Spring Party Tips

Spring is a delicious season for hosting a bright and lively outdoor party on a weekend afternoon or early evening before the sun makes its way down the sky. Garden parties sing fun in the sun (with a chance of rain), renewed love of the warm outdoors, and cravings for tasty finger foods and fruity or floral drinks. Whether you are having a casual backyard get-together with family and friends or celebrating Mother’s Day or a loved one’s graduation, here are some spring garden party tips and recipes for mouthwatering appetizers and refreshing spring drinks.

Garden Party

Spring garden party tips

1. Send invitations boasting the new season

If you happen to be a green thumb, take pictures of your new plants and flowers and include them in your invitations. You can also use clip art to create garden-themed party invites. For eco-friendly paperless invitations, visit Evite.com for a variety of user-friendly garden party options or design your own online using your garden photos. Let your guests know that the party ambiance is relaxed, to come in comfy casual attire, and bring their appetite for light yet luscious appetizers.

2. Set the spring theme

Make sure you have enough seating and tables for the number of guests you invite. Cover tables with brightly colored tablecloths and set multi-colored plates and cups on the buffet table. Decorate chairs with garlands of fresh flowers and set terra cotta pots with an eclectic array of plants on tables. Depending on your outdoor space, you can also hang flower baskets from the patio eaves or trellisses.

Table settings for outdoor gatherings

3. Play garden party games

If you have a lawn, set up a croquette or bocce ball station. Consider asking your guests to bring a live potted plant or flower for a garden swap with other guests. For a girl's only garden party, consider inviting a professional floral arranger to demonstrate creative ways to put together floral baskets. For an eco-minded crowd, hire an organic gardener to give a brief seminar on providing helpful tips in setting up a chemical-free backyard plot. You can always bring your boardgames to the patio and have fun playing them outside.

4. Serve spring-themed finger foods

A well-endowed table of delectable appetizers – as opposed to a formal sit-down meal – will give guests the freedom to pick and choose at their leisure and allow them to move around and mingle unrestrained. Set the buffet table with a delicious selection of finger foods, including crisp toasts and creamy dips, cheesy quesadillas and mini pizzas, and beautifully-frosted cupcakes and bowls of candy-coated almonds. Bowls of fresh fruit and platters of artfully arranged veggies are always a nice addition – they not only have eye-appeal, they also give guests a nutritious filler to nibble.

Don't forget the garden party drinks! Try these bright and lively spring cocktail recipes.

5. Send guests home with a little bit of spring

Guests love to leave a party with a meaningful momento. Fill miniature terra cotta pots with soil and an herb seedling; include a decorative card with plant care instructions. Send guests home with home grown veggies and a recipe card including a dish made with the veggies. Simply fill small vases with a variety of fresh flowers and let your guests decide which floral arrangement fits them the best. Most important, just make sure your guests leave with a happy memory of your garden party get-together.

Garden party recipes

No need to spend hours in the kitchen preparing for your outdoor spring soiree. Serve an array of appetizers with a minimum of flavorful ingredients and time needed to prepare. The following recipes are courtesy of Mezzetta, a leading US producer of jarred artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, olives and other specialty foods.

Artichoke Cheese Toasts

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients:
1 long baguette
1 (6.5-ounce) jar of marinated artichoke hearts
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat broiler. Cut baguette crosswise into 36 slices.

2. Drain artichoke hearts, pat dry, and chop coarsely. In a bowl, combine artichoke hearts, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spread bread thickly with cheese mixture and place on one or two baking sheets in a single layer. Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat or until cheese is bubbling and browned, about 2 minutes.

Mediterranean Veggie Quesadillas

This is a simple recipe that lends itself to many variations. Each quesadilla makes 8 appetizers, so plan your yield according to your guest count.

Ingredients:
Whole wheat tortillas
Shredded Jack cheese
Crumbled feta
Sliced roasted red bell peppers
Diced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil

Directions:
1. Spray tortillas with cooking spray. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Place a tortilla on a work surface. Sprinkle generously with cheeses, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Set a second tortilla on top of filling, pressing down lightly with your palm.

3. Spray skillet with cooking spray and cook quesadilla for 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Press down with a spatula then carefully flip. Cook for another 3 minutes or until bottom side is lightly browned and cheese is melted.

4. Transfer to a cutting board and slice into 8 triangles.

Pesto Mini Pizzas

Makes 16

Ingredients:
1 recipe pizza dough
Prepared pesto
Sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet.

2. Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a small flat circle. Place each dough in a single layer on the baking sheet.

3. Top with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and cheeses. Bake for 12 minutes or until crust is crisp and cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.

White bean and artichoke dip

Makes 2-1/2 cups

Perfect for the veggie tray or as a partner for chips or crackers, this dip is bursting with flavors.

Ingredients:
1 to 2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6.5-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a food procesor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

More garden party treats and drinks

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