery Outlet for less than $2 and bought a whole bunch of them for my outdoor parties. Not only do they look cute on the table, but they help ward off unwanted bugs!

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for some super easy recipes that ANYONE can make for a great outdoor meal!

Enter to win a giveaway to Grocery Outlet

Grocery Outlet wants to help you serve a great outdoor (or indoor) meal and are sharing a $25 Gift Card with one lucky reader. Grocery Outlet operates 210+ stores in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Check out the Grocery Outlet website to find a store near you!

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This post was created in collaboration with Grocery Outlet. All opinions are my own. Thank you for reading and sharing posts that are created in partnership with brands that help support this blog. 

Easy Entertaining with a Cheese Platter

Thank you to Fromager d’ Affinois for sending me a variety of cheeses to try and photograph for this post. All ideas and opinions are my own.

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board - A Well Crafted Party

If you entertain often, then cheese platters are your friend.* Not only are they delicious, but they are filling and SO easy to put together! When pressed for time, or bring an appetizer to a potluck party, or even when I just have a lot going on, I reach for my cheese boards and hit the deli section of my local grocery store.

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board - A Well Crafted Party

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board - A Well Crafted Party

Tips for creating a successful cheese platter:

  1. Buy a few different cheeses, but cap it at five different cheeses. Choice is awesome, but being overwhelmed by choice is not so fun. Keep your platters simple by choosing three to five cheeses to feature. For this platter I used three different flavors of cheese from the same brand of cheese, Fromager d’AffinoisBy going with the same type of cheese, with different flavors, I am able to let my guests enjoy discovering the differences in one type of cheese. You can also go with selections from different types of cheese to give additional variety.
  2. Make sure the cheese is easy to serve. There is nothing more awkward then trying to get some cheese off of a cheese platter that is too difficult to cut or there isn’t a cheese knife around to help get the cheese from the platter to the cracker. To ease the cheese serving conundrum pre-slice hard cheeses, put out cheese knives that are sturdy enough to cut the cheeses available, and make sure you have something to spread soft cheeses onto crackers. This platter features there soft cheeses (which I LOVE for entertaining) that are really easy to cut through with a simple cheese knife and spread onto a cracker.
  3. Serve cheese at room temp. You certainly don’t want your cheeses sitting out for hours, but cheese straight from the fridge won’t have the depth of flavor or ease of serving as one that has gotten to room temperature.
  4. Label your cheeses. I don’t know if there is anything quite as alarming to the palette than to think you are about to enjoy a nice double creme brie to get a tangy goat cheese flavor in return. While I’d love both types of cheese, it sure does help to know what is coming my way! It becomes even more important when you have the option of tasty accompaniments or toppings.  Whether you simple write out cheese names on a piece of paper and lay it next to the cheese or get fancy and print out specific labels, your guests will appreciate you taking the time to label!
  5. Don’t forget the accompaniments! Crackers are great for serving up with a good cheese platter. They are easy to store in the pantry for use at a moments notice, they make it easy to serve the cheese from the plate to your belly, and generally, can go with almost any kind of cheese. If you want to have a little more fun with your cheese platter you might think about alternative food items that might serve as a good cheese-to-belly delivery tool. Some cracker-alternative options include sliced cured meats, vegetables, breads, and different types of fruit. Is there anything better than a slice of aged cheddar on a crisp, ripe apple slice?
  6. Toppings set your platter apart. You’ve got the cheese all to temp and labeled, and your accompaniments are at the ready… it is time to think about what might really set your platter apart and make your cheese choices sing! Toppings such as pepper jelly, fig jam, apricot spread or even honey all make for tasty additions to a cheese platter. Have some fun putting out toppings so guests can mix and match.

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board - A Well Crafted Party

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board - A Well Crafted Party

More ideas for your cheese platters:

About Fromager d’Affinois:

Fromager d’Affinois is the top-selling cheese for Fromagerie Guilloteau. It is a smooth double cream cheese expresses that has been delicately matured. In addition to the original Fromager d’Affinois, this cheese also comes in flavors of Garlic & Mixed Herbs, Olive, Truffle, and Pepper. I tried the original, mixed herbs bleu and pepper varieties— all of which were creamy and flavorful! The high fat-content of this cheese positions it halfway between a traditional Brie and a triple-cream cheese. I was able to find this cheese at my local Whole Foods Market.

*Cheese platters are your friend unless you do not eat dairy, or your guests do not eat dairy. In that case, you may want to make other entertaining friends.

Saturday Spirits: Gin & Herbs Spring Cocktail

Herb & Gin Cocktail from A Well Crafted Party

My favorite thing about Spring is the emergence of all the fresh herbs. This cocktail is the perfect mix of fresh herbs and the wonderful aromatics of gin.

Ingredients
Shaker
Muddler
Ice
Rocks glass with Ice
4 Slices of Cucumber (3 for beverage and 1 for garnish)
1 sprig thyme for garnish
1 oz Basil & Thyme Simple Syrup (See recipe below)
½ oz lime juice ( ½ of freshly squeezed lime)
1 ¼ oz Gin
2 oz Sparkling Water (Or Soda Water)

Directions
1. Put ice, 3 slices of cucumber, 1 oz of basil & thyme simple syrup, squeeze of lime juice, and the half of the lime into a shaker—Muddle
2. Pour gin into shaker, cover, and shake vigorously
3. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice
4. Pour in sparkling water and garnish with cucumber slice and thyme sprig
5. Enjoy!

Herb & Gin Cocktail from A Well Crafted Party

How to Make a Basil & Thyme Simple Syrup
1. Put a handful of basil leaves and several sprigs of thyme into a small sauce pan with 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of water. 2. Stir the mixture as it heats on medium-low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (about four minutes) 3. Remove from heat and let it sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. 4. Once cooled, taste to see mixture as it sits to get your desired herbal flavor. 5. Once you have your desired flavor pour mixture over a sieve— to strain the solid from syrup—into a jar.The mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

Originally published on InComplete Magazine

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