How to Kick Off Summer with Extra Flavor
Is there anything more fun than a summer pool party with all your closest friends?!
A summer pool party with all your closest friends while eating deliciously flavorful summery food.
In this post, I share how I created the easiest, perfect, summer food spread for 15 of my friends.
I have a soul of a hostess. I love being able to express my love to people by creating a comfortable environment to socialize. I'm definitely considered the "mom" in my group of friends. And I'm totally fine with that.
The key to creating the perfect party food spread is all in the details. The food better taste good, of course, but it's really all about the aesthetics. People create an idea of what something will taste like with their eyes, before they even taste it with their mouths. You want people to gravitate towards the food table and savor your creations, not just overlook it and think "Oh, just another salsa dip." Or worse, think nothing at all. I refuse to be average, so why should my food be?
Pro Tip: I used this Delish guide to help determine how much food would be enough for my party size of 15 people. Encouraging friends to RSVP is important but always plan for extra. It's better to have more food than have hangry guests.
I felt the need to disclose that I used ZERO labels on my menu. I make food that's good, that I know my friends will enjoy. I used a variety of chips: corn chips, ruffles, and tortillas. I used regular cream cheese and a tablespoon of extra butter than the recipe called for because who doesn’t love buttery corn?! I used corn tortillas and full fat cream cheese for extra flavor. I didn’t label any dish vegan or vegetarian even though it was mainly a plant-based spread. Why? Because I don’t eat by any self-imposed rules. I eat foods that I know taste fricken delicious!
Dips are always a party must-have. I chose three: mango salsa, hot creamy corn, and artichoke. When you’re making food for a large group you have to be strategic with your time. As easy dips are to make, I chose to make only one of the three dips so I could put more energy into creating a more unique dish (the blackened shrimp cucumber bites).
(We did make fresh guacamole for the tacos because avocados are just one of those foods that taste 1000% better fresh.)
Hot Creamy Corn Dip + Mango Salsa + 3 Dipping Chips
Since I bought pre-made salsa, I could have easily just bought mango salsa, but there's something about a fresh cut mango that makes my mouth water. It's such an easy way to add tropical flavors to your average salsa. If I was to make this again, I would have added the pineapple bits from the pineapple bowl to give it even more island vibes.
Hot Creamy Corn Dip
Creamy corn dip has always been a favorite of mine. Corn comes into season during summer. When you're able to get your hands on fresh corn from the farmers market it's as sweet as can be. You don't even need to cook fresh corn, which can help cut some prep time. Corn stores well in the fridge, so to save me time day of party, I prepared it two days before. I also made a large batch to carry over as a taco topping for lunch.
PREP 5 MINS / COOK 20 MINS / TOTAL 25 MINS / YIELD 12 SERVINGS
- 6 cups corn (fresh, canned, or frozen)
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced (seeds/veins removed)
- 5 TBSP butter
- 8 oz cream cheese
- Sriracha (add however much you prefer)
- 1/2 tsp paprika (regular, not smoked)
- cilantro or parsley
- cheddar (optional)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Thaw corn if using frozen.
- Chop all your veggies and set aside.
- For tender peppers, feel free to sauté your bell peppers and fresh jalapeño to soften.
- In a medium saucepan, combine butter and cream cheese.
- Stir often until smooth and creamy.
- Add your corn, bell pepper, and jalapeño pepper.
- Season with paprika, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Stir in Sriracha.
- Pour into a casserole dish and top with cheddar (optional).
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly!
Watermelon is another summer food staple. I think it should make an appearance at every summer party. If not, you're just depriving your friends of the complete summer feels. Not only is it refreshingly juicy, but it also makes the perfect table (and picture) aesthetics.
Fire Blackened Shrimp / Cucumber Bites
These bad boys were hot. Literally and figuratively. I may have accidentally added double chili pepper flakes than the recipe called. I have a moderately low spice threshold and it was a bit too spicy for me. I could only have one every 30 minutes. But my friends, with the palate for extra spice, loved them! The cucumber slice added a chill, refreshing crunch to cool down your mouth after each spicy shrimp. It was the perfect “slider bite” that was not too heavy and super easy to make.
PREP 10 MINS / COOK 5 MINS / TOTAL 25 MINS / YIELD 4 SERVINGS
- 16 –20 ½ -inch-thick English cucumber slices
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ tsp. sea salt½ tsp. pepper
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. dried ground thyme
- 1 tsp. dried ground oregano
- ¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne adjust to your heat index
- ¼ to ½ tsp. red chili flakes adjust to your heat index
- 16 –20 about 1¼ lbs. total large deveined tail-on shrimp
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- cooking spray
Put the sliced cukes in a bowl and mix with the olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Prepare the blackening seasoning by combining the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, sea salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, cayenne, and red chili flakes in a shallow baking dish or pie plate; blend together well. Coat the shrimp with cooking spray and put a few at a time in the blackening seasoning to coat all over. Set aside. Repeat until all the shrimp are coated.
In a large (10- to 12-inch) heavy skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Let the skillet get hot. Place a few shrimp in (don’t crowd) and pan-sear on each side for 1½ to 2 minutes. Remove seared shrimp to a plate. If you need to add cooking spray to the skillet to keep it from sticking, have at it. Serve the blackened shrimp on top of each cucumber slice.
Artichoke Dip in Pineapple Bowl
This dish screams Pinterest inspired, and you're absolutely right. As I was scrolling through to get menu inspiration (as one does on Pinterest) I came across the pineapple bowl and I just HAD to have it. It was surprisingly very easy to make, with a quality knife!
It adds a delicious pop of color and aesthetics (it's truly all about the aesthetics) to the table. It's also a great way to liven up any dip. As much as I love making artichoke dip (that's a joke), I went with my favorite pre-made yogurt based dip, Trader Joe's Kale and Artichoke Greek Yogurt Dip. Also please note, I didn't pick this for the "Reduced-Guilt" label on front. I picked it because it's actually really delicious.
For this dip I used sliced French baguette as an additional dipping vessel besides just chips. People like dipping options!!
How to Cut the Pineapple Bowl:
- First cut the pineapple in half long ways. Use a knife and run it around the edge leaving enough of a perimeter for a bowl.
- Cut the pineapple insides into three pieces across it, then in half.
- Scoop out the 6 chunks and use a spoon to smooth out the bowl. Cut the pineapple chunks and save for later. (I used mine as drink garnish!)
Beef + Fish Tacos
I chose tacos as the main course, because let's be honest, WHO DOESN'T LIKE TACOS?!
It was also just an easy way to have people make and plate their own food. All I had to do was prepare the toppings. I was fortunate to have some friends offer help in the kitchen which made prep time happen so much faster. (Love you Rylee, Chris, Morgan and Brooke! You da best.)
Pro Tip: Always line up taco toppings from bottom up. Start with tortillas and meat base then veggie toppings, sour cream, and cheese last.
Taco 'bout a great time!
Come on, I had to.