As we approach Labor Day weekend, everyone is looking to celebrate those last few beautiful days of summer. With that, we have Martha Stewart Living's editor-in-chief, Elizabeth Graves, here to show us what to eat, what to drink and how to celebrate the end of the summer.
Labor Day weekend is a huge weekend to spend with friends and family. With a little planning and smart prep, you can actually enjoy the party too. Here's how:
Set the scene.
A nice grouping of potted herbs: Go for easy wilt-free table décor that sets a pretty scene. Fresh herbs are beautiful, seasonal, inexpensive and look great on a table. You can get them at your local hardware or garden store from anywhere to $10-$20. You can let people take them home afterward or keep them to cut and cook with year-round.
Light the table with LED pillar candles: You can get these inexpensive candles online or at discount home stores. They're perfect for parties because they add attractive ambient light, won't blow out and there's no open flame to be careful with. Wrap the inexpensive candles with wicker, ribbon, burlap or other materials to elevate their look.
Go with a cloth table covering: It's as pretty as it is practical — not to mention washable and reusable! To keep your tablecloth from flying away, we like to use small weights like fishing sinkers or curtain clips from a craft shop to hold things down in the breeze.
Pick the right plates: You don't need to use disposable plates. It's nice (and good for the environment) to use inexpensive enamel plates that look pretty and can be used over and over.
The Well-Edited Bar
Make a simple refreshment center: With any party, whether it's summer or fall, the ideal drink setup is streamlined, well stocked and self-serve. A batch of freshly squeezed lemonade or watermelon cooler, will please practically everyone.
A watermelon cooler is a light drink that is great for making in batches, healthy and totally thirst quenching. This is an age-friendly drink and kids can help themselves; adults can punch theirs up with vodka and citrus and mint/basil garnishes — which double as décor. Freeze watermelon cubes to make the drink stay cool as the day goes on. It's a great way to keep your drink fresh without watering it down.
Keep drinks cool: Another way to keep your drink chilled is to have a great canteen, decanter or drink dispenser. This way you can fill it up, set it out and forget about it.
Have enough supplies on hand: For quantity, here's our rule of thumb: plan two drinks per guest for the first hour, and then one per hour after that (one gallon equals 16 eight ounce drinks).
Set out an ice tub: Have an ice bucket filled with seltzer bottles and have lemons/limes on hand. Most people will bring a bottle of wine, beer or some type of beverage. This chilled tub is the perfect place for it so you don't need to scramble inside to the fridge. Additionally, this is where you can put any type of alcohol for adults.
Plan the perfect menu.
Passed appetizers: Tomato Burrata Bites
A passed appetizer is a great way to make sure the host gets around to talk to everyone. And, these tasty, cheese-filled bites make the most of great summer tomatoes. Use Campari tomatoes, which aren't too big or too small.
This dairy-free and vegetarian/vegan friendly salad adds color to your table with its beautiful fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Main: Burger Bar
Burgers are a staple at any summer party. We like to upgrade them with unexpected toppings. To streamline burger serving, have all the toasted buns prepped on rimmed baking sheet — it makes for easy transfer from grill to table.
Consider topping burgers with cheesy classics like cheddar, but include interesting alternatives like feta, blue cheese, Havarti and fontina as well. For other exciting toppings, set out bowls of dill, arugula, cucumber, red onion, sweet onion, cremini mushrooms and shredded radicchio. Get creative and include any other cheeses, veggies, pickles, lettuces, etc. that you like.
Sweet Treat: No-Melt "Ice Cream" Sandwiches
End the feast with "ice cream" sandwiches that won't melt. Instead of the cold stuff, spread creamy mascarpone cheese between two cookies butter-waffle cookies. They taste like sugar cones and get a little soft from the filling, just like the classic freezer version. They are easy to make and a total crowd pleaser.
Keep the kids entertained.
Set up a kid's table covered with craft or white butcher paper where they can work on fun crafts. Keep it simple and fun with projects everyone can do.
Paint a pot: Have the kids decorate their own terra cotta pots (which you can purchase at a garden store for less than a dollar) with indoor/outdoor surface paints and stencils. After they're done decorating, they can fill them with herbs and bring them home!
Bonfire Box: Take what you already have in your pantry and cabinets and put it to good use for s'mores sets! These bonfire boxes are a cute way to organize all your toppings. Set out goodies like graham crackers, chocolate peanut butter cups, marshmallows, ginger snaps, lemon curd, chocolate wafer cookies and chocolate mints. Then let the little ones make their own DIY s'mores.
Decorate your backpack: With school starting, these are perfect for kids and an easy craft using stamps, stencils and fabric paints. Take a canvas drawstring backpack (available for less than $5 online or at craft stores) and have the kids customize them!
Find even more tips, recipes and entertaining ideas in Martha Stewart Living magazine.