We've got BIG plans for the Fourth of July, big as in we're having our own party including a bike parade, a jumbo bouncehouse, games like horseshoes and bocci ball for the adults and watermelon seed spitting and bobbing for apples contests for the kids! For legal reasons I won't talk about the fireworks we've got planned...ssshhhhh.
When I started thinking about food for our BBQ, I thought what's more all-American than jalepeno poppers and burgers? I figured, why not combine the two. As some folks may know, I recently entered the LA Times Battle of the Burger contest with my favorite burger topped off with pastrami, caramelized onions and jalapeños. Well, I didn't win that contest and truthfully, there are 5 other burgers that the Times thought were better than mine. That being said, I won't bore you with my recipe. Make one of the others that the Times thought tasted better....although some of them may take you 2 full days to prepare! Orrr, make my jalepeno popper slider burger! Its quick, easy and delicious. In fact, I wish I'd submitted it instead of the other one..maybe I'd have placed (sigh).
Every time we have a party, my husband and I have different ideas about what food we are going to serve. I think that in my husband’s mind he fully believes that he's going to be the one manning the grill or smoker and all I'm going to have to do is open up a couple of bags of chips, so he wants to go all out. The truth is that while his intentions may be good, the only thing he ends up manning anymore is the bottle opener....and guess who, ends up grilling/smoking, doling out sippy cups , cleaning up messes, pouring wine, etc. etc. etc. That being said, I had to sell him on something EASY and fun for our big celebration, so I came up with these burgers. The bacon jalapeño poppers can be made ahead of time and thrown in the oven while the mini burgers (sliders) are on the grill. There are no other condiments….you grill the meat seasoned only with salt and pepper, warm the buns on the grill until slightly browned and top with a delicious bacon wrapped, cream cheese filled jalapeño that takes only 5 minutes to cook in the oven…the cream cheese melts out onto the burger ensuring there’s nothing dry about it! E-Z and D-E-licious!! And so easy to make a big batch if you’ve got a number of mouths to feed! Omit the popper for the kids or grill up some hotdogs, set out bottles of mustard and ketchup and you’re all set for your main course!
We’re asking our guests to all bring their favorite summer side dish and I’m going to make my guacamole dip jazzed up with a farm fresh peach and crispy prosciutto. For dessert I was torn between red, white and blue cupcakes or RW&B ice cream pops, so I compromised with these fun little cupcakes cooked in an ice cream cone and topped with a whipped frosting…a cupcake disguised as an ice cream cone! It's much easier for the kiddies to handle than struggling with cupcake wrappers (which I inevitably find placed strategically here and there MONTHS after we’ve had a party!). For my cupcake ice cream cones I used an angel food cake recipe and topped them with fresh whipped cream and added blueberries and raspberries to keep up the RW&B theme. You can choose your favorite cake and frosting recipe, even boxed if you are so inclined and decorate as you please. If you’re going to set your cupcake cones outside for very long, then you may want to choose a buttercream instead of the whipped cream frosting.
For the skeptics out there, the answer is NO, the cones will not brown or cook in the oven and I tried several different cake cone brands and found that the Ralphs store brand stayed the lightest and crunchiest (awesome with the angel food cake inside) and Joy cake cones became soft and almost stale after cooking.
Let me just say that I never ever encourage any kind of spitting when it comes to my children. Not even the cute little noises my little 1 ½ year-old used to make. Its gross and it seems like the preschoolers I know always think its so fun to make PFFFSSSHPPPPPSSHPP noises at each other ….BUT OH SO MANY GERMS!!! I can seriously count the hours after I’ve seen my son playing that game with someone that he ends up coming down with the stomach flu. So let me say again that I don’t condone spitting of any kind….EXCEPT when it comes to a contest where watermelon seeds are involved! I remember lazy Sunday summer afternoons sitting on our back porch sharing a watermelon with my grandfolks and seeing who could spit their seeds the farthest. My grandfather could always spit his seed farther than mine, but I never stopped trying to outdo him. Watermelons are at peak perfection this time of year and they’ll serve double duty as a delicious treat and fun game for the little ones too!
Another of my favorite childhood games was bobbing for apples where you have a large galvanized tub of water with about 8-10 big apples floating around in the middle. Two competitors dunk their heads into the water and the first to come up with an apple in their mouth wins. You’ll want to have your camera ready parents…the photos you capture of their wet little faces with a big fat apple in their mouth will make an awesome Christmas card! Our guest list includes some pretty young ones so I bought smaller apples so they’ll have an easier time with the game.
The last bit of fun we have planned for the children is a bike parade. Each child will decorate his/her bicycle with paper streamers, flags and pom poms and Dad will set up a bike path for the kids to circle through in the cul de sac. There’s all kinds of cute décor available at your local dollar store or you can use some of the cute printables Martha Stewart has on her website if you’ve got some extra time to devote to cutting things out. We picked up little traffic cones from the sporting goods department at our local big box store to help set up the path. Note to parents—do not try too hard to make your child’s bike “cute”…the truth is that they want to do it themselves and you trying to help is only going to spoil their fun…don’t make the same mistake I did!
Since I was in Texas for the last ten days, I haven’t had nearly enough time to dedicate to finding decorations as I’d like. It seems as though many of the banners and things they sell in stores are a bit overpriced, so I busted out my sewing machine and hit up my special bin of fabric that I have big plans for, but it never actually turns into anything because I can’t get motivated once the fabric crosses the threshold of my house. In my bin, I found some great red and white striped fabric that was supposed to be window coverings for my son’s room and an old navy and white polka dot piece I used as a table covering at my daughters 1st birthday party. The ribbon I used was something I picked up at an after Christmas sale for 50% off. I cut out large triangles of each fabric and after about 40 minutes had 30+ feet of pennant garland to hang over our festivities. It took me less time than it would have to shower, dress the kids and drive to even ONE store…so if you have a special bin like mine, dig it out and look for hues that will work to create something festive for your party. Don’t have a bin or a sewing machine? Check out this super cute free printable garland Jenny from Hank & Hunt put together. Print out, cut out and add to some ribbon! That should only take you 10 minutes.
For my tablescape, I’m using this awesome pinwheel yellow tablecloth I picked up at every-mom’s-favorite-big-box store. I know, I know yellow is not exactly in keeping with the red, white & blue theme, but when I started laying out my other RW&B paraphernalia on it, it was just too pretty and perfect! I’m also keeping it simple for my centerpieces. Instead of buying a bunch of those awful RW&B bouquets they sell at stores this time of year, I thought I’d let little buckets of cherries serve double duty as décor and a healthy little snack to boot! Just be sure and provide your guests with somewhere to spit out their little seeds….or send them over to the watermelon contest….just saying. Since we will be outside and are having a casual potluck dinner, I decided to go with flag embellished paper plates. It is the 4th of July…NOBODY is expecting fine china! I picked up some yellow and white striped cups to bring in a little more of the yellow to my theme and I am wrapping plastic cutlery in plain white napkins tied off with a little RW&B ribbon. Super cute and very easy.
Last but certainly not least, you’ll need some music for your party. I’ve put together a playlist of songs that we’ll be playing that just make me feel American. If you don’t have an ipod/MP3 player, try picking up the Forrest Gump soundtrack or just tune into the Classic Rock music station on your cable tv box. These artists are my top picks for a Fourth of July party: Lynrd Skynrd, Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Allman Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Three Dog Night, Kid Rock (older stuff) and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Rock on!!
I hope you all have a very happy and safe holiday and remember how truly blessed we are to live in this country. HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!
Here are the recipes: