If Fourth of July get-togethers mean your most urgent need is delicious (and ideally quick) menu ideas, I have you covered! In the spirit of keeping your time in the kitchen to a minimum and any summer eating goals in tact, I’m kicking off this month’s Favorite Things post with a short list of trusty recipes that are really easy (with lots of advance prep options), mostly healthy and cover appetizers through dessert.
And then, to serve us well throughout the long, hot days of summer, the balance of my July Favorite Things post includes a nifty beach bag, my favorite fast food meal (it’s true!), a cool drink that’s good for gut health (with a mocktail/cocktail twist), an easy but worthwhile beach read, and the summer sandals my perennially sore feet adore. (There could be a whole other blog post on my nagging pain that involves a surprising MRI of my back and an order for physical therapy — it’s helping! — but we can save that for another day.)
For now, safe travels if you’re hitting the roads or taking to the sky and happy Fourth of July to all! 🇺🇸 ✨
Favorite recipes when I need to pull a crowd-pleasing meal together but don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen:
- A Third-A Third-A Third Marinade consists of equal parts of 3 simple ingredients for mouth-watering grilled chicken, salmon and/or vegetables.
- Corn and Cucumber Salad with Basil and Chives is an oldie but goodie and a consistent crowd-pleaser. (A friend once told me she brought this to a summer potluck and three other people brought the same dish after the recipe appeared in our local paper…and there was none left!)
- When I take My Favorite Broccoli Salad (or slaw) to a get-together (which I often do), the feedback is consistently positive. Also, my dad doesn’t like broccoli, but he loves this salad!
- Blueberry Jammie (otherwise known as blueberry crisp) is delicious on its own but a scoop of vanilla ice cream is a welcome treat. If make-ahead ice cream pies sound appealing, Mud Pie and Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie score points for easy advance prep and great taste. (Dairy-free? This chocolate ice cream has scored high ratings.)
- If you’re looking for appetizers, these shrimp are a little spicy, while these are mild with a lovely hint of sweetness. Both can be grilled ahead and served at room temperature. For a no-cook alternative, you can’t go wrong with this bean, corn and avocado dip. Serve it with your favorite tortilla chips. (Although it’s equally delicious as a side salad or salsa for grilled chicken or fish.)
- Need a special beverage? Beer Margaritas might sound a little different, but they have been dubbed “all-time favorite margarita” by a friend who is a margarita connoisseur. (If you freeze the mixture, it becomes slushy-like!) You can’t go wrong with Classic Spanish Sangria either. Finally, Strawberry Slushy Punch is an old standby when looking for something festive and kid-friendly.
Favorite fast food meal: Wendy’s Berry Burst Chicken Salad
Say what? You may not have expected this from me! Though I do like to pack an assortment of snacks and frequently travel with this easy, hearty, homemade muffin (that conveniently comes with it’s own disposable travel container! This muffin is an excellent option, too.), a long trip often calls for quick stops and limited choices.
Wendy’s has long been my family’s favorite for fast food, and it offers some redeeming qualities. My husband and I enjoy their taco salad and Southwest avocado chicken salad. On a recent trip, I ordered the berry burst chicken salad, which consists of mixed greens topped with freshly grilled chicken, blueberries, strawberries and crumbled feta and served with a package of salted, slivered almonds. It was shockingly crisp, flavorful and satisfying.
I checked on the nutritional stats and they were quite good. To see all the salad offerings, click here. Of course, I do always order a small Frosty for dessert, which I consider a reasonable portion-controlled treat!
Favorite Summer Shoes: Birkenstocks
Not only has this shoe endured its early hippie stereotype and stood the test of time, it’s become über popular with people of all ages. But the best thing? These shoes are comfortable!
I’ve had this flip flop style in a fun, go-with-everything metallic silver for four years and they’re still going strong. Unlike the typical flip flop, this shoe is perfect for long days on your feet and for people with various foot aches and pains.
Birkenstocks are designed to mold to your foot, so they become more comfortable as you wear them. They’re an excellent alternative to sneakers when traveling and you know you’ll be walking a lot.
I recently added this slightly more supportive slide to my collection. It was a tough choice, but I settled on olive (which the company actually calls khaki) and it seems to go with nearly everything.
And since summer is upon us, how about the latest addition to the Birkenstock line－a plastic slide! Retailing for $39.95 ($29.99 for kids’ sizes), my son and I recently bought a pair and love them. They are surprisingly comfortable, lightweight, breathable and ideal for pool, beach and walking through wet grass.
🦶🦶🦶Also, since I never thought I’d model my feet but just did, it occurred to me that I should mention my favorite nail polish color of the season. It’s O•P•I’s “A-Rose at Dawn…Broke by Noon,” a somewhat quirky name, for sure. It’s bright and not flat (thanks to the hint of frost) and seems to match most everything. (Widely available at drugstores and online.)
Current Favorite Beach Read: The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn
After losing her job, her brother and her fiancé, followed by a stint in rehab for alcohol addiction, the former New Yorker editor and food writer sets out on a road trip with the intention of putting her life back together. In her beautifully written memoir, Emily Nunn chronicles how food, family, friends helped heal deep wounds and provide comfort in the face of loss. Nunn ends many of her chapters with recipes that she cooked with friends, and though food is central to the book, the story is so much broader.
Favorite drink: GT Kombucha
First off, for those who have tasted kombucha and didn’t like it, stick with me! Not all kombucha is created equally in terms of health benefits and taste.
For starters, what is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s naturally effervescent with living probiotics, amino acids, polyphenols and active enzymes. Though it has only recently become widely popular, kombucha has been consumed for thousands of years, and studies have shown that it may help fight diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
For many years I drank a glass of wine with dinner every night. While I still enjoy a glass when out to dinner, I swapped the nightly habit for gut-healthy kombucha and never looked back.
The GT brand is my day-to-day favorite because the sugar content is very low but it still tastes lightly sweet. (The good bacteria actually feed on the naturally occurring sugars!)
There are just 30 calories and 8 grams of natural sugar per serving－and with two 8-ounce servings per bottle, it’s the equivalent of a generous pour of wine.
The mild effervescence makes kombucha crisp and refreshing. My personal favorite flavor is Cosmic Cranberry, while my older son’s top pick is Trilogy.
Guava Goddess, Passionberry Bliss and Gingerberry are others I purchase regularly. As you can see, all of the names are fun!
I still use a pretty wine glass, because it just seems more special.🍷
Also, I saw the following mocktail suggestion ⇩⇩ on Lemon Street Market’s Instagram, tried (minus the rosemary because I didn’t have it at the time) and thoroughly enjoyed. Guava Goddess tastes terrific on its own, but the addition of lime-flavored sparkling water (you could also use plain seltzer plus a squeeze of lime) offers a crisp, refreshing alternative. To make a cocktail out of this, a splash of Malibu rum or vodka would complement well.
Kitchen of the month:
This kitchen was the readers’ top pick for the month of June－and while it was the clear winner, the design also exemplifies a common point of disagreement among readers: white versus dark cabinets. Most readers seem to adore the bright space of a white kitchen, although there are some who flat out don’t like white. That said, a handful of the readers who raved about this space did mention that a pop of color would bump it from a 9 to a 10.
Favorite reusable bags get an upgrade compliments of these versatile mesh bags:
Beyond the weekly groceries, they’re perfect for general shopping, travel or a day at the beach. A little history: in the 1800s, locals In Normandy had the revelation that their fishing nets could carry more than just fish.
Made from 100% cotton, Food52’s sturdy carriers are still made in France and retail for $24. Ecobag’s offers a basic bag for $11.99 or a $37.96 “grab bag,” which includes a random set of 5 bags. Locals may be able to find the Ecobag option at Lemon Street Market.
The sign on the window of Mt. Desert Ice Cream in Portland, Maine says it all! 🍦