Be prepared to impress your hosts and have a great time this summer with these helpful hints.
It's the potluck dilemma. You could go with your usual -- beer and a bag of chips. But that's so lame. Next time, surprise your pals by bringing one of these foolproof crowd-pleasers. Your simple secret: premade ingredients -- packaged salads, rotisserie chicken, bottled dressings, white wine and sparkling water -- that you toss together with your own fresh fixings.
Sparkling Sangria Blanco Quench your thirst. Get your vitamins. We've taken the official summer drink of Spain and made it even more refreshing (if not nutritious) by substituting white wine for red, adding orange juice and orange liqueur, pouring on sparkling water just before serving, and packing in sliced summer fruits. Tote the wine mixture to the party in colorful plastic jugs, and make sure everyone gets a paper umbrella, or two or three.
Island Slaw Chopped jalapenos make this one hot coleslaw. But don¿t call the fire department just yet, because mango slices and a splash of bottled citrus vinaigrette cool things right down. Chop cabbage? Why bother when you can buy packaged coleslaw mix in your produce section?
Grilled Steak Wraps with Triple Dipping Sauces Indulge our inner caveman and eat grilled meat right off the stick. Or, if you prefer things a tad more civilized, wrap it in a lettuce leaf and top it off with one of our three dipping sauces: Salsa-Sour Cream, Honey Mustard-Yogurt, or Horseradish-Mayonnaise. Marinating the meat in bottled Italian dressing makes it tender and flavorful.
Greek Chicken Salad Too hot to turn on the oven? Keep your cool and pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket or deli. Mix chicken chunks with bottled Greek dressing, then pile them onto romaine lettuce, mint leaves, kalamata olives, and feta cheese for a savory summer salad.
Rum-Berry Shortcake Big, chewy store-bought cookies are the shortcut to this simple shortcake. Pick the freshest berries you can find from the grocery store or farmstand, then drizzle them with dark rum, honey, and lime. A sprinkling of toasted coconut and a squirt of cool whipped cream make scrumptious toppings. Gather all the fixings on a single serving tray and let guests assemble their own.
Food poisoning will kill a party even faster than an unannounced visit from your in-laws. Stomach cramps, cold sweats, a long line for the bathroom...not a pretty picture. Keep your summer bash alive and well by following these simple food safety tips.
Some people open a bottle of wine with all the solemnity they would bring to beginning a graduate course in Medieval literature. Some people are just annoying. It's summertime. Drink the wine; there is no pop quiz.
1995 Casa Cadaval Pinot Noir (Spain) $8.99 A sporty convertible purrs by a fruit stand in Barcelona. This gentle red creates nice sparks with red or white meats.
1999 Francis Coppola Presents Rosso (California) $9.99 Your berry truck ran into my plum tree. This blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Cabernet is light enough to go with popcorn, but has enough body to go gracefully with grilled steak.
1999 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Merlot (California) $9.49 Spend a cool night in a black cherry orchard. This robust wine is a delight with red meat off the grill, from flank steak to hamburgers.
2000 Rosemount Estate Grenache Shiraz (Australia) $7.99 Here's a zingy shirtload of crushed raspberries with ¿ wow ¿ a clean snap like a pair of new suspenders. Try this with tree fruit and a variety of cheeses.
Before you toss the cooler in the car and head for your favorite picnic spot, gather a few essentials to make your outing complete. Better yet, keep them in a tote bag in the trunk, so you'll be ready to go at a moment's notice.
Depending on the locale -- a city park, sandy beach, or mountain stream -- you also might want to include one or more of the following fun diversions: