4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

Host a social distancing get-together this July 4th with tips to stay safe and recipes to make it delicious!

Click to skip to the recipes

With so many large-scale activities canceled for the 4th of July holiday, small gatherings with appropriate social distancing are the sign of the times.

This year, my family barbecue is trimmed down to immediate family with only a few (very close) family friends. I will miss the annual get-together of friends and neighbors. Mostly, I will miss seeing the kids that grow from children to tweens to teens to young adults each year.

But, with my “glass is always half-full” vision, I appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and less time preparing for a big bash. After all, those glow-in-the-dark bracelets will last ‘til next year!

We are who we are, and we Americans will celebrate! Trying to plan for my slimmed-down annual party, I started by putting my caterer’s hat on.


Back in the day, when my pals and I were planning a Memorable Occasion’s (the name of my old catering company) party we would lay out the menu and then come up with some clever way to serve it. We were always short of staff, so serve-yourself food was a great solution when feeding a crowd.

This strategy works perfectly when you are planning an appropriate socially distanced backyard Fourth of July barbecue. Allowing your guests to choose their own items from individual containers is smarter in today’s climate.


Here are some pointers for a safe and social distancing get-together:

 

  1. Fresh air is best for this year’s celebration. If it’s possible sit outside. Sit on your back porch, in your back yard, even in your driveway.  If you are rained out, or don’t have enough space, open the windows to let the fresh air in. 
  2. It’s still okay to ask your guests to bring a dish. No one says you, the host, must do it all. But we’re going to ask either that the dish is brought in individual portions, or that you dish it up in the kitchen before serving. This is not the time for a buffet supper. 
  3. Serve right from the grill. For example, let guests bring their bun to you when grilling dogs and burgers! Condiment packs are key here for mustard and ketchup, but you can also be safe by providing several bowls of condiments and allowing each guest to use his or her own spoon for scooping diced onions and peppers.
  4. As much as you can, serve everything individually. Use whatever you have around the house as containers. My plan this year is to serve scoops of potato salad in metal cups, shrimp on skewers, and stuffed mushrooms on porcelain tasting spoons. A homemade milkshake served in a mason jar, dripping with chocolate and nuts, or doused in sprinkles is the best of the best when you’re talking personal desserts. Get creative with what you have, but also take a look at all the clever paper goods that are available to hold sides and desserts. 
  5. Don’t forget to get the kids involved. Kids can pass around trays of individual appys and help prepare those decorative shakes. The more people involved, in the safest way… the better!

There are lots of ways to celebrate what is a most important American holiday, but there’s only one way to make it perfect. And that is by sharing it with your friends and family who you love and who love you back! 

Happy Fourth, everyone.

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes for you to try.

Spicy Potato Salad

Ingredients

Potato salad is a picnic and cold supper staple. When spiced up with a little hot sauce, it becomes a devilish addition to most everyday meals. Feel free to make this day a day in advance to allow the spicy flavors to marry with the potatoes.

5 pounds small red creamer potatoes, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, chopped (about ½ cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

4 to 6 drops hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   6 – 8

Time:  30 minutes, plus chilling

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and place into a bowl.

Add the onions to the bowl. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard paprika and hot sauce.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes. Toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper and if you like with additional hot pepper sauce.

Chill the salad for 1 hour or overnight.  Sprinkle the salad with fresh cilantro.

Beer Basted Baby Back Ribs with Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

This is a foolproof way to prepare moist, tender, and never over-cooked ribs. By steaming the ribs in a slow oven, the meat cooks in advance of grilling; therefore, the time spent grilling is significantly reduced.

For ribs:

6 pounds baby back ribs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garlic powder

1 (12-ounce) can beer

For sauce:

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup dark molasses

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup Jack Daniels whiskey

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 or more drops hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   4 – 6 

Time:  Several hours in the oven and about 20 minutes on the grill

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place them onto a rack in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Pour the beer into the pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place the pan into the oven.  Cook until the ribs are quite tender, but not falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours.

For the sauce, bring the tomatoes, vinegar, molasses, canola oil, whiskey, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like, to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to an outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Cook, turning often until well browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Baste the ribs with sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer the ribs to a board and slice into individual servings.

Invite guests to bring their plates to you and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce on the side.

Friendly Fish Tacos In The Mean Meat Shortage

Friendly Fish Tacos In The Mean Meat Shortage

With the meat shortage making it more challenging to plan meals around beef, pork, and chicken, pescatarian and vegetarian recipes will help see us through on Meatless Monday and beyond!  Click to skip to the recipe

 

Fish in a soft tortilla with cilantro, crema, tomato, lettuce

With a nod towards Meatless Mondays, on the heels of Cinco de Mayo, and with heartfelt concern for our meat supply chain, I decided to make a pescatarian recipe for dinner this week: Fish Tacos! In a word they were delicious and in a second word… this dish is thought-provoking!

We live in a beef crazed society. Meat and poultry are the menu planner’s mantra. Wendy’s made national news this week when they ran short of meat for their Triple-Decker cheeseburger. This led to protests and calls for, “Where’s the beef?!”

This could spark a whole new movement in preparing satisfying pescatarian and vegetarian recipes that will appease our need for meat and potatoes.

Since we’ve been staying at home, our consumption of fast food burgers has declined precipitously. Hubby’s down more than a few pounds in just a couple of weeks!

His recent bloodwork showed a definite improvement from past years and it got me thinking: Could this upturn in his health have something to do with fast-food distancing?

If this is my new working theory, in how many weekly meals can I substitute fish or veggies for beef, pork, or chicken? With the meat shortage increasing steadily and meat, pork, and chicken being rationed in grocery stores around the country, finding meat alternatives in the midst of the shortage is my new challenge.

I think this might be a prudent time to visit no meat main courses, which is why I started with fish. This recipe is based on my Grilled Guac recipe from my cookbook, “Sunday Best Dishes”. That recipe grills all the veggies before you mush them into guac. 

I used that same technique to grill everything from the fish to the lettuce for these tacos and the grilling gave a smokey, lusty taste to the tacos. I used a grill pan indoors and the whole meal took about a millisecond to prepare.

No ground beef, pork, or chicken required to make a satisfying meal!

You can easily share your meatless main meals with all the readers here. We’re all into experimentation these days!

Grilled Fish Tacos

Serves:

Time:

2

30-Minute Cuisine

vegetarian-tacos-meat-shortage 3

Ingredients

I made these for hubby and me, and two large, open-face tacos were plenty. You can adjust the recipe to feed more, by just increasing the ingredients. I found blood oranges at the market and prepared the marinade with this juice, but good old lemons or limes will do just fine.

For filling:

2 (6 to 8-ounce) sea bass fillets (substitute with and white, flaky fish)

1 blood orange (substitute with lime or lemon)

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For sauce:

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup prepared salsa

Juice of ½ lime, about 1 tablespoon (reserve the other half for seasoning the taco)

2 to 4 dashes hot pepper sauce

For tacos:

1 avocado, cut in half, pit removed

1 tomato, cut in half

½ romaine lettuce head

1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half, seeded, and deveined

2 green onions

2 (8 or 10-inch tortillas)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Veggies on grill pan with fish

Place the fish into a dish. Squeeze the juice from the blood orange over the fish. Add the garlic and olive oil. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Turn the fillets in the marinade to coat and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, salsa, lime juice, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle some additional olive oil onto the pan. Place the fish, flesh side down onto the grill pan. Place the avocado, cut side down onto the grill pan. Do the same with the tomato, lettuce, jalapenos, and green onion.

Grill the veggies, turning once just until you get a nice char on each piece. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the veggies to a cutting board.

Grill the fish, turning once until it is nicely marked on both sides and cooked to medium-rare in the center. This will take a total of about 8 minutes per inch of thickness of the fillets.

Transfer the fish to your cutting board. Place the tortillas onto the grill pan and grill for several seconds, turn and grill for several seconds more. The tortilla should be warm and pliable. Transfer each tortilla to a plate.

Chop the lettuce. Place half of the lettuce onto each tortilla. Cut the fish into chunks and place on top of the lettuce. Do the same with the tomato, avocado, jalapeno, and onions. Top the taco with a generous dollop of sauce. Garnish with cilantro and an extra squeeze of lime juice.

Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

Dipping My Toe in the New Normal

Comfort food is just what we need, whether we are in self-isolation, quarantine, or shelter-in-place. My Tomato Soup recipe hits the spot and offers a savory solution to navigating “the new normal”.  Click to skip to the recipe!

 

Tomato Soup in Bowl with Crackers

 

We’re about to start the process of opening our county after eight weeks of social distancing. In a way, we’ve grown accustomed to staying at home.

Shelter-in-place has been weird. But what is even weirder is how quickly we’ve become used to it.

Waking up alone or with your kids or with your significant other and your kids and your significant other and maybe your mother…. and having nowhere to go. No plans on the horizon. No reason to get spiffed-up. No goals, no pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been lonely, challenging, and life-changing.

And now, just like that we’re supposed to go back to a new norm.

When I canvas my friends, I hear apprehension. While we’re home and quarantined, we’re safe from the silent enemy. But now, venturing out, facemasks in place, we fight a new challenge: how to exist in a society where the virus hides around every corner.
It is a crazy, insecure feeling; one that we must overcome in order to go on.

Personally, I am going to rely on my comforts as I dip my toe in the new norm. My hand sanitizer is stashed in my glove box. I’ve ordered designer face masks (of course I did….). I wash my hands constantly and stay six feet away from people that I encounter. I even follow the arrows in the grocery store!

But when it comes time to enter the phase that allows us to gather in small groups, my plan is to gather. I plan to gather just a few friends for a glass of wine to start and then maybe a shared snack or lunch and then maybe a social-distance approved supper outdoors with a couple of pals.

Yes, there is some apprehension, but it is time!

Perhaps it’s time to make your plan. There’s a lot to think about, whether you’re going back to work or considering shopping at the corner boutique.

Is it time to get your nails done, or does anxiety put the plan off for another week? Is it time to invite your baby best bud for a playdate? Is it time to let him go to his friend’s house? No matter how or when you plan to embrace the new norm, it’s time to make a plan.
What I always do when I face the road ahead is to take some time to think and strategize.

And while I fashion a plan, I like to surround myself with comfort food.

It kinda makes things less scary. The whole activity of cooking that food relaxes me. So, while you’re mulling over your plan for your new norm, why not take a tip from my playbook and whip up a pot of comforting soup. Tomato Basil Bisque is my go-to soup because it pushes all the comfort buttons. It is creamy, flavorful, tummy-filling and the perfect bowl to sneak in a fistful of crumbled crackers. Just the dish needed before you walk out the door for the first time.

Swallow your anxiety, take your time and step forward….Safely!

God Bless!

Tomato Soup
With Jalapeno, and a Hint of Fennel

Serves:

Time:

4-6 

40-Minute Cuisine

Ingredients

Adding just a bit of jalapeno adds a little heat to tomato soup. But the addition of fennel takes this soup to a spiced-up, licoricey lip-smackin’ treat!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced into small cubes

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon dried basil

½ cup dry sherry

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 ounces tomato paste, about ½ cup

1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ large fennel bulb, optional

½ cup half and half

¼ cup sour cream

Pour olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot over medium-high heat.  Place the onions and pepper into the pot and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Pour in the sherry and simmer until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth.  Season with salt, pepper, and sugar.  Place the fennel bulb into the soup.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and simmer the soup for 20 minutes allowing the flavors to blend.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Remove and discard the fennel bulb.  Stir in the half and half and sour cream.

Serve the soup with crushed crackers, another dollop of sour cream, and the tops from the fennel.