Come the Fourth of July and other summer party days, food plays a major role, so plan to offer plenty of festive fare for the family to enjoy.
Taste, shape and color all contribute to lighthearted presentation, and Family Fun magazine's June-July issue has some pointers to achieving simply delicious effects, to which everyone can lend a hand.
Watermelon Pop Stars, pictured at right, make a really cool treat. To prepare: First use a cookie cutter to cut juicy star shapes from 1-inch-thick slices of seedless watermelon. Insert a Popsicle stick into each star, then set the pops on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Cover the stars with another sheet of foil and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.
Make a stack of blueberry pancakes while this fruit is at its best. Remember, hot pancakes wait for no one. Get everything else (juice, milk, softened butter and syrup) ready, so you can enjoy the pancakes right out of the skillet. The recipe, which follows, is written as a step-by-step guide for teaching children how to make the pancakes.
A red, white and blue fruit salad is quickly put together from red strawberries, diced apple and blueberries, tossed in fresh lime juice and garnished with mint. You can spoon it over vanilla ice cream for an irresistible dessert.
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cups sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil, plus extra oil for the pan
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
Place a sifter or sieve in a large mixing bowl and measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg into it. Sift the ingredients into the bowl.
In a separate large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the milk, sour cream, melted butter (or oil), and vanilla extract and whisk to blend.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the liquid mixture into it. Vigorously whisk the ingredients just until blended (about 10 seconds). Add the lemon zest and the blueberries and gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, Then pour in enough cooking oil to coat the surface. Using a pot holder to grasp the pan handle with both hands, gently swirl the skillet around to evenly distribute the oil.
For each pancake, ladle about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot skillet. You should be able to cook 3 or 4 pancakes at a time.
Cook the pancakes for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 minutes on the first side. Then flip and cook them about half as long, until the second side is golden brown.
Serve the pancakes at once, preferably on warm plates. Top with butter and maple syrup or homemade blueberry syrup.
Makes about 12 pancakes.
Red, White and Blueberry Fruit Salad
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
3 medium apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, honey and mint. Add all the fruit and toss to combine. Let the fruit salad stand for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Makes 8 servings.