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Set the scene for outdoor entertaining
A deck sets the tone for outdoor entertaining.

Recipe by Kent Whitaker, provided by TimberTech

This recipe is so easy it’s almost like cheating. Put a twist on chicken marinated in Italian dressing with a few quick and easy ingredient additions.


12 to 24 mini wings and drums
Zesty Italian dressing
Barbecue sauce
Minced green pepper
Minced onion
Parsley flakes


Marinate the chicken in equal parts of Italian dressing and barbecue sauce. Toss in some hot sauce and spoon in a few tablespoons of minced peppers, onions and some dried parsley flakes. Cover, chill for a couple of hours and grill until juices run clear.

It’s not hard to get people to come to an outdoor gathering on a warm summer’s evening, and it should be just as easy to pull together a memorable affair. To make the most of your time and budget, look for low-maintenance solutions that you can use throughout the season - and in summers yet to come. From the dishes you serve to the way you decorate, the less work you have to do, the more you’ll be able to enjoy the time with your guests.

Get your backyard ready for summer gatherings with these easy tips:

• Decking - Having a great space where guests can gather is the first, and perhaps most essential, task. A deck gives guests a place to relax and linger comfortably throughout your party. If you’re concerned about the time you’ll have to put into keeping your deck looking great, toss out your old ideas of decks requiring careful maintenance and attention year-round. Opt for the low maintenance decking materials now on the market and your deck will be ready to welcome guests when you are. TimberTech’s Earthwood Evolutions line offers hardwood style deck materials that resist scratching, staining and fading, making them ideal for those who want the look of wood without the extensive care it requires.

• Plants - As much as you want your deck and gathering space to look good, you want guests to be impressed by the natural surroundings of your yard as well. Research perennial plants that thrive not just in your horticultural zone, but in the microclimate of your home (your particular soil type, sun exposure, etc.) Choose hardy plants that don’t require too much pruning or attention, but which provide a beautiful and varied backdrop. If you don’t have a green thumb, talk to the experts at a local garden center to get tips on plant selection and care.

• Decor - From serving ware to seating, you can assemble all the elements of entertaining without too much stress. If you want to freshen up the look of your deck, invest in weather-resistant outdoor furniture that can stand up to the elements and will look good in years to come. If new furniture isn’t in your budget, look for new cushions and covers that will resist spills and tears. Instead of buying disposable serving ware, look for shatter-proof plates and glasses that are dishwasher safe. You’ll be doing the environment a favor and you’ll always have it on hand - no more last-minute runs to the store when you run out of plastic cups.

• Food
- Don’t stress yourself out with a multi-course menu. Since it’s summer, let seasonal ingredients be the stars. Serve sliced or grilled fresh fruit for a sweet dessert and rely on tried-and-true party favorites, but with a different spin. Instead of Buffalo wings, try “Zesty Cheater Wings” that are about as easy - and delicious - as it gets. Serve them with a fresh tossed salad and you’ve got summer on a plate.