As of early June the city announced they weren't sure if they could afford to hold the annual fireworks show, but due to popular demand, they decided to accept donations toward the $80,000 cost. I definitely donated since this was the fifth fabulous fireworks in a row! Not only do I love fireworks in the first place, but the spectacular show allows me to have a fantastic party that everyone enjoys! Thank you again, Santa Clara! :)
Since I didn't have the kitchen remodel chaos this year, I planned my full standard 4th of July menu, and even had everything possible ready to set out as soon as people arrived. I tried a couple new edible experiments, and even some custom homebrew hard cider blends Patriotic Peach and Blueberry Blast!
For the first edible experiment, I had seen a recipe for mini corndogs in a magazine last year, and since I have inherited my mom's deep fryer that is older than me, I decided to try it. Instead of cutting normal hot dogs in half, I thought of using Lil Smokies miniature smoked sausages, so doubling the batter recipe for 12 made well over twice as many. I set up the fryer outside on the outer patio on the extra food table so it wouldn't smell up the house, then 4 hours before party start time I mixed up the batter, with pre-cooked bacon pieces for the "sparkle", then used 6" bamboo skewers so the length would look more like a fireworks sparkler than a mini corndog. These were easy to fry, but it took an hour to make about 4 dozen, and I ran out of batter before I ran out of Lil Smokies. I kept the finished corndogs warm in the oven, then set them out when the party started in a glass floral frog so they would stand up, and everyone loved them! These are a keeper!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups yellow cornmeal
4 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp shortening
1 1/2 cups milk or water
3 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and finely crumbled or chopped
(can use packaged pre-cooked real bacon pieces)
1 package Lil Smokies miniature smoked sausages
makes approximately 4 dozen
In large bowl or food processor combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, dry mustard and salt. Cut in the shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs. In a large bowl combine milk or water with eggs, and mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture with bacon pieces and mix well.
Mix up the batter and stir in the cooked & crumbled bacon pieces. I used real bacon pieces from a bag instead of frying my own, and they were still delicious. Heat up canola oil to 375-400F.
Dry off a Lil Smoky on a paper towel so the batter will stick, carefully poke it onto a skewer, and dip into the batter to coat.
Add more batter with a spoon if there are any holes so the dog is completely covered.
Quickly put the battered dog into the hot oil, spinning about 4 times each direction so the batter sets without falling off the skewer. Once set & floating, leave in the oil for 3 more skewers. Once I got into the rhythm it was perfect timing that when I put the last dog in, the 4th was ready to come out.
Let the excess oil drip off, then rest the corndog on a rack over a sheet pan lined with paper towels. The same pan can go in the oven for reheating.
Display your Corndog Sparklers however you like, but this glass floral frog was perfect for my "fireworks sparkler" effect! :)
The other edible experiment for this year was star-shaped ice cream sandwiches. The concept worked fine, however it was so $%(*#$! hot in my kitchen the night before the party that no matter how fast I worked, the ice cream was melting too much to refreeze in proper shape. I think next year I could try pre-chilling the sheet pans plus setting on another sheet pan filled with ice, and that might help keep the temperature down enough to keep in shape until they get into the freezer again. I think they're worth another try since the sugar cookie recipe & ice cream recipe definitely go well together, and they were very cute!
Sparkling Star Ice Cream Sandwiches
Bake the sugar cookies in advance. This time I used the same recipe but with Nucoa margarine and powdered egg replacement, so they were vegan as well as non-dairy, and all 8 dozen left as normal cookies were all eaten by the end of the party! I sprinkled red & blue sugar before baking for the sparkle effect, plus frosting wouldn't hold up very well for holding on both sides of the sandwich.
Make your favorite ice cream in advance. I used my tried & true Old Fashioned Vanilla Custard Ice Cream that I now make every 4th of July. When the ice cream is soft set after churning, spread into sheet pans or jelly roll pans. Freeze overnight so as hard as possible before cutting. My 6 quart recipe filled 3 sheet pans. I lined my sheet pans with plastic wrap so I could get the ice cream out easier, but I'm not sure it helped that much.
On assembly day, prep another sheet pan with star cookies face down, ready for ice cream filling. Have the topper star cookies close at hand to work as quickly as possible.
Get out one sheet pan of frozen ice cream at a time. Use the matching star cookie cutter to cut star shapes, and tilt the cutter sideways while lifting so the ice cream stays in the cutter. If you have nesting star cutters, using the next smaller size than the cookies works even better. This was such a melty mess that I was really glad I could set the whole ice cream sheet pan in my copper kitchen sink!
Place the ice cream star on the bottom cookie star, gently push the ice cream out of the cutter, and repeat as quickly as possible before everything melts!
Once your tray is full of filled stars, place the other cookie stars on top and put the sheet pan of completed sandwiches in the freezer. You will have ice cream scraps after cutting the stars that are now partially melted, so put those in a container to freeze as normal homemade ice cream for scooping.
I set up a plastic bowl of dry ice under a plastic tray to keep my Sparkling Star Ice Cream Sandwiches cold (glass might crack under the extreme cold of dry ice), but I kept them in the freezer until immediately before serving. Not the prettiest results this time, but tasty & cute enough to try again next year!
Since I have so much hard cider that has gone too dry for my taste, I've been trying flavor blends lately. Just a little peach schnapps gives a great not-too-sweet peach flavor to the cider that is also shelf-stable because the alcohol kills the residual brewing yeast. Plain unsweetened blueberry juice plus fresh apple cider for sweetness is very tasty, but only lasts a day before the residual yeast eats up all the added fruit sugars. Both were well-received at the party, and my attention-getting labels on the growler bottles probably didn't hurt! ;)
Patriotic Peach and Blueberry Blast custom hard cider blends from Brittahytta Brewery
Full Food & Drinks for Fireworks & Fun 2010
Corndog Sparklers - miniature corndogs with a sparkling surprise in the batter ( = BACON! :-9 )
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad - sweet potatoes, peaches, red onion, red pepper, lime juice, olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg, steamed on the grill
Apricot Cashew Rice Salad - dried apricots plumped in white wine, wild rice, green peas, garlic, onion, olive oil with cashews for crunch
Old Glory Green Salad - greens with grape tomatoes, strawberries marinaded in marionberry balsamic vinaigrette, dried blueberries, with star croutons, add your own chopped red onions, chopped walnuts, & feta cheese
Festive Fruit Salad - loquats, plums, peaches, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & kiwi
Aged Manchego Slices with Smorgabritta Quince Preserves
Assorted Cheeses & Crackers
Stars & Stripes Pastry Brie with Smorgabritta Spiced Loquat Preserves
Sparkling Sugar Stars - non-dairy and vegan
Homemade Old Fashioned Vanilla Custard Ice Cream
Sparkling Star Ice Cream Sandwiches - new recipe but was so hot when forming them, they never refroze properly...to be refined next year!
Mojitos - loquat rum, pineapple rum or silver rum with homegrown mint - but no one tried any!
Brittahytta Brewery Hard Cider - Patriotic Peach and Blueberry Blast - these custom cider blends were both well received - hooray!
While waiting for the fireworks to start, we played Beatles Rock Band...woohoo! We couldn't see well enough until the direct sunlight was gone from the projector screen, but that still gave us a whole hour to play! :)
Little Jackson was so enthused about Onyx, very gently walking toward him with "kitty!" and petting him. I'm so glad Onyx is such a good calm boy! Ebony was hiding under the bed most of the party, which meant of course all the cat lovers wanted to get a glimpse of the mystery cat. ;) It's always fun to hear the wows & oohs at the fireworks, but this year Benjamin took the cake. After every impressive fireworks blast he chimed "That's funny!" which was hilarious in itself. I never thought fireworks were especially funny, but they definitely were while Benjamin was saying that every single time!
The fireworks were as impressive as ever...and the finale was as bright as the sun! Wow!
This year the party cleared out fairly early, with most people gone by 11pm, and Cyd helping me clean up while catering to the tummy-rubbing whims of the Elusive Ebony! By around midnight I had the rest of the food put away and the dishwasher loaded to run overnight. Can I mention again how much I love my kitchen? ;)
No photos of me this year, but I was proud that I did get a few candids this time, and even video of Beatles Rock Band! The full photo album is here if you'd like to see. I hope everyone had a fabulous Fourth!