Weeknight Entertaining - Last Minute Fourth of July Bash|
by Linda Larsen
It is not too late to plan a smashing Fourth of July get-together...even if you are working the holiday. Linda Larsen shares some practical tips and great recipes in this week's installment of her Weeknight Entertaining column.
The Fourth of July is such an easy holiday to celebrate. The theme, colors, and even lots of traditional foods are built right in. Red, white and blue accessories are everywhere! It's easy to make your backyard or picnic spot the most colorful in your town. And this year the holiday falls on a weeknight, so is the perfect last-minute party. Call and invite family and friends, and make sure you specify this is a casual, active party!
Decorations can include a red, white and blue tablecloth and napkins, casual pottery, candles in the holiday colors (my favorite), and of course lots of flags. If you are hosting this party at your home, think about lighting after dark. Sitting on a patio or porch on a warm summer night, waiting for the fireworks to begin, is one of the highlights of summer. Tiny white lights add a wonderful touch, as do candles, tiki torches, paper lanterns, and oil lamps. Make sure you have great outdoor games for the kids and adults. Badminton, croquet, horseshoes, lawn bowling, touch football and water games add to the fun. In case of inclement weather, set up a picnic on the floor of your living room! Kids of all ages will love this celebration.
Food for the Fourth tends to be traditional in each family in the country. Grilling is a must, of course. Hot, sunny days of summer culminate best in a great barbecue, with sizzling food wonderfully flavored by the coals. As Martha Stewart says, grilling and barbecuing are not solitary pursuits. They beg for a party!
Going to the pool or the lake first adds to the wonderful character of the day. One of my best memories is swimming with my family at one of Minneapolis' many lakes, then going to my grandparents' house for a great meal and a perfect view of fireworks from their backyard. This menu follows my family's traditional Fourth of July meal.
For the greatest ease, and so you also have a wonderful time at your party, all of the food is made ahead - except for the grilled meats. The potato salad always is best if made a day ahead, if you have the time. The Peanut Parfait Dessert is also best made ahead. Don't be afraid to take the dessert along on a picnic - even though it's stored in the freezer it tastes even better if served thawed, but still well chilled. Feel free to substitute any deli foods for any of the recipes below - remember, the key is to enjoy your own party! Set a lovely table, bring out all the food, and fire up the grill. Usually at any party, one person loves to be the grillmaster, so your job is easy!
Food safety is always on my mind when I'm entertaining. Remember - keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The general rule is to not leave foods out at room temperature for more than two hours. Steamy summer weather changes this advice! If it's very hot, foods should be out of the fridge for only one hour. This way everything tastes better, stays fresher, and you can relax knowing everyone will have a great time. Make sure if you are taking this menu to a picnic spot that everything is well packed in a clean cooler, with lots of ice in double plastic bags. Place the food that is most perishable (the meat, in this case) on the bottom. Don't place any uncooked food on top of cooked dishes, and remember as you grill the meat to serve the finished steaks on a clean platter to avoid cross-contamination. Food safety is really a simple concept if you follow these rules.
Remember to enjoy yourself as you ooh and aah over the fireworks, well sated by your delicious meal. And have a wonderful and safe Fourth!
The MenuBacon Stuffed Cherry TomatoesGrilled Steak or Salmon With Basil-Pistachio ButterPotato SaladFresh Fruit in Watermelon BasketSourdough Bread SticksPeanut Parfait Squares
Next week...Tomatoes tomatoes!
Linda Larsen is a freelance Home Economist with a degree in Food Science from the University of Minnesota and a degree from St. Olaf College. She has been on the Pillsbury Bake-Off staff since 1987, and was in charge of Internet Recipe Search in 2000. Linda has developed recipes for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal, presented food to taste panels, held cooking seminars, and owned her own catering business "The Perfect Occasion". She loves to cook and entertain, write about food, talk about it, plan parties, read cookbooks and develop recipes. She has a cookbook collection of at least 1000 books and reads them as though they were novels.
Linda's first meal was a Mother's Day dinner from the Betty Crocker Children's cookbook, prepared when she was 11. Since then she has hosted wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, business dinners and cocktail parties, and wonderful simple meals for friends. Join her and learn simple and elegant ways to entertain your family and friends during the week.
Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.