It never fails. Starting in May, the magazine racks at the supermarket checkout line are filled with pictures of red, white and blue cheesecake with raspberries and blueberries. Flag cupcakes. "Easy" red, white and blue trifle.
Trifle?? I'm sorry. Maybe it's just me, but those Memorial Day menus make me feel like I need to wear "mom jeans," hang a spring wreath from Michael's on my front door and drive a minivan.. and we all know that's not going to happen! Besides, I don't know how to pipe buttercream icing on an f--king cupcake and I have no desire to learn. But I know how to throw a bad-ass party and do it with practically no cooking!
With Memorial Day marking the unofficial start of summer season, it's also grilling season, bikini season and my all-time favorite -- no-cook summer recipes! If you're slaving away in the kitchen or standing at a grill all day, you're not enjoying the party so what's the point?
These way-beyond-easy tips will help you spend more time having fun and less time cooking. I like parties that are simple and focused on the guests. Yes, you have to have food. But you don't have to spend the next three days in the kitchen like Martha Stewart. Not this chiquita! Besides, Memorial Day parties are not about foie gras and canapes. I am a total French food snob and even I roll my eyes at that. Simple!
First things first, Food!
Go food shopping. Just because you're not cooking doesn't mean your peeps aren't hungry. You can always use my fave little trick (thanks cousin Isabel for that tip!): buy a bunch of fried chicken from the supermarket, lay it out on pretty platters and watch your guests go to town! Unless you're from the deep south or your name is Paula Deen, chances are their fried chicken is better than yours. Personally, I dig me some Popeye's from time to time. Yeah, Popeyes!
Or you can grab some sliders, buns and tons of fixin's like cole slaw, potato salad, three-bean salad, etc. Then, make your own salad and there you go! I like arugula, craisins and blue cheese salad. My sister makes fruit "kebabs" and I make them with tomato, mozzarella balls and basil. So good and moron-proof.
We're Armenian, so we always have pilaf, which requires a little cooking but oh-so worth it. Plus, people love it. Just don't tell them how much butter is in it! I find that small plate and single-serving food is really popular these days; looks modern and cute and not too much on the waistline... especially if there are bathing suits involved! BJ's, Costco and Trader Joe's are your party go-to BFF's. Major!
I like getting people drunk, always have. Parties are just better when people attending have a little buzz on. Make your life easy and get beer, wine, champagne and one signature drink. That's it. Make a special cocktail in some fruity color and you're done. Red usually does the trick, so use grenadine. Pretty glasses, cute garnishes, not much else. As always, no red plastic cups, please. It's not a frat party. No excuses.
Seriously, Google "party drink recipes" and watch what you find... I'm no genius here, just resourceful. Personally, I like champagne and a fruity mixer for a nice punch that most crowds like because it has alcohol and is refreshing. Always make sure you have plenty of soft drinks and water for the non-alcoholic amigos. Put drinks in big steel tubs you can pick up for cheap at somewhere like Party City and that's all folks!
You can serve all the fab food and beverages galore, but with no kickin' tunes, your party is lame-o. Boring... Get a good playlist going and pump it up loud. For my parties, I like to keep it sort of upbeat neutral. A mix of pop, hip hop, dance, salsa and some retro rock is a big crowd pleaser. No jazz, classical, easy listening, etc. Ugh, they'll be out the door after the first double chip dip. Three words: Wireless Music Player. Done!
One Little Thing
Have something or do something your guests will remember: an activity, a special table for kids if they're coming too, a cool favor. Just something that makes it a stand out party. Do not hang one of those spring flags in front of your house, please. I beg of you. You don't have to spend a lot of money. A (store bought) cupcake is cute, a flower, a super cheesy dollar store trinket, anything really! It has to come from you, though. I like the idea of taking a photo of each person upon entering the party and then sending it along with a thank you. Nice touch and everyone loves photos of themselves, unless they look fat and/or drunk. Take note.
Say Thank You
What's the deal with people who don't send thank you cards? Mind your manners, darlings. Something so small and so inexpensive says so much about a person. No emails, a real card, thankyouverymuch. Make the effort, you're not that busy. Obama is busy, you're not.
Most of us have special ways of celebrating the holiday and honoring those who have died serving this country. In times of war there is a special meaning to this holiday, so take a moment to remember you live in the best country in the world in large part thanks to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Be proud to be an American, fly that flag and party like a rock star.
Happy Memorial Day!
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