Pulling together a quick summer gathering, including our famous cucumber sandwich recipe.

Let's face it, we are all busy and sometimes pulling together a fun gathering can be overwhelming, daunting, and time consuming when time is oh-so precious. Have no fear, I have some tips I would love to share you. Below are photos of a table I set up last year for a mini-reunion for some of my husband's cousins.  

Like you, I am busy, but I wanted to make sure we had plenty of food for a light summer lunch and I am one that loves presentation too.  I considered purchasing all of the cold cuts and cheeses to create my own platters, but our local grocery store offers that service and it saved me time and I did not have to go out and purchase large platters.  All I had to do was fill out a form with items I selected and they made the platters up for me.  These included a cold cut and cheese platter, tuna and chicken finger sandwiches, and a cheese and meat platter.  Another thing to keep in mind.  There will be a minimal amount of dirty dishes if you use and recycle the platters from your party platter provider (say that 10 times fast). 

Now that I added a little time back into my schedule, I decided to make my moms famous cucumber sandwiches.  

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Famous cucumber sandwiches? Well they are in our family! They have been served or brought to so many social gatherings, since my childhood, I could make them in my sleep and they are so easy! 

For this party, I decided to use a flower cookie cutter for these cucumber sandwich appetizers that I picked up at a little shop in Vermont. As soon as I saw that the Ann Clark cookie cutters were made in the USA, I bought several sizes and shapes, including the leaves for the pastry on my apple pie recipe.  When I'm pressed for time, I just slice the cucumbers... they are just as delicious.    

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Like the watermelon and feta appetizers before this post, this really isn't a recipe, since there are only two ingredients to combine together.  It is mostly assembly. 

Items needed to make these cucumber sandwiches

A package of party rye bread - I buy Pepperidge farm when I can find it. Here is a link for a cocktail sour dough bread if you can't find any locally 

1 seedless cucumber 

1 Package of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix

1 12 oz container of softened cream cheese (not whipped) - (take it out of the refrigerator to soften)

Dill to garnish

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Combine one package of the Good Seasons Italian Dressing with the one package of softened cream cheese.  I like to mix this together a day in advance if possible for the flavors to meld into the cream cheese. 

Spread your mixture onto a slice of the party rye then top with a slice of cucumber that has been peeled and sliced about 1/4" thick. Some may choose to leave the skin on, but we never have. 

Lightly garnish the sandwiches with dill.  These were made with dried dill, but fresh is even better!  

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If you are using a cookie cutter, make sure to purchase a cucumber that has a large enough diameter for your cookie cutter.  I purchased two flower cookie cutters and I had to use the smaller one for this particular cucumber. The larger Ann Clark flower cookie cutter is a 2.5" . 

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The cucumber edges that were left over from using the flower cutter where diced and added to a salad. 

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Two more ideas to add a touch of love to store bought food.

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I usually make potato salad that everyone seems to love. My secret ingredient is a splash of vinegar, but I decided to purchase the potato salad and garnish it with fresh chive I picked out of our garden. For a little added visual touch I snipped the chive on the diagonal with my small kitchen shears. I also snipped additional chive and placed it in a small bowl with a dainty spoon incase more chive was desired. 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies and Strawberries 

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Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies! Oh My!  Once again, these are store-bought brownies, but I cut them into smaller two-bite sizes then topped the brownies with a few fresh strawberries.  If the cute rabbit that came into our yard each night did not snack on our strawberry plant, I would have used our strawberries. 

Creating different heights is key to setting up a buffet.

Using different heights not only opens up much needed table space, especially when you have large platters, it looks a lot prettier too!

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For this table display,  I used a remnant piece of black and white ginham fabric that I had in my craft room. Once I laid it out on the table,  I then decided to go with a black, white and silver theme.  

The cucumber sandwiches were placed on a silver pedestal cake stand as were some crackers that were first placed on a black and white China dish.  I love creating layers too; it gives guests something to look at and enjoy.  In one of the first few photos, you will see I placed the condiments in small white ramekins and then placed those on a silver tray.   I even had a small silver lamp with a black shade lit on the table to add a touch of whimsy and it added a bit of ambiance as well as our late lunch then turned into cocktail time. 

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If you don't have any cake stands or pedestals, you can used bowls turned upside down or something else like books.  The purpose is to raise some of the larger platters up off the table, creating space underneath for other items.  You can see a photo of a platter raised on a bowl in one of my holiday posts here

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A bottle of Prosecco in a silver Champagne bucket was placed nearby as a pseudo bar I set up on the kitchen counter. 

And there you have it. a summer buffet that is quick and easy, especially if you choose not to make any of the food yourself.  If you can at least embellish some of the store-made or prepared  foods, it adds a personal touch and some might even ask if you made it!