Now that the sun is out and thermostat is starting to rise (sayonara, winter freeze!), we’re gearing up for our favorite part of the warmer seasons: outdoor entertaining. Hosting friends and family in the warm sunshine is one of the simple joys of living #thatChalkboardlife: laying out the blankets, lighting the candles, and using the freshest seasonal ingredients that only come around but once a year. But with such lovely weather right here and now – who needs to wait ’til summer?

Food Network host Katie Lee is right there with us. Katie knows that any good outdoor soiree is about way more than sitting down to eat – it should be an experience. Her new book, Endless Summer Cookbook, outlines tips, tricks, sips, and snacks we love for perfect outdoor dinners.

Catch Katie at the LA Times Festival Of Books this weekend – the country’s biggest book fair. Join Katie Sunday, April 19th at 12:30pm on the Cooking Stage, then catch luminaries like Candice Bergen, Roy Choi, Maria Bello, Brian Grazer, Billy Idol, Zoe Nathan, Joyce Carol Oates, and more.

11 No-Fail Outdoor Entertaining Tips For Any Season

Plan Ahead

Plan a menu that can be mostly executed in advance. The great thing about summer cooking is that the ingredients are so fresh and delicious, you don’t have to do much to them, and many dishes can be served chilled or at room temperature.

De-Bug The Food...

If serving an outdoor buffet, be sure to protect the food from bugs. Mesh food-cover domes are widely available now and will keep flies and bees away from the food.

...And Your Guests

And while we’re on the subject of bugs, I light tiki torches with citronella around the perimeter of the party area and I keep a bottle of bug spray handy in case the mosquitoes bother guests.

Provide Shade

If you’re having friends for lunch, be sure that the table is set somewhere out of direct sun in the shade. If that’s not possible, consider purchasing some fun straw hats from the dollar store to give to guests. 

Use Sunscreen

When entertaining outdoors during the day, always have sunscreen available for guests.

Light It Up

For an outdoor dinner party, make sure you have enough light. Candles are always nice (unscented so as not to attract bugs) and inexpensive lanterns or even clear Christmas lights are fun.

Play Music

Make a playlist of fun classic summer tunes, like Bob Marley or the Beach Boys.

Upgrade Your Punch

Make a fruity signature cocktail. For a big group, I like to make a pitcher drink or a punch, like my Watermelon Rum Punch.

Keep It Simple

Keep hors d’oeuvres simple; a light bite and a cocktail is all you need on a warm summer evening. I like sliced cucumbers with a sprinkling of sea salt, lemon zest and crushed red pepper.

Provide Sides

Make one side dish that can double as an entree for any vegetarian guests, like a lentil salad or a grilled vegetable and black bean salad. Both of those make great sides to grilled meat or fish, but the beans are filling and offer a protein to vegetarians.

Cook Wisely!

Try using these ten ingredients for the perfect summer gathering: tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peaches, watermelon, plums, apricots, BBQ grilled meats and seafood, and plenty of charcoal for grilling!

Visit The Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books! Once a year, the best and brightest of the book world gather together in LA for the literary event of the year! This year’s Festival Of Books will be held April 18-19 at the University Of Southern California and will bring together over 500 authors, celebs, musicians, artists, and chefs to celebrate the power of the written word.

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