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Peach Cornbread Slice

The fragrance of ripe peaches is as sensuous as Number 5. They draw you into their presence and urge you to fit just one more in the bag. Once the juicy flavor grenades are brought home, usually two fates await. They will be quickly devoured within the first few days or left to sit around with the best of intentions, ultimately lending themselves to over ripening. Here is an option for what to do with peaches that are on the verge of too ripe: bake up a rich cakey peach cornbread. The recipe uses up a lot of pantry staples keeping the need to go shopping for ingredients to a minimum. It’s slightly sweet, making it able to be served with a smear of creamy butter for breakfast or topped with whipped cream for dessert.

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Island Style Lunch

Maybe it’s the afternoon showers cooling temperatures from oppressive to pleasant or the fact that I’ve watched three surfing documentaries this week, but I’ve craved the tropics. My desperate grasp for a taste of island life has led to a bit of over purchasing, leaving my counter piled high with mangoes and limes. (Don’t judge. They were really cheap and I couldn’t resist.) Now, to use up the bounty, I’ve been eating them with just about every meal. Mango-lime smoothies in the mornings, mango sprinkled with lime juice and chili powder for a snack and my personal favorite, mango slaw with lime dressing to go with lunch or dinner. The slaw recipe is the highlight of the excessive purchase and inspired a lunch/dinner meal where it pairs with marinated short ribs and white rice. The short ribs showcase a salty sweet marinade and cook up quickly on the stove-top or grill, while fragrant hot cooked rice rounds out the plate and balances the robust tropical flavors. The menu is suited for a sensible lunch gathering with a few friends and maybe a few beers. It’s refreshing, yet filling, but won’t leave you so full the rest of the day is unproductive. Enjoy.

Marinated Short Ribs

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Happy Bastille Day everyone! I must admit, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic. I was lucky enough to watch the fireworks erupt behind the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day last year (take me baaack), so I’m having a serious case of wanderlust today. Even if we can’t all go to Paris to join in traditions like watching the fireworks or attending the Military Parade on the Champs-Élysées, we can certainly celebrate this historic day in our own way here in America. Here’s a few HGTV takes on La Fête Nationale traditions:

Bastille Day Ideas: Red, White and Blue Decor
All Things Blue, White, and Red
Remember all those cute Fourth of July decorations you put so much thought into two weeks ago? Good news: Bastille Day gives you a reason to re-use your festive red, white and blue pieces. Just remove anything involving stars and stripes and voilà — your home is ready for French festivities.

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I’m once again suggesting you take the party outsideCrafternoon style this time! My good friend Whitney threw a wonderful crafting party in Washington Square Park last week. The event was a hit and I highly recommend throwing your own crafting party in the park, or any outdoor venue you prefer. After staking out a perfect spot in the shade, the afternoon was comprised of great friends, delicious food, adorable puppies, lots of pictures and beautiful paper flowers. While bringing craft supplies outdoors may seem counter-intuitive, the open setting gives you ample space to create. (Plus it’s so nice to be out in the fresh air during these hot summer days.)

Whether you host a big crafting event or just a get-together with a few close friends, this summer party idea is great for guests of all ages. Here are a few tips to make your own Crafternoon a success:

Throw a Crafting Party

Photo: Courtesy of Whitney Penn

Pick a Convenient Craft
Make sure you pick a DIY project that is nature-friendly — in other words, nothing that requires excessive materials, cleanliness, or, of course, electricity.  Whitney cleverly chose paper flowers for her party craft, which fit both thematically and logistically. The craft itself was simple and the components were easy to transport. Plus, if the petals got a little crumpled or dirty, it just made them seem more realistic.

More paper flower crafts: Fourth of July Wreath, Wedding Bouquet

Other easy outdoor crafts: Coiled Wire Ring, Felt Bowls, Friendship Bracelets

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Crispy Chicken

Here is a skillet supper that truly uses one pan to create all the components of a great meal. Crispy Chicken Breast Filets, flattened to quicken the cooking process, are paired with sweet corn medallions, bulb onions and fresh tomatoes. It’s a delicious party menu that utilizes peak seasonal ingredients to keep the flavor high and costs low. Outside of the pan, I’ve also included a dessert of Cherry Cream Pie which is a revelation in contrast to the recipes found on the back of cream cheese packets.

Norm’s Notes: Seasoning Salt and Blends

In today’s culinary world, salt and pepper reign as the undisputed kings of flavor enhancement. The numerous variants of sodium chloride and pungent berries are prized among cooks who often adjust and combine different types to meet specific uses. However, store-bought seasoning salts and blends, popular with most home cooks, often get no love. Since many peoples’ cabinets are littered with half full cylinders of them, I think salt and pepper elitism needs to be addressed.

Seasoning salts and blends are great because they will go with just about anything you can think of, quickly enhancing the taste of foods with little effort. The main problem is many of the seasonings lose potency and pungency over time. So that seasoning you bought for that one recipe you made, for that thing, two years ago, may be past its prime. A good rule is if you haven’t used it within the current calendar year, it probably needs to be discarded, but check the expiration date to be sure. My advice is to use seasoning salts and blends often and boldly. Shake a bit on fresh cut veggies, salad, eggs, grits or anywhere you would use salt and pepper or hot sauce. If anyone sticks their nose in the air about your love of seasoning salt and blends, smile at them, shake on more, and enjoy.

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If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain,” then National Pina Colada Day was made for you. And how perfect that it falls in the dog days of summer when nothing seems more refreshing than a cold, tropical cocktail in hand. So “put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up,” I say. But if you’d rather skip past the drinks and head straight to dessert, then try these pina colada baked doughnuts or pina colada key lime pie. Both look exceptionally sinful.

Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Photo and recipe courtesy of Cornelia Guest

 Spiked Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Ingredients

3 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup rum
1 cup strawberries, sliced

Instructions

Puree all ingredients (except strawberries) in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Add strawberries, pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Insert sticks and continue to freeze overnight. For best results, leave ice pops in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

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Watermelon Salad with Quick Pickled Jalapeno

Whether you’re lugging home a 15-pounder to slice into wedges or grabbing a pre-cut version, my guess is that your watermelon will generally be served plain. May I recommend you add some intrigue to your melon by pairing its sweet succulent flesh with the fruity spice of jalapeno and acidic tang of lime? The Latin-inspired combination transforms plain ol’ watermelon into a complex dish with loads of sweet and spicy flavor. These 3 recipes are all paired with fresh jalapeno and lime to provide a few more interesting ways to enjoy summer’s unofficial fruit.

Norm’s Notes: Pick a Pepper

I don’t know if it’s because of drought or my selection habits, but most of the chiles (especially jalapeno) I’ve had this year are really, really spicy. Although I generally like spice, sometimes there is such a thing as too hot. If you are in the same boat and want to keep the heat of chiles to a minimum, remove the seeds and inner white membrane with a sharp knife. Doing this will not only reduce the heat level, but will help bring out more of the chiles’ fruity flavor. Also, thinly slicing or finely dicing the peppers helps to evenly distribute the spiciness in a dish, allowing for a more predictable heat level and giving a peppery pop of flavor to each bite.

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Fireworks are normally the main attraction of a Fourth of July party, but it’s time for the menu to take center stage. It’s easy to come up with creative menu items for this holiday because it’s so festive, and the main course revolves around my favorite — the grill. These patriotic recipes will surely be the talk of your party.

Panna Cotta Shooters

You can’t get any more patriotic than these adorable shooters. Layers of red, white and blue creamy panna cotta and edible gold stars make this a true patriotic treat.

Panna Cotta Shooters

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While you embrace the Fourth of July with tasty seasonal fare and vibrant fireworks, don’t forget about a festive, signature party beverage. With the summer heat bearing down, these icy concoctions will certainly hit the spot.

Fourth of July Recipes

Courtesy of Cornelia Guest

Star-Spangled Spiked Smoothie

Ingredients

1 ounce vodka
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt
coconut flakes, for garnish

Instructions

Combine vodka, berries and yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with blueberries and coconut flakes.

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It’s officially summer, and for some of you that means throwing a Fourth of July party. A patriotic vibe is the first thing your guests will notice, so set the bar high when it comes to decorations. To help you, I’ve rounded up my favorite easy decoration and activity ideas your guests will love.

Paper Flower Wreath

Give your home a patriotic feel even before your party guests walk in the door with a crepe paper flower wreath. Choose unconventional Fourth of July colors like coral, cobalt blue and ivory, or go with the classic red, white and blue hues.

Paper Flower Wreath

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Ombre Party Linens

Dyeing basic white table linens in an ombre pattern is a modern way to show your patriotism. Despite how intricate this looks, these are easy to make.

Patriotic Ombre Party Linens

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