Monday, July 9, 2012

july 4th

ahh, summer.  if you read my last post you will know i love summer.  everything about it.  i love the heat, the outdoor activities, the energy, and the food.  the july 4th holiday is a perfect tribute to summer.  i had such fond memories of the holiday as a child.  our backyard neighbors always hosted a neighborhood party.  it was full of delicious BBQ'd food, potluck salads and desserts like you've never seen before.  there were games for the kids, but my favorite was catching fireflies.  running around barefoot capturing one after another and dumping them into a mason jar in hopes they would live until the morning (they never did).  oh and there were fireworks.  glorious loud fireworks.  it first started with sparklers for the kids and then progressed to the large fireworks display where everyone grabbed a chair and oooed and awwwed at the spectacular.  the same guy every year always shouted "it's a beauty!" at every one.  and the crowd would always laugh.  it was great.  it was summer.

each year i hope for a great 4th of july and i always seem a little disappointed.  the fireworks are never like i remembered as a kid.  the food was never in abundance.  it just wasn't the same.  until this year.  we went to our friends house for the afternoon.  it was hot outside, almost unbearable, but just as i remembered as a kid.  the one thing that was noticeably different this year was my son, enjoying himself as an almost two year old.  last year he had no clue and didn't get it.  this year, he still had no clue, but got it.  he and his buddies splashed in sprinklers, squirted each other with water hoses, and squealed with delight all afternoon.

the food was delicious, just what a 4th of july BBQ should be.  my specialty, taco dip, was the appetizer.  and nothing goes better with taco dip than a red white and blue sangria that i made.  the first course was BBQ ribs that had been on the grill all day.  the meat literally fell off the bone.  my son repeatedly said, "mama i want to do it" and took a rib of his own and started gnawing away.  i laughed at him with BBQ sauce from ear to ear, and well, literally head to toe.  but that's what eating ribs is all about, right?  2nd course was grilled skirt steak marinated in my special sauce and grilled shrimp kebabs.  throw in a few "nathan's" french fries and you have a perfect july 4th meal.

what was for dessert you ask?  my friend, sarah, made her special strawberry cake that is the epitome of summertime and i brought these.
chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered marshmallows (both dipped in sprinkles for a little added fun).

then it was fireworks time!  sarah's husband, mike, brought out sparklers.  my heart melted.  kids faces were exploding with joy.  there was abundant laughter, squeals, clapping, everything that goes with young kids and sparklers.  there was a line of kids, 4 and under, watching my husband, and his cousins set off "big" fireworks.  i use the term "big" loosely as they were really glorified bottle rockets, but the kids didn't know the difference.  they had a front row seat to a pretty cool fireworks show.

suddenly, the 4th of july was just as awesome as i remember it as a kid.  all it took was for me to have a child of my own and see the holiday through his eyes.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

60th birthday party

my father in law turned 60 this past week and i swear we've been celebrating his birthday for weeks now, and we're not finished.  i still have to pack my car with my almost two year old and my husband and drive to the cape to spend the weekend with my in-laws for yet another birthday celebration.  don't get me wrong, i adore my father in law, but enough is enough.  the thing is, all he wanted to do for his birthday was have a simple backyard BBQ at our home.  that's all he wanted.  instead his wife planned a surprise party for him at the beginning of the month, a trip to the sagamore and the upcoming trip to the cape.  as sick as i am of celebrating this man's birthday, i still felt obligated to throw him the backyard BBQ that he actually wanted. 

summer is my favorite time of year.  even more so now that my son runs rampant in the backyard playing with sprinklers, toys, balls, pools, the garden hose, anything.  it's great to sit and relax on the patio while watching him play, have a drink, do some BBQing and enjoy the summer air.  since i love being outside so much during the summer, i have really taken to BBQ menus.  i've actually become quite good on the grill, but my husband, being the man's man that he is, won't quite give me the reins.  we are a nice BBQing duo, i plan the menu, prep the food and he does the grillin'.  it works. 

so for this special 60th birthday celebration here is what was on our menu.  try to not drool too much, but it's OK if you do a little.
grilled skirt steak (marinaded in my own special recipe which i will share with you at some point in time.)
cumin spiced grilled shrimp
grilled corn on the cob with cilantro lime butter
lemon pasta salad
gourmet green salad

with all of this, who saved room for dessert, right?  oh there was room for dessert.  yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting and homemade strawberry ice cream. 

you're drooling, aren't you?  i am.  i don't want to spill all of my favorite recipes in my first few blog posts so i thought i would share the one that was a little out of the box for me.  (you'll have to check back later for the others.) 

i had a great childhood and i have great childhood memories.  i want to create the same wonderful memories for my son.  one of my fondest memories as a child was my mother's homemade ice cream.  she wouldn't make it often (probably why i remember it so fondly, because it was for only special occasions), but she always made it on my birthday.  i can still taste it.  i don't know what ingredients she used or how she did it, but it was so yummy.  it was a process too.  i mean like an all day process.  (probably another reason why she didn't make it often.)  but in my own opinion, it was so worth it. 

it recently occurred to me that somewhere in my over packed attic i have an ice cream maker.  believe me, this one is nothing like the one my mother had, and thank goodness for that.  it is compact and makes ice cream in like 30 minutes + freezing time.  amazing.  it comes with a very tiny instruction booklet with a few basic recipes in it.  i took the basic recipe and added in some of my very own goodness.  enjoy.

mama says:  my father in law who just may be my toughest food critic said he thought the ice cream was delicious, as did all the others who tried it.  i on the other hand thought it was little too icy tasting.  however, i can not wait to continue experimenting with the ice cream maker.  i believe the flavor possibilities are endless.
mama's drink:  you might be shocked to hear me say this, but i think i was without drink in hand while eating this ice cream.   

adapted from cuisinart

2 cups sliced strawberries
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
splash of vanilla extract - optional
white chocolate chips - optional

1.)  In a small bowl, combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of the sugar.  Let macerate for approximately 2 hours.

2.)  In a large bowl combine milk and remaining sugar.  Using an electric mixer blend until sugar has dissolved, approximately 2 minutes.  Add juices from strawberries.  Then add heavy cream and splash of vanilla extract.

3.)  Pour mixture into Cuisinart ice cream maker.  Mix/freeze for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add the strawberries and chocolate chips if using.  Continue mixing/freezing for another 5 minutes. 

4.)  Freeze.  Remove from freezer 5 minutes before serving to let thaw slightly.