Friday, July 8, 2011

A Vegetarian Barbecue-Picnic for the 4th of July

Hi!  How was your Independence Day? I hope it was sparktacular (hahahaha).   We have been celebrating the 4th of July with family in the Sonoma area.  Prior to leaving, we had a bout of the stomach flu and then just after returning, it went around again.  Consequently, I've been a very busy mother.  I feel quite similar to a bee, running from person to person  (or buzzing from flower to flower) seeing if everyone is holding up (or if the flower indeed has plenty of pollen to take back to the hive). So far everyone has been sick- except for me.  Dun, dun, dun, dun.... I've tried several natural remedies on the "sickies" in order to ease the stomach flu blues.  I've even taken it as a matter of prevention.  Only time will tell. I feel my body fighting it off and the nausea comes and goes.  This morning though, I feel much better.

Anyway, part of our 4th was spent in beautiful Sonoma watching the parade run through the heart of downtown.  Later that night we drove to Petaluma to watch the fireworks on the grassy fairgrounds field.  The kids ate their share of ice cream and enjoyed playing with their inflatable action figures.

This holiday was especially memorable because I met my sister for the very first time!  She is thirteen years my senior and full of energy and intelligence. It was wonderful to finally connect with her face to face as we celebrated with family, good food and of course some good ol' fashioned fireworks.

Below you will find recipes that we chose to use for our picnic. I made the grilled items the day before we left and then transported everything in our cooler. I got up at 3AM on the 4th to finish the rest of the cooking before we left for Sonoma.  Some items did well in the transport, and some did not.  Read on to find out. 

Grilled-Vegetable Panini- July issue of Martha Stewart Living page 27

2 red bell peppers
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
coarse alt and freshly ground pepper
1 baguette, sliced 1/3 inch thick on a sharp bias into 16 long slices
pesto (recipe follows)

1.  Heat grill to medium.  Grill peppers, turning occasionally, until charred, about 18 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 10 minutes.  Rub off skins, and remove ribs and seeds.  Slice peppers into 1-inch-thick strips.

2.  Meanwhile, lightly brush zucchini and squashes with oil.  Season with salt and pepper. Grill until charred and tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

3.  Spread bread slices with pesto.  Tip 8 slices with vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sandwich with remaining bread.

4.  Heat a panini press.  Lightly brush sandwiches with oil.  Press until bread is golden brown and crusts are crisp, 2-4 minutes.

The beautiful veggies before grilling.

Ben's working hard at the grill.

The roasted red peppers look especially good and are tasty when grilled.  After making these paninis, I am a huge fan of grilled veggies. Who says that a vegetarian can't enjoy a good barbecue?

Pesto-panini spread recipe from Martha Stewart Living page 27

Chop 1 small garlic clove in a food processor. Add 2 cups fresh basil and 1/4 cup pine nuts.  Puree until smooth.  With machine running, drizzle in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil.  Pulse in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).  Makes 3/4 cup.

Here is one of our basil plants that I used for the pesto

I brought enough basil inside to double the pesto recipe so that we'd have extra for noodles, etc.  I also found a summer squash that was ready to be picked so I brought it inside too.  We forgot the pesto in the fridge at home so we had it on spaghetti when we returned.  The grilled veggies would have been so good with the pesto!

Five-Bean Salad recipe from Martha Stewart Living page 27

1/2 cup each of five kinds of dried beans, such as cranberry, navy,giant white, cannellini, and kidney.

5 small dried bay leaves
1 medium carrot, cut crosswise into 5 pieces
1 celery stalk, cut crosswise into 5 pieces
coarse salt
12 oz haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 cups very small tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes

for the dressing

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  Make the salad: Cover beans with water in separate saucepans, and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, let stand for 1 hour.

2.  Drain, and return beans to their saucepans.  Add a bay leaf, a piece of carrot, and a piece of celery to each pan, and cover with water by 2 inches.

3.  Bring to a boil.  Skim foam.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each saucepan.  Reduce heat, and simmer vigorously until beans are tender, 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size and age of beans.  Drain, and let cool.

4.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add haricots verts and 1 tablespoon salt.  Cook until tender and bright green, about 3 minutes.  Drain, and run under fold water to stop the cooking process.

5.  Make the dressing: whisk together vinegar and mustard.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Season with salt and pepper. 

6.  Mix the salad: combine beans with haricots verts, herbs and tomatoes.  Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.  Let stand for 30 minutes. 

The recipe said to use dried beans and I thought you could just use canned.  Why not? It would be so much faster, right?  No.  Don't do it.   No matter how much time you are trying to save (save the rescuing to someone else).  The beans were soggy and they transported poorly as a result.  When we opened up the picnic basket we found more of a soup than an salad.  

Hoisin-Glazed Eggplant recipe from

picture from


  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 baby eggplants (1 1/4 pounds) or 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1-inch-thick slices and scored
  • Salt


  1. Heat grill to medium. In small bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce and 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.
  2. Halve eggplants lengthwise; slice a bit off the skin side so they lie flat, and score both sides in a crisscross pattern.
  3. Brush both sides of eggplant halves with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and season with salt. Grill until charred and tender, 4 to 7 minutes per side. Brush both sides generously with reserved hoisin mixture; grill each side again just to glaze, about 1 minute per side. Serve hot.
Aren't they cute!?
Ben is doing a great job!
The Man and his Grill.

Pretzel Sparklers recipe from

picture from

To make two dozen, place 4 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted; remove from heat. Using a pastry brush, coat the upper third of each pretzel rod in chocolate. Cover with sprinkles; stand pretzels upright in a glass. Place in the refrigerator until firm, about 5 minutes.

These are highly recommended, especially if you have kids.  I kept a jar of these in the cooler and they kept very well.  Tasty and easy to make these pretzel sparklers were a very festive touch.

Sour Cherry Lemonade Martha Stewart Living Magazine July 2011 page 149

For the syrup

1 pound fresh sour (tart) cherries (or drained thawed frozen), pitted (3 cups)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the lemonade

ice cubes
4 cups club soda
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (from 8 lemons)
1/2 cup superfine sugar
garnish:fresh sour (tart) cherries

1.  Make the syrup: Simmer cherries, granulated sugar, water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat until cherries are broken down and juicy and liquid is syrupy, about 30 minutes.

2.  Strain cherries and syrup through a fine sieve and discard solids.  Let cool completely.

3.  Make the lemonade: Fill a large pitcher with ice.  Add club soda, lemon juice, superfine sugar, and 1/2 cup cherry syrup; stir to combine.  Garnish with fresh cherries.  Divide lemonade among glasses.

When making the syrup, you'll see the cherries go from this...
to something like this.  You are left with about a half cup of syrup when finished. 

Photo Gallery

 The Sonoma Parade was awesome!  Everything was fun and festive.
 I thought that this was a cool old truck.
This is the Bischon Frise club of Sonoma.  I have a friend that owns a very cute Bischon Frise mix named Lily.
 We saw some horses in the parade too.
I just love it when people dress up their horses.  Isn't she beautiful?!
The sour cherry lemonade was a hit- especially in the heat.  We sipped ice cold lemonade during the parade and it really cooled us off.
The parade was pretty interesting for awhile.  However, with a 2 and 3 year old things get old quickly.  So I gave them some pretzel sparklers to snack on.  It helped, but you can see the clock ticking, can't you?
I love watching the dragons dance in the parade.   
A marching band.
Sarah rests on the sidewalk and watches the parade.
The California flag!
Sarah and her Daddy wave the flag.
mmmmmm...this flag is tasty.
Nothing else matter but chocolate and a little rest.
 I didn't eat any chocolate!  I don't know what you're talking about, Mom.
A knitted and crocheted car?!  That was amazing!
I love old bikes. 
Here is my Schwinn before I decked it out.
Here is my bike after I decorated it.  The July issue of Martha Stewart Living gave me some great ideas on how to decorate my bike for the 4th.
This was funny.
 Sonoma City Hall
A red white and blue mohawk!
Ice cream!
Introducing  Ready to Go Home and Up for Adventure.
It was a very fun day!
Gabriel loved the sour cherry lemonade
Well, that was it for the parade.  Next we were off  to go see fireworks in Petaluma. 

 Petaluma fireworks

Random Pix

This is a house in Bolinas that was decorated for the 4th. 
A funny sign in Bolinas.  I think a man must have written this.
An interesting car.

 ~Happy 4th of July~

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