Divine Dinner Party

Light Summer Dinner Recipes:
A Summer Dinner Party Menu

When the sun is high and temperatures rising, light summer dinner recipes are just about the only things you want to make in the evening.

When it's hot, heavy food can make you feel tired and a little queasy... which means if you're planning a summer dinner party menu, it's important to focus on smaller portions and lighter fare when planning your menu. Also consider all the wonderful products that appear fresh in your local farmer's markets in the summertime. There is simply nothing better than fresh fruits and vegetables to beat the heat and celebrate the summer.

These great summertime recipes are perfect for a casual summer dinner party. But when you're done here, you might also want to check out some of my other light summer dinner recipes on the following pages:

Light Summer Dinner Recipes

Breezy-Easy Mushroom & Tomato Appetizers

Mushrooms and Tomatoes Stuffed with Spinach and Feta
Mushrooms and cherry tomatoes are great finger foods. This particular appetizer is really suited to just about any kind of guest or any kind of party. If you're looking for a light summer dinner recipe to eat on your own, I've also had these little morsels on their own with a salad, a glass of crisp white wine, and a fresh French baguette for a wonderful light summer meal.

Recipe serves about 8 (as an appetizer).

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10 oz. frozen spinach
1 lb. large crimini mushrooms
1 lb. large cherry tomatoes
6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
5 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/4 c. minced green onion
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (topping)

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Defrost and drain the spinach thoroughly, pressing it with paper towels to get out as much moisture as possible.

3. Open up the cherry tomatoes about 1/3 way down and clean out the insides using a melon baller.

4. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems. Mince up about 1/4 cup of the stems.

5. In a skillet, saute the garlic, stems, and onion in the olive oil, then add the spinach and mix well. Add basil, then add salt and pepper to taste. Cool before adding the feta.

6. To assemble this light summer dinner recipe, simply put about 1 tbsp. of the filling in both the mushroom caps and tomatoes.

7. Arrange on a lightly oiled baking sheet and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the mushrooms are a light brown and done all the way through. Top with parmesan. Serve on a bed of lettuce or shredded cabbage for a nice backdrop.

Hint: sometimes you can find herbed feta, which allows you to change up the flavor of this recipe a bit. This light summer dinner recipe is great with sundried tomato and basil feta.

Cool Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe

Cool Caesar Salad with Chicken for a Summer Dinner Party Menu
Caesar salad makes a wonderful addition to any list of light summer dinner recipes. It's satisfying, cool, tangy, and flavorful... particularly when topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The chicken in this recipe is an optional addition. Want a lighter salad? Leave it out. Want to add a little meat to this otherwise meatless summer dinner party menu? Keep it in. Or substitute shrimp or seared salmon! It's up to you.

Be sure to mix in the dressing JUST before serving. Otherwise, this salad will have a tendency to get soggy.

Serves about 6.

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6 skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced

Salad and Dressing:
1/3 C. good quality mayonnaise
2 tbsp. whole milk
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 C. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. minced garlic (fresh!)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce or anchovy paste
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
Salt, to taste
1 large head Romaine lettuce
Croutons (garnish)
Shaved parmesan cheese (garnish)

Instructions: 1. To make the chicken, mix the oil with the salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. Rub this into the chicken before cooking. Cover and marinate several hours or overnight (if you don't have time to marinate, that's okay, too).

2. Grill the chicken for about 10 minutes on each side, continuing to turn until the meat reaches 165 degrees or is no longer pink inside.

3. Cool to warm, then slice into strips for the top of the salad. If you want to make the chicken ahead of time, it's fine to serve it sliced cold. Simply keep the meat in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

4. To assemble the salad, simply tear up the romaine lettuce and place it in a large salad bow.

5. Using a whisk, assemble the dressing ingredients (milk, cheese, lemon, garlic, Worcestershire, salt and pepper). You can also make the dressing up to 48 hours in advance, if you like. Pour over lettuce right before serving, and toss gently.

6. Divide salad mixture evenly among your serving plates (chilled plates are best, as they keep the greens from wilting).

7. Put several pieces of meat on top of each bed of lettuce, decorate with a small handful of croutons, and sprinkle with parmesan shavings. Garnish this light summer dinner recipe with freshly ground black pepper as desired.

Summer Penne Pasta Recipe

Summer Pasta with VegetablesThis summer dinner party menu really celebrates the fresh flavors of summer... and this recipe is all about the celebration of wonderful summer vegetables. While it's a warm dish, the use of a touch of olive oil and veggies instead of a heavier sauce makes this an ideal choice for a light summer dinner recipe.

Served with a crusty French baguette (served with olive oil, whipped butter, or flavored cream cheese for spreading) and a salad, this plate of pasta is simply heaven.

Hint: If you'd like a little meat, just add some seasoned, grilled beef, shrimp, or chicken to this mix.

Serves about 6.

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1 lb. penne pasta
1 lb. red, green, and yellow bell peppers, sliced 1/4" thick
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 summer squash, halved lengthwise then sliced
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil, chiffonaded
Fresh ground salt and black pepper (to taste)
1/2 C. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions: 1. Put your pasta into a large pot of boiling water (be sure the water is generously salted so your pasta has plenty of flavor!) and cook according to package directions, al dente style.

2. While the pasta cooks, place the peppers in a large skillet to sauté with the olive oil until crisp-tender.

3. Add the zucchini, squash, garlic and onions. Saute for two more minutes.

4. Turn off the heat then toss with the tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and add fresh salt and pepper to taste. Top this light summer dinner recipe with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Dessert: Cool and Tangy Lemon Cake

This lemon sponge cake is the perfect ending to this light summer dinner. Recipes like this don't grow on trees! The cake itself is intensely lemony (with plenty of bright lemon zest) and the tangy-sweet lemon-vanilla cream cheese frosting is to die for. Find the recipe right here.

For just the right touch for this summer menu, serve slices of this cake with vanilla frozen yogurt and fresh strawberries and raspberries. A glass of champagne or limoncello doesn't go too badly, either!

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Coming Up...

Hippity, Hoppity,
Easter's on its Way

The date for Easter falls on April 20th this year!

Take a look at Easter Dinner and Party Planning for recipes, edd dye tips, assembling Easter baskets, and more!

And plan to make this adorable...

It's so cute, it may be the best thing you do this Easter.


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