Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations!

Fireworks off of Lake Tahoe-'05

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The 4th of July holiday is quickly approaching and you know what that means, parties!  As a fun loving, patriotic, American girl, I find it my duty to celebrate my country’s independence the best way I know how; in great clothes with good food and even better people!  GRETCHY asked me to guest blog as a foodie and aspiring chef, because, after all, food and fashion are the finest things in life!  I’ve got my navy blue, Rebecca Taylor dress, and a few gaudy red polka dot bangles for a little July 4th flair ready to go!

I’m particularly looking forward to this years’ Independence Day because I will be on the quaint little island of Nantucket, just off the coast of Massachusetts. This sleepy island is a haven for its’ artistic and nautical year-round residents, summer vacationers, and boating enthusiasts.  However the weekend of July 4th is anything but sleepy; the island comes to life!  Kids riding around on their decorated red-white-and-blue streamer adorned bikes, barbecue smoke pluming out of the backyards of town residents, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” humming throughout cars passing by are just a few things one can expect.  It’s the kind of festive atmosphere I look forward to each year and it also brings back some of my fondest childhood memories.

For years when I was a kid we would spend our summers in Harbor Springs, MI with my mom’s side of our family.  Each yeah on the 4th of July, my cousins and I would paint our faces, decorate our bikes, wear our American flag bathing suits and run around like wild children collecting as much candy as we could from the parade.  The muggy late-afternoon was spent on the beach or playing tether ball while all of our dads (my uncles) would barbecue and egg us on to start a water balloon fight.  After a long day of swimming, running around, and having a sugar high from the bucket of candy we had collected earlier, the family barbecue was always a welcomed end to the day.  I can remember the succulent tastes of grilled sweet corn, fresh juicy watermelon, my mom’s traditional pasta salad, and seasoned hamburgers.  This was always one of my favorite times of the year, because I was with all my cousins, riding my bike wherever I pleased, swimming until I was exhausted, and my parents didn’t worry about my whereabouts too much in the tiny town of Harbor Springs.

The great thing about the July 4th weekend is that no matter where you spend it, this country, for one day, unites together in a deep-rooted tradition.  In a letter written to his wife, John Adams wrote The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”[1]   He might have been off by a few days, but we still carry on his celebratory vision… minus the guns, perhaps!

As we gear up for the long weekend to come, I’ve been gathering inspiration for a few dish ideas.  I love to entertain, and I love to cook, so spending four days in a house with a great group of friends is right up my alley!  We’ll be grilling, enjoying fireworks, the beach, lawn games, and many cocktails!  Because after all, it’s what John Adams wanted us to do!

As you get ready for your 4th of July weekend, here are a few recipes that I think will spark a few new foodie memories and ignite your patriotic spirit!

First off, the grill is a staple to any backyard cookout.  If you’re looking to fancy up your BBQ and offer a little more than hamburgers and hotdogs, check out my Asian inspired flank steak marinade, it is delicious and fool proof.

Ginger Lime Marinade for Flank Steak

½ cup Light Soy Sauce

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

Juice of 1 lime

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp lime zest

1 tsp chili pepper flakes or chili paste

3 tbsp Canola Oil

Preparation: Mix ingredients and marinate with desired protein (Chicken, Shrimp, & Pork can also be used) overnight in the refrigerator. Turn often to ensure marinade soaks evenly. For best results, sear on a hot grill.  Serve with grilled veggies or for a more elegant and easier to handle presentation, serve with veggie skewers.

Veggies Skewers

Soak 20 wooden skewers for a few hours in water (prevents burning)

2 red onions, quartered

2 green, 2 yellow, and 2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1.5” squares

1 pkg cherry tomatoes

Preparation: Assemble, brush lightly with oil and grill

Dessert always draws a crowd! I particularly like summer desserts that are easy, fruity and fresh.  Since I wont be cooking from my own kitchen this holiday I have to plan ahead and work with a smaller list of ingredients,  this way I don’t have to spend a fortune or worry about having to gather too many ‘baking’ specific ingredients.  Here are two super easy dessert ideas you might like!

Patriotic Pound Cake

1 store bought pound cake

2 cup, blueberries

2 cup, strawberries, or raspberries whatever you prefer! Or both!

½ cup confectioner sugar

½ tsp of vanilla extract

2 tbsp of cream

Preparation: Slice the pound cake horizontally into 3 strips, reserve to the side. In a mixer combine add confectioner sugar, add cream slowly, and whip to create a whipped cream. Slice strawberries. On the first layer (bottom layer) of the pound cake, spread on a healthy layer of cream, adorn with berries and build another layer of Pound cake. Repeat until the cake takes its form back. 

Watermelon Mint Marbles

1 Watermelon

1 handful, fresh mint leaves.

Preparation: Using a melon scooper, gently scoop watermelon balls into a bowl. Roll the mint up and cut into thin strips.  Toss the mint with the watermelon and spread over a parchment lined baking sheet, freeze until frozen and serve in a chilled bowl with a side of toothpicks, voila!  Drizzle with a balsamic syrup for extra flavor. Super easy, low-cal, and on a hot summer day, these are a hit!

These recipes are light and easy!  Whether you are picnicking in a park, spending the weekend on the shore, or having friends and family over to your backyard, these easy dishes are sure to please.   I hope you try a few out or save them for later use.  Happy Fourth of July weekend and thanks for checking out my blog!


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