On this Independence Day, when we are seeing friends and family again and can comfortably gather once more, I’d like to share some tips for a healthy Fourth of July. No, I’m not saying everyone needs to mask up, but I do want to remind you to be kind to those who do. If they are still masking, they were likely second-guessing attending the event, so know that even in jest, words can be hurtful.
I am not doling out barbecue advice either, as each gathering has its resident BBQ King and/or Queen and I know better than to make an enemy of that powerhouse. However, quick tip for BBQ rookies: A thermometer just might mean the difference between a long-lived reign or having the party be memorable for the wrong reasons. Also, undercooking meat may not be the only cause of food poisoning. Allow me to share some tips to ensure that fireworks, not gastrointestinal mishaps, will be the highlight of your Fourth of July celebration.
Cue the music, DJ. Ice, Ice, Baby… What would the Fourth of July be without ice? Hot!
Do you want to build a snow… cone? OK, now I know who the Disney fans are, or at least who has little ones. 😀 You are going to need a LOT of ice. For example, if you want to make snow cones for your party, you’re going to need more than a five-pound bag of ice, which will only yield about 10 of those tasty treats. So you are planning to get a 10-pound bag? Good. But multiply that by each cooler, as no one wants to drink warm soda or beer. Especially be careful if you have containers of fresh juice—they must be on ice or refrigerated. Otherwise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deems them unsafe to consume after two hours at room temperature. Add the sun, and time is greatly diminished. If you have dispensers of drinks and are hesitant to add much ice for fear of diluting them, use a fluted pan—or that Tupperware Jel-Ring sitting in your cupboard—and make a fruit-filled ice ring (Cool Tip #1 below).
Potato or macaroni salad? A picnic is not complete without one or both. No matter your recipe, a primary ingredient is mayonnaise. If you are making a big bowl of starchy goodness, you need to keep it cool to avoid making all your guests sick. Keeping the bowl on ice is not always practical, but keeping the salad on ice can be. Come again? Pile your salad on a protected ice block in your bowl (Cool Tip #2).
Chilled seafood must be served chilled as well. Rather than serving it on a bed of ice, serve it on a sheet of ice which will last longer (Cool Tip #3). This can also work for other foods as well, but you’ll need to plan ahead and clear space in your freezer. I’ve just given you an excuse to eat ice cream. You’re welcome.
Your guests will be singing your praises for months when you serve them next-level drinks. This one is less about physical health and more about mental health. Every guest will partake in some sort of liquid refreshment. When your guests arrive, offer them their first beverage in a cup or glass. You take the order, assign someone else the task of pouring. Cool Tip #4 will have them lauding you with compliments even before the first sip.
Healthy Fourth of July how-to tips
Cool Tip #1: Slice oranges, wedge lemons or limes, and pluck the leaves from strawberries. Put all your prepared fruit into the Jel-Ring and then add water. As the ring melts, it adds flavor to your water, iced-tea, lemonade, or punch. Bonus tip: if you are making lemonade or punch, add it instead of water to make the ring and your beverage will not get diluted as your “ice” melts.
Cool Tip #2: If you turn a 10-pound bag of potatoes into potato salad, you will need a really big bowl for serving it—if your party is not being handled by a professional caterer, the smaller dishes will continually need to be refilled. A Tupperware Thatsa Bowl will hold all that salad with room to spare, so take advantage of the extra space: Fill a food-safe, liquid-tight four-cup bowl to 3/4 of its capacity with water and freeze it overnight. When you are ready to fill your Thatsa Bowl—or whatever huge bowl you’re using—with potato or mac salad, first place the small ice bowl upside-down in the bottom and then your salad on top. If your bowl is liquid-tight, you do not need to worry about it leaking and upside-down prevents someone from accidentally prying the seal off when scooping their salad.
Cool Tip #3: A one-inch sheet of ice will melt more slowly than crushed ice beneath your seafood. Planning is the key to success in this endeavor. You can set your seafood directly onto the ice or you can present it in another dish that will sit atop your ice sheet. You can even use this method for a variety of items in different containers. I’ll give you the simplest way to determine what containers to use with a minimal amount of math. For your ice sheet, choose a container or baking pan with sides at least two inches high. Fill it with an inch of water and test for spillover that might happen when your ice melts by placing your planned food container in the pan. For multiple dishes, lay them all out, being sure to add weight if they float, so all bottoms touch the bottom of your pan. No spillover? You are good to go and your table will be safe from a wet mess. Clear a space in your freezer so your ice sheet will be level. Bonus tip: Two similar-size pans will work, but be sure to test for spillover—identical pans will not work. As the ice melts and the top pan drops in, water will spill over the sides.
Cool Tip #4: Make every drink a next-level beverage with amped up ice cubes. Freeze a maraschino cherry, mint leaf, citrus curl, raspberry with a blueberry or two, or a strawberry into each cube. If you don’t have enough ice trays, you can drop some frozen fruit into each potation for a colorful fruity splash. Bonus tip: For those of you who still brew coffee in a pot, don’t pour the coffee left in the pot or carafe down the drain. Pour it into an ice tray. When you make your iced coffee, every last drop will be as delicious as the first.
I wish you all a healthy and happy Fourth of July. And may God bless America.
Contributing writer Denise Lum is a Health and Fitness Coach raising her family in Alameda. Contact her via [email protected] or FitnessByDsign.com. Her writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Denise-Lum.