Creative Outdoor Potluck Ideas

The best outdoor potluck ideas take advantage of the natural scenery. If you can schedule your potluck near water, a pirate party or a Hawaii-themed party would be a perfect fit. Once you have a theme, your potluck planning will be easy.

Pirate Potluck
For a pirate potluck, you can ask guests to come dressed for the occasion in your invitation, and then you can create the perfect complement to their dishes by creating a pirate centerpiece.

Open Seas: Start with three cookie sheets and three rectangular cake pans. The cake pans will be filled with ice and placed beneath the cookie sheets to keep the dip chilled. The cookie sheets will represent the open seas. Two of the cookie sheets will have vegetables and dip and the third-the middle cookie sheet-will have fruit and fruit dip. In the center of the middle cookie sheet will be a glorious watermelon pirate ship.

Watermelon Ship: When making a watermelon pirate ship, it's best to start with a picture of a pirate ship. Cut the watermelon in half, and fashion one half into a pirate ship. Be creative, and use the second half to make accessories such as the plank, the captain's wheel and cannons. Add a mainmast and sail, and don't forget to place the Jolly Roger at the top of the main mast. Use paper to create accessories such as oars and sails.

Once you have hollowed out the melon, refill it with a cargo of fruit balls. Place toothpicks along the edge of the ship. The toothpicks will pull double duty as railing and skewers.

Marshmallow Fruit Dip: Create fruit dip for the middle cookie sheet by mixing 1 8-ounce tub of whipped topping with 1 3-ounce tub of cream cheese and 1 7-ounce jar of marshmallow crème. Use a blender to mix the ingredients until smooth. Before spreading the dip on the cookie sheet, fold in a few drops of blue and green food coloring. Place the watermelon pirate ship in the center of the dip.

Rowboats: Hollow out about six long narrow zucchinis and fill each one with a different vegetable. Add several paper oars. For rowboats of various sizes, use cucumbers as well as zucchini.

Vegetable Dip: Make the vegetable dip by mixing 1 16-ounce tub of sour cream with 1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dip per cookie sheet. Remember to add some food coloring to the dip before you spread it. For a little color and drama, add a few strategically placed Pepperidge Farms goldfish crackers in the sea.

Tips: To finish your centerpiece and hide the cake pans filled with ice cubes beneath the cookie sheets, use lettuce leaves. Simply drape the lettuce over the edges of the cookie sheet and then glue them down with dip.

Surprise Hawaiian Potluck

Fun potluck themes don't stop with pirates. For another great outdoor potluck idea near water, why not hold a surprise potluck birthday party? Call it a Hawaii 5-0 party, and crack out the hula skirts and pineapple cups.

Instruct everyone who will be attending to bring along a Hawaiian dish, but keep tabs on what is being made so that you don't end up with 30 pineapple upside-down cakes.

Hawaii 5-0 Cake: Make a cake with the words Hawaii 5-0 across the top. Decorate the cake using two Hostess Snowballs as a bikini top. Use a pastry bag and pink frosting to add the straps. Place the bikini top over a background of sun, sand and plenty of ocean-colored frosting.

Add a palm tree on the cake by using a chocolate flavored wafer stick (they come in a variety of lengths and are stored in tins) as the tree trunk and green fruit rollups cut into leaves to represent the fronds. Chocolate shells from Godiva work well. In fact, the chocolate shells that are white chocolate or mottled white and brown are perfect.

Pineapple Cups: For the cups, go wild and use real pineapples. Cut about one third of the top of the pineapple off, and carefully remove the fruit from the bottom half, which will be the cup portion. If you are worried about drips, you can always insert a plastic cup snuggly into the carved-out fruit. Add ice cubes, fruit kabobs, an umbrella and a decorative straw.

With either of these themes, you are sure to encourage your guests to take advantage of the wonderful weather and attend your potluck.

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