I host a lot of summertime BBQ's. I find that I enjoy the party a whole lot better when I take the time to prep everything in advance so I am not stuck in the kitchen while my guests have a great time without me. I find that making substantial quantities of select dishes is better than making a bunch of different side dishes. It is easier to shop, prepare and store a few good food selections rather than drive yourself ragged making several different things.
BBQ chicken kabobs, with slices of onions and red pepper. Veggies and meat on a stick...perfect. I like putting things on skewers because I can prepare and marinate them the day before and it is a perfect serving size. Also, kielbasa is great on skewers as well.
Last summer I had a great "build your own burger" BBQ. I set up a "Burger Bar" with all of the fixings anyone could want (Swiss and cheddar cheese and bleu cheese, sliced red onions, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, hot sauce, pickles, mustard, ketchup, bbq sauce, mushrooms, chili and sauerkraut etc....) But, instead of using regular size burgers, I made slider size burgers. This way, someone could have two, three or four totally different burgers with ingredients from the "Burger Bar". That was a huge hit. Adding good quality hot dogs (Kosher are the best ones) and buns mix well with the "Burger Bar" ingredients.
BBQ chicken is always a great success. Have a couple of different sauces or marinades and you are good to please your guests. I currently love Ken's Steak House Asian Simply Vinaigrette dressing for marinade.
I make this great corn dish that everyone loves. Grill corn on the cob and large tomatoes and onions, sliced in half. After everything is grilled, allow to cool. Remove the corn from the cob and cube the tomato and onions, toss together. Add a tablespoon of lemon, a dash of olive oil and some cumin. This can be served hot or cold at your BBQ the next day. There is never any leftovers!!
Another favorite is Chipotle Pin Wheel Pasta Salad. This is a nice colorful dish. When you chop the ingredients in small pieces, they end up filling up the spokes in the pinwheel pasta. Make the pasta as directed and chill with cold water. Chop up red onions, red and green peppers, scallions, a small can of corn and black beans. Add Chipotle Ranch dressing to the veggie ingredients and fold into the pinwheel pasta. This is especially good the next day. You may have to add more dressing before serving if the pasta absorbs too much dressing over night.
If it is really hot out, you may want to make vinegar based salad dressing pasta salads.
*Instead of your typical sodas, try Polar brand seltzer water. Polar puts out so many fantastic flavors of soda water that are incredibly refreshing and also perfect to use with alcohol for mixed drinks.
*Iced tea or iced coffee
*I never buy beer for a party because there are so many types it is dizzying. Most men who like a specific beer will bring their own, I have learned.
*A large bottle of white wine and one red wine.
*Sangria is a fantastic picnic drink
When serving drinks, do not use those huge solo cups. Instead, use smaller cups so drinks stay cold and people don't get drunk. Those solo cups hold a lot of liquid, so one or two drinks can go to your head quickly.