I’ve always said I think I was born in a swimsuit and with skates on. See, I was raised at River Bend—my grandmother and grandfather’s business. It was this kind of mini resort in Albany, Ga., complete with a swimming pool and a skatin’ rink. It was mostly populated with snowbirds heading south for the winter, but for me, it was always the final destination. I couldn’t imagine why people would ever leave. Growing up in that resort was a child’s dream—especially for one with high hopes of becoming a mermaid one day. That’s right, there’s nothing I wanted more than to be a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs, Fla. That itty-bitty town along the Gulf Coast has a big draw: an infamous “mermaid” show. I so wanted to be a part of that show—to glide through the water wearing a beautiful top and flippin’ a long, shimmering tail.
Of course I’m older now and I’m sure people are glad I chose cookin’ over the life aquatic. And while I don’t have the same stamina I once did, I still love swimming. That’s why I’ve always appreciated having a pool at my house. I enjoy it for myself, but I just love watching my family splash around the same way I did back when I was a little girl. There’s such joy in it. The kids don’t come out until their fingers look like prunes and they’re so hungry they could eat a horse, which means I have to have a big spread waiting for ‘em.
Throwing a pool party for my friends and family is really about as easy-breezy as it gets. The fun is foremost—the food secondary. But that doesn’t mean you have to call in pizza delivery. It’s so easy to throw together a real simple menu that’ll keep you out of the kitchen and your guests satisfied. For my most recent poolside celebration, I made good ol’ hotdogs, but topped ‘em with Texas Style Chili to make them something special. Then I served them up with a fresh garden salad, grilled corn on the cob and Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes—something that looks fussy, but is just so easy.
Grilled Stuffed Tomatoes
8 large on the vine tomatoes
1 cup cooked barley
2 thinly sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
½ cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the grill to medium heat.
Slice ½ inch off the top of the tomatoes. Use a paring knife to cut the tomatoes core out, removing all the seeds and ribs, leaving the tomato hollow. Season the inside of the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl add the barley, green onions, garlic, thyme, and feta cheese. Mix gently then drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Carefully stuff the tomatoes with the filling. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes.
Place the tomatoes directly on the grill with the cover closed and cook for 5- 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are warmed and the filling is golden.
Notes: Use any extra filling over some greens for a delicious salad.
Besides a healthy helping of food for hungry swimmers, the key to having a good pool party boils down to two things: a clean pool and keeping those pesky flies off the entrees. I make sure I have plenty of those wire-domed lids in different shapes and sizes so the flies won’t enjoy the food before we can. I just can’t stand one of those little buggers on my food, ‘cause I know where that fly has been sittin’.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:
“What did one fly say to the other?”
“Is this stool taken?”
Y’all, I just about split my britches when I heard that joke.
So besides good food protected from the “imprint” of flies, you just need to be open to having a good time. Not too long ago, I threw another pool party where I ended up in the pool with my clothes on! I was with one of my best friend’s daughters and Jamie and Bobby. I came up out of that water with my fake eyelashes hanging like monkeys from a tree. We laughed so hard—about as hard as I laughed when I was little girl at River Bend, dolphin kickin’ my way across the pool.
After I throw a pool party, I fall into bed completely exhausted. Not from the hard work, but from the simple pleasures of a party with friends. And when I close my eyes, I dream I’m mermaid.
I guess some dreams die hard.
Check out more of these poolside party recipes!
The Lady’s Warm Potato Salad
Buffalo Chicken Livers with a Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
Lightening Fast White Bean Dip
Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps
Spicy Basil Guacamole
Paula, I used to watch your show on Food Network a lot when I still had the TV and cable many year ago. You weren't even that big a star back then. I always love watching you cook on Youtube after I ditched my TV and cable and read your recipes on Food Network Magazines. I hope one day you can return to Food Network and the Food Network Magazine. I stop buying the magazine since you were gone.
Orindary Jane in Love at Last on December 04, 2013 at 2:32 am
Great blog Cindy!!!! I always enjoy reading your post. This Thanksgiving centerpiece is absolutely beautiful and so easy to make.
Ann in A Perfectly Easy Thanksgiving Centerpiece on December 03, 2013 at 8:10 pm
Paula, made your Zucchini Custard Casserole for Thanksgiving and it was Fantastic!!! Thank you so much! Love you & your family. Happy holidays!
Pat Walker in Love at Last on December 02, 2013 at 8:45 pm