There is nothing that says SPRING better than the ability to start dining al fresco. Granted, here in SoCal good weather occurs almost year-round, but outdoor dining is still something we tend to save for spring and summer. And now that we’re officially in April, it’s time to start hosting gatherings outside.

I used to think that the food I prepared for parties had to be extraordinary. But now I’ve realized that I would much prefer to do simple gatherings often rather than fancy gatherings never.

I’ve reduced so much stress by creating simple dishes that are fun and nourishing; and this makes it more likely that I’ll host more often. While not everything is picture-perfect, the important thing is that our guests have a great time.

So what’s on our spring BBQ menu? Nothing that can’t be purchased for $20 or less, and we fed six!

  • Chicken sausages and whole wheat buns from Trader Joe’s
  • Homemade red cabbage “slaw” with spring onions, apples and pepitas (tossed with our favorite sesame dressing)
  • Chips and fresh salsa (brought by a guest)
  • Homemade chocolate covered strawberries
  • Iced water flavored with lemon and raspberries

Spring bbq menu 2

Spring bbq menu 1

A few notes on stress-free hosting…

Hosting gatherings can be a bit stressful without the right preparation, so here are a few tips on keeping things low-key and manageable.

  • A great simple menu offers choices. As long as guests can choose from 3 diverse options and have enough to eat, they’ll be happy!
  • Select a combination of pre-made items and homemade items. There’s no shame in purchasing hummus or using store-bought dressing. These easy crowdpleasers allow you to sit down and tuck in with everyone else rather than cooking frantically while they eat.
  • Dress up something basic. Add nuts and fruit to a simple slaw, or lemon wedges to water. These touches take little time but can go a long way.
  • Have guests bring the extras. Without putting on a full-on potluck, which can be a bit risky, ask your guests to bring snacks, appetizers, drinks or desserts. These pressure-free additions can enhance the meal without being too costly or complicated.

The best thing about creating a stress-free menu is that it means you’ll be relaxed. The times when I’ve enjoyed hosting the most have been when I had less to do, and more energy to chat and entertain.

And I’ve also learned that not everything has to taste exquisite or represent a stroke of culinary genius. I won’t serve anything I dislike to my guests, but I will let go of tiny imperfections and allow myself to enjoy the conversation around the table.

This spring and summer, I encourage you to try hosting a small group of friends if you haven’t already. You’ll likely find it easier than you expected, especially when you choose to keep it simple and stress-free!

What are your favorite foods for hosting? Do you plan to host outdoor gatherings this spring and summer?