Summer vacations to far-off locales may still be on hold for many of us–but if you’re like me, you’re feeling some major wanderlust. And since this week feels like the official start of summer, I did the next best thing to booking a flight. We cooked up a Spanish-inspired backyard dinner party to welcome the longer nights and give us a taste of the adventure we’ve been craving.

The look? Inspired by the colorful, exotic prints of the summer entertaining collection from Target, our family gathered around the table for sangria (for Adam and me) and festive sparkling waters (for P and H.)

We paired with Spanish-inspired bites that were easy enough for us to make together and still left plenty of time for jumping in the pool after dinner.

Read on for the easy-breezy guide to hosting a Spanish-inspired dinner to celebrate patio season–“no-recipe” recipes included. Plus I’m sharing all my outdoor dinner party ideas and tips for al fresco entertaining all summer long.

Snack Night for Dinner

Our family has gotten in the habit of having snacks and appetizers for dinner once a week, and I don’t mind it one bit. My kids love when I announce that it’s “snack night!!” for dinner, because it means we all get to graze on our favorite flavors throughout the evening. In Spain, light bites have been made into an art form with tapas (read more about this incredible tradition here.) Thankfully, this is a tradition that embraces simplicity — set out small bowls of Good & Gather olives, marinated peppers, and charcuterie, add a salad and grilled shrimp to the mix, and dinner is served.

And since it’s way too hot in Texas to sweat it out in the kitchen, my menu revolves around simple, bold flavors that can either be picked up from Target and simply arranged, or tossed on the grill for easy clean-up.

Here’s what’s on our Spanish-Inspired Menu:

Blistered Mini Bell Peppers

The easiest appetizer on the planet: toss Good & Gather Sweet Mini Bell Peppers with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then grill until charred on all sides. Transfer to a serving dish, then top with a little flaky salt and eat! If you want to take them up a notch, serve with an easy aioli made by stirring together mayo, a little sriracha, chopped garlic, and salt.

Citrus Summer Salad with Oranges, Avocado, & Green Goddess Dressing

It’s officially my favorite salad of summer–these flavors are sooo good. Scroll on for the details under the “Nail the Summer Salad” section, but here’s a hint: this creamy Good & Gather Green Goddess Dressing is good on just about every salad — it’s bursting with summer herbs and contains nothing artificial. Pro tip: it’s also amazing as a dip for fresh veggies.

Salami, Cheese, Tomato Spread, & Basil for Pinchos

A pincho (or pintxo, or pinchu) is a small snack that’s typically eaten in bars, traditional in northern Spain and especially popular in the Basque country. Often, ingredients are stacked and skewered together with toothpicks. For these, I’ve layered simple ingredients–baguette slices, salami, cheese, a sweet tomato spread, and fresh basil–and it’s a perfect example of the result being so much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s truly a perfect bite.

Salted Pistachios & Marinated Olives

Marinating olives is such a simple way to dress up store-bought olives and make them feel party worthy. And it’s so simple! A couple hours before serving, transfer drained olives to a mason jar with olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, crushed garlic, orange zest, and thyme. They’ll be infused with flavor and so pretty. Good & Gather Salted Pistachios don’t need a thing–they’re a ready-to-go snack that looks so pretty on the table.

Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with Garlic and Chili)

My version is a twist on the classic tapas dish: instead of making on the stove, I charred mine on the grill. Here’s how I made it:

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Set A Colorful, Carefree Table

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the past year, it’s how to make our own fun at home instead of waiting around for some big milestone occasion. So, the kickoff to summer is the perfect excuse to set the table with festive dishes and make a menu worthy of a party! That said, summer is all about those carefree vibes, so embrace an unfussy approach to the table.

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Here’s how I created this simple but special look:

Start with a summery linen tablecloth, and place a few terrazzo citronella candles in the center (it’s truly the chicest way to keep mosquitos at bay.)

Add a few faux citrus branches and sturdy, colorful Opalhouse plates. These take “outdoor dinnerware” to new heights–I love that the addition of bamboo material really elevates the quality of these melamine plates, and the prints are so chic.

I love using baskets like this round seagrass one and this utensil caddie to corral my flatware and glassware on the table — the chunky, woven texture feels fresh and summery. A smart use of baskets and trays can turn an otherwise cluttered setup into a chic, organized one–and it minimizes trips back and forth from the kitchen.

A simple table lets your favorite pieces – and the delicious food – take center stage.

Mix Up a Pitcher of Sangria

I’m a big fan of mixing up batch cocktails in a pitcher for any type of gathering, but especially during the carefree days of summer. It keeps things easy and lets everyone help themselves to a drink– so that I’m freed up to kick back and have fun. One of my favorite drinks to mix up is a pitcher of sangria. It’s so refreshing and looks really pretty in a glass pitcher garnished with lots of fresh fruit and herbs.

Here’s how I made this one: A couple hours before party time, add these ingredients to a pitcher:

The frozen fruit makes this incredibly easy, and holds it’s shape a bit better so it’s visually prettier. Stir it all up a couple hours before party time.

When ready to serve, add 1 bottle Collection Prosecco, and pour over ice!

In addition to sangria, I set out a few different types of Good & Gather Sparkling Waters (the Cucumber Mint and Ginger Peach are faves.) It’s a festive way to keep everyone hydrated and happy.

Nail the Summer Salad

If you still think of salads as boring, it’s time for a fresh take. When done right, summer salads are bursting with flavor and downright addictive. The key is using in-season ingredients and then combining them to create a mix of sweet-tart-salty-crunchy-creamy. When you combine balanced flavors, interesting textures, and brilliant color, it’s a formula for swoon-worthy salads all summer long.

This fresh romaine is the perfect foil for sweet oranges and creamy avocados. A sprinkle of pistachios and sliced red onion adds crunch and color, and Good & Gather’s Green Goddess Dressing is a fave: a creamy blend of tarragon, parsley and chives is good on just about every salad you can dream up. Just add it all to a bowl and toss together with dressing right before serving. An extra sprinkle of chopped pistachios and a few mint sprigs makes it look as delicious as it tastes.

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The Family That Swims Together…

If you’ve got access to a pool this summer, day-to-night fun is in the bag. (And if you don’t, grab one of the insanely fun inflatable pools from Sun Squad!) The simple act of adding a few new pool toys to the mix turns “just another summer night at home”into a full-blown pool party.

This year, we added this Rainbow Blobz Water Slide to our collection, and it was a total hit. I also stocked up on water guns and goggles at an incredibly affordable price, which is handy since we always need extras for friends and family visiting.

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Our dinner table was out by the pool so that as the kids finished eating, they could jump right in — water balloons and popsicles were the cherry on top that put us all in a summery state of mind.

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