Fall & Winter Outdoor Entertaining

With the pandemic still a major threat, it’s time to reverse our thinking.  Instead of bringing “the outside in” – let’s bring “the inside out!”  With fall and winter on the horizon, why not start planning for easy outdoor entertaining – even in some of the colder states.

Time to change your mindset and use your personal creativity to turn your porch, deck, patio or balcony into a welcoming haven to share fresh air and good times with healthy friends, family or even just for yourself!  Sipping your coffee or coco in a festively decorated outdoor space is a sure way to lift your spirits while giving you a change of scenery.  HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED:

As fall arrives, add a large pot (or several mixed sizes) of mums near the entrance of your porch or patio.  On the porch, patio, balcony or deck, fill bins or containers with a mix of artificial flowers.  Go for large flowers in orange, yellow and red for a real fall “pop” of color.  Check around your yard – maybe you can add some dried twigs, seed heads or leaves.  Artificial flowers have become very realistic in the last few years – bonus:  they don’t need watering!  On partially enclosed or protected outdoor spaces, they will stay “fresh” looking through fall.

FOR OUTDOOR ENTERTAINING:  Need some outdoor seating?  Check the back to school sales for dorm folding chairs or plastic furniture.  Check other retail stores and websites for clearance on outdoor seating and tables.  Most big box retailers carry easy foldaway tables with metal legs and solid plastic tops in all sizes at great prices.   Toss a fall-themed vinyl tablecloth over them for an instant outdoor table makeover with easy cleanup!

Set up a crockpot in your kitchen (or outside if you have an outside electrical outlet) for hot apple cider.  Keep a bottle of rum nearby for those friends that want a “hit” of extra warmth!

Another crockpot can be used for kielbasa or other sausages.  Add sauerkraut, sliced green peppers and onions and let the crockpot do the rest.  Display a basket of individual bags of assorted chips so folks can choose their favorite .  A second basket can hold desserts such as individually wrapped candy apples, cupcakes and/or cookies.

Individually wrapped food and goodies keep everything fresh and can help prevent the spread of germs.  It’s also a nice touch to have extras of the wrapped goodies and desserts so folks can take them “to go” and enjoy later.

As your guest or guests arrive, serve the hot apple cider in sturdy festive paper cups.  Sausage sandwiches can be served on paper plates placed on a colorful tray.  Don’t forget to keep throw blankets handy.

Another idea is to invite friend(s) over in the morning for hot coffee or coco.  Keep it easy with individually wrapped muffins, croissants or donuts (apple cider donuts – YUM!).  If you have an outlet on your porch or balcony it’s easy to set up the coffee pot outside for quick refills (don’t forget to put out the cream and sugar).

BRING ON THE HOLIDAYS:  In many states, you can still pull off the above ideas with a Christmas theme!  Even in winter, some states have plenty of sunny days in the 50’s and even warmer!  Look for deals NOW if you need outdoor seating.  Go for weather-resistant folding or plastic chairs in red and/or green that can give your porch, balcony or deck a Christmas look, yet withstand the elements.  Focus on chairs and tables that can easily be stored away and then re-used to entertain all year round, inside or outside (think extra guests).  Toss a festive vinyl Christmas tablecloth over a table.

String colorful Christmas lights from the ceiling or railings.  Make up your own holiday planters with fake holly, berries, poinsettias, etc. Hang fake mistletoe and colorful garland. These will stand up to the elements especially in partially enclosed outdoor spaces.

At the entrance of your porch or deck, add a holiday outdoor plant or Christmas tree (real or fake).  Give it your own, personal holiday “flair.”   Have a few friends or family members over who don’t mind the outside winter chill.  Serve them eggnog (rum on the side), hot coco or hot punch.  Keep a crockpot or two on standby with Vienna sausages or Swedish meatballs (old-school).  Individually wrapped chips and/or mini biscuits are an easy side.  Individually wrapped Petit Fours and/or Christmas cookies make easy desserts.  Keep the event SHORT and simple, and be sure folks know this is an outdoor event and they need to dress appropriately.  Have warm, extra blankets available for your guests. 

Why deprive yourself of clean, fresh air just because fall and winter have arrived?  Sometimes I’ll sit out on my porch and enjoy the crisp fall or winter air, morning coffee in hand – or I’ll wrap up the day on the porch with a soothing cup of hot chocolate, enjoying the glow of the colorful string lights and seasonal accents.  The extra festive touches make it seasonally special and welcoming.

With the pandemic, many folks still are wary when it comes to having people inside their homes.  Short, outdoor events with a few people or your closet friend(s), may be a good alternative to entertaining in your home …. providing your guests are healthy and don’t mind spending a little chilly time outside!

USE CAUTION –  If it’s really cold, damp, wet or rainy, wait to entertain on a warmer day.  Remember: chilly weather is NOT for everyone, especially those with chronic aches, pains or other illnesses.  But it can be fun for healthy folks who DON’T mind the snap of cold and ARE DRESSED IN WARM ATTIRE.  Make entertaining on chilly days a SHORT get together, NOT a long or all-day affair.  Just enough time to share some quality time with your favorite people.  If someone is cold, bring them in the house to warm up or send them home…no point in anyone (including yourself) catching a cold or getting sick.  

E-Z CROCKPOT CHICKEN MEATBALLS:

1 lb. of ground chicken

24 oz. of your favorite marina or red spaghetti sauce

½ chopped onion

4 oz. of your favorite jarred pesto

4 to 6 oz. of chopped sundried tomatoes (can be in oil or not in oil)

1 egg

¾ cup breadcrumbs

Mix the ground chicken with the chopped onion, egg, pesto, breadcrumbs and sundried tomatoes.  Roll into meatballs.  Place in crockpot and add the red sauce.   Cook in crockpot on low/medium heat until meatballs are cooked all the way through.  Depending on your crockpot and the size of your meatballs, simmer for an hour OR until meatballs are cooked through.  Then reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep them warm.

Leftover meatballs can become a hot meatball sandwich – top with mozzarella or parmesan cheese.

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