I’m sharing a Make-Ahead Menu for Summer Entertaining – complete with appetizers, the main course, drinks, and dessert! I’m including exactly how I prep each recipe to make your get-together as low-stress and as fun as possible! With these tips, you’ll be able to spend time with your guests, and not in the kitchen! And as a bonus, you will seem like the entertaining goddess I know you are.
Probably the most requested topic for this Summer Entertaining Series has been “How do I prepare everything (or most of the menu) ahead of time, so I can have fun with my guests and not be in the kitchen constantly?!” And that’s exactly what this post is ALL about. From appetizers, to dinner, to dessert (& cocktails too!) – these are the recipes and methods that will relieve the stress of throwing a party.
As long as you’re willing to put in a little work the day before and morning of, you will be a pro at throwing a summer party.
And any party, for that matter! This goes for small parties, bigger parties, and truly any kind of entertaining you want to do. Whether it’s having your sister over, a few friends, or hosting a bigger party! All of these tips can help you when throwing any type of gathering.
The biggest thing for me, is making sure to keep everything as simple and low-stress as possible. The recipes in this menu are mostly assembly-based. A little bit of chopping, marinating, and grilling, but most of it is just a matter of putting things together.
Everything is super fresh, and exactly the kind of food you crave in the summer, from the best peach caprese, to super simple 5-ingredient flank steak, to the most delicious make-ahead brûléed banana peanut butter pie.
Can you even?!
A run-down of the menu:
(and let me just preface this by saying, you can make as many and as few of these recipes as you want, depending on the type of gathering!)
(with grilled vegetables and roasted potatoes)
- 3 Pitcher Cocktail Recipes (+ a pitcher mocktail too!)
So basically, you could pick one from each category if you wanted, make ALL of it, or maybe just make a couple of the appetizers for more of a happy hour/casual get together! It’s 100% up to you, but I want to show you guys how to make everything ahead of time!
Let’s get started..
For this one, I go super in depth in the post on how to put this together, but I will outline it here too. You can definitely make this ahead of time, and stick it in the fridge (minus crackers and nuts), if your fridge is big enough, depending on the size board you’re using.
Another thing I’ve done, if it’s too big to fit in the fridge, is assemble the entire board, then wrap it in plastic wrap, and put ice packs over the cheeses and fruit/veg to keep it cold! This works really well.
And if neither of those options work for you, something to make prep a little easier, is:
- wash + cut veggies and fruit the morning of
- spoon jams, preserves, condiments, mustards into ramekins/bowls (this can be done the day before)
- slice your baguette
- have a general plan of the way you’re going to arrange your cheeses so you aren’t scrambling last minute! (i’ve even sketched it out on a piece of paper in a diagram kind of way, if you’re more of a visual person!)
I mean, who doesn’t love a cheeseboard?! This is something I ALWAYS serve at any kind of get-together, because #1, who doesn’t love cheese? And #2, there’s something for everyone, and your guests can pick at it as they please. And it’s a showstopper!
Although I have made this one completely ahead of time and stuck it in the fridge, I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, because the mint and pistachios get a little soggy.
This is how I’d prep it ahead:
- slice your fresh mozzarella and stick it back in the fridge (can be done the day before or morning of)
- chop your pistachios and set them aside
- if you want to, you can measure out your champagne vinegar, olive oil, and honey too!
- i’d save your peach-slicing for the very last minute, since they can brown and oxidize if you slice them too early
- assemble around 30 minutes before guests arrive – it tastes best if it comes down to room temperature a little bit!
This is more of an appetizer course, but to make it more happy hour & party-friendly, you can serve them in shot glasses! I also have a shot glass gazpacho recipe in my cookbook that I cannot WAIT to share with you guys.
This recipe is SO good and it tastes just like summer. I can’t get enough of it! This is perfect for a super hot day or outdoor party.
You can 100% make this ahead of time, chill it in the fridge (just keep it in the blender that you blended it in!), and pour it into shot glasses or little bowls when you’re ready to serve, and lastly, garnish it with corn, tomatoes, chives, basil, and olive oil!
I definitely recommend doing the shot glasses though – they’re so cute and fun!
And now, on to the main course!
I love this steak so much and it’s such a crowd pleaser. And it’s EASY. You can make it literally 24 hours ahead of time, and then just grill it when you’re ready! (And grilling is always something you can get people to help you with!)
The marinade is 5 simple ingredients, and I find it tastes best when you marinate it for 24 hours. If 12 hours is all you have time for, that’s totally fine too!
I love serving this with grilled vegetables, and roasted potatoes. But if you’re looking for easy sides, these balsamic thyme grilled peppers and lemony farro arugula salad would be awesome with the steak too! And if you don’t mind turning on your oven, these mexican sweet potato fries with avocado aioli are fabulous.
This recipe makes a huge salad, so it’s perfect to feed a crowd at a smaller party, or you can make it to serve alongside the flank steak for a surf & turf kind of meal at a larger party!
One thing I’d do to make things a little easier, is skewer and grill the shrimp if you’re already making the flank steak. If you’re just making this for the entrée, you can totally just follow the recipe as-is, and cook the shrimp on the stove top!
To make this salad ahead of time, I’d start here:
- make the vinaigrette up to 3 days in advance
- marinate the shrimp the day of, and just keep them in the fridge (and skewer them if you’re grilling instead of sautéing)
- clean and chop your greens and vegetables up to a day in advance, or the morning of
- cook/grill the shrimp once you’re ready to serve, and you’re there!
This salad is the salad I’m craving constantly. It’s SO GOOD.
And now for the sweet stuff..
I understand that making ice cream from scratch might not be the very first thing on your to-do list when hosting guests. I totally get it! I will say that this is the EASIEST ice cream recipe. It’s isn’t no-churn, but it’s as easy as it gets when it comes to real-deal ice cream. And there’s no custard making or eggs required! Which can be super fussy. The ice cream base is made totally in the blender!
To make this ahead of time:
- you can make it a few days ahead of time, and just keep it in the freezer, tightly covered
- or, you could break up the prep, and make the ice cream base a few days ahead of time, keep it chilled in the fridge, and then just churn and freeze your ice cream the day before! Either way would work perfectly.
Plus, you’ll totally impress everyone that you made it from scratch!
This one is a showstopper too. And it’s amazingly delicious. Like, can’t-stop-eating-the-filling-and- might-not-be-able-to-make-the-pie delicious.
To make this ahead of time:
- make the crust, and fill with the filling day before, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 12 hours, or overnight
There are two options for creating the brûléed top. One requires your broiler, and the other, uses a kitchen torch!
- If you’re using the broiler to brulée the top, 2 hours before you’re ready to serve, remove the pie from the freezer. Then, follow the broiler instructions in the recipe, then place back into the freezer to re-freeze for at least 2 hours.
- If you’re using a kitchen torch to brulée the top, once you’re ready to serve, remove the pie from the freezer. Follow the recipe instructions, and use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar until it’s deeply golden brown. If the pie seems to have melted a bit, you can place it back into the freezer for a few minutes to firm back up.
- You can also do either of these methods ahead of time, completely freeze the pie again, and let it thaw when you’re ready to serve, but ideally, you don’t want to freeze it more than 2 hours – any longer, and some of the brûléed flavor starts to go away!
Chocolate and Fruit
If you want to serve something more on the simple side, you can do chocolate bars and strawberries! I found those super cute s’mores chocolate bars at Trader Joe’s, but you can use whatever your faves are! Sometimes I find that “snack desserts” like this are super fun for summer. Especially if people are too busy drinking cocktails and rosé!
Which brings me to the final category – drinks!
- Classic Pitcher Margaritas
- Strawberry Lemonade Basil Fizz
- Peach Elderflower Gin Cocktail
- Watermelon Mint Mojito Mocktail
And the best part is, all of the recipes can be made ahead of time! You can make all of the cocktail pitchers up to 3 hours ahead of time, and chill them in the fridge. Then, just add ice right before serving, or just add ice to the glasses themselves, and serve it up!
And in addition to cocktails, some wine and beer too! AND on Friday, I have the most fun post for you guys – and it has to do with all of my favorite adult beverage picks for summer! So stay tuned. 🙂
If you make any of these recipes during the series, or if I inspire you host any kind of party or get-together, be sure to tag me, @spicesinmydna, and hashtag #summerentertainingseries on Instagram or Facebook! I absolutely LOVE seeing what you guys create!
All of the lifestyle photos were taken by the super talented Brittany of Brittany Dunbar Photography.