Prepping for Simple Summertime Entertaining

Over the next five weeks, we’ll be hosting five families at our little lakeside homestead.

We could’t be more thrilled about our line-up of summer visitors; it means that we can hunker down in full staycation mode and still get to visit with out-of-town family and friends. Most people are making the trek to Nova Scotia for the very first time, and we’re going to ensure they have a wonderful visit.

So how do I feed a stream of house guests while still relaxing and enjoying my first Maritime summer? It comes down to combination of loosely structured menu planning, strategic meal prep…and letting go of perfection.

Prepping for Simple Summertime Entertaining

Meal Planning

Now I know meal planning tends to be more popular during the school months, when we’re all keeping to a regular routine; however, a quick penciling in of our meals during the lazy days of summer can also be helpful to help us maximize our downtime.

It’s nice to jump-start dinner with something from the freezer, especially after a hard day’s work in the garden or lifeguarding kids at the lake. Let’s also hear it for less-frequent grocery shopping trips with aaaallllll the kids in tow.

My hosting menu plan is to simply put a few of our favourite summer dishes on repeat over the next five weeks. I know the recipes work well and I know how to scale them up for a crowd. From experience, I know which dishes can be prepped in advance and I know they are thoroughly enjoyed by all. When entertaining, go with what you know.

Of course I want to highlight local seafood and other delicacies, too. Here are a handful of recipes that are going on the meal plan:

Meal Prepping

As with most meal prep, I tend to get it done on days when the weather is blah, leaving myself free on beautiful days to head outside and enjoy the sunshine. I have a running list and it doesn’t always get completed, but I’ve found that any advance prep helps tremendously when there are 10 people eating 3 square meals a day.

Breakfast Pancake & Waffle Mix

Despite visitors, my kids are still in full summer morning mode, which consists of sleeping in, and then having an all-you-can-eat waffle contest. Okay, maybe there’s no competitive element but some mornings it sure feels that way. My teen and tween are all about carb loading in the morning, which is why this homemade waffle mix comes in handy. I’ve also got the dry mix for my Buttermilk Buckwheat Pancakes in the freezer; the recipe can be found in Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.

Similarly, homemade granola, bircher muesli, and baked oatmeal are all great, whole grain, do-ahead breakfast options for a houseful of guests.

Cooked & Frozen Whole Grains

I’ve been cooking batches of whole grains like quinoa and farro and freezing them, as instructed in this tutorial. I love serving up hearty grain summer salads for lunch like this Citrus, Shrimp and Quinoa Salad or the chewy Farro, Feta and Tomato Salad with Red Onion Vinaigrette from The Simple Bites Kitchen cookbook.

Homemade Salad Dressing

I tend to have at least three salad dressings on hand over the summer months: a light vinaigrette for dressing greens and tomato-based salads like this Tomato Peach Caprese, a creamy Caesar or Buttermilk Ranch for giant meal-like chopped salads, and some sort of umami flavour bomb with tahini or nutritional yeast for topping grain bowls. (I love this one from Hollyhock.) I’m much more inclined to whip up a salad for guests when I know I’ve got a delicious dressing to back me up in the refrigerator.

Picnic Prep

It’s the summer of the picnic and we’re not slowing down! For quick, no-fuss picnics, I keep a few staples stocked such as a good wheel of firm cheese, jars of pickles, and a few lengths of dried sausage. A tin of Fudgy Chocolate Two-Bite Brownies in the freezer doesn’t hurt either! When I have more time to prep, I’ll make my Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Asparagus; it’s even better on the second day.

Nourishing Snacks

I’ll admit it, we graze all summer long. We have our favourite DIY Power Bites, Granola Bars and other healthy snacks and they are all freezer-friendly. The kids and I recently made up these Pepper Parmesan Coins and froze them for a future mid-afternoon cheese plate or picnic excursion.

Grill Goals

One way I can always set myself up for success is to prime my grilling set-up.  I make sure I have plenty of charcoal and wooden skewers, and that grill baskets and tools are scrubbed clean and within reach.

Chill the Drinks!

I’m loving the trend of refreshing summer wines served up in individual cans. Not only are they perfect for picnics and pool parties, but the sparkling wines are ideal for topping up a spritz or two without having to pop the cork on a whole bottle. Whether your preference is fruity rosé or a light prosecco, you’re sure to find a canned wine that fits your budget.

Letting go of perfection

I’m passionate about hospitality, when the focus moves from you, the host — and that perfectly set table — to the guest, and their comforts. For me, this is the simple difference between entertaining and hospitality: less show — and more soul. With overnight guests coming and going all summer long, the only sane option is to let go of the Pinterest perfect table and the wine pairings with dinner.

All around the world, food unites people like no other medium and has a way of showing us that while we are diverse, we are not so very different after all. When we invite others into our home, we offer a sanctuary. It is our time and our efforts that we offer up. Here, community is built. Friendships are cemented. These face-to-face connections are invaluable in our current fast-paced digital world.

I hope to inspire more of you to gather people around a table, and to experience, as I have, the essence of community that happens when we slow down and break bread together.

Here’s to a long summer of hospitality ahead.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. McKenzie says

    How have you learned to be so GOOD at food? One day I hope to be as organized and instinctive about what to make and when.

    My husband and I are planning a trip to Nova Scotia in late September, for our “babymoon.” I’m pregnant with our first. I’m really hoping that my weird food aversions are gone by then, because your posts always make me so excited for the local cuisine!

    • Hey McKenzie! I guess I’ve been making three meals a day for a few decades now and I’ve learned a few things along the way. 🙂

      Love that you’re visiting my province!!! Congrats on the baby. xx

  2. Aimee, I absolutely agree with your contrast between Hospitality and Entertaining, so very true!
    Your intentionality towards your guests is so heart warming and evident in your preparations.
    Thank you for the ideas here that will hopefully spur us onto opening our doors as a respite for others.

  3. Amen to all that! Have a fantastic and fun summer : )

  4. You are an incredible cook. Love your work. Keep sharing more such wonderful recipes. Have a wonderful day ahead.


  5. These looks incredible. I would love to try all grilled items 😛

  6. Do you have any other blogs that relate to this I really like the ideas

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