Easy Menu Ideas for Your Spring Bash

outdoor dinner party
Photo: Getty
The key ingredient of a successful spring bash? A relaxed host. Here’s how to create a store-bought spread that will keep you out of the kitchen and in the fun.
  1. The Food

    The Formula: Plan on serving approximately six bites per person per hour when no dinner will be served.

    Total: That’s 180 bites for 10 people for a three-hour party.

    Remember: It’s better to have too much food on hand than too little. You can always send your guests home with a doggie bag if there are leftovers.

  2. Chip Tasting

    America’s favorite junk food can be presented in a stylish way that will have everyone crunching. We handpicked varieties of blues, lightly salted, sweet potato, and beets to please all tastes.

    How to Plate
    Simply empty bags onto display towers. Don’t hold back when it comes to the assortment of chip colors and varieties. Just don’t forget to place a nice stack of napkins nearby because hands will get greasy, fast.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “Finally, someone discovered a way for potato chips and cake stands to better serve mankind.”

  3. Quiche

    Sausage and sun-dried tomato. Ham and Gruyère. Zucchini and mozzarella. The possibilities and combinations for quiches are endless, with the potential for pleasing just about every hungry guest in the room, including discerning vegetarians.

    How to Plate
    After removing your store-bought quiche from the oven, let it sit and cool, then start slicing with a serrated knife. Or break out the cookie cutters to give this dish eye-catching appeal.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “Yum, I haven’t had quiche in so long...I wonder how they had the time to make this.”

  4. Stuffed Peppadew Peppers

    What’s a cross between a pepper and a tomato? The Peppadew pepper, of course. When these tasty piquanté mini fruits are turned into savory pint-size appetizers, they pack spicy and sweet flavors and add a gourmet touch to any party.

    How to Plate
    These suckers come cored. All you need to do is start filling. We spooned a white bean salad into these juicy poppers. Hummus is another quick and simple crowd charmer.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “This is a party-planner who knows how to impress. Who’s ever heard of a Peppadew?”

  5. Prosciutto Purses

    Easy to assemble but with lots of flair, the thinly sliced meat jumps a notch by teaming up with seasoned, store-bought scallops.

    How to Plate
    Wrap strips of prosciutto around the succulent seafood to create a pocket. Top it off with a sprig of colorful chive (optional) and hold it all together with a toothpick.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “I don’t think anybody saw me eat those first two, so I’ll just have one more.”

  6. Block Cheese

    Why waste time unwrapping a bunch of little cheese wedges when one giant hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano makes a solid statement? Plus, it’s the appetizer that no one can get enough of.

    How to Plate
    Plunk the cheese down and place balsamic vinegar in a bowl along with sliced fennel on the side. Have a few knives around the mound so that three people can attack it at once.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “Cheese is an obvious never-let-me-down cocktail party choice, but the block is genius. Damn!”

  7. Fun on a Stick

    Customize each kabob with your own combos of ready-to-serve meat, fish, and veggies to make them look, well, homemade.

    How to Plate
    Buy precooked and preseasoned chicken, portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and mini crab cakes. Pop on skewers. Serve with store-bought spinach and artichoke dip.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “So good and so healthy. I need some white wine to wash it down.”

  8. Key Lime Pie Bites

    With a little creativity, this tangy favorite from the freezer section of your local grocery store can be transformed into single-serving sensations that don’t melt as fast as ice cream.

    How to Plate
    Using an ice cream scoop, place individual servings of the pie on a spoon and line them up on a tray. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and put in the freezer until you’re ready to serve dessert. Garnish with a mint leaf for a dash of color.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “I have to not invite any of these people to my next party so I can steal this idea.”

  9. White Sangria

    This crowd pleaser actually benefits from being made a day in advance, and it will have everyone asking you for the recipe.

    How to Plate
    Combine about four bottles of white wine with a mix of sliced green seedless grapes, green apples, Asian pears, one can of lychee nuts (in their syrup), and starfruit. Let all of the ingredients soak overnight. When you’re ready to serve, mix in a small bottle of lemon lime-flavored seltzer.

    What Your Guest Will Think
    “Thank goodness they went with the white sangria—this refreshing drink won’t stain my teeth.”

  10. Secrets to Being a Fabulous Host

    Prep the Space
    Position your furniture so there is enough space for guests to move and sit. Bring in more chairs and arrange them in small groups.

    Create a Long Playlist
    If by hour two Kanye West’s “Stronger” has played three times, your party will die.

    Dress to Impress
    Looking and feeling pulled together will help you feel confident and will also put your guests at ease.

    Stock the Bar
    One of the biggest party blunders is running out of booze before your guests are ready to stop drinking. Hello!

    Party Foul-less
    Every party is bound to have a few spills. Prepare for them by removing items that will have you cringing if any guest walks past them.

    Welcome the Uninvited
    Let’s face it: Every good party has a few crashers. Greet them as you would if they were actually on the guest list and accept it as a sign of flattery.

    Have Fun!
    Remember: Happy hosts = happy guests.

  11. Shopping List

    The ideas behind this party is to mix things up but keep it simple. Here’s what we bought to feed 10.

    --2 quiches
    --24 Peppadew peppers (plus a filling)
    --24 precooked scallops and 1/2 lb. prosciutto
    --5 lb. imported Parmigiano Reggiano, a bunch of fennel, and balsamic vinegar
    --12 precooked chicken tenders, crab cakes, portobello mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and spinach and artichoke dip
    --3-plus kinds of potato chips
    --Key lime pie and fresh mint
    --4 bottles white wine, 1 small bottle lemon lime-flavored seltzer, and fresh fruit

    Here's how to stock your bar!

    Wine: 2 (750-ml.) bottles (each has about 5 servings)
    Beer: A 24-count case of 12-oz. cans or bottles, plus a 6-pack of 12-oz. cans
    Vodka: 1 liter
    Gin: 1 liter
    Rum: 1 liter
    Tequila: 750 ml
    Whiskey: 750 ml.
    Triple sec: 750 ml.

    Orange juice: 2 (1/2-gallon) cartons
    Cranberry juice: 1 (64-oz.) bottle
    Club soda: 2 (2-liter) bottles
    Tonic: 2 (2-liter) bottles
    Ginger ale: 2 (2-liter) bottles
    Cola: 2 (2-liter) bottles

    Ice: 10 lb. (1 lb. per guest)
    Lemons: about 6
    Limes: about 6
    Glasses: 30, or 3 times as many glasses as guests
    Cocktail shaker: Choose glasses with a metal lid, or a Boston shaker—it’s what most pro bartenders use because glass expands less than metal and the lid won’t get stuck.
    Stirrers: 1 package, available at party stores
    Bottle opener
    Ice bucket
    Ice tongs
    Knife and cutting board (for lemons and limes)