July 4th is the perfect time to get together with friends for a good old fashioned barbecue. Hosting a fabulous event doesn’t have to be complicated or require a buffet full of processed foods. My approach is to use fresh, summer ingredients in the simplest way possible and to let the ingredients shine.
Most of what goes on the party table doesn’t even require a recipe; it’s simply assembling good food together in a bowl or on a plate. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite simple recipes (and “non-recipes!”) for an easy, healthy barbecue. So grab a pen, plan your menu, and then invite your friends for a party at your house this July 4th!
Easy Going Grilling
Grass Fed Burgers. Upgrade your burger experience by making your own patties with ground grass fed beef. Form the patties ahead of time and all you have to do is throw them on the grill when guests arrive.
Chicken or Locally Made Sausage. Sausage is an easy grilling option. Be sure to check the ingredients before you buy, avoiding those with added preservatives or sugar.
Simple Grilled Chicken. An easy option that everyone loves, try marinating the chicken a few hours ahead of time for extra flavor. My favorite is the marinade from Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Cherry Tomato and Avocado Salad.
Toppings Platter. If you plan to serve burgers or sausages don’t forget the toppings! Lay out a platter of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and red onion. Add mustard and catsup (tip: look for organic catsup since it’s generally made without refined sugar or preservatives) and let everyone serve themselves.
Simple Veggie Sides
Grilled Zucchini or Summer Squash. Slice each squash lengthwise into ¼ inch planks, drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat, flipping once, until tender (about 4 minutes per side). Don’t limit yourself to zucchini, either. Bell pepper, mushrooms, red onion and asparagus are all fantastic on the grill.
Corn on the Cob. Corn is so naturally sweet these days you hardly need to cook it at all. Instead of heating the house up with a gigantic pot of water, consider grilling it as well. There is some debate out there as to whether corn should be grilled with the husk on or off. I think either way is fine, so it’s really up to you. Keep in mind that grilling in the husk will steam the corn, while grilling it with the husk off will leave it with more of a smoky, charred flavor. Either way you go the corn should be grilled about 5-10 minutes, turning it halfway through. Serve with olive oil or butter, and plenty of salt and pepper.
Classic Green Salad. Toss together a big bowl of simple greens, then add a few sliced tomatoes and cucumber. Offer a simple vinaigrette on the side: In a glass container with a lid combine one part balsamic vinegar to 3 parts extra virgin olive oil. Shake the oil and vinegar together with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper.
Whole Grain or Lentil Salad
Easy Lentil Salad. Combine cooked lentils with some raw chopped veggies and homemade dressing for a no-fuss side dish that can be made ahead. Lentil salad is the perfect hearty side, and doubles as a main dish for vegetarians and vegans as well. My go-to is Crunchy Summer Veggie Lentil Salad.
Quinoa or Whole Grain Salad. Toss some cooked quinoa, brown rice, or other whole grain together with a few chopped fruits and veggies. Drizzle in olive oil and your favorite vinegar for a colorful, filling side. This Crunchy Curry Quinoa Salad can be made ahead and is perfect served at room temperature.
Whole Wheat or Gluten-Free Macaroni Salad. Cook a big pot of macaroni, drain, then mix together with your favorite rainbow of veggies. Mix together with a homemade Italian dressing of dried oregano, garlic powder, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.
Watermelon. A big platter of sliced watermelon is a 4th of July no-brainer. Wash the outside of the watermelon first, then slice into triangles. Pile high on a platter and watch everyone grab a slice (or two!).
Strawberries and Blueberries. Summer berries don’t get any better, and there isn’t a better combo than red strawberries and blue blueberries for your 4th of July spread. No need to get fancy here; just wash, slice the strawberries in half, and toss together in a bowl.
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