July 4, 2011

{Easy Entertaining} Happy Fourth of July!

When our oven broke, we discovered that we could easily cater a party without it!:  Patriotic jello shots, dessert table, Caprese salad with fresh burrata, tomatoes, and basil.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Fourth of July! We celebrated a day early - having a few friends and family members over to our apartment. The biggest challenge we faced was discovering that our oven was not working. So in order to feed our already-invited dozen or so guests, we came up with some great no-bake dishes.  Not only were they a hit at the party, but they're useful dinner ideas when it's so hot outside, we don't want to turn on the oven.

Agua Fresca; Dual-purpose Brooklyn  Brewery six pack
Of all the no-bake options, drinks were a cinch! =) I made a refreshing watermelon agua fresca. I strained about half a large watermelon, added juice from 1 squeezed lime, some cold water, and a little bit of agave nectar. I served the drinks with ice and a garnish of fresh mint. (We also had a bottle of Grey Goose vodka beside the pitcher for those who wanted their drink spiked).
Easy appetizers: fresh fruits and veg; cheese plate; pineapple salsa; Caprese salad with burrata
With fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, it's so much easier to make dishes without needing an oven!
We made fresh salsas and guacamole: pineapple/red onion/jalapeno/cilantro; tomato/red onion/jalapeno/cilantro; avocado/red onion/tomato/jalapeno/cilantro. I chopped up fresh watermelon and had fresh mint and feta cheese on hand so guests could make their own watermelon salads.  We also had fresh vegetables with ranch and onion dips.

Cheese plates are always a hit. I added an unusual touch - natural honey comb that I bought from FreshDirect.  Our guests loved trying this unexpected product - dipping it with pretzel sticks, spreading it on crackers with cheese, or trying it on its own.  We served the honey comb with provolone, sharp white cheddar, and Camembert cheeses.

The other plate we served was with fresh burrata, basil, and tomatoes so guests could make their own caprese salad. Our new favorite place in the city to get fresh burrata is from the Italian shop in Chelsea Market.  It's the most affordable fresh burrata we've seen in Manhattan (Eataly's burrata is much more expensive). It's a good thing we bought two of them because our guests devoured this plate!
Pulled pork taco
We love our slow cooker - it's great for weekday dinners (cooking our meals while we're at work!) and was the perfect substitute for our broken oven.  Jeff got a nice lean 6lb+ boneless pork shoulder from FreshDirect (all nicely tied up too for free!), put it in the slow cooker with some chicken broth, water, and spices. He cooked it on low for over 10 hours. After it was cooked, he separated the meat from the juices, pulled the meat apart, put the pulled pork back into the slow cooker, and added his homemade sauce to further flavor the meat.

We let our guests make their own pulled pork taco. With tortillas from Tehuitzingo, baked beans (our friend had made in his pressure cooker), fresh salsas we had made, and my husband's homemade sauce, it was a colorful, tasty, yet substantial dish.
No-bake Desserts
For me, the saddest part of our oven breaking was that I couldn't bake at all. Visions of the cupcakes I would bake were no more. Instead, I fell back on some tried-and-true favorites. My cookie truffles returned to everyone's delight. Since my Super Bowl jello shots were a party hit, I decided to make patriotic jello shots. (Tip: Plan ahead better than I did - I should have started to make the jello shots days before the party so that each layer would have firmed up better, making cleaner, straighter lines!)  I used Berry Blue and Strawberry jello (mixed with vanilla vodka) for the blue and red layers, respectively. For the white layers, I mixed semi-firm lemon jello with a whole container of Lite Cool Whip.

My husband made his mom's no-bake Key Lime Pie.  We bought a graham cracker crust for the shell. For the filling, Jeff mixed fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes) with a can of condensed milk and a whole container of Lite Cool Whip. He put the mix into the shell, grated lime zest on top, and put the pie in the freezer overnight.

Happy Independence Day! How did you celebrate? What are your favorite no-bake recipes?


  1. You certainly had a feast in spite of the oven troubles!

  2. Thanks Maris! Guess it's good to know we have lots of options when it's too hot to turn on the oven!


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