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Posts published in “Entertaining”

Happy 4th of July: Festive recipes to celebrate Independence Day

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This is not a sponsored post or endorsement made in coordination with or paid by any of the brands or individuals mentioned here—only offering a few suggestions based on things my family and I have tried and enjoyed.

July 4th in the United States celebrates Independence Day. On that date in 1776, the 13 original colonies claimed their independence from England, forming a new nation.

If your family is like mine, years past may have been celebrated with large BBQs complete with burgers and hot dogs, pasta and potato salads, corn on the cob, and assorted sodas and beers (for those of age to drink, of course.) When I was growing up, my grandparents had an above ground pool at their home, and at my house we had a community in-ground pool. I spent a lot of time at both of them so depending on where our summer feast took place and if it wasn't raining, taking a dip in the pool was absolutely in order while dinner was being made.

For dessert, we typically took a trip to get soft-serve ice cream or ate an American flag cake—which many of you probably know and have likely made or tasted at least once, if not many times: a rectangle-shaped poundcake or a boxed vanilla cake mix covered with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries arranged in the shape of a flag. Finally, a trip to see fireworks at a local park capped off the night, where we would sit on a blanket or folding chairs, or stand near the car, to watch the magical bursts of colors in the night sky.

This year will no doubt be very different. Maybe a large gathering you may have planned with your family and friends was downsized or turned into a virtual celebration with some of them instead. I have also seen some creative ways that communities are celebrating in the absence of being able to have large, in-person gatherings: drive-through fireworks, for example, are being planned at the Iron Pigs Minor League baseball team ballpark for the holiday weekend in the Lehigh Valley, PA.

No matter how you are celebrating this year, here are some festive food ideas that you can still hopefully try.

Menu Idea: Tapas Tonight

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In my house, warm weather, when nobody feels like looking or standing over a stove, calls for something quick and easy to eat. If the last thing that you can imagine doing is turning on the stove and you're craving something easy to nosh on that doesn't take a lot of time to assemble, try tapas.

Tapas are Spanish-style appetizers or small bites that are really fun to eat. It's one of my favorite things to enjoy at a restaurant—and going to restaurants that serve tapas is probably one of the things I've missed the most lately about "normal" life—where typically 2-4 per person makes for a good main course meal. And it's more fun when you have a variety to share with your partner or a group: some seafood, cheese and fruit; some hot and some cold.

Try these ideas a spread of Mediterranean-style tapas that you can make at home for a quick lunch or dinner.

Menu Inspiration: Romantic Dinner Date

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It makes me cringe to know that we're already a full month and then-some into 2019. January is in the books, and in a few days we'll be coming up on Valentine's Day. (We'll be talking about spring next, then Memorial Day will be coming up on the heels of summer... yikes.)

For the last several years, I've found it more fun to lovingly plan a menu of delicious, home-cooked foods that both of us enjoy rather than going out for Valentine's Day. Going out to eat on a holiday is rarely great, in my experience. Restaurants are often so crowded and everything, even at finer restaurants, feels rushed. It's hardly worth getting dressed up only to come and go in a matter of an hour, maybe two, and not really have time to savor everything.

The planning of a special V-Day dinner menu only adds to the fun, and Dave and I have now made a little tradition out of it.

Smoked Salmon Bites

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The good news: all of the "cooking" involved here for this easy appetizer is the preparation of the herb cream cheese spread—and that's easy, too. Make it in advance so it's ready to go when it's time for appetizers.

When you're ready to serve, set the cream cheese out in a fancy bowl with a platter of smoked salmon, thinly-sliced red onion and other goodness, and bagel chips, then dig in. I've made this for brunch, too, as a starter to go with Bloody Marys or mimosas before a main course, like waffles or omelettes.

Menu Inspiration: Comfort Food Feast

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Comfort foods are far-from fussy and everyone loves them, which makes this menu perfect for a casual get-together—whether celebrating a birthday, the upcoming Super Bowl, or just because. For a country-inspired birthday party (think bandannas, plaid shirts, jeans) I attended years ago, this menu was a winner. It fed a group of 30 adults and children with enough variety so everyone, meat eaters and vegetarians alike, could find something to enjoy.

Most things on this menu would be also be great for an outdoor party because they travel well. A few of these things, like the cornbread, don't have to be served hot. Chili can be made in advance and heated up outdoors in the slow-cooker, if you have power where you're going; transferred to a chafing dish; or heated right over a camp fire in a cast iron pot (very outdoorsy!)

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

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To all of my friends, family, and visitors from the U.S.: Have a wonderful, safe, and food-filled Thanksgiving holiday!

I'm taking a little break from work, definitely looking forward to the long weekend ahead and what will be our first Thanksgiving at the new house! I'll make it a point to share a few photos on Twitter of my holiday table and things I'm making, so if you haven't already followed @fromannakitchen on Twitter, do it (and note the lack of an "s" in "Anna's" there because of the Twitter username character count...) New posts will start up again until next week.

If you need some last-minute inspiration for your holiday menu, check out my round-up of some of my favorite recipes below.

A Feast Inspired by the 50 States

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Summer is admittedly not my favorite season, but I'm sure everyone who knows me has realized that by now. I've complained enough about the heat and humidity, sunburn (thanks a lot, fair skin and a desk job, for making the sun an enemy), allergies, and bees enough in my time to prove that point to anyone.

As with everything, though, there are trade-offs. The end of summer will mean that local, fresh produce will start to trickle away and outdoors farmers markets will close for the season. It's still possible to eat seasonally in the fall and winter, but to buy outside of a conventional grocery store, options are limited to hearty greens and root vegetables.

And as much as I love kale and rainbow Swiss chard, it's hard to beat a good Caprese salad. The taste of slightly acidic, fresh heirloom tomatoes nestled together with buratta or mozzarella cheese, drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic, some salt and fresh pepper, and fresh basil... that is pure bliss.

My undying love for Caprese aside, it's true: I can't wait for the end of summer so my favorite season, fall, can begin. Before that happens, though, many of us will likely be spending our Labor Day weekend hosting or attending one last party of the season. If you're looking for ideas for what to serve and are getting tired of hamburgers and hot dogs by now, try a themed menu of favorite foods from across America.