(BPT) - The sun is shining, leaves are green and balmy temperatures have arrived – spring and summer months are the ideal time to entertain at home. Between holidays, graduation parties and warm weather festivities, there’s always a reason to gather for a great meal and some fun. With a few organization tricks and cooking tips, even the largest families can come together to enjoy quality time with one another while sharing in food and fun.
No one knows more about hosting large family gatherings than Kay Robertson, the matriarch of the popular Robertson family. As the weather warms, she’ll be whipping up some of her favorite foods and inviting friends and family, young and old to her table. After all, hosting meals for so many people is a regular activity for this passionate cook.
“I love it when my family is gathered under one roof,” says Miss Kay, who recently endorsed home builder Clayton Homes to help hard-working Americans realize their dream of homeownership. “What we say around here is food will fill the belly, but love will fill the home.”
If you’re planning to host an upcoming party, consider some of these tried-and-true entertaining strategies to ensure everyone has a wonderful time:
1. Serve food buffet or family-style
When it comes to hosting a party with a lot of people, skip the formalities and opt for serving food buffet or family-style. If you have an island or breakfast bar in your kitchen, this is the ideal place to set out a buffet and let people line up to dish for themselves and fill up their plates. Another option is to serve food family-style, which means having everyone sit down at a big table and serve food on large platters. Then everyone is free to pass the food and serve themselves.
2. Feel good about smart kitchen upgrades
Forget formal dining rooms, today the kitchen is the heart of the home. To be the best cook you can be, you need a few important tools to get the job done right – especially when cooking for large gatherings. Miss Kay recommends every kitchen include a large sink, gooseneck faucets and plenty of great lighting.
Upgrades like these are part of Miss Kay’s Designer Kitchen, a customizable option available for new Commander Series homes built by Clayton Homes. The kitchen design includes a gooseneck faucet with retractable sprayer, a farmhouse sink and a sizeable island (option not available in all models) – all perfect when hosting large family gatherings.
3. Maximize space for relaxing and socializing
Even the coziest of homes can accommodate big groups with a little thoughtful planning. Before the crowds arrive, consolidate clutter to open up areas for easy socializing. Think about how the space will be used and consider grouping furniture together to encourage comfort and conversation. If you’re short on seating, add a folding chair or two for adults. Since the weather is warm, open the windows to let the fresh breeze in and encourage kids to play outside in the yard while the meal is being prepared.
4. Customize your menu
Menu planning is easy when you blend family favorites with other dishes that feature a few exciting twists. If everyone adores your cornbread recipe, make sure to make it for your party, but then feel free to get creative in other areas of your menu. For example, try offering a new type of sweet tea or explore unique savory and spicy Louisiana recipes, like Low Country Deviled Eggs.
Remember, when cooking for a crowd, plan ahead and make some items ahead of time to reduce stress and save space in the kitchen. Chop veggies, bake breads and mix dips the day before – and remember, family is always there to help if you need a last-minute item or two.
Low Country Deviled Eggs
Makes 12 servings
1/3 cup slaw salad dressing (or a little less)
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1 tablespoon Creole mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill (finely chopped)
1 cup shrimp, boiled, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (optional)
Paprika and parsley, for garnish
Place eggs in large sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool. Crack eggs and peel. Cut in half and remove yolks.
In a small mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, slaw dressing and remaining ingredients except paprika and parsley. Mix well, until smooth. Spoon egg yolk and yogurt mixture into the egg white halves. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.