By Susan M. Selasky

Detroit Free Press

(MCT)

Get out your biggest serving bowls. Stock up on sturdy plastic dinner plates and serving trays.

If you are doing the summer outdoor party scene this year, taking a "staycation" is all the buzz as more people stay home to save money.

Whether you're planning a graduation party, holiday cookout, block party or a party just because you're glad it's summer, you'll need a plan.

We've got the goods on making yummy, cost- and time-efficient foods that will impress your guests, plus the recipes to get you started.

According to Mary Rembelski of Canape Cart Catering in Ferndale, the current party trend is to keep portions and presentation on the small side.

"We do a lot of sliders, as they are still popular with parties," she says. "Any big burger you can make small and put on a small bun."

Rembelski thinks outside the bun and offers sliders with beef and caramelized onions, tuna burgers with wasabi glaze, and a vegetarian option with mushrooms.

Ethnic cuisine also is popular, Rembelski says, and Asian food is especially popular for graduation parties.

"Kids are into sushi or sesame noodles, " says Rembelski. "And it's also anything you can pick up and move with."

So, let's party on.

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PARTY RECOMMENDATIONS

Here are ideas from the Free Press Test Kitchen and Canape Cart Catering's Mary Rembelski .

The plan:

Decide whether the party will be indoors or outdoors. Have a rain plan in mind if you don't want the expense of a tent.

Determine the number of guests and age groups. Count how many teenagers are coming because they can be big eaters. How many children?

Set up the food inside and the seating outside. This helps with bugs.

Be adventuresome and use your good china outside.

Use cloth napkins if you have them; they won't blow away if it's windy.

Canape Cart uses biodegradable cutlery and plates from Michigan Green Safe Products in Detroit. The flatware is made from potatoes, the plastic cups from corn and the plates from sugar cane, all renewable sources.

The dish:

If you're serving sliders, allow two per person, maybe three if you're going to have a lot of teenagers.

For chicken as a main dish, allow two pieces per person. For appetizers and chicken or meat side dishes, figure three or four bites per serving.

Serve whatever dinner rolls or mini rolls you like. Rembelski uses water rolls from Hermann's Bakery in Royal Oak, Mich.

Instead of beef tenderloin, which can be pricey, Rembelski uses flat iron steak. It's simple, inexpensive and easy to grill.

Serve shots of gazpacho in sake cups.

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FLAT IRON STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

Serves: 6 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes (plus marinating time)

Allow 1/4 pound to 1/2 pound of flat iron steak per serving as a main dish. Many grocers carry packaged flat iron steaks for about $5.99 a pound. After grilling, slice the steak on an angle against the grain. Slicing it this way makes it ideal for salads, sandwiches or tossed in pasta.

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds flat iron steak

CHIPOTLE MARINADE

2 to 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with 1 tablespoon of the adobo sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons concentrated orange juice

Juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Salt to taste

1/4 cup cilantro, optional

Chimichurri sauce (see recipe)

Place the flat iron steak in a large plastic sealable bag. Puree all the marinade ingredients in a food processor until just smooth. There should be little pieces of parsley visible. Pour over the flat iron steak and seal bag. Refrigerate and marinate 1 to 4 hours before grilling.

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Sear the flat iron on one side until it is nicely browned and has good grill marks, about 5 minutes. Turn over and adjust the heat to medium or move the steak to a cooler part of the grill and cook until desired degree of doneness, about 10 to 12 minutes more for medium-rare.

From Canape Cart Catering, Ferndale, Mich.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Analysis without chimichurri sauce.

187 calories (57 percent from fat ), 12 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat ), 1 gram carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 85 mg sodium, 63 mg cholesterol, 0 mg calcium, 0 grams fiber.

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CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

Makes: 1 cup / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 10 minutes

1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley

1/2 cup fresh mint

1/2 cup olive oil

1 / 3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup packed cilantro

2 garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a food processor or blender place all the sauce ingredients. Puree until just smooth; little pieces of parsley should be visible. Transfer to a bowl or jar with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate up to 2 hours or overnight. Serve with grilled flat iron steak or grilled chicken.

From Canape Cart Catering, Ferndale.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Analysis per 1 tablespoon.

66 calories (97 percent from fat ), 7 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat ), 0 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams protein, 75 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 mg calcium, 0 grams fiber .

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