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6-13-consumer-lead-bbqRISMEDIA, June 13, 2009-(MCT)-Get out your biggest serving bowls. Stock up on sturdy plastic dinner plates and serving trays.

If you are doing the summer outdoor party scene this year, taking a “staycation” is all the buzz as more people stay home to save money.

Whether you’re planning a graduation party, holiday cookout, block party or a party just because you’re glad it’s summer, you’ll need a plan.

We’ve got the goods on making yummy, cost- and time-efficient foods that will impress your guests, plus the recipes to get you started.

According to Mary Rembelski of Canape Cart Catering in Ferndale, Michigan, the current party trend is to keep portions and presentation on the small side.

“We do a lot of sliders, as they are still popular with parties,” she says. “Any big burger you can make small and put on a small bun.”

Rembelski thinks outside the bun and offers sliders with beef and caramelized onions, tuna burgers with wasabi glaze, and a vegetarian option with mushrooms.

Ethnic cuisine also is popular, Rembelski says, and Asian food is especially popular for graduation parties.

“Kids are into sushi or sesame noodles, ” says Rembelski. “And it’s also anything you can pick up and move with.”

So, let’s party on.

Party Recommendations:

Here are ideas from the Free Press Test Kitchen and Canape Cart Catering’s Mary Rembelski.

The plan:

– Decide whether the party will be indoors or outdoors. Have a rain plan in mind if you don’t want the expense of a tent.
– Determine the number of guests and age groups. Count how many teenagers are coming because they can be big eaters. How many children?
– Set up the food inside and the seating outside. This helps with bugs.
– Be adventuresome and use your good china outside.
– Use cloth napkins if you have them; they won’t blow away if it’s windy.
– Canape Cart uses biodegradable cutlery and plates from Michigan Green Safe Products in Detroit. The flatware is made from potatoes, the plastic cups from corn and the plates from sugar cane, all renewable sources.

The dish:

– If you’re serving sliders, allow two per person, maybe three if you’re going to have a lot of teenagers.
– For chicken as a main dish, allow two pieces per person. For appetizers and chicken or meat side dishes, figure three or four bites per serving.
– Serve whatever dinner rolls or mini rolls you like.
– Instead of beef tenderloin, which can be pricey, Rembelski uses flat iron steak. It’s simple, inexpensive and easy to grill.
– Serve shots of gazpacho in sake cups.

© 2009, Detroit Free Press.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.