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Last-minute fabulous: quick tips for summer celebrations

(ARA) – The weather’s warming up, and people everywhere are gearing up for the summer season. For many, with it comes the opportunity to enjoy outdoor parties and share great meals with friends and family.

Preparing your home for summer entertaining doesn’t need to be a lot of work; in fact, with a few quick tips, it can be downright easy. To make your summer soirees a breeze, read on and get ready to greet your guests.

Start prepping for summer fun with these simple tips:

* The sun keeps the sky lit up fairly late throughout the summer, but it’s important to provide lighting once dark sets in. Make sure that entry lights are working and your driveway is well lit. Try adding small, solar-powered lights along the footpaths. For additional lighting, colored lanterns or Tiki torches add decorative flair to decks and patios, perfect for setting the mood.

* Even though summer festivities may be on the patio, it’s important to keep your home’s interior guest-ready too. Encourage everyone in the family to keep clutter confined, and take a few minutes each week to tidy up. Lightly scented candles, potpourri and even an open window can make a world of difference in keeping things fresh and summery. Most importantly, make sure any bathrooms guests might use are tidy and stocked with hand soap and paper products.

* Both indoors and out, touches of cheerful summer decor are easy to achieve with accessories. Colorful glass hurricane lamps and boldly printed outdoor furniture cushions feel fun and summery, while the simple addition of bright pillows, light cotton throws and linen drapes bring a beachy feel to your home’s interior. Keep them in place throughout the season and you’ll have the perfect backdrop for hosting a summer party.

* Having cold beverages on hand is essential in the summer – whatever the temperature. For those last-minute gatherings, the newest French-door refrigerators from LG come equipped with a Blast Chiller compartment, which can chill a bottle of wine in eight minutes or two cans of soda or beer in five minutes – perfect if you’ve forgotten to refrigerate those drinks ahead of time or are looking to chill a gifted bottle from a guest. Keeping your pantry stocked with beverages for both adults and kids – from juices to sodas and beyond – is always a good idea.

* Summer’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables makes picking a menu easy. Choose your in-season favorites at the local farmers market – from tomatoes to corn on the cob – which makes a simple and delicious evening meal. Sweet nectarines and blueberries are always a guaranteed hit, so make sure they’re easily for family and guests to grab on the go. And, whether it’s the festive party cocktail, more of that delicious spread, or even a touch more dessert, an excellent hostess always offers seconds.

Keep your house ready to welcome guests at all times and you’ll be making the most of the season. Not sure what to serve? Fun, tropical drinks – that can be modified for the kids to enjoy, too – are always popular. When the temperature heats up, light bites – like summer salads – are refreshing. Try these recipes from LG’s Executive Chef for your next party, and find more entertaining solutions at www.lg.com.

White Wine Sangria

Ingredients:

2 bottles of dry white wine, preferably Torrontes

1 1/2 cups white cranberry juice

3/4 cup brandy

1/2 cup sugar

1 mango, diced

8 strawberries cut into 1/4-inch slices

1/2 lemon, cut into half pinwheels

Ginger ale

Directions:

1. In a large pitcher or punch bowl, combine the wine, cranberry juice, brandy, sugar and fruits. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 4 hours.

2. To serve, fill a 12 ounce glass with ice and add 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of ginger ale. Top off with wine mixture, making sure to get some of the fruit into every glass.

Makes enough Sangria for about 10 to 12 servings. To make the drink family friendly, substitute white grape juice for wine and exclude brandy.

Asparagus Salad

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (if you cannot find sherry vinegar, substitute balsamic vinegar)

1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the salad:

1 bunch thin, pencil asparagus

8 to 10 ounces of mache or mesclun greens

1/2 pint of grape tomatoes, halved

1 medium shallot

Salt and pepper

Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:

To make the dressing:

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the vinegars, garlic, Dijon mustard and honey.

2. While whisking vigorously, slowly add the oil to the bowl in a slow steady stream to emulsify.

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. If refrigerating, whisk again right before serving to re-mix the dressing.

For the salad:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt.

2. Remove the woody ends from the asparagus and cut into 1-inch lengths.

3. Blanch the asparagus for about 1 to 2 minutes in the boiling water until stalks are bright green and slightly softened, but still crunchy.

4. Strain asparagus and run cold water over stems to stop cooking and preserve their bright green color. Alternately, stalks can be dropped into an ice water bath.

5. Once cooled, drain and refrigerate the asparagus.

6. Slice the shallot as thinly as possible, using a mandolin if available.

7. Add the mache or greens, chilled asparagus, tomatoes, and shallot to a salad bowl along with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing and toss to mix everything together. Check the amount of dressing and add more if necessary.

8. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin slices of the parmesan or pecorino cheese over the salad. Serve immediately.