2M1A6105 Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining

Last week we had people over for dinner three nights in a row. By the third evening I was feeling exhausted and I noticed my mind veering far away from joy as I set the table once again. A little whisper set me back on course: “This is what you always wanted.”

“I want our house to be the party house.” I told Gabe with kids still in diapers. Already anticipating sleepovers and high school hangouts. I envisioned a neighborhood teeming with kids and all feeling free to come into our house as they please. I always wanted our home to be a place where people felt welcome and are encouraged to just stop by. Our door would always be open.

No one wants to sit at a table set by someone filled with resentment. The whisper spoke again, “listen, three nights in a row may be a bit much but no one’s asking you to wear yourself out. They just want you.” So I tucked away the plates that require washing and replaced them with paper ones. I divided the tasks and asked our guests to bring a few things. We grilled burgers on store bought buns and besides the bacon I baked for the burgers there was very little more added to the table that I didn’t already have lingering in my fridge. In today’s terms; there was nothing Instagram-able about that spread. Except that it was perfect.

Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining

I didn’t even put out chairs. We sat on blankets in the back yard letting the kids wander in and out as they please. The evening turned to night as we started a fire and didn’t roast s’mores because I forgot to buy the stuff from the store. No one cared. The kids entertained us with improvised skits until we finally had to pull ourselves away well after bedtime.

Summer is especially made for that sort of entertaining. I appreciate so much those reminders that little is needed in order for people to gather. If my own ideas of what a “dinner party” looks like keeps me from actually having one then I know something has to change. The important thing is to gather, it’s not about what’s on the table. That’s always a hard one for me to remember. Sometimes I give myself permission to flood the table with food that has taken me hours to prepare because I love that but again, not needed.


For regular entertaining this is what I’ve learned:

  1. Ask for help. Your guests enjoy bringing something to the party, it makes them feel a part of it. So let them.
  2. Use paper plates. It makes perfect kindling for the after dinner bonfire.
  3. Eat outside as often as possible. No sweeping or vacuuming needed.
  4. Keep the food simple. Seriously simple. (This is one is the hardest for me).
  5. Don’t aim for three nights in a row – that’s too much for us – BUT set a day a week or a month, find what works best for your family, and send out the invite (a text works). Fill your table with people. That’s what it’s there for.


Before summer is over here’s what you do: Invite a few friends and ask them to bring the drinks and maybe a bag of chips or two. You’re going to be grilling grilled cheese and making a bean salad – but not grandma’s bean salad. This one is loaded with fresh herbs and a piquant shallot vinaigrette. And yes, you can seriously serve grilled cheese to your guests. Again, it’s not just any grilled cheese – there’s bacon, grilled zucchini and nutty gruyere cheese. It’s best served outside on a simple table filled with people.

Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining

*This post is sponsored by Bertolli Olive oil. I spun the bottle and landed on two summer classics; grilled cheese and bean salad. My task was to remix these favorites then enjoy them with friends dining al fresco. Bertolli Olive oil is the star here as I used their pure olive oil to grill the zucchini and the sandwiches. It’s high smoke point makes high heat cooking possible without getting any burnt or off flavors. For the bean salad I used the Extra-virgin olive oil. Because it’s made from the first pressing the flavors are more refined; grassy, peppery and clean. It’s perfect for dressings and for finishing.

Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining Easy Summer Entertaining

Grilled Cheese with Zucchini, Bacon, Basil and Gruyere

Serves 6


12 strips bacon   

2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick strips


12 -18 Basil leaves

8 ounces Gruyere (or sharp cheddar) grated

12 thick slices artisan bread

1/4 cup Bertolli Pure Olive oil


Cook the bacon until crisp.

Brush the zucchini strips with Bertolli Pure olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill until char marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the zucchini from the grill then set aside.

Brush or carefully drizzle the Bertolli Pure olive oil on the bread.

Add about 1/4 cup of grated cheese to one piece of bread then top with 2 to 3 pieces of zucchini, 2 strips of bacon and a few basil leaves. Add a bit more cheese to then top with another piece of bread.

Grill until char marks appear and the cheese is melted.

Serve while warm.


Three Bean Salad with Fennel, Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

Serves 6-8


1 can white (Cannellini) beans

1 can garbanzo beans

1/2 pound green beans, blanched and cut into rough 1-inch pieces

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2 celery stalks thinly sliced

2 cup fresh assorted herbs, roughly chopped (mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, dill, cilantro)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 small shallot

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon honey


1/4 cup Bertolli Extra-Virgin Olive oil


In a large bowl combine the beans (white, garbanzo, and green beans), fennel, celery, and herbs,

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, shallot, mustard, honey and Bertolli Extra Virgin olive oil. Add the dressing to the beans and stir to combine. Finish with a couple hefty pinches of salt and a drizzle of Bertolli Extra-Virgin Olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.



24 Responses to “Easy Summer Entertaining”

  1. Taste of France

    When you live in the sunny south and family is in the cold, gray north, you get LOTS of summer visitors. So it isn’t three nights in a row, but three meals a day, for seven or eight days in a row. You can’t go full-out on every meal. Impossible.
    We do simplify the meals and rely on lots of fresh fruits and veggies (fruit for dessert–perfect). We use real dishes because we don’t like the waste and what the heck, they go into the dishwasher. Always a tablecloth. But it all comes together quickly and pretty effortlessly. As you say, nobody wants a resentful host.

  2. Dawn Zook

    What a great post. And you gave me a great idea for dinner tonight. I was totally uninspired. Yet, I need to feed my husband and there are veggies that deserve to be eaten. Bless your day!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      So happy to hear this! This is the time of year when zucchini overwhelms. This is one of our favorite way to use them up – although I still can’t always convince the kids to eat them. Enjoy your evening!

  3. Sadie

    Love this post! What a good reminder to us all. Where did you get that serving bowl that the green bean salad is in? I love it!

  4. Bhiravi

    This is so beautiful, and so true. “No one wants to sit at a table set by someone filled with resentment.” How easy it sometimes is to wear ourselves thin to meet what we think are other people’s expectations… When really, all they want is you. You put it so beautifully. The goal of entertaining should always be to enjoy the company of others and make them feel welcome– thank you for the reminder.

  5. Anya

    This is so great! I am definitely one to overthink the meals I’m cooking for company, often stressing myself out in the process, so thank you for the wonderful reminder that food at gatherings need not be complicated 🙂 Your photos have the most beautiful, welcoming mood to them.

  6. Giulia

    My favourite way to entertain is some type of bar – baked potato bar, chili bar, bruscheta bar, waffle bar, etc. Put out a bunch of toppings or have people bring some then everyone serves themselves.

    • Hannah Jade

      Totally feel this – I put a ban on having people round to our flat eight months ago because the washing and tidying after each shindig was driving me crazy and taking the fun out of it…a bar kind of arrangement sounds great though, and much easier to manage.

  7. Jenn | Foodess

    I love entertaining and miss it so much! I just find it impossible with little kids (preschool and baby). I’m lusting over your beautiful serene setting with the kids participating. When will I get this back? 🙂

  8. Nicola Johnson

    Yes! Though I love spoiling people with really nice food – it’s almost impossible to devote an entire day to that level of hosting on a regular basis. So it is better on virtually all levels (budget, time management, resentment potential) to figure out a simpler but still enjoyable way.

  9. sara forte

    you have a stars voice! Such a cute video and I loved the story. Having everything “together” keeps me from having people over as often as I’d like. I was on a roll with once a week then it tuckered off…back at it!

  10. Honest Blogger

    How about disclosing sponsored posts? Wonder why there are still sneaky bloggers who don’t clearly state they get paid to promote low-quality olive oil, NO italian with common sense would recommend such brand.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      I absolutely always disclose when a post is sponsored. This post is no different. I can appreciate your opinion and you don’t need to agree with every decision I make. I’m thankful for my sponsors as they help me support my family while pursuing my passion and sharing my food with people.

  11. Cindy tozer

    Ooey, gooey, grilled Gruyere cheese with bacon and zucchini! I’m going to wow my friends next time we have tv binge night. We wilI each assemble our own, and perhaps grill it on a panini grill. Your ideas are fun to read about and cook. And of course, eat! Thanks for your blog and photos!
    I like your suggestions for Bertolli olive oil, too; thanks!

  12. Dawn

    I absolutely adore this! Your reminders about keeping things simple are so true and endlessly important. Often times we get too caught up in the details to actually enjoy what really matters. Great easy recipe ideas as well!

  13. carmen

    You have such a remarkable gift! I made a version of these cheese sandwiches as well as the late summer vegetable enchiladas for a dinner gathering at our home last night. I took your advice and kept it simple for my sanity’s sake. Infinite thanks for the words and inspiration.


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