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Fourth of July: Tips for Celebrating the Holiday and Cooking for a Crowd

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The Fourth of July is right around the corner and whether you are attending or hosting a party, I'm sure you're trying to get everything organized to make the day special.

The Fourth of July is a perfect excuse to enjoy the five Fs: family, friends, fireworks, fun, and feasting! However, if you're the one in charge of hosting the party, you might be a bit stressed trying to figure out how to make the day just right.

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Since your Fourth of July party will most likely be an outdoor event, your decorations should also sparkle and shimmer. Red, white, and blue twinkle lights dress up trees and bushes. You'll have no problem finding American flag-themed decorations like flags and balloons at a party store or your local drugstore or market.

When it comes to the table and food, star-shaped napkins, serving trays, and bowls can hold all of your snacks and dips. Buy flowers in the colors of the holiday to dress up your tables. Sparklers light up any Fourth of July party and they make dazzling decorations for cakes and other desserts. However, be sure to keep them out of children's hands. They can be dangerous if handled carelessly.

Cooking for a Crowd

Cooking for a crowd can be slightly intimidating at first but it doesn't have to be. Just take a few deep breaths and follow the tips below to help make the day (and any other party you host) a huge success. Remember, it's a party and a celebration...even as the hostess with the mostest you should be allowed to have some fun too!

  • Decide how you want to serve the food. A buffet style or family style is one of the easiest ways to serve when entertaining a large crowd in your home, especially for a Fourth of July party. Buffet-style will allow your guests to serve up their own dishes and then head to the living room to plant themselves on the couch and mow down the grub while watching the game.
  • Plan your menu a few days in advance. Choose dishes that are easy to make in large quantities. It also helps to make dishes that can be prepared in advance. There's nothing worse than being a host of the party and spending your entire time cooking in the kitchen.
  • Study your recipes once you decide on a menu. By studying your recipes, you will be able to come up with an action plan as to what can be cooked a few days in advance, what needs to be chopped, what needs to be stored in the refrigerator, what needs to be heated prior to serving, etc.
  • Make refrigerator space. Time and time again, I try to cram as many dishes into the refrigerator as possible and I almost always find myself wishing that I had a second refrigerator. Once you have your menu down pat, decide what needs to be stored in the refrigerator prior to serving and make room for those dishes prior to preparation.
  • Be sure you have enough serving utensils and dishes. There's nothing worse than frantically pulling out all of the contents of your cabinets only to realize that you don't have anything on which to serve the food. Take stock of your inventory and stop by the store to pick up any necessary utensils or dishes.
  • Serve food at appropriate temperatures. Be sure to keep warm foods hot at 140 degrees F or warmer by using slow cookers, chafing dishes or warming trays. It also helps to keep dishes hot by storing them in a warm oven until ready to serve. For foods that are meant to be served chilled, nestle the serving dishes over bowls of crushed ice.
  • Be realistic on how much of the cooking you can do by yourself. As my husband can attest, I'm a control freak who ends up making every dish for my parties. Word of advice: don't be like me if you're not ready for hours of prep and cooking. Enlist the help of your guests, delegate chores and ask your guests to bring a dish. Like I said before, it's a party and you need to kick back, relax and have fun!

Are you hosting or attending a Fourth of July party? How do you like to decorate for the Fourth of July? What are your tips for cooking for a crowd?

Photo courtesy of Country Living.

Jen Tilley has an insatiable appetite for all things related to baking and cooking. She is the author, photographer and recipe developer on How To: Simplify, a blog that shares tips, tricks and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. She enjoys sharing recipes that require very few ingredients and only a small amount of prep and cook time, all of which make time spent in the kitchen simple and enjoyable. Find her online at How To: Simplify, @HowToSimplify and Jen Tilley Photography.

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