It’s your turn to host the book club, and you want to be sure this fall gathering makes everyone’s top 10 list. Think beyond the living room and invite your favorite bookworms to meet outside for a rustic party with all the warmth of a cozy get-together. Although we set up our soiree inside a barn (see how we did it here), you can create the same effect in your backyard.

Keep the menu simple to go with the laid-back environment. Try our selection of hoagies, soup, lemonade, fresh fruit, and old-fashioned desserts. Or simply serve big salads made with farmer’s market produce. The real nourishment, of course, will come from discussing the books you all love.


Garden soup

A garden soup is perfect for fall gatherings—it’s ideal for using all those leftover vegetables from the garden. And it’s easy to make, too. Here’s how.


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 gloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup kernel corn
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp chopped chives
  • 64 oz. chicken broth

Sauté onion, garlic, celery and chicken in olive oil until onions are soft. Add to stockpot with carrots, green beans, corn and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the chives. Stir in tomato and heat through. Serve hot with baguettes or herbed foccacia..

For a vegetarian version, omit the chicken and chicken broth and substitute vegetable broth.


Baguette sandwiches

Save more time for discussing literature by serving make-ahead baguette sandwiches. Wrap those tasty characters in floral napkins and place on end in a rustic produce basket. Stand your sandwiches in an old sewing basket, wire egg basket or enamel wash basin.


Dessert table

Don’t forget dessert! A peeling paint console table offers a feast for the eyes as well as the sweet tooth. An upturned vase and compote elevate cakes to new heights while a vintage metal breadbox makes a cheery planter.


Berry trifle

Try this easy-to-make double berry trifle.


  • 1 large box instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 C. milk
  • 1 small carton of whipped cream
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 2 C. blueberries
  • 2 C. strawberries

Mix first 4 ingredients in order. Layer pudding mixture, wafers, blueberries, and strawberries in a large bowl. At each layer, line the bowl with waters. Arrange berries and wafers around the top of the dessert. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.


Barn party

And now you have the perfect menu for your rustic party that friends are sure to enjoy.


Thanks to our hosts Ginny and Kevin Randall.
Plants courtesy of Proven Winners.


© Caruth Studio

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