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.
Walmart stocks up on this odd item before a storm
Storm’s coming. We must run to the grocery store and stock up like it is the end of the world. Water. Bread. Pop-Tarts.
Pop-Tarts? Oh, yeah. Pop-Tarts are big during storms, particularly strawberry Pop-Tarts.
Walmart discovered early on that when a storm threatens, the sale of Pop-Tarts increases seven times the normal sales rate.
According to Reader’s Digest, Walmart studied shopping data after Hurricane Charley in 2003 to see if they could predict what shoppers would need in hurricanes.
At that time, Walmart marketers were shocked to find that strawberry Pop-Tarts were in demand. Then, ahead of Hurricane Frances in 2004, they filled shelves with the pastry. It sold out.
Exactly why Pop-Tarts are so popular in a storm probably relates to the fact that it’s shelf-stable and requires no refrigeration. The pastries are individually wrapped, so the remaining treats don’t get stale.
Pressure cookers vs. slow cookers
Are you looking for a small cooking appliance that can help simplify making meals? If so, here’s what you should know about pressure cookers and slow cookers.
These devices dramatically reduce cooking times using steam under high pressure. All you have to do is put all the ingredients into the pot and let the pressure cooker do the rest. In addition, some models are equipped with sautéing and steam functions.
When you’re pressed for time, pressure cookers can be used to prepare stews, soups, pasta dishes, and even cakes. However, their size is limited, making them unsuitable when cooking for large groups. In addition, you have to be mindful about adding the correct amount of liquid to ensure even cooking.
These appliances come in a variety of sizes and can be used to make large meals. They’re easy to use and cook food slowly and evenly over several hours. Consequently, you can wake up or come home from work to a freshly cooked meal.
Slow cookers can be used to make stews, ribs, sauces, chicken, bread, and more. However, the food will need to be prepared beforehand.
To purchase your new cooking appliance, visit a kitchen supply store in your area.
Blueberry buckle: A quick and easy anytime cake
This sweet, tender cake comes together in minutes and can be eaten for dessert, as a breakfast coffee cake, or even a sweet snack. Fresh blueberries are perfect, but you can also use frozen berries — just bake for a few extra minutes to make sure the cake is done all the way through. The streusel topping adds some satisfying texture and contrast to the fluffy cake and soft blueberries.
For the cake:
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon zest, more if you prefer a stronger lemon flavor
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, plus about a tablespoon
1 tablespoon flour
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
For the topping:
5 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Cream the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest together until fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the whole milk to the butter mixture until just combined. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with the tablespoon of flour until evenly coated before gently stirring the berries into the batter. Spread the batter into a greased 8×8 pan.
To make the topping, combine all ingredients and mash with a fork (using a sharp knife can also help) until it has a crumbly texture. Sprinkle the crumble over the batter in the pan and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until a toothpick or sharp knife comes out clean from the center of the cake.
Tomato overflow? Can them for a taste of summer all year
You’ll need a canning pot and rack, jar lifter tool, canning jars and lids, a large bowl for an ice bath, clean cloths or a new roll of paper towels, lemon juice, salt, kettle of boiling water.
Estimate about 3 large tomatoes per quart jar.
Blanch and skin tomatoes
Boil water in a large pot. Add a few tomatoes at a time and let them boil for a minute. Remove tomatoes. Place immediately a bowl of ice water. When cool, skins slide off.
Sterilize the jars and lids
Boil water in the canning pot. Put jars in canning rack. Boil empty jars for 10 minutes. Remove jars (empty of water). Allow to dry. Now, boil lids for 10 minutes.
Stuff the sterilized jars
Put two tablespoons of lemon juice from a bottle (not the fruit) in each jar. Pinch of salt. Cram tomatoes into jars. Cover tomatoes with boiling water from the teapot. Leave a half-inch headspace at the top. Wipe edges of jars clean, place lids and rims on the jars. Put jars in canning rack.
Boil the full jars
Put the rack of jars in boiling kettle. Make sure cans are underwater and tops are covered by one inch of water. Boil for 45 minutes. Add boiling water as needed to keep jars covered with water.
Remove jars. Set aside to dry and cool for 12 to 24 hours. You may hear popping noises as seals form.
Do not turn the rim. After resting and cooling, press down in the middle of each lid. When sealed, there will be no give in the center. If unsealed, the lid will spring up. This jar is not safe for storage.
Store in a cool, dark place.
Tomato and watermelon salad
Are you looking for a refreshing appetizer to serve on a hot day? If so, this sweet and juicy salad is sure to delight your taste buds.
Start to finish: 20 minutes (20 minutes active)
• 4 small Italian tomatoes, quartered
• 2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
• 2 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
• 1 cup red onion, minced
• 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
• 1 cup arugula
• 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
• 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
• Juice of one lemon
• 1/2 cup cream of balsamic
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• In a large mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes, watermelon, red onion, feta, arugula, and mint. Divide the salad equally among 4 bowls.
• Drizzle each salad with a quarter of the olive oil, lemon juice, and cream of balsamic. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
Fresh spring rolls
These homemade spring rolls are so delicious, you’ll want to make them for every occasion this summer.
Start to finish: 1 hour (45 minutes active)
Servings: 4 rolls
• 4 sheets rice paper
• 8 mint leaves
• 4 iceberg lettuce leaves
• 1/2 cup cilantro
• 1/2 cup basil leaves
• 1 cup rice vermicelli, cooked and cooled
• 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and julienned
• 1/2 cup cucumbers, julienned
• 8 shrimp, cooked and peeled
• 1 cup ponzu sauce
• 1 cup fish sauce
• 1 lime, quartered
1. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Soak 1 sheet of rice paper in the water for about 20 seconds, or until it’s soft. Place the sheet on a clean work surface.
2. Layer the following ingredients on the sheet, in this order: 2 mint leaves, 1 lettuce leaf, 1/4 of the cilantro, basil, rice vermicelli, carrots, and cucumbers, and 2 shrimp.
3. Gently fold the lower edge of the rice paper over the filling, and roll it upward until the filling is completely wrapped. Make sure to gently squeeze the ingredients together, and fold in the sides of the rice paper when it’s wrapped halfway.
4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the remaining rolls. Refrigerate the rolls for 15 minutes before serving them with ponzu and fish sauce. Garnish with lime wedges.
This recipe is versatile and can be adapted to almost any taste. Replace the shrimp with grilled chicken or tofu, for example. If you want to add more veggies, consider including slices of red pepper or purple cabbage.