Picnic Delights for Your 4th of July

July 2, 2015

As kiddos, our 4th of July celebrations were always pleasantly the same. During the afternoon, we’d walk or ride our bikes down to the river near our house and splash around, jump off the rope swing, and make up leap-frog games in the water (which as you can imagine, totally didn’t work). In the murky water, our feet would sink easy into the mud, squishing it’s way between our toes, and we’d always scream if a twig would brush our legs, believing for that nightmarish second that it was a snake. And because July 4th falls within our Arizona monsoon season, our river games would come to a stop when the dark clouds rolled in and the winds picked up. Sloshing out of the water and wrapping our bodies in our ragged, color-stripped Little Mermaid towels, we’d head home to see if mom was starting the grill.

Our grill sits in the corner of our deck in the back of our house and faces the back door that mom always left open. She’d be manning the grill whenever we’d come through the front door, which has a straight, clear view of mom on the deck.  Without even turning her head to see how much dirt was on us she’d say, “I hope you remembered to hose off before you came in!” Oops…

We would sigh and slowly back pedal out of the front door frame, peeking down at the little floor our shoes did touch to make sure there was no signs of mud, and make our way to the hose in the front yard (being a little excited to play in some water again).

Mom grills up something great each year: burgers, chicken and veggie skewers, corn on the cob, pineapple (Mom’s all-time favorite), peaches, or zucchini. All are delicious and are eaten with zero complaints from the family.

But, we’d certainly have to say that our favorite part of our 4th of July’s are when we all walk up the road in front of our house that’s at a steep incline, and sit right on top of it to watch the fireworks. It’s very dark on our street as we have no street lights which makes it perfect for firework gazing. Usually we arrive at our spot a bit early to the fireworks show (and in our hometown, as small and quaint as Cottonwood is, the firework show ain’t anything crazy or lengthy), so we chat and giggle (so hard) in the darkness. Sometimes we can’t really locate each other until we can make the other person laugh and see where their pearly smile is in black. And we don’t know why, but as kids, not being able to see each other and see where the funny words/jokes are coming from, makes all silly things 100x more funny. The word “booger” and fart sounds were never as funny as they were when we’d say/do them on the top of that hill.

And when the first boom goes off, it’s only “Oooooo’s,” and “Ahhhhh’s,” from there. The fireworks that look like they’re comin’ real, real close have always been our favorites and always fooled us as kids. “WHOA. Mom! Did you see that?! That was totally coming right at me!!!”

This carefree time together, mesmerized by the colorful twinkling and trickling lights in the sky is something we crave at every holiday, especially this one. And we find it more and more important as the years go by that holidays are the perfect excuse to gather your loved ones together in a setting where they feel free and the laughs come easy. Also, these gatherings are SO much better when there is some good food, right?

So for this 4th of July, before we decide to head back home to eat Momma’s grillin’ and to rest on the warm asphalt to watch the fireworks, we wanted to share a few recipes with you that might be great for your family/friend gathering; whether that’s a picnic or a BBQ, we hope these three (easy and healthy!) recipes find a nice, cozy spot next to the potato salad and coleslaw.

1. Orzo Zucchini Salad
Orzo Salad
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Serves 4-5
(Prepare for about 30 min-1 hour for cooling)
1 1/2 cup orzo
2 zucchinis chopped
1 cup green beans chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
Sea salt
1 tbsp Italian herbs
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Chop up the zucchini and the green beans into small pieces.
3. Heat a skillet on the stove at medium-heat; spray with non-stick cooking spray.
4. Place in minced garlic and stir around on pan with wooden spoon; heat for 2-3 minutes.
5. Place in zucchini and green beans; sprinkle with pepper and sea salt for taste.
6. Occasionally stir the veggies until they have cooked; the zucchini will have browned just a bit and they both should have a soft crunch to them.
7. Take the veggies off the stove and let them cool.
8. When the orzo is finished and strained, place on the counter to cool.
9. The orzo and the veggies can be placed in an airtight container and put in the fridge.
10. Once the veggies and orzo are chilled, pull them out of the fridge and in a large bowl mix them together.
11. Add in the Italian herbs, the feta cheese, and the sundried tomatoes and mix well.
12. Drizzle in the olive oil and mix again, covering all ingredients.
13. Taste to see if you would like more feta, more herbs, more tomatoes, or more olive oil.
14. Place in the fridge to keep cool until ready to serve.
15. Enjoy! Serve this dish cold and enjoy it at one of your picnics/BBQs!

2. Fuss-Free Turkey Sandwiches
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1 bag of whole wheat dinner rolls
2 ripe avocados
Green leaf lettuce
Turkey meat
Monterey Jack cheese slices
Additional Fuss-Free toppings: hummus, pesto, or tomato slices

1. For a picnic, place all sandwich ingredients into Tupperware and secure the lids.
2. If traveling far to your location, be sure you have an ice pack or are carrying your food in a cooler so the cheese/ meat stay cold.
3. With a knife, a plastic one works great, cut the dinner role in half.
4. Spread desired condiments on slices.
5. Stack your bread with turkey meat, cheese, lettuce, and avocado.
6. Enjoy! These sandwiches are easy to hold and only need one hand. This means you can enjoy any backyard games like corn hole while you eat!

3. Dark Chocolate Kiwi Pops

4 kiwis
2-3 squares of a dark chocolate bar
1/4 cup crushed almonds
Tooth Picks
Parchment Paper

1. Skin the kiwis and cut into circle slices that will be thick enough to stick a tooth pick through; we made ours pretty thick so they wouldn’t wobble when eating hem.
2. Stick one tooth pick into each kiwi slice so it looks like a lollipop. We made sure we pushed the tooth picks right into the core of the kiwi slices so the tooth picks would stay in.
3. Cover a plate with parchment paper.
4. Place the crushed almonds in a small container/bowl.
5. Place the dark chocolate squares into a microwave safe bowl and place in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes. Be careful when you take the bowl out as it will be hot! It’s okay if there are some chocolate chunks; stir it with a fork until the chunks have melted with the rest and you have a rich, smooth consistency.
6. With the parchment paper covered plate, the crushed almonds, and the melted chocolate nearby (as things can get a little messy!) dip the tops of the kiwi pops into the dark chocolate and coat it well.
7. Place the chocolate covered kiwi pop on the parchment paper.
8. Sprinkle almonds on top.
9. Repeat until all kiwi pops are covered with dark choc/almond goodness! You may need to melt more chocolate depending on the thickness of your kiwi slices and how much of the kiwi you’re covering.
10. Place the pops in the freezer.
11. When they are frozen and the chocolate has hardened, enjoy!

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