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4 tips for a successful Fourth of July barbecue

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The Fourth of July is an ideal occasion to host a backyard barbecue. Here are four tips to ensure the day is a success.

1. Start planning early
Hosting a barbecue isn’t complicated, but waiting until the last minute to get organized can be stressful. A to-do list will ensure you don’t forget to pick up ice for the drink cooler or top up on fuel for the grill. If guests are bringing side dishes, preemptive planning can help you avoid ending up with four macaroni salads.

2. Get creative with colors
A simple way to incorporate patriotism into your decor is to use red and blue plates on a white tablecloth. Create simple centerpieces with mason jars, battery-powered headlights, and miniature American flags. For the rest of your yard, think flowers, balloons, and streamers. If you want to entertain the kids, buy some red, white and blue water balloons.

3. Keep the menu simple
Set out chips and dip for guests to snack on before you fire up the barbecue. Complement the traditional meat options with grilled asparagus, corn on the cob, or vegetable skewers. Remember, simple doesn’t have to mean boring. You can make the meal interactive with a build-your-own burger, nacho, or sundae bar.


4. Remember to relax
Independence Day is about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks by assigning someone to the grill or asking guests to contribute a salad or dessert. Once everyone has a plate full of food, be sure to raise a glass to family and country.

Ideally, your barbecue should start in the early afternoon so you and your guests can make the most of a sunny day and still have time to go watch a fireworks display in the evening.

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Food

Reinventing old favorites

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Over the past few years, the restaurant business has offered choices that are as diversified as they are interesting and entertaining. The trend is evolving toward healthy food, sometimes specialized, sometimes fusion cuisine. Today, dining out means tasting, discovering, experimenting, and exploring.

Over the past few years, people have been going to restaurants to try new dishes. They love being surprised while enjoying the familiarity of foods they have always loved. Forever searching for ways to meet their customers’ needs and expectations, many chefs and restaurateurs have risen to the challenge. Now restaurant menus include reinvented classics; a modernized grilled cheese, a hot dog, or redefined sophisticated hamburger. Our grandmothers’ dishes are recreated by adding oriental spices, and exotic dishes are transformed with local produce for a touch of regional flavor.

Over the past few years, bakers have rediscovered time-honored flours and now offer bread with a taste of yesteryear that can be found on many restaurant tables. Pastry cooks and chefs have rediscovered the passion of serving deliciously mouth-watering versions of traditional recipes. Menus are personalized according to season or special event and then deconstructed to be better reinvented later.

People want to eat better while searching for diversity and exoticism. Tastes are becoming more refined and specialized. Above all, there’s a prevalent desire to taste a little bit of everything that’s out there. Sought out are restaurants that serve a selection of tapas for a unique taste experience with every mouthful. Patrons are filled with wonder when presented with multilayered verrines and love dishes with samples of two, three, or four different miniature meals on the same plate.


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Glazed fruit skewers

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Sweet and juicy, fruit makes a great summer dessert. This delicious glaze enhances the natural flavor of the fruit to create a crowd-pleasing favorite.

Ingredients
Servings: 10

Skewers
• 10 strawberries, halved lengthwise
• 10 kiwi cubes
• 10 blueberries
• 10 pieces of pineapple
• 10 pieces of cantaloupe
• 10 wooden skewers

Simple syrup
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 cup brown sugar


Directions
1. Combine the water and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. If the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat slightly.
2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool for 45 minutes.
3. Thread the fruit pieces one after the other on the skewers.
4. Brush the skewers with the simple syrup.

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Al dente!

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Even though pasta is usually linked with Italy, its origins, in fact, are in ancient China. Legend has it that Marco Polo brought back to Europe this culinary technique after traveling to the Far East. Wherever it comes from, “noodles” always make for a meal that is easily prepared and easily varied with limitless sauce possibilities. It’s no surprise that pasta is so popular around the world.

It usually takes less than fifteen minutes to obtain al dente pasta, which means it is tender on the outside but still firm inside. Be sure to use a large enough pan with plenty of water so that the pasta won’t stick together. When the water starts to boil, add a pinch of salt before putting it in the noodles. Use a wooden spoon to stir short pasta or a large fork for long pasta such as spaghetti, which should not be broken into smaller pieces for authenticity. Egg noodles take less time to cook than other types of pasta. Even after being drained in a colander, the pasta will continue to cook, so be sure to follow the cooking instructions as indicated on the package. You might even shorten the recommended cooking time by a bit if the pasta will be sitting for a while before serving.

One trick used by great chefs is to set aside a small quantity of cooking water before straining the pasta. They will then add this extra water to the sauce as they heat it up for service. This allows them to add volume back to the sauce as it reheats and reduces and helps the sauce stick better to the pasta.

Al dente means “firm when bitten,” or cooked ’till tender on the outside but still firm inside.


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Roasted tomato and goat cheese bruschetta

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Are you having guests over for a casual meal? These cheesy starters are sure to be a hit.

Ingredients
Servings: 8

• 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 8 slices of baguette bread
• 8 tablespoons goat cheese
• Fresh basil, coarsely chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Honey, for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil and spread them into an oven-safe baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes start to pucker.
3. Lay the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until crisp.
4. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each slice of bread.
5. Add some fresh basil and roasted tomatoes.


Drizzle some honey over the bruschetta before serving for a subtle sweetness.

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Extra watermelon? Try these refreshing drinks

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Forget broccoli and spinach for today — here’s the superfood everyone loves to eat!

The juicy pink smile of a watermelon slice (one cup diced) is actually a thirst quencher at 92 percent water. More than in a banana, its ample potassium also makes it a good preventative for heat stroke.

Additionally, it packs a giant dose of glutathione to deter free radicals and enhance the immune system.

Watermelon is second only to tomatoes as a key source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene, and it has a lot of vitamin C besides.


This superfood has as much fiber as a slice of whole-wheat bread and also features vitamin A, thiamine, and magnesium, and all of this for little more than 50 calories a cup.

Actually, it’s enough just to know you can eat this treat anytime and feel good about doing it.

Selecting: Look for one with a brown stem attached. Thump the center to see if it makes a nice thud. That means it’s ripe.

Storing: Uncut watermelons can be stored unrefrigerated for three to four days. After cutting, cover and refrigerate any leftover chunks.

For a refreshing thirst quencher, puree with apple and lemon juices, or freeze this puree for ice pops.

Though we don’t recommend eating them, watermelon seeds are a folk remedy for high blood pressure. The seeds contain the compound cucurbocitrin, which helps dilate capillaries and boost kidney function– key mechanisms to decrease blood pressure.

Is there anything more delicious than late summer watermelon, ripened in the hot sun until juicy and fragrant?

Not really, and when you find yourself wilting in the late summer heat, a cold watermelon agua fresca or icy watermelon slushie is perfect for helping you cool down and relax. Adults and kids alike will love them, and adding your own spin with extra flavorings or cantaloupe instead of watermelon is easy.

Watermelon agua fresca
Ingredients:
4 cups cubed seeded watermelon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar (or to taste)
1 lime
24 fresh mint leaves
ice

Combine watermelon and water in a blender and puree until smooth. Add sugar to taste. Slice lime into small wedges (you’ll need about 8), then place one wedge into each serving glass and three mint leaves. Crush with a cocktail muddler (a wooden spoon handle also works), then add ice. Pour the agua fresca over the ice, stir, then serve.

Watermelon slushie
4 cups cubed seeded ripe watermelon (188 calories)
2 tablespoons sugar (32 calories)
1 tablespoon lime juice (30 calories)
About 3 cups of ice

Blend the fruit, melon, sugar, and juice until liquid. Add ice and continue to blend until the liquid reaches a slushie consistency.

In the whole blend, there are about 250 calories.

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3 ways to make homemade ice cream

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There are many ways to make delicious homemade ice cream. Here are three easy methods for making this delicious dessert.

1. In an ice cream maker
Combine egg yolks, sugar, milk, and cream in a large bowl. Then, place the mixture in the ice cream maker and turn it on. The machine will cool and mix everything together for about 30 to 45 minutes. After that, the ice cream is ready to eat.

2. In a dish
Use a hand or stand mixer to beat cream, eggs, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Stir in frozen fruit and condensed milk with a spatula. Then, place the mixture in the freezer in an airtight dish for at least four hours.

3. In bags
You can make ice cream in 10 to 20 minutes with this easy method. Pour heavy cream and vanilla into a small plastic bag. Then, place the small bag into a larger bag containing ice cubes and salt. Vigorously shake the bags until you reach the right consistency.


If you’re craving ice cream but don’t have time to make it yourself, visit a local ice cream shop or creamery.

If you want to make vegan ice cream, you can replace the dairy products with coconut or soy milk, coconut butter, coconut oil, or soy cream.

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Upcoming Events

Aug
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
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Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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Appalachian Chamber Music Festiv... @ Barns of Rose Hill
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The Appalachian Chamber Music Festival is delighted to be returning to the Barns of Rose Hill on Thursday, August 18, at 7pm, for the opening night concert of our 2022 summer season. The festival celebrates[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
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National Honeybee Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
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National Honeybee Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area The bees are buzzing at Sky Meadows State Park! Meet the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah as they perform a honey extraction. Learn about beekeeping, honeybees and the art of apiculture. Support beekeeping and[...]
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Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Meet the Beekeepers @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. What’s that buzzing? Meet with local apiarists of the Beekeepers of Northern Shenandoah (BONS) and discover the art of Apiculture (a.k.a. Beekeeping). This monthly program series examines all aspects[...]
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Valley Chorale Audition Day @ Calvary Episcopal Church
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Valley Chorale Audition Day @ Calvary Episcopal Church
If you have choral-singing experience, you’re invited to join The Valley Chorale! Rehearsals this fall culminate in our always-popular Christmas concerts in December. This year, we have a truly fantastic Christmas program planned. Auditions are[...]
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Aug 24 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
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7:00 pm Appalachian Chamber Music Festival @ Middleburg Community Center
Appalachian Chamber Music Festival @ Middleburg Community Center
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Appalachian Chamber Music Festival @ Middleburg Community Center
Join the Appalachian Chamber Music Festival on Thursday, August 25, at 7:00 pm, for a concert at Middleburg Community Center as part of their 2022 Festival! ACMF brings this concert of festival highlights to the[...]
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Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Aug 26 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
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10:00 am Habitat Detectives: A Late-Summe... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Habitat Detectives: A Late-Summe... @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Habitat Detectives: A Late-Summer Children's Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Join Virginia Master Naturalist and teacher, Barbara Ermler, on a walk of exploration. Use your five senses to uncover clues to how various organisms – plants, animals, and more – work together[...]