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Celebrating the Fourth

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watermelon

SPIT THE SEEDS You can't go wrong with slices of watermelon at a summer party. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

The Fourth of July always makes me proud. I love our nation’s holiday.

As a girl, I remember spending the entire day in the water. My family went to the lake, or we spent the day at the pool.

As a young professional, I spent more than a decade in Washington, D.C. July Fourth is the big holiday there. I spent the day eating delicious food before we headed to the National Mall to watch fireworks shoot over the Potomac River.

These days, I want to spend precious time with my friends and not in the kitchen, so everything for my celebration is made ahead.

Everyone loves festive, flavorful ice cubes in their water, so I’ll fill the ice bucket with Watermelon Ice from the Houston Junior League Cookbook.

Every party has to have a signature drink, and this holiday calls for the Cherry Mint Limeade from Star of Texas. You can even make the limeade base and allow your friends to create their own limeade flavor by having other fruit for mixing, such as strawberries or blueberries.

The Potomac Pasta Salad from the Junior League of Washington’s Capital Celebrations cookbook reminds me of a fresh Caprese salad. While the recipe calls for bowtie pasta, I like to use Texas-shaped pasta, subtly reminding friends of my home state. (As an aside, Texas-shaped pasta also makes a unique hostess gift, and I usually bring a bag or two when I’m visiting friends.)

Tallahassee Chicken Salad from Houston Junior League Cookbook is an easy make-the-day-ahead dish, going directly into the refrigerator and then out onto the table. I usually swap half the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt. Sometimes, I pick up ready-made chicken salad from The Pantry at the League building, 1811 Briar Oaks Lane. Plate it by lining a platter with greens and spooning the salad on top, no one will know that the chicken salad didn’t come from your kitchen.

The other make-ahead dish I’ll put on the table is the Bean Salad from Houston Junior League Cookbook. This one involves a little chopping, opening cans, and then stirring it all together. Definitely allow the ingredients to marinate overnight, bringing the flavors together.

Fresh-cut watermelon is always a welcome addition to any gathering. I leave a knife next to the watermelon, allowing everyone to cut their own slices. If your friends have a competitive streak, expect a seed-spitting contest.

Everyone knows I love ice cream. I have at least two options. For those with a sweet tooth, the Peach Sherbet from Star of Texas is light and refreshing. The tarty Lemon Ice Cream Sans Machine from Capital Celebrations can be made with or without an ice cream maker, as the recipe title suggests. If you’re feeling ambitious and want a third option, switch out the lemons for limes for lime ice cream.

To buy a Houston Junior League cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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