“Hey, if you don’t have plans for July 4th, we’ll just be hanging around the pool. Stop by!”

It was a noncommittal text sent to a handful of people a few weeks ago, but early on July 3rd a smattering of unexpected affirmative responses began to roll in. And what do innovative, capable, master-problem-solving women do when confronted with a pool full of festive (and hungry) guests?

This morning we combined the contents of our well-stocked pantries, freezers, and gardens like an at-home version of “Chopped,” and put together a creative, crowd-pleasing menu of Fourth of July fare. We think our very adaptable carte du jour would be Ted Allen approved, and hope it inspires the impromptu holiday host to embrace his/her imagination and skip that last minute trip to the store.

Some-Kind-of-Fruit Sangria

Combine a coarsely chopped apple and orange (or any complementary fruits you might have on hand) with 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and muddle. Add 3/4 cup of orange juice, 1/3 cup of brandy, and a bottle of full-bodied, dry red wine (pick a Spanish varietal if your wine cellar is as well equipped as your pantry). Finish with ice and a quick stir.

Skinny Gluten-Free Vegan Yoga Instructor Spritz

Add 1 cup of mint leaves (ours come from the garden), 1/3 cup of sugar, and 1 sliced grapefruit (or other citrus) to a pitcher and muddle. Add 1 large cucumber (sliced), 3/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1.5 cups of vodka*, then chill for 30 minutes. Finally, add ice and 1 cup of sparkling water. Stir. Namaste.

*Feel free to omit the vodka for a Skinny Gluten-Free Vegan Sober Yoga Instructor Spritz. It’s just as delicious.

Anything Goes Watermelon Salad

It wouldn’t be The Fourth of July without watermelon, and we prefer ours in salad format. There are infinite iterations of watermelon salad and we love them all, but only when accompanied by a cherished dressing that is simply non-negotiable. Mix 1/4 cup lemon juice with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of (yes) Tobasco Sauce (seriously), and salt and pepper to taste. Emulsify, then pour over watermelon, feta (or any soft, salty, tangy cheese), and mint. Add thinly sliced red onion, or some type of green, additional fruit, or protein if that’s your prerogative. Basically, anything goes!

Easy Yet Opulent Orzo

This savory salad is a summer staple of our dear friend, a private chef who is big on fresh (but fewer) ingredients, reminding us, “The best garden produce should be bursting with all of the flavor you need.” Still, her version offers a tasty zing dressed with rice wine vinegar and a touch of truffle oil.  Though commonly a side dish, we’ve devoured it routinely as a main course. Simply combine 1.5 cups cooked and cooled orzo with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of minced chives. Add fresh veggies of your choosing (we like 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes and 1 cup of diced Persian cucumbers), plus 1/2 cup of feta and 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts. Then fold in 2 cups of arugula (or your favorite leafy green), add salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with truffle oil, and voila!

Mystery Meat Kebabs

Most of us keep some type of protein hanging around in the freezer for emergencies. The OR freezers contained scallops, [local, pasture-raised] beef and pork, and a few bags of pre-cleaned shrimp. Combined with some chicken and tofu from the fridge, we’ve got something for everyone. The easiest and most practical approach to making several small amounts of protein work for a large number of people is to put it all on a stick. Sprinkle liberally with your favorite seasoning, intersperse some veggies and herbs du jour from the garden, and you’ve got yourself a feast.

Dealer’s Choice Ice Cream Dessert

Nothing says pool party like a big scoop of ice cream, but serving plain ol’ bowls of the stuff to a crowd can seem a bit mundane. We like to top with berries (fresh or frozen), espresso, or a favorite liqueur. We also love to smash a scoop of Salted Caramel between two warm oatmeal cookies, but our absolute favorite option? Cover halved peaches in a mixture of butter and brown sugar, sprinkle with cinnamon, then place on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes, and top with a complementary flavor of ice cream (Bourbon Pecan Praline, anyone?).

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