Summer Soiree

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There are few pleasures in life that can be compared to a summer evening in the South. Sure, the heat can get the best of all of us… but once the sun begins to go down, something else inside of us seems to arise. It’s a chance to slow down and relish in this season of stringing together lifelong memory-making moments. So, if you’re searching for an excuse to seize the day and host an unforgettable affair before summer comes to an end, look no further!

FLOWER POWER

The concept of building your own flower bouquet has really taken off in recent years. The joy of fresh flowers never gets old, and the nostalgic feeling of picking out individual blossoms offers a renewed energy that can’t be described. If you’re hosting a bridal or baby shower, or throwing an engagement or birthday party, consider this idea as your next best party trick. You can set up a dedicated station or rolling cart to display all of the supplies, including various flowers, vases and jars, and ribbon or twine. Guests will be both entertained and excited to take home their floral masterpiece.

Alternatively, if there’s not a milestone on the agenda to celebrate, use this opportunity to introduce a bouquet swap with friends. Let your invitees know to bring a bouquet of flowers, then let everyone mix and match to bring a brand new arrangement to life. This is a guaranteed stress-free and low-budget way to interact with others on a magical summer evening.

ADULT PIZZA PARTY

If you ask me, you can never outgrow a pizza party… especially when you find a way to make it grow up with you. Insert: the adult pizza party. Whether it’s an Italian-themed date night with other couples or an indulgent girls’ night, bad times have never been shared over a cheesy slice of pie. You can take the create-your-own approach where you provide a variety of sauces and toppings for guests to partake in the pizza-baking process together. Or, you can opt for the bring-your-own option where you request that each guest or couple contributes a pizza that’s already prepared and ready to share. Either way, I recommend adding another layer to the event by incorporating a wine pairing. This will generate more conversation and lead to an even more memorable evening. Plus, you’ll embark on an educational journey of exploring exactly which vino complements each pizza the best!

MOONLIT MOVIE NIGHT

Sometimes all you need to elevate a classic movie night is to take it outdoors. With all of the nifty gadgets available these days, projecting a movie has become more affordable and seamless than ever. You can totally amp this up as an end-of-summer party with neighbors or back-to-school bash with friends, or really any occasion worth commemorating with family. As with most parties, however, snacks are not negotiable and must steal the show. The movie selection is fully up to your discretion, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention a few of my go-to bites fitting for the big screen:

  • Popcorn Palooza: Sure, popcorn is an obvious choice… but let’s give it the enhancement it deserves by offering a medley of upgrades. Think beyond the butter, like cheddar powder, chocolate sauce, melted caramel, powdered sugar, buffalo seasoning, and more. Bonus points if you go the extra mile and invest in disposable popcorn bags or reusable popcorn buckets!
  • Candy Salad Station: Thanks to TikTok, the candy salad sensation has taken the social media world by storm. This is really just a trendy term for tossing a bunch of different candies together in a bowl, but hey – it’s a crowd pleaser. You could pre-make different themed candy salads, such as a sour mix, chocolate mix, chewy mix, etc. Or, revert back to the DIY approach where party goers can satisfy their own sweet tooths.
  • Trail Mix Bar: Trail mix doesn’t discriminate and is truly welcomed by all. From pretzels, peanuts, and Chex cereal to Cheez-Its, Goldfish, and rye chips, having a spread of salty snacks is enough to cure any craving. Just don’t forget the M&Ms, because it’s all about balance, right?

*Pro-Tip: Don’t be afraid to get creative for seating! Pool floats, inflatable pools, truck beds, air mattresses…. anything that can be cushioned with pillows and blankets will set the stage for an epic movie-under-the-stars experience.

 

FRUIT PIZZA

Despite what the occasion is, who’s on the guest list, or what the rest of the menu looks like, I’m here to tell you that fruit pizza is the answer. It can be sliced and plated elegantly for a more formal soirée, or you can let the kiddos shamelessly devour it at a more casual shindig. And with a little prep ahead of time, this Instagram-worthy delight can be assembled and served in no time. Read on and savor this irresistible summertime sweet treat!

Base:

  • 16 ounces vanilla yogurt (half of a 2-pound tub)
  • 4 ounces Cool Whip (half of an 8-ounce tub)
  • 7 ounces cheesecake flavored JELL-O instant pudding & pie filling (half of a 3.4-ounce box)

*Note: This is just using the dry mix from the box, not making the pudding as directed per the box.

This recipe makes up my personal favorite fruit dip, therefore has changed my fruit pizza game forever. With a velvety consistency and not too overly sweet, it’s no longer just for dipping! Half of the recipe (as shown above) is plenty for one pizza, but feel free to mix up the full amount if you’re making multiple pizzas or simply want leftover dip for munching. Here’s how easily it comes together:

  1. Set the Cool Whip out at room temperature to soften.
  2. Mix together the Cool Whip and yogurt in a bowl. Sprinkle in the cheesecake JELL-O mix and stir well.
  3. Refrigerate overnight to allow the JELL-O mix to fully dissolve into mixture.

Sugar Cookie Crust

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

I’m a fan of this particular dough recipe for fruit pizza as it holds its shape and texture so effectively. It’s a foundation of sweetness that’s dense enough to support the fruit dip and toppings, without drying out or becoming soggy over time. Store-bought cookie dough can certainly be used as a substitute, but the quick and simple process to mixing up these few ingredients might change your mind:

  1. In a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and egg, then continue beating for another 30 seconds or so.
  3. Add the salt and baking powder, then slowly add the flour while continuing to mix until all flour is well incorporated and a dough has formed.
  4. Press the dough into an even layer on the bottom of a round 12-inch pan.
Bake at 350 degrees until the edges turn golden brown, about 14 minutes.

Once the fruit dip has set – and the crust has cooled completely – it’s time to layer. Spread the fruit dip over the crust, then top with your desired fruit. I like an assortment of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, and mandarin oranges. These flavors marry well together, plus the variation in size and color makes for an aesthetically appetizing dish. But, feel free to personalize with your preferred fruit – just be sure to towel-dry as much moisture out of the fruit as possible to help avoid any additional unwanted sogginess. Enjoy!

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