The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

On Saturday, we hosted a dinner in our backyard. I am so passionate about the art of entertaining even when we have never met our guests!

Wait, what? It’s true! We hosted a five-course dinner in our backyard for eight people. And we did not know any of our guests. Keep reading to learn more!

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

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The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

I was not kidding! Dave and I hosted a dinner on Saturday evening for eight people who we met for the first time when they knocked at our front door.


My husband is on the Board of Directors of an amazing charity, Ability First. For their annual fundraiser, we auctioned off a home-cooked dinner party for eight at our home. The item was so popular we agreed to host two of them. This dinner party last weekend was the first set of unknown guests.

And it was so much fun!

The Art of Entertaining is Fun But …

For years I have enjoyed the art of entertaining. But it is a lot of work. I am a very meticulous planner and had many lists for each day. But at the end of the evening, I was exhausted. If you know me well, then you know I loved every minute of the preparation and hosting. But please understand that I was so busy I was pretty lame at taking photos. I hardly took any photos of the food that was prepared (I was too busy and forgot) but I am sharing all of the recipes below. Sorry!

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

This is how the table looked before I added the candles, menus, and place cards. I just love the colors.

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The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

I tried to plan ahead as much as I could. On Thursday we moved the table to the middle of the yard and refreshed the garden. On Friday I made the crab cakes and lemon dill sauce, the individual mud pies, and the menus.

The rest was done on Saturday. And somehow I managed to get it all done. With only a few minutes to spare.

How to Create Fresh Floral Centerpieces

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

The first thing I did on Saturday morning was head to Trader Joe’s for the flowers. I knew I wanted to match the tablecloth so I looked for varying shades of pink flowers. The selection was fantastic and I bought two bunches of roses and tulips, one bunch of hydrangeas, and some eucalyptus.

This time I decided to make three low arrangements and they came out perfectly. Be sure to check out my Instagram stories to see how I made these!

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

I set the table in the middle of the backyard, just under the lights. It was so hot on Saturday that I waited to set the table until the sun had gone behind the trees (which was 5:00 pm!). Fortunately the weather that evening was perfect.

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

Setting the Table

The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

I love shopping my cupboards and Butler’s Pantry when it comes time to set a table for a dinner party. I started with the tablecloth which I bought from Carolyn Bender at CB Lifestyle. It’s the perfect colors and size for all of my long tables!

Next, I selected the chargers which I just bought last month. The glass and copper rims work well because the beautiful tablecloth shows through!

I added gold-rimmed glassware and pink and white plates. Aren’t they fabulous?

I also cut place cards on my Cricut machine and designed menus on Canva. I love adding personalization to every table.

The Menu

As you can see, the menu contained some of my favorites and everyone seemed really happy with the food that was served. I did set out a fruit and cheese charcuterie board for the guests to enjoy when they arrived (which isn’t mentioned on the menu). We also paired every course with wine and Dave did a great job introducing each wine to our guests.

Here are most of the recipes. I didn’t have a recipe for the Beef Tenderloin as we grilled it. I also served rice and asparagus with the main course. And I served a vegetarian meal too!

Yield: 25 one inch crab cakes

The Best Crab Cakes Recipe with Lemon Dill Sauce

Best Crab Cakes Recipe

These crab cakes with lemon dill sauce are to die for. They aren't "fishy" and are by far the most popular appetizer anytime I make them.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Additional Time 20 minutes
Total Time 58 minutes


  • Crab Cakes
  • 3 TBL butter
  • 1 scallion, chopped fine
  • 1 glove garlic, minced
  • 2 TBL red bell pepper, chopped fine
  • Ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste
  • 3 TBL heavy cream
  • 1 TBL dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp minced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 TBL vegetable oil
  • Lemon Dill Sauce
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 TBL fresh dill chopped
  • 1 TBL minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBL grated lemon peel
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


Crab Cakes

  1. Lightly chop the crab meat in the food processor and set aside.
  2. Melt one TBL of the butter in a large skillet and saute the scallion, garlic and red bell pepper until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground red pepper, cream and mustard.
  4. Cool slightly. Add the egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, and the crabmeat.
  5. Mix lightly. Mold into 25 one-inch wide patties.
  6. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs and the parmesan cheese in a shallow dish.
  7. Roll the patties in the crumb and cheese mixture.
  8. Chill for at least one hour. (The crab cakes can be made one day prior and refrigerated, covered, up to this point.)
  9. Combine the oil and the remaining 2 TBL of butter over moderate heat in a large skillet.
  10. Saute the crab cakes 3 minutes on each side.

Lemon Dill Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Chill until the mixture thickens.


The Lemon Dill Sauce in this recipe is also really great with salmon (baked or smoked).

Yield: 6 servings

Grilled Peach and Corn Salad with Arugula, Feta and Champagne Viniagrette

Grilled Peach and Arugula Salad

This salad is so refreshing and the grilled pear and corn make it simply amazing!


  • 3 large ripe yellow peaches
  • 3 ears of fresh white corn
  • 6 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, roasted
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • For the Champagne Dressing
  • 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper


    Wash the peaches, cut them in half, and remove the seeds.

    Clean the corn.

    Heat a grilled pan on medium heat. Spray the peach with cooking oil and grill both sides for about 3 minutes.

    Grill the corn for about 10 minutes, turning frequently, and don't burn. When cool, cut the corn off the cob.

    In s salad bowl, add the arugula, corn, nuts, feta, and salt and pepper

    For the Champagne dressing. In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients and mix in with the salad.

    Serve the salad on small plates or a bowl, and top each serving with grilled pear.

    Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

    Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

    This recipe is my go-to recipe. It's delicious, healthy and easy to make.

    Prep Time 15 minutes
    Cook Time 30 minutes
    Total Time 45 minutes


    • Salmon:
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 4 salmon fillets
    • Avocado Salsa:
    • 2 avocados
    • 1/4 red onion
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 TBL chopped fresh cilantro


    Place the salmon in a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the olive oil on the top of the salmon and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika.

    Grill the salmon on high heat for five minutes on each side. Or bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.

    In a separate bowl, lightly toss avocados, 1/4 red onion, the juice from one lime, 1 Tbsp. olive oil and salt to taste.

    Spoon avocado salsa on top of the cooked salmon. Top with finely cut cilantro and enjoy!

    Yield: 12 individual servings

    Mud Pie

    Mud Pie Desert
    Prep Time 30 minutes
    Total Time 30 minutes


    • 1 package Oreo Thins (frosting removed)
    • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
    • ½ Quart Coffee Ice Cream
    • 1 Jar Hot Fudge Sauce
    • 1 Cup Chopped Peanuts


      1. Crush Oreo chocolate cookies in blender or food processor until ground to fine crumbs.
      2. Add 3 tablespoons of melted butter and combine until coated.
      3. Press cookie crumb mixture into serving dishes.
      4. Top the cookie crumb mixture with 1 scoop of coffee ice cream.
      5. Top ice cream with 3 tablespoons of hot fudge sauce.
      6. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of chopped peanuts.

    Place in freezer for a few hours or until ready to serve.

    We did have a few food preferences so I added Caprese Pesto Tarts as a vegetarian option for the appetizer. I used the amazing recipe from Half Baked Harvest but left off the cheese.

    The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

    Of course, I forgot to take a photo when it came out of the oven. But it was so delicious!

    The Art of Entertaining

    The Art of Entertaining Outdoors

    Hosting a dinner party can be a lot of fun, even if you have never met your guests. Dave and I really enjoyed entertaining them and loved their laughter and praise once the evening came to a close.

    I can’t wait until the next one!

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    1. Sounds like a lovely evening for your guests. Your table is stunning. I love the way you coordinated the flowers to the tablecloth. Everything looks great.

    2. Leslie, your work and creativity have enthralled me for years now. I pre-ordered your book and am anxiously awaiting receiving it. I, like you, love to entertain small groups of eight. I love designing tablescapes as much as you do. I pinned all of these recipes and am excited to try them. I invite you to look through my blog, and peruse some of the meals I have constructed. My Beach-themed dinner is my favorite, but there are many other themed offerings. As a fellow tablescapes/entertainer, I think you will enjoy viewing and reading.

      I lead a craft class once a month and we made your beaded cake stand one month. Everyone LOVED it! Thanks for all you share. Yours is one blog I never want to miss reading. Debbie

    3. Your table is lovely, and the menu sounds fabulous! My mom used to auction off dinners too, and she loved it. Plus you know all the effort is going to a great cause. Thanks for the beautiful inspiration once again, and the recipes!

    4. Sounds great but where is the recipe for the maple glaze you used on the salmon? Also,did you ever consider using Nabisco Chocolate wafers for the cookie crust; the frosting is not there, just the delicious cookie, much easier!

    5. What a wonderful thing to do. Im not surprised it was so popular how wonderful to get to visit your home for a meal 😱. The table was absolutely stunning – Id love to shop your tableware too!!!!

    6. Ooh, Leslie; I may have to copy this recipe for an end-of-the summer dinner party! Did you serve a vegetable and a starch with the entrée? Thank you so much.

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