The sun is shining, the birds are singing and summertime in Bergen County is in full swing. What a perfect excuse to invite everyone over for a summer soirée. Here are some easy recipes to help get you started. My favorite way to kick off a summer party is with a fresh strawberry cocktail – after all, summer is short, so let’s celebrate it! 

Strawberry & Tequila Soda

There’s nothing better than enjoying a refreshing summer cocktail with friends. This one hits all the marks! First, remove the tops from the strawberries and muddle them in the glass you will be serving them in. Next, add your ice and pour over your desired amount of clear tequila. Add tonic water until the glass is filled. Squeeze in a splash of lime juice and then garnish with a slice. Not only is this cocktail pretty to look at but also it’s delicious.

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

This is a great excuse to use the delicious tomatoes that New Jersey has to offer this time of year. Combine fresh mozzarella balls with halved cherry tomatoes, sliced red onion and shredded fresh basil; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Give it a toss to combine and serve. This salad is always a hit and a perfect side to anything you’re serving this summer. 

Walking Mexican Dip

Give your guests their own personal portion of dip by serving them in clear plastic cups. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a super easy clean up for you too. Simply layer refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese. Then add your favorite toppings like diced tomatoes and olives. Put some tortilla chips on the top and they’re ready to eat. 

Roasted Parmesan and Lemon Broccoli

This is a side dish that is guaranteed to have your guests asking for the recipe before they leave. The flavor combination is out of this world! Cut one fresh head of broccoli into separate florets. Toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. When the broccoli is done roasting, squeeze the juice from one lemon on them. Zest half the lemon on top of the broccoli. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese; toss to combine and serve.

Cuban Sliders

I recently had these at a pig roast. They were so good that I forgot all about the pig and filled up on these. I’m sure your guests will love them as much as I did. Grease a large baking dish with butter. Without separating them, slice the entire package of Hawaiian rolls horizontally. Place the bottom half in the baking dish. Layer ham slices and then Swiss cheese on top of the cut rolls. Place sandwich cut pickles (I recommend Claussen) on top of each slider. Cover with the Hawaiian roll tops. Whisk together a little melted butter and Dijon mustard. Add a pinch of minced dried onion and stir. Pour the sauce over the roll tops and cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 15 minutes in a 325-degree oven.  Remove foil and continue to bake until the tops of the rolls just start to burn. Carefully remove with a spatula, cut to separate the sliders and serve.

Cupcake Cones

This is a really cute idea for a summer dessert. Take a major shortcut by using a boxed cake mix and it’s super easy too! Arrange flat-bottomed ice cream cones on a cookie sheet. Then, simply make the cake batter of your choice, according to the back of the package. Next, pour the batter into the cones until it almost reaches the top. Bake according to the cake packaging instructions. Let them cool and top with your favorite icing and sprinkles.

By Tara Ippolito-Lafontant

Tara Ippolito-Lafontant is a long-time Bergen County resident and local foodie. This stay-at-home mom is the creator of Al Dente Diva, a page where she shares recipes, entertaining tips and cooking hacks with her followers. Visit her on Instagram (@AlDenteDiva) for a peek into her everyday culinary adventures.

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