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Posts published in “Menu Ideas”

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: Summer cocktail party

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Believe it or not, it's August. If you're gearing up for the long Labor Day weekend already or planning a casual end-of-summer party, here are some quick and easy entertaining ideas that will help you send the summer season off right.

Fresh, Mediterranean-inspired flavors highlight this menu, and for something sweet at the end that's still light: easy to make grilled peaches with honey-sweetened whipped cream. As a bonus, there's something for everyone: several recipes are vegetarian-friendly and could be made vegan with a few omissions or easy swaps.

Menu Inspiration: Easy Weeknight Italian

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Growing up in New Jersey, Italian food was a big part of my life. It seems like no matter where you go in the state, you can throw a stone and hit a pizzeria. In fact, a quick search on Yelp for "pizza" in Newark, NJ, the largest city in the state with a population of 285,154 in 2017 (Wikipedia) brought up over 620 search results for me. By contrast, a search of Flemington, NJ (Wikipedia says it had a population of 4,621 in 2017), the town where I went to high school and location of the famous Lindbergh "Trial of the Century", still brought up 28 results. I even worked at a few of those pizza places... three, actually, while I was in high school.

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.

Caprese Skewers with Creamy Pesto Dip

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Are you planning to watch the Grammy Awards this weekend? If you're like me, I always like something to nibble on when I'm watching an award show or special event. There's just something so satisfying about eating different, small plates of foods that I love, too. Dave and I often have tapas for dinner instead of a full meal.

These portable caprese skewers couldn't be easier, or faster, to make. You can make as many or as few of these skewers as you'd like, and serve them with the creamy pesto dip that can be made in advance. I've made these for parties in the past, as well as "just because".

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!)