Summer is one of the best times of the year in the Pacific Northwest. You get to explore outdoor living and seek adventures. The mountains, lakes and rivers are calling you; a dip in the lake after work, a long hike on Saturday or an early morning bike along the river – all bring great pleasure. Wildlife is peeking out of every corner of our neighborhood, the deer are feeding on tall grasses, the owls are swooping and diving and yes – the bears are causing trouble.
The Fourth of July always feels like the official kick off to summer and amazing sunny weather. There is so much to do and celebrate on this day of freedom. So here is some advice – keep it simple. Oftentimes, we want to make these special events so spectacular (over the top), that we get lost in the details and preparations and then the day is done. Design a simple menu and plan engaging activities that are reflective of the festivities and guests.
Choose one, yes I said, “ONE” – 1 novel idea to try out this holiday. Something new and impressive, the rest of the details need to be easily executed and delivered in order that you can relax. Select a fun activity for your kiddos; a parade or festival, a water balloon fight or better yet a trip to jump off the dock at your local lake. Design a fresh menu that focuses on the seasons best and make a trip to your farm stand and favorite market. Make sure to assign guests items from the menu, lighten your load – this allows you to spend time with your friends and family! Prepare items before people arrive and then stay out of the kitchen. The BBQ is a great option, it is almost effortless and definitely less messy. Grill meats and seasonal veggies – if you use a marinade or bold seasonings and flavorful herbs your food will be extra tasty. Share and enjoy, celebrations are best spent together.
Here is an example of what I may serve for an appetizer. A platter with fruit, nuts, cheeses, herbs, crackers, salami and tangy cherry fruit spread. All you need to consider is that the flavors pair well and there is enough color to make your platter pop.
Dalmatia makes a great sour cherry spread, along with fig, plum and apricot flavors. These products are easy to find at Whole Foods and World Market. I chose cherry because fresh cherries are in season and I wanted to share the cherry flavor in two ways. That deep red is festive on the Fourth of July!
Look at the contrasting colors, the red and white set each other off. The chives are a perfect confetti topper for a piled high cracker or fruit. I always make a couple grab and go nibbles so my guests see how I combine the flavors.
My kids love sparkling lemonade drinks, for the holiday I gave it a special twist and made Pomegranate Lemonade. Add 1 cup of organic lemonade to 3/4 cup of lemon sparkle water, then top off with 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice and do a quick mix (this recipe makes 16 ounces). Fill two glasses with ice and pour in the Pomegranate Lemonade, make each drink special by adding a slice of lemon and mint leaves.
Pump it up with fancy straws, our little ones like the small details. “Two Thumbs Up!”
I like to have an array of drinks for both kids and adults. This is a new (adult) discovery from Whole Foods, Pamp Fizz! This is a sparkling Rose wine with hints of grapefruit, I must say it is Perfect.
It is refreshing over ice and can be consumed while lounging in your favorite Adirondack chair or gardening out back.
Red, White and Blue roasted potatoes are a great side dish for both kids and adults.
You had me at bacon and chive – top sides with little yummy bits of fresh herb and bacon.
Let the games begin! Jen and I decided to get the low down on the best hot dog.
We did a taste test, the dogs in the battle were: 1. Hebrew National Bun Length 2. Fork in the Road – Honest Dogs 3. Boar’s Head Beef Frankfurters 4.Teton Waters Ranch Beef Polish Sausage 5. Hempler’s Bun Buster Franks. Grill it!
We kept all the details secret from the testers! Which dog will reign supreme?
Each participant had to test dogs 1 – 5, listing comments and circling their favorite.
In the end there was a tie between The Fork in the Road’s Honest Dog and Teton Waters Ranch Polish Dog. Both were regarded as a unique bite with the perfect blend of spices. While The Fork in the Road provided a dog with a mild, sweet flavor – the Teton Ranch crew gave us a dog with just the right amount of salt and smoke. The little kids didn’t test all the dogs, but they sure liked the Hebrew National, it is a traditional skinny salty dog.
Leave the cupcakes for the next birthday, stock up on lots of popsicles. This is an easy grab and go treat for kiddos. No work required.
Keep the entertainment exciting, Pop Its and water squirters will do the trick.
While the fireworks are popping, light the fire and make s’mores. Traditional favorites never fail to impress.
Who can resist a sticky marshmallow and chocolate? Not this cutie pie!
Jen and I are keeping it real. We need to hit the road for vacation and chilling with our families.