Tips for Last-Minute July 4th Entertaining

Holidays, Lifestyle

Even if you love entertaining, last-minute parties can stress out even the most seasoned hostess. Believe me, I’ve been there!

This is how it typically goes…

We’re days away from a holiday, a weekend, or some other fun reason to celebrate. While being so busy in our day-to-day grind, my husband and I realize we don’t have much plans to celebrate but get an itch for some extra fun. We take a day to chat with friends and realize others are in the same boat. We decide last-minute to host a party at our home. Sometimes the party is small, but other times, we’ve had 30+ people come to our house! No matter the size, we’re always scrambling last-minute to make the party a success! After doing this a few times, I’ve found the perfect combination of retailers to help with hosting a fabulous last-minute bash: Bristol Farms, Michaels and Target! These are my trusty go-to’s for food, drinks, decor and entertainment to keep you sane and your guests happy! Incorporate these retailers with a few no-fail hosting tips (mentioned below), and your short-notice soiree is sure to be a hit!

As July 4th is just a couple days away, I have outlined all the tips you need to host a star-spangled Independence Day celebration on short notice with the help of Bristol Farms, Michaels and Target, below! I also secured a couple batch cocktail recipes from the lead bartender at Hotel Amarano, Burbank’s chicest hotel, to make serving drinks a tasty breeze!

But, first, let’s go over my top tips to make hosting a last-minute party a success…

Tips for Hosting a Party Last-Minute:

Keep It Simple! – A last-minute party is not the time to try that new recipe you pinned or get fancy in the kitchen. Cook something you know. When in doubt, serve what you would normally be serving to your family but just zhuzh it up a bit with presentation, dipping sauces, additional sides, etc. For example, we were hosting a brunch party and our family normally eats eggs and bacon on the weekends. I made an egg-and-bacon casserole with different salsas on the side and served some high-end pre-made pastries and fruit on the side. So easy, yet so crowd-pleasing!

Presentation is Everything – Nice platters and dishes immediately elevate a party. Beautiful presentation gives off the impression that you’ve been planning your party for days — even if you simply take store-bought food out of the plastic containers and add it to porcelain platters! Elevate your drinks, too! Simply adding sliced lemons and limes to a pitcher of water easily adds a sophisticated vibe.

Shop Your Home – Before you rush out to the store to search for items that fit your party’s purpose or theme, first, take a look around your home to see what can be easily repurposed. For example, if you’re hosting a July 4th party, pull out the red napkins from Christmas and tie a white and blue ribbon around them for your table setting. Walk around your garden to pull flowers and greenery that could look beautiful in a vase or scattered throughout your table. Do you have a mini chalkboard, felt letter board, or other type of signage? Add a festive message, like “Home of the Brave” or “God Bless America” for a July 4th party, and you immediately have party decor!

Enlist Help – Last-minute parties should never be done alone! If a guest offers to help, take it! Ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert, or ice. It’s a fact that a party can never have too much ice. That seems to be the first thing that always goes! Tap a close friend to show up early to help set up. Don’t let it all fall on you. You’ll be surprised how many people truly want to help!

How to Host a Last-Minute July 4th Party

Food & Dessert: Bristol Farms Ready-to-Go Meats & Sides

Thank goodness for Bristol Farms, California’s gourmet grocer, to elevate any party with their easy catering and pre-made deli to-go options. For July 4th, they have a large variety of ready-to-go meats that are perfect for a cookout. Take the Bristol Farms Big Time Tri-Tip, for example… marinated for 6 hours and cooked to perfection. If you ask any of the Bristol Farms butchers, they will tell you that the tri-tip is their favorite cut of beef. This USDA Choice cut is part steak, part roast, and totally delicious – with just the right amount of marbling for maximum tenderness. Your guests will be so impressed! And, there’s the Smoked Baby Back Ribs — my personal favorite! They are fall-off-the-bone delicious! Bristol Farms helps round out your BBQ with all their gourmet ready-made sides, too, like Grilled Summer Corn Salad, Spinach Pasta Salad and classic Potato Salad.

If you’re in the mood to grill, there’s nothing more patriotic than the classic July 4th burger cookout, and let me tell you… Bristol Farms kills it in the burger patty game!! Not only do they have the most high-quality classic burger patties made with all-natural Choice ground sirloin that they grind daily, they also offer impressive STUFFED patties that you can easily pick-up and take home to grill, like a Bacon Cheddar Burger, Black and Bleu Burger and Black Bean Veggie Burger. My favorite way to elevate burger cookout is to offer a “DIY Burger Bar.” Simply offer several types of patties and set-out some really cool fixings, like caramelized onions, hummus, bleu cheese, gourmet pickles, etc. You also have to offer the classic mustard and ketchup, of course.

Finish your meal with an adorably festive ready-made dessert from Bristol Farms. Not only do these desserts taste divine, they are the perfect patriotic piece on your July 4th tablescape! On the July 4th holiday, you’ll be able to pick up the Tiered Patriotic Cake, Patriotic White Cake, and Red, White, Blue Star Pie!

July 4th Desserts from Bristol Farms

Drinks: Batch Cocktail Recipes from Hotel Amarano & Ashland Hard Seltzer

The key to hosting a successful last-minute party is great drinks. When it comes to cocktails, I prefer to serve a couple batch cocktails in a pitcher. This way, no one is playing bartender and it keeps the mess at a minimum. When planning my July 4th cocktails this year, I tapped Norm Downs, the lead bartender at Hotel Amarano, to give me some tried-and-true crowd-pleasing recipes. For some background, Hotel Amarano is the most upscale hotel in Burbank and has long been known as a popular haunt for entertainment industry insiders. The hotel recently underwent a major renovation and has the chicest vibe. You don’t have to be a guest to visit. Locals love to hang out at FYC Bar + Kitchen for the relaxed yet glamorous atmosphere and consistently great food and cocktails.

FYC Bar + Kitchen at Hotel Amarano | Photo Source: Hotel Amarano

Here’s the two tastiest summertime drinks Hotel Amarano’s lead bartender suggested to make in pitchers to serve to July 4th party guests:

Summertime Cucumber Basil Tom Collins (makes about 8 servings)

Photo Source: Reddit.com

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups Hendrix gin
  • 1.5 cups sweet and sour
  • 3 cups club soda
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 bunch basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Fill a 90 oz. pitcher with ice and add sliced cucumber and basil.
  2. Pour gin, sweet and sour, and club soda into pitcher and stir.
  3. To serve, pour into a glass filled with ice and garnish with a cucumber slice.

Classic Margarita Pitcher (makes about 10 servings)

Photo Source: Liquor.com

Norm tells me he prefers Hornitos Plata when making margaritas, and I completely agree! It’s inexpensive and a good tequila for mixing. However, feel free to use any tequila you wish!

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. tequila
  • 5 oz. triple sec
  • 15 oz. Bristol Farms Housemade Margarita Mix

Directions:

  1. Pour tequila, triple sec and margarita mix into a large pitcher and stir.
  2. To serve, salt the rim of a chilled glass (optional). Pour margarita over ice and garnish with lime.

Another festive pitcher cocktail that’s perfect for July 4th is my Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz. It’s so easy to put together and the red and blue berries make it a very patriotic sipper.

If you want to keep drinks extra simple, all you have to do is serve your favorite selection of beer, wine and/or seltzer. For my party guests, I’m obsessed with Ashland Hard Seltzer! It’s made right here in California and crafted with all-natural ingredients for outstanding taste and purity. Ashland Hard Seltzer is 99 calories, 5% alcohol with no sugar, no fat, zero carbs, malt-free and gluten free. It’s variety pack includes several fun flavors for any summer BBQ, like watermelon, blackberry lemonade, mango strawberry and pineapple. There’s even a special edition Bellinger Bomb, a collaboration with Cody Bellinger from the Dodgers, that’s reminiscent of the Bomb Pop popsicle -– the can is red, white and blue, so it’s perfect for July 4th! Ashland Hard Seltzer is available almost everywhere you buy alcohol including Ralphs, Target, Sprouts, Total Wine and more.

Decorations: Michaels

I’ve been going to Michaels for as long as I can remember, and I’m always perusing the store’s aisles for upcoming parties, decor, crafts, children’s activities, and gifts! When it comes to prepping for any celebration, Michaels is my first stop!

For July 4th, Michaels has the best selection of Independence Day decor with their exclusive red, white and blue décor collection, Lady Liberty​. This year, I scored platters, plates, buckets, tabletop decor, and so much more to make our July 4th party extra festive!

If you want to get creative, they have so many fun and easy craft ideas on their website and app! My kids and I created these simple craft stick American flags, which can add flare to a tablescape or look cute in a flower pot. I love shopping their floral department and getting creative with new ways to make holiday decor. Check out my “MOM” sign I made for Mother’s Day in my KTLA TV segment here.

One amazing and admirable thing to note about Michaels — If you’re military, you get 15% off your entire purchase! This discount is available all year long — not just on July 4th!

Entertainment: Target Sun Squad Backyard Games & Activities

Would I be a “modern mom” without recommending something from Target?! While perusing my multi-week pit-stop, AKA Target, a couple years ago, I discovered their amazing in-house brand Sun Squad. This brand has EVERYTHING for a fun summer outdoors with your friends and family at an affordable price. Jump over to Target right now to explore what can make your last-minute July 4th bash a fun time for guests of all ages. If you have young children attending, grab these large Bubble Wands – every little one LOVES bubbles! A great game for the whole family is the Giant Tumbling Tower or Giant Connect Four. If you have a pool, the Inflatable Cornhole is a fun twist on the classic lawn game. They seriously have everything — lawn games, beach towels and mats, pool floats and rafts, water and beach toys, and more! You’ll use your Sun Squad gear all summer long! You also can take advantage of Target’s convenient same-day services like Drive Up, Order Pickup and Same-Day Delivery with Shipt. Target makes it so easy to prep for a last-minute party!

If you like these ideas, be sure to tune into KTLA-5 Morning News on the morning of July 4th at 11:45 a.m. to see me share more ways to host a last-minute July 4th celebration! The segment also will be posted online at KTLA.com!

If you’re looking for more July 4th party ideas, check out these related posts, linked below!

  • Easy July 4th Trifle – This dessert is so easy, it’s scary! Perfect for a last-minute party or if you simply hate to bake!
  • July 4th Fruit Skewers – The cutest little treat that your kids will have so much fun making with you!
  • Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz – An easy, festive cocktail that will not only taste great but will look beautiful on your party table!

The Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz is one of my favorite party cocktails! Here’s a little how-to video:

How to make Red, White & Blue Summer Spritz!

Do you have any great last-minute hosting tips? What are your plans for July 4th? I hope you’ll share in the comments below! For more entertaining and family-friendly ideas, follow me on Instagram and TikTok!

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

How To Make A Holiday Treat Board

Cooking, Holidays, Kitchen, Lifestyle

I love hosting a good themed party, so a holiday themed treat board is right up my alley! I’ve recently created two treat boards for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, and I’m having so much fun that I can’t wait to make more for future holidays, birthdays and other celebrations! The best part? They’re SO EASY! Much easier than intricate charcuterie boards!

St. Patrick’s Day Charcu-TREAT Board!

To Love or Hate Charcuterie Boards? Beautiful charcuterie boards have been trending for a couple years now, and as someone who loves entertaining, I couldn’t help but jump on the charcuterie board bandwagon! Who can resist a decadent board of fine cheeses, quality meats, and all the yummiest snack pairings and accompaniments?! Plus, these boards are gorgeous to admire and make for the perfect photo-worthy party centerpiece!

I’ve loved putting together charcuterie boards for gatherings, but during our last family-friendly party at our house, I realized that the process can often be more time consuming than I’d like. Slicing the cheeses, arranging the board, thoughtfully considering the correct salty-to-savory-to-sweet pairings… I was getting a little bogged down by the process. Plus, if you choose high-quality meats and cheeses, a charcuterie board, which is often viewed as an appetizer, can cost as much as cooking a group dinner! During our party, guests hovered around the charcuterie board (score!), took photos of it, and snagged bites in between socializing and chasing their kiddos in and out of our backyard. At the end of the party, I noticed that no one hardly touched the honeycomb, dried fruit or olives, and what was left of the cheeses and meats had been sitting out for hours and not worth saving. Only a few of the children ate some cheese and crackers, but most of them didn’t have a palette for bold Roquefort yet. My charcuterie board was beautiful for the adults… but was it worth it?

Enter the charcu-TREAT board!! For St. Patrick’s Day this year, I decided to try something a little different… A dessert board! And, boy, did I have fun getting creative with this one! I went to my favorite spots for holiday treats – See’s Candies and Target – and pulled together a fruit and dessert board reminiscent of a rainbow and gold. Like a traditional charcuterie board, it was the center of the party, but this time it got eaten!! It cost me half the price of what it would to put together a fancy cheese board and was more festive for St. Paddy’s Day than charcuterie! Now, treat boards are a trend I can stand FIRMLY behind!

Easter Treat Board

Tips for Putting Together a Charcu-TREAT Board:

  1. Choose a large board – You can use a classic cheese board in a rectangle or round shape, or choose a tray to keep the treats from rolling off your board. Holiday themed serving platters, like this Easter platter, makes the treat board extra fun and festive!
  2. Pick a color scheme – This is easy for holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween and Christmas. For other celebrations, have the treat board match your party decor colors. For example, if you’re hosting a Spiderman themed kids birthday, look for red, blue and black candies and sweet snacks.
  3. Incorporate party decor – To add some festive flair and help fill space on your board, incorporate leftover decor that you’re already using for the party. For example, I used Easter grass on my Easter board. You also could add a porcelain bunny!
  4. Choose a variety of candies, chocolate and sweet snacks – Candies could include jelly beans, sour straws, gummy bears; Chocolate could include M&Ms, wrapped chocolates, chocolate covered almonds; Sweet snacks can include fruit, cookies, rice crispy treats, or chocolate dipped pretzels, cookies.
  5. Have one or two homemade items – One of the benefits of a treat board is little to no prep work, but to make the boards special, I like to add one or two homemade items, like chocolate dipped rice crispy treats or cookies in cutout shapes that fit the theme of the party.
  6. Utilize small bowls – Make the board interesting by incorporating two or three bowls filled with candy. This also is a good way to corral smaller candies into one place.

Steps to Put Together a Treat Board:

  1. Gather a board and 2-3 small bowls, along with sweets, treats and decor you wish to use for your board.Ideas for boards, candy, chocolate and sweet snacks are listed at the bottom of this post!
  2. Place the small bowls and whatever else you want to be the centerpiece on your board. For example, on the Easter board, I put the small bowls and the chocolate Easter bunny on the board first. For the St. Patrick’s Day board, I made the fruit rainbow first.
  3. Add larger items, like cookies, brownies, rice crispy treats, etc. Arrange them in fun ways to add visual interest, like rows, fanned, or a pattern. These larger items are also great for creating barriers for the smaller items to stay in place on the board.
  4. Fill in the rest of the board with smaller treats, like jelly beans, marshmallows and M&Ms, and pay attention to color distribution.
  5. Add small spoons to bowls and offer small plates or cups next to the board for guests to take their favorite treats with them!

Voila! Kids and adults alike will go nuts over a fun themed treat board!

Board Ideas:

  1. West Elm Mixed Marble & Wood Preston Cheese Boards – Feel fancy with marble!

2. Williams Sonoma Boska Oak Rectangular Cheese Board Medium – A classic, gorgeous oak board!

3. Pottery Barn Connor Ash Wood Tray – I like to use trays with edges to keep all the treats in one place. This makes the board easier to move, if needed, without candies rolling off the sides.

4. Texas Shaped Catskill Craftsmen, Inc. Wood Cutting Board – A board in the shape of your state could be great for any gathering!

5. Threshold Wood Bunny Serving Board – How fun would this be for a special Easter treat board!

Board Accessories Ideas:

  1. West Elm Minimal White Ramekins – I love these ramekins to add a modern look to the treat board.

2. Pottery Barn Hammered Nut Bowl – A gorgeous bowl for smaller treats!

3. Libbey Small Glass Bowls with Lids – Corral smaller treats into these easy, inexpensive bowls!

4. CB2 Gold Cocktail Spoons – Gorgeous gold spoons really elevate the board. Use these for guests to scoop up little treats, like M&M’s and marshmallows.

5. Stainless Steel Mini Spoons – Add some drama with black stainless steel!

Homemade Treat Ideas:

Store Bought Treat Ideas:

I’d love to hear your ideas for future treat boards! Share your favorite treat board goodies or theme ideas in the comments below! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more fun family-friendly ideas!

XO Maggie

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies – My Favorite Easy Cookie Recipe With Only 5 Ingredients!

Holidays, Kitchen, Lifestyle

‘Tis the season for holiday baking!

Baking these easy cookies with my son!

During the holidays when I was growing up, the kitchens of the women in my family were always filled with fresh baked goodies. I guess that’s why when Dec. 1 rolls around, I get an itch my bones to start baking! I especially love baking my grandmothers’ recipes to honor their tradition. After sharing a couple treats with our family, my favorite thing to do is box up the goodies to share with neighbors as a holiday gift. It’s been a great activity to do with my toddler, too! He loves helping me in the kitchen, and he also gets to experience the joy of giving a homemade gift to people we care about.

As I’ve chatted with a few of my mom friends the last couple of holiday seasons, it’s come to my attention that the tradition of holiday baking is slowly dying. We either don’t want easily accessible sugar tempting us in our kitchens, don’t have the time to bake, or simply don’t have the interest!

Then comes along that one person in your office or friend group who suggests a holiday cookie exchange… Or, your friend last-minute asks you to bring a homemade treat to share at her holiday party… Or, you need a quick thoughtful gift for a child’s teacher or a special person on your gift list you accidentally forgot to shop for…

Don’t worry, girl, I got you with this SUPER EASY Chocolate Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies recipe!! It’s made with only 5 ingredients and takes around 20 minutes to make! Yummy crunchy peanut butter, chocolate chips, chopped pecans, sugar and eggs are what it takes to make these gooey, loaded cookies! And, these cookies taste SO GOOD that people will think you’ve slaved in the kitchen for hours making them from scratch… But, only you and I know that it only took 20 minutes!

My Grandmother Holmes always had these at her house around Christmastime. Every year, the day after Christmas, we would drive from Texas to go visit her in Tennessee and stay with her for several days. Our family always enjoyed snacking on these cookies at her home, so my mother got her recipe and I’ve been baking them every holiday season since! I’ll also make them a couple other times throughout the year for quick “I’m thinking of you” gifts – great for new mamas (did anyone else get a sweet tooth right after giving birth?), get-well-soon gifts, and simple thank-you’s!

Another pro about these cookies – they’re gluten-free! I like to convince myself they’re healthier gluten-free, so I can have two instead of just one! ‘Tis the season, right?!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies

RECIPE: Chocolate Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies

These flavorful cookies are gooey and loaded with crunchy peanuts and pecans! The sweetness from the semi-sweet chocolate chips make them perfect for a holiday treat – or anytime!

Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 12-15 minutes | Total Time: 20 minutes

Makes around 22-24 cookies

Ingredients:

-2 eggs blended

-1 cup sugar

-1 cup crunchy peanut butter

-1 cup chopped pecans

-1 cup chocolate chips (I like to use Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Premium Chips)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together eggs and sugar until combined.
  2. Stir in peanut butter, chips and nuts.
  3. Drop by tablespoon on parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until edges are brown
  5. Cool and serve.

Put a few cookies in these festive treat bags with a Christmassy bow to share with neighbors, teachers, the mailman, friends, family, everybody!

Don’t forget to *kiss the cook!*

Let me know if you plan to make these cookies by commenting below or connecting with me on Instagram!

Happy Holidays!

XO Maggie

Yummy Gooey Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies!

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: Some of this post contains affiliate links for the products I use and LOVE. If you take action on these links (like clicking, buying, etc.), I may receive compensation at no cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own, and I’ll only recommend what I truly love. For more information about affiliates and your privacy, view our Terms & Conditions page here.