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One of my very favorite things about the warming temperatures, is the opportunity to dine al fresco! Whether preparing a meal to eat on the porch, cooking over the fire while camping, or grabbing picnic supplies to eat in the park, food always tastes better outside.

A few years ago, we built an ambitiously large 8’ picnic table, and I love to fill it with friends and food as often as possible. But there’s nothing worse than hosting a crowd just to spend the whole meal scurrying and cooking, rather than seated and enjoying the food and company (I’ve been guilty of this too many times). Through lots of trial and error, and a few sweaty and frantic meals, I’ve figured out a few foolproof tips.

NBD (Nothin But Dips)

An NBD meal is my signature dinner and party move. I love to make a few dips ahead of time and serve them with a massive spread of veggies and other dip vehicles. This is a great way to satisfy a crowd with a wide variety of food preferences and sensitivities. Not to mention, if the main dish takes a little longer than expected, guests will be happy to keep snacking away on the beautiful veggie spread.

When the summer heat really kicks into high gear, I avoid turning on my oven at all costs. So, I created two dip recipes that don’t require heat. Serve this versatile Creamy Lemon Yogurt or this protein and fiber-packed Spicy Peanut Dip with a spread of cold and crunchy veggies.

Dessert

Is it even a party without dessert? While your friends are wrapping up the meal, throw some fruit on the grill! This can often be done just with the residual heat from the main course. I love to grill strawberries, with the green tops cut off and then skewered until warm and juicy. Serve the warm strawberries over vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction for a delicious, but very simple dessert. This would also be delicious with pineapple, peaches, and cherries!

Cheers to a wonderful summer of outdoor dining and enjoying seasonal fruits and veggies with friends!

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